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Girl's Deportation Was Mishandled, But Legal, French Say

"An interior ministry investigation into the controversial deportation of a Roma schoolgirl from France has found that her deportation was lawful, but said police could have used better judgment in the case," France 24 is reporting.

As Eleanor Beardsley reported for All Things Considered on Friday, 15-year-old Leonarda Dibrani "is at the center of an emotional debate in France over the country's immigration policies. ... [She] was taken away by police during a field trip with her school class last week and deported along with her parents and five siblings to Kosovo. Many French are outraged at the way she was seized. And whether the deportation was legal or not, many say the action runs contrary to French human rights values."

France 24 writes today that "French law bans the police from approaching students while they are at or near school. The report stated that while the bus was nowhere near Dibrani's school, authorities showed a lack of judgement and recommended that the law be changed to prohibit any future incidents during school hours."

France's RFI radio network adds that Leonarda "says she will not take up President François Hollande's offer to return to France without her family ... declaring that she would not 'abandon' her family."

Eleanor noted that "the case has echoes of the debate in the U.S. over immigration and the status of those who came to the country illegally as children and have little or no connection to the land of their birth. French media are reporting that the Dibrani family came illegally to France from Kosovo about five years ago because they are Roma, sometimes referred to as Gypsies, and faced discrimination and few opportunities there."

RFI reports, though, that Leonarda's father "told the AFP news agency that only he had been born in Kosovo and that his wife and five of his six children, including Leonarda, were born in Italy."

National Geographic has an online "history of the Romani people," who are "more commonly known to outsiders as Gypsies."

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