a climax in the history of French immigration

The subsequent legalization of "wild immigration"
First attempts at migration control
Immigrant struggles during and after May 1968
Mobilization against Deportation
The agitation against the Marcellin-Fontanet ordinances (1972-74)
1972-1982: Legalization through conflict
Immigrant Autonomy
The "new immigration policy" 1974-81
From Rock against Police to the Intifada of the working class districts
The 80's and the switch to integration
Here I am, here I stay
Against double punishment (prison and deportation)
Rejected asylum-seekers (1991-92)
The Pasqua Laws and general suspicion
The Sans Papiers of St Bernard (18 March- 23 August 1996)
Papers for all!
The debate on immigration in St Bernard Church
The Sans Papiers and the illegal labour market
Humanitarian commitment and political instrumentalization
The wave of petitions urging "civil disobedience" (February 1997)
Help! The Left is coming back!
The implementation of the Chevènement decyree on 24 June 1997: the trap of case-by-case examination
The registration of the "official illegals"
The "republican consensus" against the Sans Papiers
Splits and regrouping in the Sans Papiers
What about an European Sans Papiers movement?

"Man's only dignity is in the stubborn revolt against his situation"
Albert Camus

"Glowing embers are only felt when you walk on them"
Moroccan proverb

On the evening before the eviction of Sans Papiers from the Paris church of St Bernard by the police, the city council announced that, with regard to French law, there was no judicial obstacle to its legalization. The Sans Papiers collective naturally took advantage at once of this statement to back up their line of argument, based on their awareness of the longstanding practice of the authorities to legalize foreign immigrants time and again.
The state authorities have in fact, referring to their sovereign powers - excluding the mass legalization in 1981-82 (ca. 130,000 persons) and 1991 (ca. 15 - 20,000 rejected asylum seekers) - always had the possibility of legalization and have used it, whether the government was left or right-wing. The former Minister of the Interior, Charles Pasqua, made personal reference to this when he stated his support for the legalization of all applicants on the day after the French victory in the world championship in football - with a backward glance at France's great colonial past. "Let us not forget the role played by Algerians, Moroccans, Tunisians and Africans in the liberation of France. We cannot simply treat them like people from Sri Lanka. We need quota regulations in favour of all those from the former French dominions" (Le Monde, 17.7.1998). [back to top]

The subsequent legalization of "wild immigration"
Theoretically, the ONI (Office National de l'Immigration - National Immigration Authority, later OMI, Office des Migrations Internationales - Office of International Migration) is, according to the regulations on immigration and residence of foreigners in France of 2nd November 1945, responsible for the controlled flow of immigrants. On its foundation the ONI was to have sole charge of the recruitment and deployment of foreign workers in areas of corresponding labour shortage, with due regard to the protection of national interests, which take priority according to the labour law of 1932.
A foreign worker entering France via the ONI had at that time to present a labour contract to obtain a work permit, which noted his trade and the region he was assigned to. This work permit was then a requirement to obtain a residence permit for a specified period (a 3-year temporary stay or unlimited). It quickly became apparent that foreign workers were entering France at their own expense and were active in areas quite different from those envisaged by the administration. Eventually they presented their labour contracts and applied for legalization. In the immediate post-war years "illegal immigration evolved which found employment in the motor industry rather than in mining" (Yann Moalier-Butang, "Un paese d'immigrazione, la Francia" in A. Serafini (Ed.), l'Operaio Multinazionale in Europa (Feltrinelli), - Milan 1975).
To stem the "wild immigration", the Minister of Labour decided upon a whole package of draconian measures (systematic rejection of "illegals" arrested at the border, occasional imprisonment in guarded camps) but all attempts to effect rigid control of immigration by workers were doomed to failure. From 1948 onwards, 30% of all immigration was illegal and the immigrations were subsequently legalized. Between 1948 and 1958 the proportion of those legalized after the event stood on average at 35% (Boulier-Butang, see above).
The number of illegal workers, or "pseudo-tourist" immigrants who subsequently obtained permanent residence, rose further: 53% in 1960, 69% in 1964, 79% in 1967. Some 86% of immigrant families also applied for legalization immediately after their arrival in 1967 (Bernard Granotier, "Les travailleurs immigrés en France", Paris 1970).
Many of the newly legalized workers did not join smaller firms, which, in order to survive, chose more submissive illegals, but went to large-scale building projects and to the metal-working and automobile industries, where they filled most of the low-level jobs. In fact, in the second half of the 60's the phenomenon of "incoherent unemployment" developed: it became impossible to induce the growing number of unemployed young people to work in factories. This situation was apparently the reason why the authorities accepted the presence of illegal immigrant workers and simplified the legalization procedures by passing a number of laws as from 1964 (20 March, 15 July).
However, other factors favoured legalization; one wing of the Gaullists as well as experts in population policy already supported the subsequent immigration of families, including more speedy granting of citizenship and the regulation of special cases. This involved some 100,000 Portuguese deserters fleeing from Salazar and the colonial wars.
Coming through well-worn immigrant routes, these Portuguese ended up on building sites and filled the growing slums in the Paris region. After legalization, many of them travelled on to Luxemburg or Germany in the hope of higher wages. [back to top]

