Hollande says schoolgirl may return to France after expulsion

Sat Oct 19, 2013 10:13am EDT
 
Email This Article |
Share This Article
  • Facebook
  • LinkedIn
  • Twitter
| Print This Article | Single Page
[-] Text [+]

By Nicholas Vinocur

PARIS (Reuters) - President Francois Hollande said on Saturday that a 15-year-old schoolgirl whose expulsion from France has sparked uproar could return to pursue her studies but without her family, a compromise following criticism from left-wing allies.

The outcry began after Leonarda Dibrani, whose family entered the country illegally in 2009, was ordered off a school bus by police in front of her classmates before being sent this month to Kosovo, her father's native country.

Thousands of students marched through the streets of Paris and surrounding cities on Friday demanding that she be allowed to return to France, and Socialist lawmakers warned the party was at risk of "losing its soul" with tough deportation tactics.

Hundreds of students gathered on Saturday in northern Paris to call for Interior Minister Manuel Valls to resign.

Hollande's gesture toward Dibrani, who said from Kosovo on Saturday she would not return without her family, appeared to be designed to show clemency without undermining his interior minister or offering fodder to a burgeoning far-right movement.

Frustration over illegal migration and Roma camps on the outskirts of French cities has bolstered support for the far-right National Front party ahead of municipal and European elections next year, putting Hollande in a delicate position.

The Socialist leader defended the deportation as legally sound because the Dibranis had exhausted all recourse for political asylum in France but said the decision was based on the need to take her "human situation" into account.

"She will be welcomed back, and her alone," Hollande said in a recorded message from his office.   Continued...

 
French high students shout slogans as they stand behind a banner which reads in part, "Stop Expulsions", during a demonstration in Paris October 18, 2013. Students blocked schools and demonstrate for a second day to protest over the expulsion of a 15-year-old Kosovar schoolgirl, Leonarda Dibrani, who was arrested by police during a school trip and deported to Kosovo, and also in support of another deported student of Armenian descent, Khatchik Kachatryan. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes