Tuesday, April 10, 2007

The Pasqua Legacy

Apart from other scandals, France's former Interior Minister Charles Pasqua is perhaps best known for his xenophobic immigration laws -- les lois Pasqua -- aimed at achieving "zero immigration." The UN Special Rapporteur on racism and racial discrimination roundly criticized the 1993 Loi Pasqua, which restricted access to visas, eliminated appeal in asylum cases, and created the sans papiers, a class of immigrants including those who could not be deported because of conditions in their home country but could not obtain residence permits to regularize their status. (You may recall the June 1996 protest by 230 African sans papiers in St. Bernard Church in Paris.)
Now French prosecutors have charged Pasqua with illegal arms sales to Angola during that country's civil war, from 1993 to 2000. If the allegations are valid, it would seem that while Pasqua's laws were closing France's border to those fleeing persecution, he and his partners in crime (including Jean-Christophe Mitterand, son of Francois) were pocketing nearly $800 million from weapons sales -- thus enabling the civil war that sent almost 500,000 Angolans fleeing for their lives. While Pasqua may now face his day in court on the arms trafficking charges, we continue to see shades of his anti-immigrant legacy in the debate around France's upcoming elections, as Anna Koransky notes here.

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