First attempts at migration control
This example illustrates once more the inability of the authorities to control the geographic and inter-sector mobility of immigrant labour. This was aggravated by social tensions which occasionally took on a racist character. There were complaints in high places about the "lack of adaptability amongst immigrants to the demands of industrial life" and warned of the situation in slums inhabited by the Arabs and Portuguese, which had become lawless areas where parents no longer had any control over their children. In a report to the Economic and Social Affairs Council in February 1969, the issue of the "tolerance threshold" in residential areas and schools was stressed, in conjunction with the recommendation of a temporary residence permit for non-Europeans (particularly North Africans) with the possibility of repatriation in the event of long-term unemployment (in 1967/68, 18% of the Algerians were unemployed).
Prior to this startling declaration, a decree was issued by the Social Affairs Ministry (July 1968) legalizing immigrants only in exceptional cases, such as female domestics, qualified personnel in fixed areas and Portuguese immigrants. The openly propagated aim was to move from spontaneous towards controlled immigration. The effect was principally to sort immigrants according to nationality. The legalization of Moroccans fell in this way to 12% in 1970 (as against 59% in 1968) and for Turks it was much the same. Whoever was not in possession of the necessary workpermit could not take vocational training courses.
The French-Algerian bilateral agreement of 28 December 1968 was typical of this new procedure, whereby the mobility and freedom to settle in France was no longer permitted for Algerians, as envisaged in the treaties of Evian in 1962 (at the end of the Algerian war of independence) and instead the principle of an annually fixed quota of Algerian workers was established. As justification for these new regulations the Foreign Minister Maurice Schumann wrote bluntly in the "Revue de Défense Nationale" in June 1969: "The considerable risk existed that our country could lose control of some sectors of our labour market and population "islands" could develop on our territory which would be hostile to traditional processes of assimilation". [back to top]

Immigrant struggles during and after May 1968
The shift towards a new policy of limitation and increased control of immigration coincided with the major role played by immigrants in the great industrial strikes in May 1968 and in the squatters' agitation against the living conditions in the slums and working-class areas. Some participated in the fighting behind the barricades. They thus abandoned their duty as foreigners to keep in the background and risked being deported for "disturbing public order".
Raymond Marcellin, the notorious Minister of the Interior at this time, allowed police raids against students and foreigners which sometimes turned into pogroms, which awoke memories in this allegedly post-colonial era of the suppression of the demonstration in Paris on 17 October 1961, in which 200 Algerians died.
Immediately after this, the number of deportations increased dramatically. "Le Monde", on 20.6.1968, spoke of 161 deportations between the 8th and 17th June alone, but the number rose further. Activists at the Renault works publicly attacked attempts to send immigrant workers back to their countries of origin. However, all these measures, conducted by the authorities in a seemingly arbitrary manner, led to reactions on the part of students and immigrants the significance of which extended beyond this era. Even today, the mobilization against the deportation of the student leader Daniel Cohn-Bendit, when the slogan "We are all German Jews" went the round, remains unforgotten. The slogan "We are all foreigners", which goes further, should however be remembered. Real solidarity between the French and the immigrants is evident in connection with the network of anti-colonial resistance which had been fairly dormant since the Algerian war of independence.
After a phase of abstract anti-imperialist enthusiasm full of entreaty, the French now discovered to their astonishment the slums and complicated legal situation of the foreigners who lived so close and still so far from their own realities. Shouting slogans such as "Borders don't mean a damn thing to us!" was no longer sufficient; they would have to get involved with the dirty business of papers and permits to secure the right of residence for their new comrades. This dynamic movement led some years later to the GISTI (Groupe d'Information et de Solidarité avec les Travailleurs Immigrés, Information and Solidarity Group for Immigrant Workers) which was specialized in the law applying to foreigners and has become an important support base not only for individual cases but for all those affected by the whole spectrum of immigration laws and regulations. [back to top]

