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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: Besson ne dit pas bienvenue à Welcome

by Laurent Mouloud

Besson doesn’t say welcome to ‘Welcome’.

Translated Monday 23 March 2009, by Karen Singleton

The Immigration Minster has criticised Philippe Lioret, director of a film about clandestine immigration in Calais, starring Vincent Lindon.

Just, moving…and disturbing. Even before its release in cinemas, on the 11th March, the film Welcome and its accompanying commentaries seem to have made Éric Besson’s skin crawl. Rightly so: the drama portrays the tragic fate of an Iraqi teenager in Calais, ready to do anything to reach London. This is because the widely acclaimed film highlights the inhuman situation of these migrants and underlines the ambiguous attitude of the French State.

When talking to the media, the leading actor, Vincent Lindon, hasn’t missed an opportunity to emphasise this. Last Saturday, in Le Parisien, the actor repeated : “People in Calais are sometimes treated worse than dogs.” Before denouncing the existence of the famous crime of solidarity which punishes, with 5 years in prison, those who help illegal immigrants. “It shocks me that we can threaten people with prison for having compassion for others.”

Of course, this type of opinion upsets Éric Besson’s public communications plan, as do those opinions expressed by the director, Philippe Lioret. In an article for La Voix du Nord, in January, Loiret questioned the passivity of some citizens. “What is happening [in Calais – editor’s note] makes me think of 1943. Fortunately, there are not only Papons [1] in Calais, but also some fantastic people. And others who are happy to do nothing, because, sometimes, the situation seems impossible, and not everyone is Zorro.”

This was enough to fire up the Immigration Minister’s rhetoric. On Saturday, on RTL, Éric Besson didn’t hesitate to cast suspicion on Lioret and his film: “It has overstepped the bounds.” And he stressed: “to suggest that the French police are like those of Vichy, that the Afghans are hunted, and netted in raids, etc., is intolerable.” Yet, Lioret has never suggested such things. One could believe it’s simply the truth that seems intolerable for Éric Besson. At Calais or elsewhere.

[1Reference to Maurice Papon, a French civil servant convicted of crimes against humanity for his part in the deportation of Jews during World War II. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maurice_Papon

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