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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: La logique inhumaine des lois anti-immigrés

by Émilie Rive

The inhuman logic of the anti-immigrant laws.

Translated Wednesday 27 February 2008, by Gene Zbikowski

The Rights of Man. Nicolas Sarkozy and Brice Hortefeux’s policy of “selecting” immigrants and deporting the unwanted is having disastrous consequences.

John Maina was 19 years old. He lived in Meudon, a western suburb of Paris, and belonged to a track-and-field club in the 18th arrondissement. On the morning of Feb. 23, in the Championnet stadium by the arrondissement’s local town hall, his fellow athletes paid him homage, “that his death might not have been in vain.” Dead? The young Kenyan committed suicide on Feb. 15 because the French government refused to recognize his right to asylum. “He had been enrolled in paramilitary groups in Kenya,” said Sid Hachimi Belhachemi, a representative of the undocumented immigrants in the Hauts de Seine, the French département covering the western suburbs of Paris. “Too late, he realized what he had got caught up in, fled to France in 2006, demanded asylum, and explained his past. Today, the experts are certain that he was telling the truth, that John was desperate. He had been traumatized and needed care – instead, the government added another traumatism by refusing to protect him. He couldn’t take it. He couldn’t see himself being forced to return to Kenya. He was a track-and-field champion. Now we’re asking that he be legalized posthumously.

But he isn’t the only one – there are dozens and dozens of people to whom asylum has been refused, even though their lives are in danger in their native countries...” Not all have recourse to such extreme action. But are there any statistics on all the young adults who have been forced to abandon their studies, whom the police are hunting so as to deport them? The latest examples are from the Lyons area, 300 miles southeast of Paris: the police showed up at the doors of Armel Abdou (a student at Béjuit in Bron, an eastern suburb of Lyons) and Rajae (a student at Hélène-Boucher in Vénissieux, a southern suburb of Lyons). Neither was home. What choice do they have now? Going underground or committing suicide...

Destroyed families.

The government establishes statistics on the number of deportees, but it wants to ignore what they leave behind: children separated from their parents, a wife separated from her husband or a widow forced to return to her country of origin because her marital status no longer permits her to justify her presence in France... So, to pluck out one example at random today: Qosai Konafani, a Syrian, domiciled in La Courneuve (a northern suburb of Paris) was taken in for questioning on February 18. He had moved and had not received the order to leave France that had been sent to him, and consequently was unable to appeal the decision. He is married; he and his wife have two French-born children who attend the Rosenberg kindergarten.

He arrived in France legally in 1994 with a student resident permit. His wife joined him in 1999, legally until 2003. Konafani then repeatedly demanded a change from student resident status. He has a PhD in information technology. He defended his doctoral thesis at the Paris-XIII university in 2003. He has a firm job offer from Perfect System, a computer company. France is recruiting foreign computer scientists... “The decision to deport him is incomprehensible,” notes RESF, an NGO that defends undocumented immigrants.

Destroyed housing.

At six in the morning on February 12, 400 policemen participated in a search-and-control operation, in the name of sanitation, at the hostel operated by AFTAM (the association for the training of African and Madagascan workers) in the 13th arrondissement of Paris. The outcome: no charges were filed against the nine persons suspected of operating as slumlords, quite simply because the summons was judicially invalid.

On the other hand, the raid, conducted with much breaking-down of doors, resulted in over 100 people being taken into police custody, transferred to a detention center and finally brought before the courts. Today, following a one-week judicial marathon, 23 of the hostel residents are still being held at the detention center in Vincennes, just west of Paris. Rumor has it that two were deported yesterday. Everyone else who was arrested – and transferred to detention centers in Rouen (85 miles northwest of Paris), Lille (140 miles north of Paris) and elsewhere, has been liberated.

The French Judges Association has condemned the way the excuse of sanitation was used to carry out a raid on a government-subsidized hostel. “I still live in the hostel,” D. Tunkara explained. “Nothing has been fixed, we’re sleeping in rooms without doors. We’re waiting... A 130-square-foot one-person room costs 150 euros a month, a two-person room is 280 euros, and a three-person room is 360 euros. For my part, according to the prefecture, it seems that I don’t understand French. They don’t even know that when the president of Mali speaks in the villages, he speaks in French. They’ve already forgotten that they colonized us...”

The Association for the Literacy of People from Western Africa states that the people in Western Africa only survive thanks to money sent home from France and that blaming them for speaking French poorly amounts to forgetting that they are “the generation that had no school to go to and that wants to build schools for their children.”

Not even economic logic is respected.

The goal of the Hortefeux law is to favor immigrant workers, but its logic of deporting undocumented immigrants is disconnected from economic reality, and is even more disconnected from the economic reality of undocumented workers.

The strike by restaurant workers in the avenue de la Grande-Armée, two steps away from the Arc de Triomphe, is yet another piece of proof. For Raymond Chauveau, a stubborn CGT trade union leader, who together with Droits devant, another NGO that defends undocumented immigrants, engineered the strike victory, “the legalization of undocumented workers is no longer a question to be asked, but a question to be answered... To make progress in the negotiations, we didn’t go into the question of immigration documents, but into the question of work, with photocopies of the passports, the identification documents, and the certificate of domiciliation, and management filed the pay slips and job contracts. We remained within that framework. There was no breaking of the job contract. The strikers are going to be rehired immediately with the residence permits that they obtained on Thursday, but there’s been no change in Hortefeux’s policy.

Today’s victory is a confirmation of the correct course charted in the strikes at Modelux and Buffalo. We’ve had to fight for these legalizations. We forced the government to recognize that the trade union movement and the associations have their word to say on a question that the government wanted to reserve to the employers. And the government gave in. That’s what counts.”

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