Mobilization against Deportation
The individual cases of deportation for "Non-observance of strict political neutrality" sparked off intensive public campaigns often leading to a retreat on the part of the authorities. Some examples are: when Lauretta Fonseca, the mother of five children, was to be deported in 1971 for taking part in agitation and the occupation of the town hall in the slum district of Massy (Essone), a demonstration by some 1,500 people brought about a reversal of the decision. The campaign for better housing went on, following the slogan "Accommodation for all", and the Communist-governed city councils in working class areas such as Ivry or Argenteuil in Paris were under enormous pressure because they had conducted town development at the expense of the immigrants and had cleared the slum districts with the aid of police and bulldozers.
In the same year, Sadok Djeridi, a Tunisian worker whose wife and children had just followed him to Amiens, appealed against his deportation order, crying: "My children are here, my wife too. I'm here and I'm staying here!" He was supported by an anti-racist committee set up on the initiative of the Maoist group "Secours Rouge" (Red Aid). When they started a hunger strike for him, he joined them.
Successive hunger strikes were spontaneously arranged, accompanied by meetings and demonstrations. Sadok obtained his work permit. The appearance of supporters at his place of work led to a widening of the struggle for papers and social insurance for all immigrant workers in his firm.
In October 1972, Fawzia and Said Pouziri were ordered to leave the country within 8 days because they had applied too late for the extension of their residence permits. In reality they were to pay for their political commitment. They were accused of agitating in support of the Palestinians and taking part in the campaign against the murder of the youth Djillali on 5 October 1971 in the Parisian quarter of Goutte d'Or and in particular of organizing, with Jean-Paul Sartre's support, the first major immigrant demonstration since 17 October 1961. The deportation order was revoked after a hunger strike in the community centre of St. Bruno next to the Church of St Bernard, and the committed support of renowned intellectuals such as Sartre, Michel Foucault, Gilles Delenze, Claude Mauriac, etc., who declared themselves "publicly responsible for the right to stay in France of Said Bouziri and his wife." From their support group, the CDVDTI (Comité de Défense de la vie et des Droits des Travailleurs Immigrés - Committee for the Defence of the Life and Rights of Immigrant Workers) later developed.
This committee later played a role in the campaign for an investigation into the murder of Mohamed Diab, who died at the police station in Versailles, and also participated in the general strike against racism in September 1973, together with the MTA (Mouvement des Travailleurs Arabes, Arab Workers' Movement), as well as in the struggle organized by Sans Papiers against the Marcellin-Fontana ordinances of 1972-1975. [back to top]

