Posted on August 29, 2006

Africans In French Hunger Strike

BBC News, August 28, 2006

Over 40 Algerians and Guineans have started a fourth week on hunger strike in central France in an attempt to get temporary residence rights.

The group of 44 — three of them women — want 12-month residence permits. They are occupying a former police station in the city of Limoges.

In June the French parliament adopted a new law tightening the entry rules for immigrants’ dependents.

Some immigrant families with school-age children are to get residence permits.

The authorities are examining applications from thousands of illegal immigrants as part of the plan to regularise the status of about 800 sans-papiers (without papers) families.

The condition is that the families must have children who were born and brought up in France.

But the new immigration law makes it harder for unskilled migrants to settle in France.

A spokesman for the hunger strikers in Limoges, Houssni el-Rherabi, complained of “always having to hide for fear of checks which would lead to detention”.

“We don’t work, we flee the boss, the bailiffs. We go to charities for our food, especially food for our children. It’s better to die in dignity, for dignity’s sake,” he told the French news agency AFP.

The French Interior Minister, Nicolas Sarkozy, introduced the new law in a drive to curb illegal immigration and promote selective immigration based on skills — a system similar to the Australian or US models.

The French government believes up to 400,000 people are now living in France illegally.

Paris, — Several thousand people demonstrated in the French capital on Saturday, calling on the government to give official residency papers to all illegal immigrants living in France.

Two to four thousand people joined the rallying call for official papers in front of the Saint Bernard church in northern Paris where an occupation by illegal immigrants led a highly publicised stand-off with police 10 years ago.

French authorities are currently examining applications from thousands of illegal immigrants as part of a plan to give residency papers to families with school-age children.

The government has introduced a much tougher line on immigration and Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy has vowed to step up the pace of illegal immigrant deportations to 25,000 this year.

Parliament approved a new law in June which seeks to encourage more qualified workers to come to France and tightens entrance rules for other foreigners, in particular for immigrants’ families.

It also scraps the automatic right to residency papers for illegal immigrants who have been 10 years in the country.