‘Racist, xenophobic’: Lawmakers join mass protests against contentious French immigration law

Europe
Tue, 16 Jan 2024 7:32 GMT
Thousands pour out for rallies throughout France against controversial immigration law ahead of Constitutional Council’s Jan. 25 decision.
‘Racist, xenophobic’: Lawmakers join mass protests against contentious French immigration law

A first day of mobilization against France’s contentious immigration law took place on Sunday in several cities before larger demonstrations planned a week later.

More than 400 collectives, associations, unions and political parties including La France Insoumise (LFI), or France Unbowed, called for demonstrations 11 days before the passage of the text before the Constitutional Council.

In the Paris protest at Place de la Republique, several thousand people came to march against the controversial law.

Braving the cold weather, there were around 25,000 people according to the organizers, whereas Paris police headquarters placed the figure at 7,700.

“We demand the outright withdrawal of the law. We came to France to work. We are not delinquents,” said Aboubacar Dembele, spokesperson for the collective of undocumented workers of Vitry-sur-Seine (Val-de-Marne).

“This law is based on the ideas of far-right political parties and its validation means a victory of the far-right,” he told Anadolu.

Dembele said they will continue their protests until the law is withdrawn and until proper documentation, work and housing are guaranteed for all.

Adopted by parliament last December, the asylum immigration law marks a turning point and has been denounced by many unions and rights groups as the most regressive law in 40 years.

It aims to restrict social aid payments to foreigners, calls into question the automaticity of land laws, reestablishes an “offense of illegal residence” and sets up migration quotas.

Critics say it has many ideas that have been pushed by the far-right, such as national preference, and will have terrible consequences on the lives of thousands of foreigners in France.

They say the law also restricts right to stay, considerably increases repression, attacks the right to asylum, land rights, healthcare for foreigners, non-European students and family reunification.

Threat of Olympic boycott

Andy Kerbrat, an LFI deputy for Loire-Atlantique in the National Assembly, came along with his colleagues to show solidarity with undocumented migrants and to denounce the law, which he described as “extremely racist.”

“It is an anti-social law that aims to break Custom Housing Assistance (APL) for people who live in the country,” he told Anadolu.

“The introduction of this law coincides with a time when the French people are suffering from the repercussions of inflation and they die in the streets. How are these people going to live?”

As many of these undocumented migrants work in construction and labor-intensive jobs linked to the upcoming Paris Olympic Games, the French lawmaker has vowed to boycott the major sporting event in July if the law is passed.

Principles under threat

The law, which is expected to restrict the right to emergency accommodation and tighten access to social benefits, including family allowances and housing assistance, will throw families onto the street or into the arms of slumlords, particularly migrant women.

Many protesters criticized this real attack on freedoms and rights, such as the right to asylum, which puts the value of “equality between all” in France under the microscope.

“I wake up every day at 5 a.m. and go back home at 8 p.m., leaving my children behind. We didn’t come to France because it is a country of rights, but because I need to work to feed my family here and abroad,” Fatoma, a protester, told Anadolu, holding a sign that said “No human being is illegal.”

Aurelie Trouve, an LFI parliamentarian, described the law as “racist, xenophobic and stupid.”

“The law attacks the right of 5.3 million foreigners who are going to be deprived of housing and family assistance,” she told Anadolu.

“Those people work and spend in France. They also contribute to everyone’s pensions and pay taxes … A country that closes in on itself like that is a country in real decline.”

More unrest on the horizon

The Constitutional Council is expected to rule on the legal validity of the law’s text on Jan. 25.

The council will have to judge whether all elements of the legal text are valid from the point of view of the Constitution of the Fifth Republic.

Critics and supporters alike are waiting in anticipation for any possible deletions or revisions from the council.

Demonstrations like the ones seen on Sunday are likely to continue, with some 200 cultural, civil and political figures calling for mass protests on Jan. 21.

In their statement, they urged French President Emmanuel Macron not to promulgate the law, warning that it marks a “dangerous turning point in the history of our Republic.”

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