PARIS – A probe into the high-profile deportation of a Roma schoolgirl that has landed France’s interior minister in hot water found Saturday her expulsion was lawful, but added police could have used better judgment.
The way in which Leonarda Dibrani, 15, was evicted earlier this month caused a huge outcry in France, sending droves of angry high school students to the streets nationwide and placing Interior Minister Manuel Valls in the midst of a hailstorm of criticism.
“The decision to implement the deportation of the Dibrani family (which included the girl) was consistent with current regulations,” said results of the investigation, which was ordered by Valls on Wednesday.
The result is a boost for Valls, who had faced calls to resign over the incident, but all eyes are now on French President Francois Hollande, who was due to imminently speak on the issue live on television.
Dibrani — who had lived in France for four years while her family’s asylum bid was processed — was deported Oct. 9 from the eastern French town of Levier. But her case only came to light Wednesday after it was highlighted by an NGO.
Much of the anger surrounding the French-speaking teenager’s deportation has focused on how she was forced to get off a bus full of classmates in the midst of a school outing before she was deported with the rest of her family to Kosovo.
Police had gone to the family home in the morning to deport all members, but found the teenager had slept at a friend’s house to go on the outing.
French law bans any intervention on youngsters while they are at or near school, and the report found that police did not realize “what was at stake with interrupting this outing.”
It added that while the bus was nowhere near Dibrani’s school, authorities “did not demonstrate the necessary discernment” and recommended that the law be changed to prohibit any intervention during school hours.
A survey by polling firm BVA published Saturday in the Le Parisien daily showed that 74 percent of the French approve Valls’ position in the case.
While a majority of people in the survey — which polled a representative sample of 1,090 citizens aged 18 and above — said they were shocked by the girl’s detention, 65 percent were against her and her family returning to France.
Students taking part in protests in Paris and other cities Thursday and Friday, however, have demanded that Dibrani and another deported pupil, Khatchik Kachatryan, be allowed to return to France to continue their studies.
Dibrani herself has given multiple media interviews from Kosovo, where she is now living with her family, to plead with the government to let her go back.
The case has been further complicated by revelations that Dibrani’s father, Resat, had lied about his family’s Kosovo origins to have a better chance of obtaining asylum. In an interview Thursday, Resat Dibrani, 47, said only he had been born in Kosovo and that his wife and five of his six children, including Leonarda Dibrani, were born in Italy.
Last year, 36,822 immigrants were deported from France, a nearly 12 percent rise from 2011 that the Socialist government attributes to a steep rise at the beginning of the year, when former President Nicolas Sarkozy was still in power.