• 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
Paris banking district stages France's latest mock attack
Photo: AFP

The La Defense business district in Paris was the scene of the latest mock terror attack last night, as French authorities continue to take no chances.

French cows die after eating all winter stock in one night
File photo: AFP

Half a herd of cows ate themselves to death on cereals.

Grape thieves pilfer what's left of Burgundy wine harvests
Photo: AFP

Fed up with seeing thieves pilfer their precious grapes, vineyard owners in the famous region of Burgundy are taking extreme measures for the first time.

France to clamp down on rip-off home repair workers
All photos: AFP

Ever feel you've been ripped off by a plumber, electrician, or locksmith in France?

'Rogues' go on trial for ripping shirts of Air France bosses
Photo: AFP

A court in France will decide whether ripping the shirt off your boss's back is all part and parcel of a French labour dispute.

Hollande dealt major blow as jobless rate shoots up
Photo: AFP

The news could dissuade President François Hollande from even running for re-election.

Aussie TV show accused of staging French burkini row
Photo: Channel 7 screengrab

Was an Australian TV report about France's burkini ban a set up to portray the French as "anti-Muslim"?

Five ways Paris is better than it was 15 years ago
All photos: AFP

Here's how one man says Paris has changed for the better over his last 15 years in the city.

Man in 60s wounds two in France supermarket shooting
Photo: AFP

A police SWAT team has surrounded gunman's apartment.

Paris makes 'history' by banning cars on river bank

The French capital is going green with a vengeance.

Sponsored Article
Why Jordan is the ‘Different’ East
Features
Room for improvement: Paris's matchbox apartments
'Stop telling immigrants to be French and help it happen'
Society
Take the test: How far have you assimilated into French culture?
Lifestyle
Eleven things you should know before moving to Paris
National
France's Marion Cotillard rebuffs rumours of fling with Brad Pitt
National
Eight arrested over links to Nice truck attacker
Features
Why everyone should party in a French chateau at least once
Travel
The Frenchman who hated 'Nazi-Zealand' after four-day hitch-hike fail
Culture
What's on: Ten exciting events across France in September
The 45-million year old underground shells that flavour Champagne
Features
French job speak: All the terms you need to know
'Resilient' Paris now a more appealing city than New York
National
France says it's OK to warn drivers about speed cameras
Meet Honorine, 113, the oldest person in France
Education
Grenoble named France's best city to be a student
Society
New Metro map reveals cheapest pints of beer in Paris
Business & Money
How reliant is the French economy on Paris?
Society
Here's why Parisians want to move to Bordeaux
And the 'best place to spend a weekend in Europe' is… Lyon
Analysis & Opinion
'Muslims in France must be considered ordinary citizens'
Armed guards to ride French trains from October
National
France among Europe's priciest for train travel
National
Paris set to make river bank car-free for six-month trial
2,725
jobs available