28 Eylül 2010 Salı

French State Becoming more and more Xenophobic

I wrote this article on September 18th. It has been published at Bianet.org recently. For reaching the text published there please see http://bianet.org/english/human-rights/125074-french-state-becoming-more-and-more-xenophobic  


Burak Cop 

The French Government announced that they will shut down the existing 300 Roma camps, claiming they became crime centers. The total number of deportees was 11.000 last year. EU specialist Aktar sees a connection between radical changes of policies and President Sarkozy's run-up to the 2011 elections. 

The anti-immigration legislature (with some hints of xenophobia), weaved by Nicolas Sarkozy at the time of his cabinet membership as Minister of Internal Affairs in 2003, has reached new heights in 2010 by the mass expulsion of the Roma population.
After the European Union membership status granted to Bulgaria and Romania, the Roma living under harsh conditions have opted to benefit from the right to move freely recognized by the Union and have relocated to various countries within the region including France.
The EU has limited the new members with a maximum of 7 years of taking up residency and employment in the founding member states. However there are no limitations on travel. This particular policy has enabled the Roma who have been deported in groups, to travel to France in the past.
France on the other hand had already lifted or relaxed these limitations in 2008 for all new member states including for the citizens of remaining member countries.
However the French Government has announced that they will shut down the existing 300 Roma camps, claiming that these have become crime centers. During the month of August around 1000 people have been sent back to Romania and Bulgaria. The total number of deportees was 11.000 last year.
EU specialist Dr. Cengiz Aktar has commented on the radical changes in the policies despite the 2008 uplifting of the settlement restrictions:
"Recently the weather has turned sour again. The economic crisis has further elevated the situation. In line with these unfavourable developments, severe misgivings of the Sarkozy administration have also surfaced. In fact Sarkozy has started to focus on the 2011 presidential elections. Sarkozy, who until recently used to terrify the elderly French citizens with the threat of Turkey's EU membership, started to seek a new scapegoat since Turkey was no longer a visible source of intimidation. He in turn used some incidents caused by the gypsies as an excuse to go after them.

The public supporters for Sarkozy

The administration has been proclaiming that the recent mass expulsions -criticized even by the United Nations- are in line with the EU regulations.  The opposition Socialist Party and the second largest union confederation of the country, CGT, have given support to street demonstrations held last month. Almost 100.000 people have participated in these demonstrations.
However, as a repercussion of the outcome of the studies indicating that 65 per cent of the French population have been supporting the anti-immigration policies, Sarkozy feels backed up and is not affected by the negative developments.
The truth of the matter is that the problems of these and other immigrant related generations have been more deeply rooted in France. France has been a country of discrepancies in major concepts such as equality of the citizens and discrimination.
France, on the one hand, has keenly embraced the norms of "freedom, equality and fraternity" in 1789, has hosted the 1848 Paris Commune and the 1968 spring, has been a staunch proponent of human rights and democracy, and has produced in every phase of her recent history monumental intellectuals.
However, on the other hand, France has also pursued ruthless policies in her colonies and has abused and mistreated millions of people, has shown immense aggression against the Algerian people during the time of their war of independence -for instance, she has brutally crushed the illegal but peaceful demonstration attended by 30.000 Algerians in Paris in 1961 (The French government has accepted the responsibility of deaths during that fateful day after 37 years, in 1998)- and it is country where people of northern African origins and blacks perceive themselves as second-class citizens.

They are under more "control"

6.5 million people of African and Maghreb (Northern African) origin live in France of today. A British citizen, Michael Cosgrove, who has been living in France since 1990 recounts in an interview in the Guardian that every Saturday when he happens to be on the streets, he always comes across a group of Africans and Maghrebis being asked to present their identity cards "at random". What is very interesting is that he has never experienced such a treatment himself.

They are more "unemployed"

Studies show that covered up racism reigns against the immigrants in France. Very much like the status of African Americans whose representation in the jails immensely exceed their population in the American society, 65 per cent of the total number of inmates in the French jails are of Maghreb and African origin.
The unemployment figures of 2005 show that while the national ratio has been 10 per cent, the total rate of unemployment is nearing 20 per cent in the case of suburban areas inhabited by the immigrants. According to BBC, the unemployment rate of university graduates of "white French" origin is 5 per cent on a nationwide scale, whereas the corresponding figure reaches 26.5 per cent for the citizens of African origin.
The anti-racist organization 'SOS Racisme' has arrived at the conclusion following a research that in the case of two CVs looking almost identical; if one belongs to an African origin person, it is highly unlikely that there will be a favourable response to the applicant, and furthermore admission into the night clubs are biased and are based on the physical appearance. What is more interesting is that the more educated people of immigrant descent are faced with more discriminatory acts as compared with the less educated ones.

The Immigration Act has been more tightened up

On top of all these negative developments and handicapped environment, the French Government has been persistently sowing the seeds of discrimination lately. In 2006 a new legislation has been enacted to complicate and thus help limit the migration of those who will be labelled as unskilled and those who are alien to the "French Culture" -therefore we learn that there is a singular French culture! (Britain has also resorted to similar precautionary measures in 2009).
Sarkozy, who has come to power by the rhetoric that he will rid the country of the immigrants, has set up the new "Immigration and National Identity Ministry".
Rather than, say, opting for initiatives to deal with adaptability and compatibility issues of the immigrants who set fire in the suburbs of Paris in 2005, the new Ministry chose to create and to impose a "national identity" and has approached the public with questions like "what does it mean to be French?" by way of special web sites, reports Esin Eğriboz, from Bordeaux, for Bianet.org.

Has exceeded the targets!

The main target put forward for the new Ministry has been to deport 26.000 immigrants in 2008 (and the measures taken aim to create actions of "volunteerism" on the part of the immigrants). The minister Brice Hortefeux has puzzled Sarkozy by his high performance: The targeted numbers of people expulted neared 30.000!
Sarkozy nowadays is presenting the existence of immigrants as the source of many of the ills of the country. Following the events of Grenoble where police clashed with immigrants, Sarkozy visited the city of social upheaval and claimed that those who have taken part in the criminal acts would be faced with loss of their citizenships. Following this threat the world witnessed some horrifying scenes of African origin women, some pregnant and with small children, being dragged out of their homes which they refused to leave.
France is moving forward step-by-step to xenophobia, and even to racism with the advent of anti-immigrationary politics.

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