Protesters hold up candles and placards during a demonstration for the regularization of undocumented migrants, on the occasion of International Migrants Day, December 18, in Paris. THOMAS COEX / AFP
On the occasion of International Migrants Day, Friday, December 18, thousands of undocumented migrants demonstrated in France to demand their regularization, highlighting the situation of illegal immigrants weakened by the health crisis. After those of May, June and October, which brought together thousands of people, this fourth day of mobilization took place in around fifty cities, including Bordeaux, Marseille and Strasbourg.
In Paris, more than a thousand people, mainly from Africa, marched calmly between 6.30 p.m. and 8 p.m. in the center of the capital, surrounded by a large police force. “Undocumented migrants in danger”, “The national effort is us”, proclaimed their banners, lit by torches lit in memory of the migrants who died in exile.
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“We are there for all undocumented migrants in France. During the Covid, we are the ones who do all the work, who have cleaned the hospitals, while those who have short-time working are warm at home. The government has forgotten us ”, lamented to Agence France-Presse (AFP) Siby Ahamada, member of the collective of undocumented migrants from Montreuil.
Kanouté, a 25-year-old Malian, explains that he has two jobs: one diving in a restaurant at 8e arrondissement, without being declared; the other as a bicycle delivery boy, which he performs using someone else’s identity. “I am given an account and I ride all night, and at the end the guy gives me a few euros. During confinement, we did not stop “, he explains, adding: “Without papers, we cannot really start our life” in France.
“As we have no papers, the bosses take advantage of us, and when they want they don’t pay us”, explains another Malian, Lassana, 50, who has lived illegally in France for nineteen years and works in the building “A week here, a day there, sometimes just for 40 euros”. “We’ve been here for a long time, but our life is blocked. “
“The feeling of injustice is such for these people, who are in essential professions, that this denial of rights is unbearable”, underlined Fernanda Marrucchelli, of the Federation of associations of solidarity with all immigrants (Fasti).
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The Paris police headquarters had banned part of the parade – the arrival of the procession in front of the town hall – on grounds of fear of disturbances at the time of the anti-Covid-19 curfew introduced from 8 p.m., in these very crowded shopping areas as the end of year holidays approach.
“We, what we want are actions”
The organizers had initially suggested that a new encampment could nevertheless be set up in front of the Town Hall at the end of the demonstration, three weeks after the muscular dismantling by the police of tents of migrants installed on the Place de the Republic, which had aroused great emotion. They finally changed their minds in the face of the massive police device deployed on the spot, calling for dispersal “So as not to put people in danger”.
“The indignation born on the Place de la République, what is the result? Migrants are still on the streets. Indignations are good, we, what we want, they are acts ”, denounced Denis Godard, one of the organizers of this Solidarity March at the call of more than 200 collectives.
The undocumented people hope, by this new day of mobilization, to be better listened to than during the October demonstrations, organized the day after the assassination of history and geography professor Samuel Paty by a refugee of Chechen origin converted to theses jihadists.
In recent months, the file has not remained at a standstill: in mid-September the government instructed the prefects to facilitate the French naturalization of foreign nationals mobilized on the front line during the epidemic.
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In early November, the entourage of the Minister for Citizenship, Marlène Schiappa, announced that a first series of 334 naturalizations was underway. A drop of water, immediately judged the associations, who believe that naturalizations, reserved by definition for foreigners in a legal situation, are only a tiny part of the equation. The number of undocumented migrants in France is estimated between 300,000 and 600,000.