The agitation against the Marcellin-Fontanet ordinances (1972-74)
These decrees came into force a few weeks before the campaign against deportations - on 15 September 1972. The Marcellin decree of 24 January 1972 limited the granting of work and residence permits to the police. From now on, the only point of contact for immigrants was the police authority (alternatively, the town council) and a central file on them was set up at the Ministry of the Interior. The Fontanet decree of Febuary 1972 made a labour contract for at least one year the precondition for a residence permit, as well as a document issued by the employer certifying "appropriate housing". In this way, new forms of control were placed in the hands of police and employers for control of the living conditions and mobility of immigrant workers. The renewal of papers became an arduous process and the authorities reserved the right to refuse the extension of permits on the basis of the "national labour market" or on political grounds.
Any migrant worker who lost his job had to hand in his work permit and produce evidence of a new job within one month. All these regulations were not yet applicable to the so-called "privileged" nationalities (EC countries, Algerians, francophone black Africans, refugees and asylum seekers, but to the "non-privileged" (Tunisians, Moroccans, Turks, Portuguese, Yugoslavians)
At the same period, the passing of a new law on temporary work by the National Assembly led to a little-known development in labour policy. According to Article 39 of this law it was not possible for a "non-privileged" immigrant worker to legalize his residence by producing a work permit. In this way a firm had the right to hire "Sans Papiers" by means of short-term labour contracts, but the immigrants had to take the risks involved in irregular residence status. The market for short-term labour boomed in the 70's in France; it was five or six times larger, with 600,000 employees, than that in Britain or Germany at the same period, so many immigrants, hoping for a better way of life, joined this market (Source: Al Kadihoun No 3, April-May 1973).
The precise knowledge and analysis of the Marcellin-Fontanet decrees immediately after their implementation is the consequence of the investigatory work undertaken by immigrant workers themselves and publicized by numerous journalists and writers, who created the APL (Agence de Presse Liberation), the predecessor of the newspaper of the same name. It was their aim to "bombard public opinion and the media" so that they would "become judges of the injustices occurring throughout France", all the more because the left wing involved with the "Programme Commun", the joint government policy of the Socialist and Communist parties, hardly paid attention to the consequences of the new course set by the government for the immigrants.
It was therefore the autonomous anti-racist campaign and agitation against deportation that are above all responsible for the rapid mobilization against the decrees. The mobilization against the murder of Mohamed Diab at the beginning of November 1972 took place simultaneously with Fawzia and Said Bouziri's hunger strike. The intellectuals in the support committee were the same ones who were brutally attacked by the police during a banned demonstration concerning the Diab affair on 16 December 1972.
At the same time Arab activists agitated against the murder of the Palestinian leaders Mahmoud Hamcheri and Mohamed Boudia. It should be noted that a number of activists in the CDVDTI and the MTA had emerged from Palestinian groups. The racist violence on the extreme right and their propaganda about "wild immigration" (a term introduced by the government, immigration authorities and the media) resulted in retaliation, and led to street battles and a ban on the Ligue Communiste in June 1973. One should also remember the significance of the factory agitation in which immigrants, who often made up the majority of semi-skilled workers, led the way in the struggle for decent wages, faced as they were by a diabolical pace of work, racist bosses and the fight for permits.
It is notable how at this time the various front lines merged, faded, then simultaniously developed further. The participants were able in this way to keep an eye on the whole situation, adapt to different situations and test new, more effective means of action. Instead of destroying the immigrants' political activity, repression and direct implementation of racism actually reinforced their movement. The various fields of conflict overlapped each other and formed unifying areas of strength: the new mood amongst immigrants led to a breach with the "mektoub", or fatalism, and with the passive resistance prevalent till then, because they were unwilling to interfere in the internal affairs of the country which they regarded anyway as a place of temporary residence.
Newly arrived immigrants took part immediately in the conflict and bypassed the period of "observation" common up to that time. This new attitude, due in part to the rise of social movements in their countries of origin, undermines the dividing lines between nationalities and provides the basis for a new community-linking culture of worker immigration. [back to top]

