Migration: collective manifesto marks start of new campaign against the "solidarity offence" as government maintains border controls until July
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Over 100 trade unions and local and national associations across France have signed a new manifesto that calls for an end to the "solidarity offence" and denounces the trials of "activists who are only helping people in very precarious situations, victims of dangerous, violent and even inhuman decisions," such as the farmer Cédric Herrou, who was recently tried for aiding illegal arrivals after helping people cross the border from Italy to France.
Amongst others, there are 13 people currently facing prosecution for helping migrants cross the French-Italian border, which remains closed and where French rail authorities (SNCF) have recently demanded that their staff help identify "groups" of migrants on board trains, something that many SNCF staff have denounced, stating that they refuse to take part in a "hunt" for migrants.
The coordinators of the manifesto have announced a day of action on Thursday 9 February, calling for: "Gatherings, speaking, forming human chains to proclaim that we are all delinquents and in solidarity with foreigners."
The French authorities wrote to the Council of the EU last week (10 January) to permit the continuation of border controls "at the internal land borders with Belgium, Luxembourg, Germany, the Swiss Confederation, Italy and Spain, and at the air and sea borders," until 15 July 2017.
See: NOTE from: French delegation to: Working Party on Frontiers/Mixed Committee: Temporary reintroduction of border controls at the French internal borders in accordance with Articles 25 and 27 of Regulation (EU) 2016/399 on a Union Code on the rules governing the movement of persons across borders (Schengen Borders Code) (5055/17, 10 January 2017, pdf)
Below the statement and the manifesto against the solidarity offence are reproduced; a petition in support of Ventimiglia activists facing prosecution has been opened for signature (change.org, link); and further information is available via the Passeurs d'hospitalites blog: Call Out : to end thesolidarity offence and other news (link). Groups wishing to sign the manifesto and join the collective can contact firstname.lastname@example.org.
Collective action: To end the solidarity offense
The trial of residents of the Roya Valley who areguilty of coming to the aid of refugees, comes with the threat of heavy penalties. Measures of intimidation, prosecution and sometimes condemnation of people who have acted in support of migrants or Roma in Calais, Paris, Norrent-Fontes, Boulogne, Loos, Perpignan, St- Etienne, in Meaux We have witnessed for several months the upsurge of cases where solidarity is considered a crime.
It is clear that the authorities intend to bend citizens who do not adhere to the policies of non-reception and exclusion of migrants and that they will not hesitate to assimilate them to those who profit from the vulnerability of the Exiles and exploit them, smugglers and traffickers of all kinds.
100 national or local associations or trade unions are publishing a manifesto by which they intend to denounce these procedures. In the coming weeks, they will carry out all sorts of actions to preserve the right of observation, the right of criticism, the right to oppose policies that are disapproved of, the right to behave other than as an agent of border closure policies: the right to act in all humanity.
12 January 2017
"Solidarity, more than ever an offense?"
Of course, solidarity has never been included in any code as an offense.
However, associative activists who are only helping people in very precarious situations, victims of dangerous, violent and even inhuman decisions, find themselves facing justice today.
With the introduction of a state of emergency, and in the context of the so-called migratory crisis, there has been a resurgence of prosecutions aimed at preventing the expression of solidarity with migrants, refugees, Roma and undocumented migrants. It is the support for all foreigners which tends to become suspect, the expression of the contestation of the policies being carried out which is assimilated with rebellion and the disturbance to public order.
The law makes it possible to prosecute those who help the sans-papiers, but all sorts of other charges are now used to hinder any citizen action that is opposed to the policies being implemented. All these intimidations, prosecutions, and sometimes convictions, are in fact what really constitute new forms of the offence of solidarity.
As early as 2009, associations for the defense of human rights and support for foreigners denounced the fact that the offence of assistance for the entry, movement and residence of foreigners in an irregular situation which was intended to combat those who trade in the trafficking and exploitation of foreigners, has allowed over time to sanction the helpers of undocumented foreigners, even if not acting for profit. If the penalties are not always applied, such a regulation will of course have a dissuasive effect on those who refuse to submit to policies hostile to foreigners.
The mobilization of the associations, at the time, resulted in several successive reforms, including that of 31 December 2012 which was presented as the suppression of the crime of solidarity. It is not so: the redrafting of the texts merely specifies and increases the cases of exemption from prosecution. In addition to assistance to parents, assistance is granted which has only been aimed at ensuring dignified and decent living conditions abroad or preserving dignity or physical integrity . Despite this, people who have expressed their solidarity with foreigners without a residence permit continue to be treated as criminals summoned by the police or gendarmerie, put in police custody, searched, telephone tapping even prosecuted and sometimes punished with fines and imprisonment .
At the same time, prosecutions have been started on the basis of texts not related to immigration.
- Offenses of contempt, insult and defamation, rebellion or violence against a law enforcement officer are used to defend the administration and the police against those who criticize their practices;
- The offense of obstructing the movement of an aircraft, which appears in the Civil Aviation Code, makes it possible to suppress passengers who, seeing persons tied up and gagged in an airplane, protest against the violence of the evictions;
- The regulations sanctioning the employment of a foreign worker without a work permit have been of concern to people who host irregular migrants who accept that their guests assist them in domestic work.
Today, the motives for prosecution are becoming ever more diverse. While prosecutions for helping entry and stay have resumed, new charges are used to condemn solidarity actions:
- Urban planning regulations have been invoked at Norrent-Fontes (Pas-de-Calais) to demand the destruction of migrant shelters;
- Texts on hygiene or safety applicable to premises have served to prevent accommodation being provided in St-Etienne;
- The absence of a seat belt and a seat for a girl in a truck resulted in the conviction of a helper in Calais;
- The intrusion into particular zones, prohibited because of a state of emergency, was used, in Calais also, to prevent citizens seeing;
- The offense of forgery and the use of forgery has been used to intimidate people who wanted to attest the presence for more than 48 hours of people in a squat in Clichy; etc
And, more and more, the mere fact of having wanted to witness police operations, evictions of camps, raids, can lead to an arrest, under cover of rebellion or violence against an agent.
These intimidation processes must stop. We affirm the legitimacy of citizens right of scrutiny over the practices of the administration, the justice or the police.
We want to encourage those who show solidarity with people in precarious situations without worrying about whether or not they are in a regular situation regarding their stay. We refuse that populations targeted by xenophobic practices and policies are stopped from having support. The future of the very principle of solidarity is at stake.
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