A Moroccan student deported from France as an illegal immigrant after going to police to complain that her brother had beaten her, has returned to the country following President Sarkozy’s intervention.
19-year-old Najlae Lhimer first came to France to flee a forced marriage in Morocco.
Five years on, she arrived in Paris again on a flight from Casablanca – to an emotional reception from friends, wellwishers and human rights campaigners.
“I’m really happy, pleased to be back in France and rejoin my friends and everyone,” said Najlae. “I was completely lost, I cried all the time, I didn’t understand what was happening. It was only when I was at the police station in Morocco that I learned I’d been deported.”
The police contest her account, but Najlae claims she went to her local station near Orleans last month to report her brother, complaining that he had hit her. Instead she was arrested and put on a plane; she was already under a deportation order.
Sihem Habchi, chair of the women’s rights organisation Ni Putes Ni Soumises, said:
“Thousands of victims of violence are afraid of reporting abuse for fear of being deported. I’m very happy that Najlae has returned, because it sends out a strong message.”
At Paris airport Najlae Lhimer appealed to journalists on behalf of a male student also deported from France who remains in Morocco. Meanwhile she intends take up her studies again in France – which should be possible thanks to a visa granted by the French authorities as a humanitarian gesture.