1972-1982: Legalization through conflict
A hunger strike by 18 immigrants without papers in a church in Valence in December 1972, had a striking effect within the context of mushrooming activity and the maturing of a new autonomous immigrant movement. After a police raid on their tenement building they were threatened with deportation. At the same time hunger strikes also began, for example in La Ciutat, immediately after a strike at a building site for public works, and in Paris at the headquarters of the CFDT trade union.
In all cases Tunisian workers were involved. On Christmas Eve four priests from churches in Valence decided on a strike at Mass and a torchlight procession through the town in support of the "Sans Papiers". This event caused a stir throughout the country and led to moves towards legalization. In Paris the CFDT, presented with a fait accompli, made representations, if unwillingly, on behalf of the "Sans Papiers" and achieved their legalization through secret negotiations with the authorities.
Some weeks later, at the beginning of 1973, new hunger strikes began simultaneously in some twenty French cities (68 strikers in February in Toulouse, 51 in April in St Etienne, 56 in May in Paris...) and lasted from several days to a number of weeks (50 days in Lille).
Most strikers were Tunisians, but there were Moroccans, Portuguese and sometimes French people involved. At first the strikers simply demanded that employers should keep to the stipulations in the decree. Many employers did in fact refuse to issue pay slips to employees when they discovered their illegal residence status. On the initiative of the workers' councils in the NCLA (Union nationale des comités de lutte d'atelier, the National Union of Workers' Combat Councils) the Sans Papiers movement overran the workshops and now demanded the complete repeal of the Marcellin-Fontanet decrees. Parallel to this, support groups established an advisory centre, where individual application could be made and documents collected to be handed in parallel to those of the strikers.
On March 31th 1973, 3,000 people gathered in Belleville, an immigrant quarter of Paris. The following day the CDVDTI organized a countrywide conference of the committees at the famous assembly hall Mutualité in support of the hunger strikes. This huge gathering, the climax of the movement, spoke out against limiting the struggle mainly to hunger strikes.
Although the discussions were often chaotic, the will to take more offensive action developed, such as the occupation of factories exploiting Sans Papiers or occupying the offices of the regional labour authorities (DDT) which (after approval by the prefecture of police) were responsible for issuing work permits. On 28 April some 100 people occupied the Parisian DDT. They were evicted by the police. In May, 52 Moroccan workers (from a total of 70) started a strike in the Margoline paper recycling factory in Nanterre for fair wages and against working conditions, especially those of the Sans Papiers. They occupied their place of work till they obtained a pay rise and the legalization of all Sans Papiers. This exemplary struggle, supported by the CDVDTI, lasted seven months, and special care was taken to see that no one was dismissed afterwards, as it was well-known that employers could be bad losers.
During this period the hunger strikes continued, but less determinedly. After a meeting between a CDVDTI delegation and the Labour Minister, the hunger strikers were finally legalized. In June 1973 the new Minister of Labour, George Gorse, announced the provisional repeal of the Fontanet decree and made possible the legalization of immigrants who had entered the country illegally before 1 June, or who had no papers as a consequence of dismissal, eviction from their homes or through simple ignorance of their rights.
Public agitation subsided and the activists switched their attention to individual applications. However, the results can hardly be ignored: more than 35,000 people were legalized between June and October 1973. And as the crowning achievement of this era, the council of state annulled a number of regulations in the Marcellin-Fontanet decree, amongst other things the housing certificate. [back to top]

