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June 1998, Volume 5, Number 6

France: Removals, Politics

France received 74,000 immigrants in 1997. Over half were from Africa, followed by 30 percent from other EU nations.

At the request of France, police in five European countries raided and searched suspected Islamic militant terrorist cells and detained 90 people in late May. The French police said that the raids were aimed at heading off terrorism during the World Cup, which opens in Paris on June 10.


France has an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 unauthorized foreigners, and 145,000 have applied for a legalization under a 1997 measure. The French government is working through the applications, granting immigrant status to the parents of children born in France, the spouses of French citizens, and foreigners refused political asylum who would be in danger in their county of citizenship.

Those allowed to remain must have lived legally in France for at least six months.

About half of the applicants are expected to be legalized, which means that 75,000 others will have to depart from France. The government is offering a free air ticket home and FF4500 ($750) to each adult who leaves voluntarily. France has announced that it wants to avoid charter flights of unauthorized foreigners, and instead to send foreigners home on regular flights "with dignity." Skeptics note that even during the charter repatriation era, no more than 12,000 foreigners a year were removed from France.

On May 31, 1998, some 150 foreigners, mostly Chinese and Kurds, occupied a church in Paris to protest their planned removal. There are foreigners in six French churches are seeking to avoid deportation. In 1996, some 100 illegal immigrants from black Africa were able to stay in France after taking refuge in a Paris church.

France removes foreigners via federal administrative (1,000 a year) and judicial (2,000 a year) procedures. In both procedures, only about half of the foreigners the government wants to remove are in fact removed. Many foreigners cannot be removed because, for example, they lack travel documents or the courts do not agree with the government that a foreigner should be expelled.

Each of the 96 French states or departments has a federal representative who can, for example, order a foreigner without a residence permit to leave or refuse to issue a residence permit to a foreigner who is considered a threat to public safety. Representative decisions can be appealed to local courts, but courts have only two days to decide appeals. Foreigners under 18, those born in France or the spouses of French citizens may not be removed via such administrative proceedings.

If a foreigner removed from France through an administrative proceeding returns, he is subject to a new administrative proceeding. A foreigner removed by judicial decision, however, could be permanently barred. France plans to introduce a system similar to that of the US, stationing immigration officers in prisons so that foreigners can be deported as soon as they finish serving their sentence.

Some French complain that deportation after serving a prison sentence for a crime committed in France is a double penalty, since the foreigner serves his time in prison for the crime, and then is punished a second time by deportation. Article 8 of the European convention on human rights restricts expulsions that interfere with family life, so that some criminal foreigners with families cannot be removed. Article 3 restricts the expulsion of foreigners who face risks at home, including, for example, the risk of receiving the death sentence if returned.

In May, 1998, ten Algerian and Tunisian nationals who were to be deported after serving prison sentences in France ended their 50-day hunger strike, and were permitted to remain in France on probation for one year. The 10 Algerians and Tunisian say they have special links to France, such as having arrived when they were very young, living in France nearly all their lives, or having been married to Frenchwomen with children who are French nationals.


The National Front lost its only seat in the 577-member National Assembly when the wife of the ex-National Front representative, who is also mayor of Toulon and was barred from office for campaign violations, lost a special election by 33 votes.

Anne Swardson, "French Seize Terror Suspects," Washington Post, May 27, 1998. "Air France to resume carrying expellees to Mali," Reuters, April 27, 1998.