Open

Coming up

Don't miss

Replay


LATEST SHOWS

FASHION

Paris, Haute Couture Fall/Winter 2014-2015.

Read more

REPORTERS

Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

Read more

AFRICA NEWS

2014-07-11 21:47 AFRICA NEWS

Read more

MEDIAWATCH

Finally, a good use for new app "Yo"

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 11 July 2014 (part 2)

Read more

THE WORLD THIS WEEK

The World This Week - 11 July 2014

Read more

#THE 51%

Sweden: A Feminist's Paradise?

Read more

FRANCE IN FOCUS

Politics: parties under pressure

Read more

FOCUS

In Burma, the rise of radical Buddhism

Read more

  • UN Security Council calls for Israeli-Palestinian ceasefire

    Read more

  • Holland beat hosts Brazil 3-0 to finish third in World Cup

    Read more

  • Afghan presidential candidates agree to full vote audit, Kerry says

    Read more

  • France’s Kadri wins eighth stage at Tour de France

    Read more

  • Legal challenge to French mayor’s ban of Muslim hijab on beach

    Read more

  • Last of the Ramones, Tommy Ramone, dies aged 62

    Read more

  • Video: Outrage in wake of deadly Casablanca buildings collapse

    Read more

  • Iraqi forces ‘executed prisoners in reprisal’ for ISIS killings

    Read more

  • Ukraine promises retaliation after rebel assault

    Read more

  • Putin revives old Cuban flame and eyes Latin American minerals

    Read more

  • Amazon snubs French free delivery ban with one-cent charge

    Read more

  • Cleveland's NBA fans hail 'return of king' LeBron James

    Read more

  • Exclusive: an unlikely victim of the 'War on Terror'

    Read more

  • Magnitude 6.8 quake, small tsunami hit east Japan

    Read more

  • Suspect in Brussels Jewish Museum shooting drops extradition appeal

    Read more

France

Parisians protest for their right to help illegal immigrants

©

Text by Lorena GALLIOT

Latest update : 2009-04-09

Thousands of protesters gathered in Paris and several other French cities on Wednesday, April 8, to protest against French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s demand that at least 5,000 people be arrested for helping illegal immigrants in France.

In Paris, more than 1,000 people met on Place Saint Michel despite the rain, answering the call of 21 human rights organizations, including Emmaüs France, the Cimade and the Ligue des droits de l’Homme (French Human Rights league).

 

Dozens of protesters took turns on the stand to “accuse themselves” of the “criminal offense of solidarity”. All wore a bright yellow sticker that proclaimed: “I’m a helper, and I’m ready to face charges”.

 

The issue had recently made headlines with the release of ‘Welcome’, a movie by Philippe Lioret which tells the story of a lifeguard in Calais facing charges after helping an Iranian Kurd immigrant cross the Channel sea to Britain.

 

Arrest quotas

 

The protesters are especially angry that the government fixed ‘quotas’ of arrests for illegal immigrants and those who help them. “The government wants to arrest 5,500 ‘helpers’ by 2011, so we’re here to give President Nicolas Sarkozy a hand. Today he can get us all at once, two years before his deadline!” declares Teddy Roudaut of Emmaüs France.

 

Wednesday’s protest was sparked by several recent arrests involving NGO volunteer workers in France. On February 16, police arrested an illegal immigrant sheltered in an Emmaüs emergency residence. They later raided the building, looking for other illegal immigrants, and arrested the centre’s manager for sheltering them. On February 18, police raided the home of a soup kitchen volunteer worker in Calais who organises food and clothing donations for the dozens of homeless migrants hoping for a chance to cross the Channel. She was also arrested, notably for having recharged the cellphone batteries of several of the illegal immigrants.

 

“After these incidents, we realized that the term ‘helper’ used in article L662-1 of the ‘Code for the entry and residence of alien citizens in France’ is far too vague, meaning that ordinary citizens who are showing their generosity can be considered in the same way as human smugglers and exploiters,” explains Teddy Roudaut. Human rights organisations have proposed a joint amendment to the law which would clearly distinguish between those who deal with illegal immigrants for money and those who help them out of humanitarian concerns.

 

French Immigration Minister Eric Besson declared on the morning of the protests that “there is no criminal offence of solidarity, that’s a myth,” claiming that the ‘helpers’ targeted by article L622 are “those who actively participate in illegal migration networks” and not those who help illegal immigrants “out of kindness”. But NGO leaders claim the distinction isn’t clearly made, and that their militants face “increasing pressure” from police authorities.

 

Showing solidarity

 

 

Those present at the protest recounted how they, at some point or another, extended a helping hand towards illegal immigrants. One young student explained she let Chechen migrants camping out in an abandoned building near her home take showers in her apartment. Others use their language or legal skills to guide asylum-seekers through the French administrative imbroglio.

 

An elected representative of Paris’s 15th district even claimed that she used her own mother’s address to provide some migrants with the postal address necessary for paperwork procedures. A Malian asylum-seeker spoke up, full of emotion, to thank the crowd for their “solidarity”, and was warmly cheered in return.

 

“It is completely unacceptable that authorities try to prevent us from simply showing some humanity towards others,” says Alain Bosc, president of the Cimade’s Paris branch. For all the NGO members present at the protest, illegal immigrants are above all human beings in need, isolated and destitute. Helping them, they claim, is their duty as citizens, and certainly not a criminal offence.

Date created : 2009-04-09

Comments

COMMENT(S)