French anger over Hollande’s controversial immigrant offer
French President François Hollande is at the centre of criticism over the deportation of teenage Roma girl Leonarda Dibrani, who was ordered off a school bus and sent back to Kosovo with her family earlier this month.
Following a series of student demonstrations on Friday, Mr Hollande offered the girl, 15, the chance to return to France to finish her studies, but only if she did so alone. The offer, instead of calming the controversy, caused a wave of criticism from both left and right-wing parties on Saturday.
Leonarda, whose family moved to France illegally in 2009, has rejected the offer, saying that she won’t go back to France alone. “I won’t go alone to France. I’m not the only one who has to go to school. There’s also my brothers and sisters. In any case, we will do a tour of Europe like we did before and we will come back to France,” she said.
The incident has caused a serious internal crisis that might affect Hollande’s government for months. Over the weekend, thousands of students have showed their support for Leonarda and her family by marching through the streets of Paris demanding that she be allowed to return.
Despite this, interior minister Manuel Valls doesn’t seem to have any regrets and keeps defending his immigration policy, saying that the government should be proud of what it’s doing instead of feeling sorry.
Concerning the offer that Hollande made to Miss Dibrani, the interior minister explained: “I knew a solution that would respect the rule of law would be found. The only possible decision was to apply the law firmly. This is not inconsistent with a generous gesture in line with French values.”
Following a wave of criticism over his tough immigration policy, Mr Valls said in an interview that he has no intention to step down, although many have asked him to. In fact, opinion polls show an overwhelming public support to Mr Valls and Hollande cannot risk losing his interior minister, especially now that the far-right National Front is raising support thanks to its strong campaign against illegal immigration.