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Latest update : 2008-04-18

French President Nicolas Sarkozy has promised to deport 25,000 illegal immigrants each year. But at one Parisian restaurant, the workers and the boss are putting up a fight.

It’s not quite business as usual at this restaurant in the heart of Paris. At Chez Papa, the workers have left the kitchen to occupy the dinning room.


Hailing mostly from Africa, these 23 workers are illegal immigrants. Following French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s pledge to deport 25,000 illegal immigrants each year, their livelihoods as well as their futures in France are endangered.


In their kitchen garb, the workers sit at the tables, joined by Bruno Druilhe, the restaurant owner.


Druilhe supports his workers’ protests and he believes his workers should be able to apply for and obtain resident permits.


“We created these restaurants with the workers who are here,” said Druilhe. “They had the balls and the guts to help me all the way.”


The workers at Chez Papa are grateful for Druilhe’s support, but they also note that as migrant workers, they fulfill an economic role.


“He helps us because it’s in everyone’s interest, our interest, but also his,” said Kebe Goye, a worker, referring to his employer.


Small businesses hit by anti-immigrant policies


The service industry is just one of several in France suffering from an acute labour shortage, despite the relatively high unemployment rate.


The French Confederation of Small and Medium Sized Businesses maintains that the hard line taken by the authorities is threatening the survival of some businesses.


“I say I'm looking for workers who'll be paid 1,705 euros a month before tax,” explained Druilhe. “The only people who answer are coloured people, I don't go to Africa to get them, they are sent here.”


Druihle says he only discovered his employees had fake visas last July after the government ordered employers to check the validity of the visas of all their workers of foreign origin


Some employers say they'll have to close their businesses if they're asked to fire workers with fake visas. But so far their arguments are falling on deaf ears.


Date created : 2008-04-18