MITROVICA, Kosovo (AP) — Leonarda Dibrani was finishing up a field trip when French police showed up at the bus, detaining the 15-year-old schoolgirl in front of her classmates before authorities expelled her to Kosovo because her family's asylum application had been rejected.
The incident earlier this month, but which was made public this week, has sparked outrage from immigrant groups and others who say police went too far in publicly shaming the teenager. It has also been an embarrassment for President Francois Hollande's government, which has tried to portray a kinder France in a bid to distance itself from conservative predecessor Nicolas Sarkozy, known for his tough immigration policies.
An investigation into the treatment of the girl, which also drew criticism from within the ranks of Hollande's Socialist Party, has been launched.
Now, Dibrani says she just wants to get back to France.
"I was crying on my teacher's lap and he was crying," Dibrani said Wednesday, recounting her ordeal in an interview with The Associated Press. "My friends asked: 'Did you kill someone that the police are looking for you?' I was afraid. I felt bad and ashamed.
"My home is in France," Dibrani said in French, dressed in jeans and a colorful paisley print tunic. "I don't speak the language here and I don't know anyone. I just want to go back to France and forget everything that happened."
The Dibrani family — parents and six children — is now sheltered in a house in the northern town of Mitrovica in an area inhabited by ethnic Albanians. Kosovo is one of Europe's poorest regions.
The Dibrani family fled Kosovo about five years ago because they are Roma, or Gypsies, and faced discrimination and few opportunities, according to French activist Jean-Jacques Boy, who works with immigrant families in the Doubs region in eastern France, where the family lived.
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