Julio Godoy
RIGHTS: Thousands Face Expulsion From France
Mon Jul 31, 2006 22:27

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Thousands Face Expulsion From France
Julio Godoy

PARIS, Jul 31 (IPS) - The French government is poised to expel about 20,000 illegal immigrants, mostly Sub-Saharan Africans, campaigners say. The French move runs contrary to the trend across Europe.

Minister for the interior Nicolas Sarkozy announced Jul. 24 that most illegal immigrants who had applied for a residence permit over the last six weeks would be expelled.

"The fate of people living illegally is to be expelled to their place of origin," Sarkozy said.

Sarkozy had announced in October last year that his ministry would expel 30,000 illegal immigrants, including children and teenagers attending school. On Jun. 13 this year he announced that under certain circumstances illegal immigrants would be allowed to stay, leading large numbers to apply for legalisation.

Sarkozy said Jul. 24 that his ministry had received 20,000 such applications. The government has set Aug. 14 as the last date for receiving applications for legalisation of status.

After that date the government will begin "normal management of the cases of foreigners," Sarkozy said.

"Sarkozy is again opening a hunt for children, to expel them from France," said Richard Moyon, coordinator of Education without Borders (RSEF, after its French name), a network of French teachers and school workers.

RSEF has been leading the opposition to Sarkozy's policy against immigrants for the last two years, and encouraged French citizens to shelter immigrant children attending school.

The French policy on immigration contrasts sharply with that of other European governments such as Germany, Spain, and Italy.

In Germany the local government of Berlin announced last week that it would immediately end the policy of expelling long-term illegal immigrants.

The local ministry of the interior announced that some 14,000 refugees who arrived in Berlin before Jan 1, 2000 will be allowed to remain in the city.

This measure anticipated a new rule expected to be passed later this year for all of Germany to legalise the residence status of between 150,000 and 250,000 refugees who have been living in the country for a long time.

This directive aims at legalising the status of refugees who applied for asylum in Germany earlier, but whose applications were rejected. Other beneficiaries of the directive will be illegal immigrants, parents of children who reached adulthood during their stay in Germany, and refugees who entered Germany as minors.

Last year the Spanish government of Jose Luis Rodriguez Zapatero legalised some 570,000 illegal immigrants. In Italy, Prime Minister Romano Prodi recently passed an order to regularise the status of 517,000 illegal immigrants.

Italian minister for the interior Giuliano Amato said the move "is not only an act of solidarity towards these workers, but also a decision in favour of Italian society. These people are already in Italy, and their status so far condemned them to work illegally."

In France, Sarkozy has been accused of placing the immigration issue at the core of his campaign ahead of presidential elections due early next year. Sarkozy is expected to contest.

Catholic church leaders have described Sarkozy's policy as a populist move aimed at gaining far right votes.

"His aim with this law is to please the extremist right-wing electorate, whose only political objective is to reject immigrants' otherness," Bishop Olivier Berranger, leading member of the Council of French Christian Churches said earlier in a radio interview.

The far right constituency represents some 15 percent of the French vote. In the last presidential election of 2002, the neo-fascist Front National (FN) led by Jean-Marie Le Pen won almost 17 percent of the vote.

But the populist move may not be a practical one. Illegal immigrants do not usually hold identity papers, and if their supposed countries of origin refuse to recognise them as citizens, the French government may not know where to send them to.

The French government is putting pressure on foreign countries, especially in sub-Saharan Africa, to accept immigrants being expelled from France.

Annette Huraux of the Ecumenical Mutual Aid Service (CIMADE, after its French name), a Catholic organisation helping immigrants, said "Sarkozy is putting enormous pressure upon those countries not cooperating." (END/2006)


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