Thousands protest French government's immigration plans

AFP , Sunday 30 Apr 2023

Thousands of people, including many undocumented migrants, marched in Paris and other French cities Saturday, protesting planned changes to immigration laws and evictions from the Indian Ocean island of Mayotte.

Protests in France
Protesters hold a slogan asking for issuing the legal papers unconditionally for immigrants, as they take part in a demonstration against the French minister of interior s legislative proposal on asylum and immigration, in Marseille, southern France on April 29, 2023. AFP


In the French capital, demonstrators marched behind a banner proclaiming "No to the Darmanin law. Against repression, imprisonment and deportations, for a welcoming migration policy", a reference to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin.

Organisers said that 2,300 people turned out for the protest in Paris.

The immigration bill, which the government has just postponed until the autumn, "is a racist law, which aims to criminalise foreigners" and lead to "more deportations", said Aboubacar, 31, an undocumented Malian.

"The problem is not immigration, it's exploitation and rogue bosses," said the post office sub-contractor who, with colleagues, has been fighting for 17 months to obtain his official documents to live and work in France.

The protesters also took aim at Operation Wuambushi (Take Back) being carried out by the authorities on the French Indian Ocean Island of Mayotte to send back illegal immigrants, most from neighbouring Comoros, currently housed in unsanitary shanty towns.

"The way undocumented Comorans are treated is unworthy of a country like France," said Marie-Christine Vergiat, vice-president of the French Human Rights League and a former member of the European parliament.

The Darmanin bill and the operation in Mayotte are linked, Said Mhamadi, a Comoran civil leader, said in the southern port city of Marseille, where up to 300 people demonstrated.

'Controlling immigration'

The controversial bill, entitled "Controlling immigration while improving integration", is aimed, among other things, at providing greater scope for deportation, especially for foreigners who commit crimes.

It would require a minimum level of French before a multi-year residence permit could be granted, would introduce mandatory fingerprinting, and tighten requirements for the renewal of long-term permits.

On Wednesday, the French government once again failed to reach consensus on the immigration bill, which is considered too divisive in an already abrasive social climate.

The government is promising a balance between the expulsion of foreigners who threaten public order and better integration of undocumented migrants, in particular by regularising workers in sectors where manpower is needed.

But while its critics believe the reforms are too authoritarian, Eric Ciotti, the head of the right-wing Republicans, believes they don't go far enough.

"No more rights for illegal immigrants, no more social benefits from the first day" for regular immigrants, he said.

The government needs the support of the Republicans, as it has a majority in the upper-house Senate. President Emmanuel Macron lost his parliamentary majority in elections last June.

On Saturday, In the northwestern city of Rennes, over 1,500 people took to the streets chanting "down with the police state".

"I came in solidarity with the Comoros and to protest against the brutal measures taken by France in Mayotte, it's very violent and there are other ways of dealing with it," 32-year-old Theodore Sobezy told AFP.

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