• France's news in English
 
app_header_v3

Hollande slammed over Roma girl 'shipwreck'

AFP/The Local · 21 Oct 2013, 10:06

Published: 21 Oct 2013 10:06 GMT+02:00

French President Francois Hollande has been attacked from all sides for offering a deported Roma schoolgirl the chance to return to France without her family, ceding ever more ground to his ambitious Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Hollande's offer to let Leonarda Dibrani, 15, come back to the country – which she declined, saying she would not leave behind her parents and five siblings in Kosovo – has been met with incomprehension and vitriol, leaving the president accused of misusing his position and acting "emotionally".

French media on Sunday let rip at Hollande, with the website of the left-wing Libération newspaper describing the move as "the most improbable of all scenarios", and the weekly Journal du Dimanche calling it "as bizarre as it is incomprehensible".

Catholic journal La Croix, for its part rounded on Hollande, calling the move "neither here nor there" and "amateurish," while right-leaning Le Figaro dubbed the whole episode a "shipwreck" for the president.

Politician Francois Bayrou, a centrist heavyweight who backed Hollande in the second round of presidential elections in 2012, weighed in to say a head of state "should not confuse emotion and the duty of government."

IN-DEPTH: How a Roma girl became a 'symbol' in France

The Roma teenager immediately turned down Hollande's offer from the town of Mitrovica in Kosovo, where she has been living with her family since their October 9th deportation.

"I'm not the only one who has to go to school, there are also my brothers and sisters," she said, adding, "[To return] without my family would be death."

"Mr. Hollande has no heart, no pity. He doesn't understand my situation," she said

The family were assaulted on Sunday in what local authorities described as a private dispute with another family that was unrelated to their deportation from France.

The girl's mother was briefly hospitalised and released as her injuries were not serious, police said, adding that four people have been detained.

Leonarda's arrest by French police during a school trip and the subsequent deportation of her family has aroused soul-searching by France's left and brought thousands of high-school students to the streets in protest.

The results of a formal investigation published Saturday found that the deportation was lawful but that police could have used better judgement in the way they handled it.

However, the case was further complicated by revelations that Leonarda's father had lied about his family's origins to have a better chance at obtaining asylum.

IN PICTURES: French high-school students protest deportations of classmates

As an advocate of the rigorous enforcement of immigration laws, Socialist Interior Minister Valls was put in a difficult position when his boss made the grand gesture.

Initially praising an "act of generosity" in an interview with the Journal du Dimanche, Valls went on to say that the family's deportation was justified by seven prior asylum rejections and the "fraudulent documents" they provided in support.

Story continues below…

But in a deft manoeuvre seemingly designed to distance himself from the president, Valls said "emotion cannot be the guide (in deciding) a policy."

He then paid tribute to France as a "land of immigration", but nonetheless stressed the need to "control the flow" of foreigners entering the country.

Last month, Spanish-born Valls triggered an outcry when he said most of the 20,000 Roma in France had no intention of integrating and should be sent back to their countries of origin.

But a survey by polling firm BVA published on Saturday in the Le Parisien daily showed that 74 percent of the French approved Valls's position on the Dibrani controversy.

Hollande's own approval ratings are dismal, slumping to a new low of just 23 percent, according to a poll published Sunday in the JDD.   

Don't miss a story about France - Join us on Facebook and Twitter

AFP/The Local (dan.macguill@thelocal.com)

Your comments about this article

Today's headlines
French police 'force woman to remove burqini' on beach
A file photo of a woman in a burqini. Photo: AFP

Pictures have emerged showing armed police officers in southern France apparently forcing a woman to remove her burqini.

Déja vu? Familiar faces in France's presidential race
President Hollande, who hasn't yet announced if he will run, and Nicolas Sarkozy, who is eyeing up the top job next year. Photo: AFP

France is yearning for political renewal, but looks set to be stuck with familiar faces in the presidential race.

France set for scorcher as heatwave continues
Photo: AFP

It's going to be a warm Wednesday, with temperatures forecast to soar across the whole country.

Frenchman 'kills Brit in stabbing rampage' in Australia
Photo: AFP

A Frenchman allegedly killed a British woman and stabbed three others in an Australian backpacker's hostel.

Top court set to probe France's burqini ban
Photo: AFP

Is the burqini ban legal? France will soon find out.

Heatwave warnings extended as France keeps sizzling
Photo: AFP

UPDATED: Summer is back, and Paris is among the areas hit the hardest.

200 street signs in France mysteriously 'blacked out'
Photo: thecrazyfilmgirl/Flickr

Town officials have come to a dead end.

Woman fined for wearing headscarf on Cannes beach
File photo: Loic Venance/AFP

Headscarves should not be included under the recent burqini ban, but one woman says she was fined and insulted for wearing the hijab.

Paris tourism has lost €750 million since terror attacks
Tourists outside the Louvre. Photo: Alain Jocard/AFP

A Paris tourist chief has called it "an industrial catastrophe".

Sudanese migrant killed in Calais clashes
Photo: AFP

A Sudanese man has died in Calais after a fight with other refugees.

Sponsored Article
Five things Americans should know about voting abroad
National
How to keep cool during France's heatwave
Sponsored Article
5 reasons to try dating in Paris with The Inner Circle
Society
Ten mistakes to avoid when dating a Frenchman
Society
Twelve 'French' things that aren't actually French at all
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
'World's priciest home' on sale in French Riviera for €1 billion
Sponsored Article
Jordan: where history meets adventure
Lifestyle
RECIPE: How to make the tastiest ratatouille
National
Paris sees Europe's biggest plunge in 'liveability'
National
Life on the home front in rural France's 'war on terror'
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
Features
Weird facts you didn't know about the French language
Sponsored Article
Why you should attend an international job fair
Society
Paris foodie event cancelled over lack of security
How to tackle six of the trickiest French verbs
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
National
Summer in France - 'the ideal time to find a job'
Sponsored Article
Why expats choose international health insurance
National
'Burqini bans will only divide France more'
National
French vineyards revive horse-drawn ploughs
Sponsored Article
Jordan Pass: your ticket to the experience of a lifetime
French mayor bans Pokemon Go app from his village
Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
National
'To boycott France is to surrender to terrorists'
Sponsored Article
6 reasons expats use TransferWise to send money
Travel
21 photos to make you want to come to France right now
Sponsored Article
Life in Jordan: 'Undiscovered treasure'
Society
This is how much the French are obsessed with cheese
National
French MP's call for Facebook ID cards blasted 'as idiotic'
Travel
Summer checklist: Fourteen great travel ideas for France
Travel
Here's why France is still world's top tourist destination
'Wealthy American tourists' snub France over terror fears
National
Where to go swimming in France (and where to avoid)
Society
23 subtle signs you'll never quite master French
2,734
jobs available