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France / Leonarda, the Kosovo girl who put Hollande in a crisis of conscience (and votes)

The story of Leonarda, a young Kosovo girl, who was removed from a school bus and expelled from France calls for a more human approach by politicians to the immigration issue

François Hollande (Infophoto) François Hollande (Infophoto)

The case of Leonarda, the girl originally from Kosovo who was picked up by French police on October 9th during a school trip, continues to take the front row with the media, also with protests organized by thousands of students demanding her return to France, together with her family. The situation is such that the Minister of the Interior, Manuel Valls, decided to shorten his visit to the West Indies to return quickly to Paris.

In a France which describes itself as a land of hospitality, the image of the police who stopped a school bus to remove a 15 year old girl has provoked considerable shock and emotion.

It seems, however, that the facts are quite different from the early descriptions. The family, consisting of her parents and six children, entered France illegally in January 2009 and have submitted two applications for asylum, both rejected, even on appeal. The reason was the absence of evidence of a real risk of persecution in their country of origin. Leonarda's father, moreover, is a violent man already known to the French police, with no real desire to integrate. Now, it is he himself who says that the children were born in Italy, contrary to what was previously stated, and also as to the "seizure" of Leonarda things seem to have happened differently.

There is an ongoing administrative investigation to determine whether it was a simple application of the existing laws, as happens regularly in this type of situation.

The story of Leonarda comes at a particularly difficult time for France: the ongoing crisis, the repeated policy mistakes of President Hollande in this year and a half, the radical ethical decisions imposed in a forceful way, such as the "marriage for all", have caused a strong shift to the right in the population, as demonstrated by the recent successes of the National Front, which continues to be high in the polls, and which could obtain a significant result in March of 2014.

The socialist minister Manuel Valls, who had already distinguished himself by the severe repression of demonstrations against the "marriage for all", with his recent statements about the Roma that, except for a minority, they do not want to integrate, has already shocked many members of his party. The expulsion of Leonarda has highlighted further deep divisions within the Socialist Party and the government itself.

It is obvious that the question of welcoming foreigners and their integration will be a major theme in the upcoming municipal elections of March and the European elections of May, and thus there is a clear manipulation of the story of this family.

On the one hand, a fringe of the Socialist Party pursues an operation that winks at that part of the electorate tempted by the National Front, but for another group in the party the indignation at the betrayal of the traditional values of the party is a godsend, which allows them to exploit and encourage the generosity, spontaneous but somewhat reckless, of young high school students.