Hollande under fire for 'emotional' response to Roma girl

Hollande under fire for 'emotional' response to Roma girl
France's President Francois Hollande makes a televised statement at the Elysee Palace in Paris.

PARIS - French President Francois Hollande has been attacked from all sides for offering a deported Roma schoolgirl the chance to return to France without her family, ceding ever more ground to his ambitious Interior Minister Manuel Valls.

Hollande's offer to let Leonarda Dibrani, 15, come back to the country - which she declined, saying she would not leave behind her parents and five siblings in Kosovo - has been met with incomprehension and vitriol, leaving the president accused of misusing his position and acting "emotionally".

French media on Sunday let rip at Hollande, with the website of the left-wing Liberation newspaper describing the move as "the most improbable of all scenarios", and the weekly Journal du Dimanche calling it "as bizarre as it is incomprehensible".

Politician Francois Bayrou, a centrist heavyweight who backed Hollande in the second round of presidential elections in 2012, weighed in to say a head of state "should not confuse emotion and the duty of government."

The Roma teenager immediately turned down Hollande's offer from the town of Mitrovica in Kosovo, where she has been living with her family since their October 9 deportation.

"I'm not the only one who has to go to school, there are also my brothers and sisters," she said.

The family were assaulted on Sunday in what local authorities described as a private dispute with another family that was unrelated to their deportation from France.

The girl's mother was briefly hospitalised and released as her injuries were not serious, police said, adding that four people have been detained.

Leonarda's arrest by French police during a school trip and the subsequent deportation of her family has aroused soul-searching by France's left and brought thousands of high-school students to the streets in protest.

The results of a formal investigation published Saturday found that the deportation was lawful but that police could have used better judgement in the way they handled it.

However, the case was further complicated by revelations that Leonarda's father had lied about his family's origins to have a better chance at obtaining asylum.

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