Hollande says deported girl can return to France, but not with family

Expelled teenager must come back alone, and not with her family, says under-fire president

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 20 October, 2013, 8:21am
UPDATED : Sunday, 20 October, 2013, 8:21am


Under fire from the far left and members of his own party, Socialist President Francois Hollande said yesterday that a 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.

Leonarda Dibrani, however, said she would not return without her family.

The deportation of the Dibrani family, whose requests for asylum were rejected, has sparked a storm in France, where such expulsions aren't rare but are always sensitive as the birthplace of the "rights of man" grapples with an influx of immigrants.

It's an especially delicate issue for 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.

Hollande defended the deportation as legally sound because the Dibranis had exhausted all recourse for political asylum in France but said the decision to let Leonarda return 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, broadcast on national television.

Dibrani, speaking from the Kosovo city of Mitrovica, said that she did not want to return to France without her family.

"I've refused because I want to go with family, not by myself - I can't fend for myself," she said.

A government report published yesterday found that the police followed the law, although the report said they didn't seem to realise the sensitivity of what they were doing.

But, apparently fearing that conclusion wouldn't put the issue to rest, Hollande went on television to walk the fine line between maintaining a tough stance on illegal immigrants and showing compassion for the deported girl.

Additional reporting by Reuters