France: immigrants demonstrate against repression

An immigrants collective demonstrates during a day of strike action

Demonstrations and protests against police tactics and government policies are becoming more frequent.

Submitted by jef costello on November 20, 2007

With the openly anti-immigration policies of the government immigrants have found themselves targetted by police. This is part of a worrying racist trend in contemporary French politics.

Many of the demonised illlegal immigrants are well-integrated into French society, many working in France for years. Management can bully undocumented workers and use their status to avoid giving notice or compensation by reporting workers they want to sack. In some cases colleagues of workers have launched solidarity actions and won them their jobs back. Earlier this year employees of the Buffalo Grill won back the jobs of their colleagues with a strike and occupation.

The police tactic of setting up checkpoints around schools is one that has come in for particular criticism. Earlier this year there was a day of strike action by teachers after Valérie Boukobza, a primary school headmistress, was arrested trying to prevent the arrest of an elderly chinese man who was collecting his grand-daughters from school.

The government is cracking down by strengthening anti-immigration laws, by increasing enforcement, by blocking access to education and healthcare and by not allowing the family of immigrants to stay. Police have been accused of using illegal methods to evict and deport homeless immigrants. Student strikers have shown solidarity demanding the repeal of the Hortefeux law on immigration and for open access to universities.

More militant tactics are becoming more common, demonstrations are not enough and organisations have begun to try tactics such as occupations. The Montreuil collective recently occupied the prefecture in Bobigny in support of one of its members Kébé Talibé, who is threatened with deportation. These actions are especially dangerous for those threatened with deportation.

Incidents of victimisation of those of arab and african descent are especially common. Two years ago a wave of rioting was unleashed in the french suburbs when two young boys, Zyed Benna and Bouna Traore were electrocuted while hiding from police in an electricity substation. The police repeatedly denied this although an inquiry later proved that police had been chasing them. Police giving false testimony is not unusual, last year there was a police cover up after the death of Taoufik el-Amri. Police are also frequently accused of brutality and using strongarm tactics. A direct result of the Sarkozy's decision, as interior minister, to shut down community policing and use only the hated CRS riot police in the banlieues.