Why French government is harassing migrants in the streets of Paris

Hard to believe the situation of migrants in Paris. 

They are facing police brutality, institutional violence, and extreme precarity. They suffer to live in the cold and sickness, as much as they suffer not to find help and consideration. You can even doubt of your own eyes when you see it. 

They came through the sea, risking their lives, and once arrived in France, the government refuses to receive them, refuses to host them, refuses the possibility for them to gather, and even refuses them water and food. With no shelter, they have to sleep in the public space, under bridges, metro, or along the canal in Paris. Almost every single day the police hunt them and harass them, in the small streets like in the big ones, they use violence to take from them covers and shelters, and sometimes they arrest them, put them in cells and in jail before they even have time to start their asylum demand. 

The opening of “Paris humanitarian camp” Porte de la Chapelle which was created to organize a first sheltering for the migrants who just arrived in the city, the situation is still critic. More than 2 months after the opening of that center, there is still dozens of asylum seekers spending nights outside in the cold, waiting in front of the building to get a chance to get inside. In the morning, the camp admits less than 20 people before the police disperse the others with tear gaz. The rejected ones have to restart the queue the night after. 

From Calais to Paris, French government is putting Police in the center of an humanitarian issue. Everywhere, France is undermining the means for welcoming refugees on purpose, creating a permanent emergency situation, repeating the same scenario: because the state is undermining the sheltering of refugees, some of them are in the streets. When they organize informal camps, the State orders their destruction without proposing any alternative solution. Refugees in France are treated like criminals and daily humiliated. 

As a result of this crisis situation organized by the State, the Tv is reporting scenes of crowds seeking for refuge in France, convincing the public opinion that France is being invaded and that we should watch, protect and close our borders. This is feeding the myth of a migration crisis when France is only welcoming 6% of Asylum seekers in Europe, far behind Germany, Austria or Sweden, and I am not even talking about Italy, Greece or Bulgaria, which are the countries where refugees first enter to Europe. In 2015, 70 000 people asked for asylum in France when Germany had to check more than one million six hundreds thousands cases and accepted a million of them. We are not witnessing a « migration crisis » in France, but obviously a totalitarian drift of the State. Added to violence against migrants, everyday, the French Police is becoming more and more violent against anyone who tries to express solidarity with them or demonstrate any disagreement with the State policy. 

Since the “Paris humanitarian camp” opened, the Mayor decided to put fences under bridges and in every places where street camps existed before. The Police is becoming more and more violent, chasing the refugees in the streets all night, preventing them to reform a new camp, trying to make them invisible to the French citizens. 

Last week, the NGO “Médecins Sans Frontières” denounced in the press that every night Police was removing covers to the refugees leaving them with nothing in the cold. The Interior Minister Bruno Leroux answered we should not criticize the French Police while it is protecting us from terrorism. After that declaration the head of Police syndicate get further and made a press communicate to accuse the NGO of lying threatening them with a trial. This “lie” – police brutality against refugees – was filmed by journalists, activists, film directors and ordinary citizens using their cellphones. We can prove it’s not a lie.

This video we are putting online today was filmed between July and November on informal refugee camps in Paris. During that period of time, a kind of “routine” was happening every 2 days with the Police : they came early in the morning, took position in the neighborhood and surrounded them with the well known tactic of kettling. Once taken them to the police station, it has been reported several times that policemen asks the migrants to sign an OQTF (obligation of leaving the French territory within 30 days) by pretending it is a paper to get a place in a shelter. 

This system was deliberately organized by the Interior Minister to put the refugees in a very fragile situation and to dissuade them to stay in Paris. But according to the law, arresting a refugee before he could start his asylum proceedings and giving him a notification to leave the country is a violation of asylum international right. Some have been arrested in the queue where they must wait to get an asylum folder, and have been sent to jail on the grounds that they don’t have this folder. Last spring, collective of associations complained against this situation and got M. Caranco, chief of Ile de France Police headquarters condemned 135 times by the Administrative Court of Paris. 

Sometimes the police operations were presented to the press as “sheltering”, which consists most of the time of being deported to seedy hotels where no food is distributed. 

The authorities justify their actions by saying they fear terrorism, at least when they're not simply denying it. After the various terrorists attacks which hit the city we could glimpsed what decides a family to take a makeshift boat to Europe, but we are frightened to see that the State response is only violence.

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