Leonarda says she would not return without her family.
Under fire from the far left and members of his own party, Socialist President Francois Hollande said Saturday that the 15-year-old girl who was detained in front of her classmates and expelled can return to France. But the rest of the family cannot come with her.
She said she would not return without her family.
The deportation of the Dibrani family, whose requests for asylum were rejected, has lit a firestorm in France, where such expulsions aren’t rare but are always sensitive as the birthplace of the “rights of man” grapples with a flux of immigrants. It’s an especially delicate issue for Mr Hollande and the Socialists, who have tried to present a softer image of France’s immigration policies and distance themselves from former Nicolas Sarkozy’s tough stance.
The uproar began earlier this week when it became public that Leonarda was detained by police as she got off a bus from a school trip. Schools are considered places of sanctuary, and many thought that principle had been breached.
The story has since become more complicated, with the father admitting that he lied in his asylum application when he said the entire family fled Kosovo, where they were persecuted for being Roma, or Gypsies. Leonarda, and most of her siblings, were born in Italy, though they do not have Italian citizenship.
A government report published Saturday found that the police followed the law, although the report said they didn’t seem to realize the sensitivity of what they were doing.
But apparently fearing that conclusion wouldn’t put the issue to rest, Mr Hollande went on national television Saturday to walk the line between maintaining a tough stance on illegal immigrants and showing compassion for girl caught up in the storm.
“Mr. Hollande has no heart for my family? He has no pity?” Leonarda asked, in an emotional scene in front of cameras.
She had earlier said that she was deeply ashamed when the police took her away in front of her classmates.
Although polls show that the majority of French people don’t think the family should be allowed to return to France, the case has threatened to destabilize the Hollande government. Thousands of teenagers rallied in central Paris on Friday after shutting down their high schools the day before to protest expulsions like Leonarda’s.