By?ALISSA J. RUBIN- NY Times,
PARIS ? A 15-year-old girl who was ordered off a school bus by French police officers so that she and her family could be sent back to Kosovo was legally deported, but the operation could have been conducted with more sensitivity, the French government said Saturday after an investigation.
President Fran?ois Hollande on Saturday affirmed the Interior Ministry?s findings but said the ministry was sending instructions to representatives of the central government across?France?to prohibit the police from entering school premises to pull out children who are being deported with their families because they lack the proper immigration papers.
?The law was perfectly respected,? Mr. Hollande said, and there was no fault on the part of the police who stopped the girl. ?But there was a lack of discernment in the execution of the operation,? he said.
The girl, Leonarda Dibrani, whose parents are from Kosovo, was on a school field trip when at the request of the police the school bus she was on was stopped and she was escorted by police officers to join her family, which was being put on a flight to Kosovo later that day.
Teachers at her school and another school wrote an open letter to local government officials protesting that she had been taken during a school trip. Public attention to her case grew when the letter was posted on the Web site of the Network for Education Without Borders, and?students in Paris as well as other areas mounted protests?to support her and another student who was expelled in the past 10 days, a 19-year-old Armenian.
In both cases, the government had the legal right to expel the students, who were in the country illegally and were not from European Union countries. The Interior Ministry?s report laid out the specifics of the asylum process that Ms. Dibrani?s family had unsuccessfully gone through.
The case was complicated, however, by the fact that the family is Roma, an ethnic group that Interior Minister Manual Valls has said should be expelled from France; ?only a minority? of the?Roma, he has said, can be integrated into French society.
His flat statements on the Roma have drawn the ire of people on the left, who had expected that a socialist government would take a more lenient approach toward the minority, many of whom live in shantytowns on the edges of France?s large cities. The European Union has threatened sanctions over the expulsions.
Most of the Roma come from European Union states, including Romania and Bulgaria. But because Ms. Dibrani?s family is Kosovar and Kosovo is not a European Union member, the family needed the French government?s approval to remain in France. Further complicating matters ?is that Ms. Dibrani?s nationality is unclear; her father said in interviews that she had been born in Italy, where the family lived for a while, but that she was not an Italian citizen.
?The law must be applied,? Mr. Hollande said, but ?schools must be preserved from the conflicts of society.?
However, Mr. Hollande said that if Ms. Dibrani wished to continue her education in France, she would be allowed to do so but that her family would not be permitted to return.
?With regards to the case of this young girl, Leonarda, if she makes a request, given the circumstances, and if she wants to continue her schooling in France, a place will be made for her, and for her alone,? Mr. Hollande said.
The case revealed some of the internal contradictions in France on the question of immigrants. France is generous compared with other European countries when it comes to giving asylum to immigrants.
But the French have been frustrated by the large number of impoverished foreigners seeking refuge here and generally have been supportive of the enforcement of immigration laws.
At the same time, a number of people here say the right to attend school is sacred and should be respected. That means that even if it might be acceptable to expel a family from the country, it should be done in a way that does not interrupt the school day.
?The values of the republic also involve accounting for human situations,? Mr. Hollande said. ?This affair has been the occasion for a clarification, and there is now no more doubt about what school must be, and what it?s possible to do there.?