dangtri: (squirrel)
This stuff (Liberation, Le Figaro, both in French) is really getting to me.

Ten days ago, in Montfort-sur-Meu, a small town/large village kind of place in Brittany, 23 men from Mali were arrested and are now being held waiting for deportation, if they haven't already been shipped back to Bamako. They were living in Montfort for 5 years, working in a local slaughterhouse, socialising, doing regular stuff. One coached a football team, another was looking forward to becoming a father. There's no suggestion whatsoever they might have done anything against the law – except for lacking a staying permit and, in order to be able to work and pay taxes, having false papers.

The one positive aspect of this sad affair is the reaction of the local community. Yeah, sure, the slogan in the title of this post (my translation obviously) is cringeworthy and naive, and reveals the degree of otherness of a bunch of black Africans in a small town in Brittany even today just as much as it reflects the good intentions of the locals. But you know what, I'd rather be with these villagers than with the high-minded urban (and urbane) intellectuals who talk about human rights but hide behind vaporous concepts like "respect of the rules". Face it, some of your neighbours live in situations the rules aren't made for, and will bend them just to be able to go on with their lives in a dignified manner.

Because when it comes to survival, false papers have saved lives. Those Bretons, with their centuries of resisting the heartland French, and the formative experience of resisting the Nazis, know they'd consider getting themselves false papers, too, if push were to come to shove. And so would I.

Looking at the issue from the cool perspective of utilitarianism, people like these 23 Malians are among the best candidates for being permitted to stay. Another group in this category is that of "isolated minors" -- children who arrive without guardians and who as per UN Convention on the Rights of the Child cannot be deported. So if their claim is rejected, and most are, France waits until their 18th birthday to try to send them on their way. Which is in many kids' cases a few months before they are supposed to sit their baccalauréat. So every year there are fights of teachers and schools for their pupils to be allowed to stick around and sit their exams. Last year I heard a young woman in precisely this situation on television. She very eloquently -- she clearly was an excellent and successful product of the French school system -- spoke about politicians who kept telling them (=young people from an immigrant background) something along the lines of "if you don't want to participate in our society, why don't you go back to your country of origin" -- and about how hollow this pronouncement sounds if the converse isn't true: that if they wanted to participate, they were welcome to stay. And who would chide this 18 year old to be hungry for the education and the rights that her peers just take for granted?

Some countries get one or two things right, but then others go wrong. France at least scolarises everyone's children correctly (insofar as the school system is functional at all), whether with or without papers, asylum seeker or whatever their status. The UK doesn't. And I have my doubts about Germany.

Yesterday, I read an interesting G2 piece, a patchwork of "day-in-the-life" short texts revolving around the prison service, by inmates or otherwise ([livejournal.com profile] vasilatos, are you reading this?). The overall picture it paints is almost idyllic (especially compared to the revolting conditions in French prisons). Except for the one about "Eduard Ngienga Lukombo, 33, Asylum-seeker awaiting deportation with wife Angelina, 29, Ashley, 4, and Joshua, 11 months, Yarls Wood removal centre, Bedfordshire". Go and read it yourselves. My comment, with all due respect: What kind of fucking wanker locks children up in a detention centre? In a modern, liberal and affluent European nation? In whose name is this happening?

Wouldn't punishment at least require a crime or transgression? (And no, I've had to defend this point before, coming to a country that has an asylum policy and asking for asylum is no crime.)

When will the European Union countries wake up and implement humane and rational immigration policies? Demographics clearly tells of the need for more immigrants. People who are already here are being treated like animals, without regards to the contributions to society they have made, too often semi- or entirely clandestinely, for years and years. And the effort that is made to help people settle pales in comparison with the efforts to keep them away. Just because politicians have too limited an imagination to figure out how living together might work? Or why else are they pandering to a minority of xenophobes and racists? This is madness.

July 2010

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