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Roma teen deportation was right, says French minister


Under fire from rights groups and even members of his own party for the handling of the deportation of a 15-year-old Roma girl to Kosovo, Interior Minister Manuel Valls (photo) has come out fighting and defended his immigration policy.


Interior Minister Manuel Valls told French media Sunday that he has no regrets about the way a 15-year old girl of Roma gypsy origin and her family were rounded up and deported, after widespread criticism in the media and from his own political party.

Leonarda Dibrani and her family were attacked on Sunday by unidentified assailants in Kosovo, where they have been living since their eviction, police said.

"The Dibrani (family) were walking in Mitrovica with their children when they were attacked by unknown" people, a police officer, who requested to remain anonymous, told AFP.

The mother of 15-year-old Leonarda, Xhemaili, was "beaten and is in hospital while the children, who are traumatised, are at a police station," the officer said.

Leonarda's father Resat Dibrani, 47, was at the hospital by his wife's side.

"It shows that the Dibranis are not safe here," the officer said.

“We should be proud of what we are doing, rather than feeling sorry for ourselves,” Valls, a Socialist, told the Journal de Dimanche weekly in an interview published on Sunday.

Leonarda Dibrani, the teenager at the centre of the high-profile case, was detained while on a school trip before being deported with her mother and siblings to Kosovo on October 9.


The incident has caused widespread consternation in France, with secondary-school students launching two days of protests last week. Opposition MPs on both the left and right have joined students in calling for Valls’ resignation.

The tough-talking interior minister told the Journal de Dimanche newspaper he has no intention of stepping down, even if the family had been allowed to return to France.

Valls' interview comes a day after President François Hollande made a televised speech in which he said Leonarda could return to France to continue her studies, but without the rest of her family.

“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,” Valls said of Leonarda’s option to come back to France alone.

Protecting asylum system

The interior minister, in charge of the French police and immigration, said he would continue current efforts to return undocumented migrants to their countries of origin despite criticism from some rights groups.

“We also want to save our asylum system, which is overstretched,” he said, explaining that he would adopt measures that should simplify the asylum request process and speed up reviews.

“I will not react to useless attacks. It’s normal when they come from the opposition. But when they come from our own camp, it weakens all of us. Nothing will steer me away from my objective,” he added.

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