France expels family of girl after controversial treatment

France expels family of girl after controversial treatment

MITROVICA - The Associated Pres
France expels family of girl after controversial treatment

Leonarda Dibrani sits at her home in the town of Mitrovica after deportation.

Leonarda Dibrani was finishing up a field trip when French police showed up at the bus, detaining the 15-year-old schoolgirl in front of her classmates before authorities expelled her to Kosovo because her family’s asylum application had been rejected.

The incident earlier this month, but which was made public this week, has sparked outrage from immigrant groups and others who say police went too far in publicly shaming the teenager. It has also been an embarrassment for President Francois Hollande’s government, which has tried to portray a kinder France in a bid to distance itself from conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, known for his tough immigration policies.

An investigation into the treatment of the girl, which also drew criticism from within the ranks of Hollande’s Socialist Party, has been launched. 

“I was crying on my teacher’s lap and he was crying,” Dibrani said on Oct. 16, recounting her ordeal in an interview with The Associated Press. “My friends asked: ‘Did you kill someone that the police are looking for you?’ I was afraid. I felt bad and ashamed.

The Dibrani family - parents and six children - is now sheltered in a house in the northern town of Mitrovica in an area inhabited by ethnic Albanians. Kosovo is one of Europe’s poorest regions. The Interior Ministry said the family’s application for asylum had been rejected, so it no longer had the right to stay in France.

The ministry said the family repeatedly refused to leave, so police detained the father and expelled him to Kosovo on Oct. 8. Police detained the mother and five of their children Oct. 9, but Leonarda was away on a school field trip. The ministry says police met the girl’s school bus when it returned from the trip later that day.

Prime Minister Jean-Marc Ayrault ordered an investigation into how she was taken into custody.