Sunday, June 14, 2009

No more solidarity?

Remember the Solidarity movement?
It might still apply to labor, but not to immigration, at least here in France. When I first moved here in the late 1980s, I learned about the délit de faciés ("facial crime," refers to being treated as a criminal because of what you look like). Now there's the délit de solidarité (crime of solidarity), which you commit by helping those who might well find themselves targets of police suspicion because of their looks, i.e., foreigners. Immigrants. More specifically, the so-called délit de solidarité is the offense of providing aid to illegal immigrants. While the minister in charge of immigration denies any such délit exists, the International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) has just issued a report of the results of an international investigation it organized with the help of the World Organisation Against Torture into the French authorities' treatment of those who help persons whose immigration situation is not "regular." The investigation followed the alarm raised by the French League of Human Rights (LDH) regarding the increasing number of members of associations as well as ordinary citizens taken into police custody because they provided social, legal or humanitarian assistance to foreigners in an "irregular" situation (papers not valid or no papers at all).
A news announcement this week cited the case of a woman who took in a 15-year-old Afghan boy to keep him off the streets. She was arrested under the statute (which dates from 1945) that prohibits providing aid with the aim of helping a clandestine live in France. It applies to people who provide false papers, enter into phony marriages, or otherwise make a conscious, concerted attempt to circumvent the law. Offering food, shelter, or even legal advice to people in need is not quite the same thing. Arresting people for doing so is, however, in keeping with the approach of the administration of President Nicolas Sarkozy (right) to immigration and asylum law. (photo credit)
For example, the French government recently passed a law that, through a simple change in wording, now limits the legal aid given to persons in detention centers to legal "information," rather than "aid" or "counsel." This administration clearly doesn't want even the approved associations dealing with immigrants and asylum seekers to help them establish their right to be here. In addition to further limiting the possibility that those in need of legal advice will get it, the délit de solidarité helps ensure that countless sans papiers (people "without papers"), trafficked individuals, etc., won't receive the humanitarian aid they need either. This is contrary to French law: not helping someone who is in danger is also a délit.

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