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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: À Paris, le jasmin a l’odeur des menottes…

by Marie Barbier

In Paris, jasmine is scented with handcuffs…

Translated Wednesday 4 May 2011, by Rebecca Watson and reviewed by Henry Crapo

Tens of Tunisian migrants freshly arrived in Paris were arrested and held in custody on Wednesday. In the Parisian square where they were sleeping, some denounced police violence.

“The police: in the evening, in the morning, all the time!” On Wednesday, in the square at Porte de la Villette where several hundred Tunisians had found refuge since their arrival in Paris, tempers were still aroused after the numerous arrests of the last few hours.

During the night of Tuesday and Wednesday, sixty people, the majority of which Tunisians recently arrived in France, were placed in custody in Paris and in Seine-Saint-Denis. The police operation, which took place in the 10th, 19th and 20th arrondissements of Paris, had “the goal of establishing a diagnostic of [their] situation”, as the prefecture of Paris police dared explain.

“Then [on Thursday] morning, two plain-clothed police officers came to tell us that they were going to take our fingerprints,” fulminated Chaibi Maher, a forty-year-old Tunisian who arrived in the capital a month ago.

The sixty people arrested and placed in custody were still at the commissariat at Pantin on Wednesday. They are the subject of judiciary proceedings for “the infraction of laws of residency” and a judge was to have decided upon possible expulsions on Monday 26/4.

“There are two scenarios,” explains Me Samia Maktouf, who is defending several of the Tunisians. “Those who have a temporary Italian passport will certainly be sent back to Italy. Those without any papers will be placed in a detention centre. As the Tunisian consulate is not able to issue travel documents, they will certainly be released.”

While visiting them in custody, the lawyer was bombarded with witness accounts of police violence. One Tunisian, who was sleeping in the park, assures that he had been woken up at dawn by being hit with a club. Another, with the appearance of a juvenile, and claiming to be 15 years old, explains that French police had stopped him the week before. He mimes an arm lock and a grimace of pain to explain his arrest. “And all that at cost to the taxpayer,” sighs the lawyer. “For the same price, we could have put them up in a three-star hotel!”

For some weeks several hundred Tunisians are living in vulnerable situations on the edges of Paris. Some affirmed on Wednesday that they had not eaten for several days.


Faced with “the indifference of the State”, to whom the responsibility of receiving the refugees nevertheless falls, the socialist mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoë has decided to unblock an initial fund of 100,000 euros dedicated to emergency measures. The city estimates there to be 200 Tunisian migrants who currently find themselves in Paris “in a very vulnerable state”. The capital has put the associations France, Land of Asylum [1] and Emmaüs [2] to put in place support systems as well as health and social care, but also to provide access to hotel accommodation. The city has also reinforced its support for the associations that for several days have been supplying food aid. Bertrand Delanoë, himself born in Tunis, has expressed his “emotion” and “indignation” and has invited “the French authorities to respond with humanity and dignity to the expectations that thousands of Tunisians have of our country”.

[1France terre d’asile

[2A social aid society founded by l’Abbé Pierre

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