A week ago Leonarda was a 15 year-old schoolgirl in rural France. Now she is sleeping on park benches and cannot attend school at all in her native Kosovo, where she and her family were expelled on October 9.
Now it has emerged that she was taken off a school bus while her class was on an outing, by police who escorted her to the airport to join the rest of her family. They had been ordered to leave after exhausting all their asylum claims.
“I felt very bad and was ashamed in front of my friends, because they started asking me ‘Who did you kill that the police are looking for you?’ I did not know where I was and what was going on and I started crying,” says Leonarda.
The story has made some in the governing Socialist party very upset and led to calls for the tough Interior Minister Manuel Valls to ease off.
“When an asylum request is turned down and when there is no longer any reason for a person to be on our soil, then the law applies and the law means being taken back to the border,” he said.
For his critics it is not just the manner of the act, but any expulsion of what some see as already-underprivileged Roma. Others say Valls is just pandering to the French far-right Front Nationale.
The conservative opposition, itself in disarray, is gleeful at the sight of Socialist infighting, so the prime minister has again had to step in to keep his ministers united.
“If a mistake has been made the expulsion order will be annulled and the family will be allowed to return to have their situation re-examined,” announced Jean-Marc Ayrault in a noisy parliament.
Leonarda, her parents and five siblings remain for the time being in Kosovo, which they left to enter France illegally in 2009.