The Paperless

photo: cafe bruant, rue des abbesses

One of several cafés in the Rue des Abbesses.

The 1,2OO.4O Franc Fine

Paris:- Monday, 9. September 2002:- Saturday was the occasion for a street march by people living in France without valid residence papers. They paraded in calm and sunshine from the Place de Clichy to the République.

Police estimated the demonstrators as 500, but I saw many more than this about 15:00 at the Place Clichy starting point, and more were pouring out of métro exit by the minute.

Some, in a crowd estimated by organizers at 12,000, had come from all over France to march for the first time in Paris. There are an estimated 3.3 million foreigners living in France. Forty-two percent of these reside in the Paris region.

According to a CSA poll published in Le Parisien on Sunday, 54 percent of the French believe that foreigners have something to add to France's cultural richness.

Men believe this more than women, and the young believe it more than people over 50. The smallphoto: cafe vins, r abbesses core of extreme-right voters don't believe it at all - and this is why their recent presidential candidate got so little support in the last elections.

Contrary to popular belief, the majority of 'immigrants' come from Europe, and not from Africa. Only six percent have origins in Asia, and a minuscule 2.5 percent come from the Americas.

Real quartier, with really narrow sidewalks - for small terraces.

Minister of the Interior Nicolas Sarkozy, quoted in Le Parisien, said, "France needs immigrants but (it) cannot and should not receive all immigrants." At the same time he denounced the 'zero- immigration fanatics.'

The minister suggested that there should be two classes of immigrants - "Those who are willing to integrate into France, we should offer the means to become legal. But those that don't intend to stay, who have received expulsion orders - these orders should be carried out."

Almost in the same breath the minister mentioned the desire to avoid hypocrisy. Doing this seems almost impossible - partly because of the use of a fuzzy vocabulary for the subject.

For example there is the official notion that immigrants who have jobs are contributing to French society. Many of the paperless do have jobs - the kinds for which unscrupulous employers demand no papers. No taxes are paid on either side, and there is no social security.

France had a wide-spread colonial empire and still has its offshore 'departments.' This fact creates two classes of possible immigrants - one legal and one illegal. Children of either class born in France have a 'right' to French citizenship, but if their parents are paperless - they can be deported to countries where their children may not be citizens.

There must be hundreds of combinations of shades of legal and illegal, few of which fit into exactly into the immigration templates used by the French bureaucracy.

Many of the paperless who marched on Saturday are in 'fuzzy' situations. All the same many have recently applied for residence permits, and their leaders have demanded that their cases be treated 'en masse.'

This the authorities have refused to do. They insist on a 'case-by-case' examination of the residence applications. This takes its time, quite often a lot of it. Deportation could arrive sooner.

Meanwhile fuzzy language blurs perceptions. Skin color, accents of speech or styles of clothing canphoto: cafe zebre, rue lepic stamp honest French citizens as 'immigrants' when they are nothing of the kind.

In Paris, the city has invited 'foreigners' to assist with local consultative councils. 'Immigrant' leaders are saying that the right to vote locally is important for 'integration' - especially for people who have been tax-paying but second-class residents for decades.

Rue Lepic high fashion, at the purple Café Zèbra.

At the moment this 'right' only applies to residents who are citizens of the European Union countries - regardless of original origins, length of residence, colors of skin or styles of clothing.

France is like a lot of other 'desirable' countries. It does not suffer from bad water, lack of food, rampant banditry, serious religious intolerance or a notorious absence of civil rights. As such it is a favored destination for people who have little to enjoy wherever they happen to be.

For this reason, like some other 'desirable' countries - through international agencies and forums - France tries to assist with the upgrading of other countries that do not enjoy France's level of development.

While France is not the leader in the field of development aid to other countries, it is not in last place either. For doing this, France serves a certain self-interest.

In an earlier demonstration at Châtelet last Tuesday, Paris' Préfet de Police, Jean-Paul Proust, met a delegation of the paperless that attempted to hand him 6000 applications for residence permits. The préfet told the leaders of the movement that he would personally see to the first 100 applications by the end of the week.

Back to School

Last Tuesday, 12 million kids returned to school after the summer holidays. Of these, 331,451 returned to classes in Paris. The surprising element is that not everybody returned at once.

Several schools throughout France resumed classes in late August. In other parts of the country, schoolsphoto: fish shop, rue lepic were not ready to receive their students on the official day. Some teachers were on strike here and there too, and parents in Lorient were outside schools shouting, 'Non à la tyrannie!'

As Le Parisien mentioned, like it does every year, it was a return to school with the 'usual grumbles.' But a poll indicated that 61 percent of parents with school-aged children have confidence in the French school system - while 38 percent with and without cildren do not.

How about a lemon, stuck on a Swordfish's sword?
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