(eng) African immigrants in France seek support at home

Mon, 16 Sep 1996 17:41:43 +0200

^African immigrants in France seek support at home@

By Francois Raitberger

PARIS, Sept 5 (Reuter) - African immigrants fighting French
expulsion orders on Thursday appealed to their fellow citizens
back home to put pressure on African governments to help them.
The group of immigrants, evicted last month from a Paris
church where 10 of them were on a hunger strike, said their
consulates in France had done nothing to help.
``We turn to you, dear fellow-citizens, to urge you to rise
up against the leaders of our countries, to question them so
that they assume their responsibility in the face of what is
happening in the country of human rights (France),'' they said
in a statement.
The group, dubbed the ``sans papiers'' (without documents),
said Africans should write or phone their presidents and
organise daily protests at 7 p.m. outside public buildings.
They did not spell out how African countries could help
their fight for residence permits in France.
Their spokesman Abubakar Diop told reporters the group was
planning some high-profile actions in France in the coming
weeks, perhaps occupying public buildings.
A protest march was planned in central Paris later in the
day, the third in as many weeks.
The protesters say they are all entitled to stay in France
but many have been plunged into illegality by a hardening of
French laws on immigration in 1993.
Interior Minister Jean-Louis Debre has said none of them has
a legal right to stay, but he would review their situation
individually on humanitarian grounds, predicting as many as
two-thirds would end up with residence permits.
Eight of the protesters have been deported home since the
controversial police raid on their church refuge.
An opinion poll published on Thursday showed Debre's firm
hand paid off with voters. His popularity shot up by nine
percentage points to 32 percent.
A police union took issue with courts who have annulled a
number of expulsion orders, and with the protesters' French
backers, accusing them of undermining laws voted by parliament.
Confusion lingered over numbers. The head of the French
Human Rights Commission, Jean Kahn, said this week after meeting
Debre that 122 of 227 protesters had received residence permits.
But Diop, a 27-year-old Senegalese computer programmer, said
many of the 122 did not belong to his group. He said that only
41 of the 314 protesters had been given documents.
Diop accused the government of trying to divide the
protesters and said they would wage their legal battle as a
group, refusing to appear individually in court or at the police
foreigners section which he called ``the free trip office.''
He called on the government to resume negotiations with the
Poking fun at police, Diop said the first thing a delegation
of ``sans papiers'' was asked when they were summoned for talks
at the Interior Ministry last month was: ``Papers, please.''
He said some of them had been offered 20,000 francs ($4,000)
in order to help them return home, but this was far from enough.
He said he would suggest to the government that it increase
the sum ten-fold to 200,000 francs ($40,000), or 400,000 francs
($80,000) for a couple, so that they could start a business back
home and trade with France.

Reut11:01 09-05-96