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Deportation of Roma schoolgirl from France is 'lawful'

A probe into the deportation of a 15-year-old Roma schoolgirl from France has found that her family's expulsion was lawful. But the French president says she can return to France alone to continue her studies.

"The decision to implement the deportation of the Dibrani family was consistent with current regulations" was the conclusion of the investigation, which was ordered by French Interior Minister Manuel Valls amid a public outcry at the circumstances of the eviction.

The investigation however criticized the manner in which the operation was carried out, saying authorities "did not demonstrate the necessary discernment".

The Roma schoolgirl, Leonarda Dibrani, was forced to get off a bus full of classmates during a school outing before being deported to Kosovo on October 9 with the rest of her family.

Police had gone to the family home in the morning to deport all members, but found the teenager had slept at a friend's house ahead of the excursion.

She had been living in France for four years while her family's asylum bid was processed.

Angry protests

The case has triggered nationwide demonstrations by angry high school students and focused heavy criticism on Valls, who is otherwise one of France's most popular politicians. Valls has stood firm on the matter, saying he had acted in accordance with the wishes of most French people.

A survey by polling firm BVA published on Saturday has shown 65 per cent of respondents support the deportation, although a majority were shocked by the treatment received by Dibrani.

The case has been complicated by revelations that Dibrani's father, Resat, had lied about his family's Kosovo origins to improve its chances of receiving asylum. He has admitted that only he had been born in Kosovo, and that his wife and five of his six children, including Leonarda, were born in Italy.

Presidential offer

Meanwhile, French President Francois Hollande has said in a live address on television that Leonarda Dibrani could return to France to continue her studies, but without her family.

He added that local authorities would now be instructed not to carry out such detentions while children were in the care of the schools.

Last year, 36,822 immigrants were deported from France, a nearly 12 percent rise from 2011. The Socialist government attributes the rise in deportations to an increased number of expulsions at the beginning of the year while former President Nicolas Sarkozy was still in power.

tj/rc (AFP, dpa, AP)