Immigrant Autonomy
In the course of the following months and years, new hunger strikes were organized, on the one hand in other sectors, e.g. agriculture, when migration workers went on strike in Southern France, on the other, with new activists from young immigrant communites, e.g. the newly arrived Mauritians. They were mostly women working as domestics or in the textile industry and now demanded papers, and above all their recognition as heads of household. Turkish women too, working in illegal sweat shops in the textile business, went on hunger strike on a number of occasions with the support of their CFDT union. All these hunger strikes, one following the other, from which new immigrant organizations emerged (MTM, Mouvement des Travailleurs Mauritiens, Mauritian Workers Movement; ATT, Association des Travailleurs de Turquie, Turkish Workers' Association) continued until May 1981, when the left came to power. They also went on when the government announced the official end of worker migration and the closing of the frontiers, under the pretext of coping with the crisis following the "oil shock". Within this framework, new restrictive and repressive measures rained down - the repeal of freedom of movement for black Africans, the assertion of the employment situation, stiffer controls at the borders and in immigrant areas, internment in "secret prisons" (Arenc in Marseilles) and countless deportations of foreigners without regular papers.
Conscious of this new intensification of the situation, the movement attempted from the date of their national gathering in Montpellier in 1975 to overcome the gap existing between the French and the immigrant organizations. They aimed to coordinate the various support groups arising from the recent conflicts "to make them a unified instrument for all workers, for French workers' organizations as well as the autonomous immigrant movement". Even if the Sans Papiers movement did not survive as an independent body, there was a noticeable rapprochement between the French and the immigrants. This was to lead later to a new formation against deportations, such as SOS Refoulements (SOS Deportations), and against the "militarization" of police controls.
Even if it was more and more scattered, the experience of immigrant autonomy continued in movements such as the coordination committee of "The Sanacatra Workers' Hostel (foyers) in Conflict", in the federation of associations according to nationality or in cultural initiatives (intervention theatre, music, films, newspapers, free radio, etc.). The less spectacular it was, the less vehement was the criticism of the immigrant activists by the Communist party and a section of the radical left-wing, as in the earlier accusations of "spontaneism" and "irresponsibility" aimed at supporters of radical groups (illegal occupation, demonstrations without security personnel, health hazards for hunger strikers, attacks on racist bosses, etc.). The trade unions now had less to fear from competition by autonomous organizations at the work place, which in their view propagated "radically dangerous and anti-trade union theories" (Syndicalism Hebdo, CFDT, 4/2/1973).
In fact, two concepts existed regarding the structure and reinforcement of autonomy; on the one hand, an organization-oriented structure (as practised by many Arab immigrant groups) which fitted the strategy of reformist forces. These transferred responsibility for specific immigrant issues to the immigrant organization, whereas they themselves were concerned, whether French or Arab organizations close to the government, with safeguarding overall interests. In return, these institutions (e.g. trade unions) allowed the immigrant organizations to represent immigrant interests. On the other hand stood the formation of an autonomous movement starting from the agitation and forms of expression initiated by the immigrants themselves, and "whose lines of communication and agreed policies were to lead the movement further". (Said and Fathi (ex-MTA) in "Luttes des immigrés, désobeisance civile et luttes autonomes'', éd. Alternatives, Paris 1979).
This splintering had decisive consequences for the federation policy of French and immigrants and for the kind of organization emerging from these associations. The so-called radical wing of the movement, connected at first with the Maoists of the Proletarian Left, developed a perspective running across the organizations. In this way Arabs met within the framework of the MTA and kept to themselves, but at the same time they played a leading role in the CDVDTI committee, which saw itself as "a union of the French and immigrant masses" and also in the UNCLA as the home of workers' self-organization. They attempted in this way to give shape to community and worker autonomy within the perspective of a global autonomous movement of social revolution. The autonomous associations, organized according to nationality, which were led by activists close to the traditional political culture of the Communist Party, fought for autonomy from the structure of immigrant control set up by the governments in their countries of origin (such as community clubs, mosques, educational facilities, cultural centres, etc.). To meet the challenge of social realities in France they committed themselves to working in the French "democratic" and "revolutionary" organizations and carried out lobby activities for the leaders of these organizations. They had no points of contact with worker autonomy or with "new forms of conflict", which accompanied the radical questioning of political and trade union institutions.
The debates concerning the contradictory approaches to immigrant autonomy were not brought to a conclusion. Thus there is a certain confusion to be seen in later immigrant agitation, especially with regard to the question as to what form political commitment amongst the so-called "second generation" could take.
These young people decisively rejected any attempt by first-generation activists, who grew up in the country of origin, to exercise control over them and demanded independence from traditional forms of organization in the community. At the same time they resented any move to reduce them to a "youth front line", practically an appendage of an organization whose strategic decisions they had no influence on. Instead, they concerned themselves more or less consciously with the idea of common interests with young people and other residents of the working class areas, be they French or immigrant, on the basis of their common social experiences.
At the same time, they kept their specific situation as immigrants in mind, and agitated against racism and the state of emergency they found themselves in, but were far less interested in the situation in their parents' country of origin. As a result they were called "little harkis" by the older generation, that is, cronies of the French ("harkis" were former auxiliary Algerian troops in the French army). In this conflicting situation of social and community autonomy, the young immigrants gained a new, if somewhat imperfect, political and cultural identity. At the end of the 80's the second generation immigrants were represented on autonomous lists at a variety of elections, sometimes with candidates from their community, sometimes with candidates from the same social environment, whereas others preferred to be represented on already existing political lists. Throughout the long history of immigrant conflict, it can be noted that in boom periods the concept of autonomy on a social basis prevailed, whereas in times of recession and a lack of perspective a more community-orientated autonomy with a corresponding identity was evident. This ambivalence also impressed itself on the Sans Papiers movement of 1996. [back to top]

The "new immigration policy" 1974-81
From the beginning of the "new immigration policy", announced immediately after the official end of worker immigration by the State Secretary for worker immigrants, Paul Dijoud, the government presented the struggle against "illegals" as absolutely top priority. Immigrants with official status, however, were to benefit from better integration into French society, better family protection, equal social rights and promotion of their respective cultures. Behind this noble declaration of intent there were concealed, either deliberately or unintentionally, a number of objectives: a proportion of the regular immigrant corkers were to be replaced increasingly by French workers and the presence of foreigners in France to be placed in question in this way. Previous agitation by the immigrants, their potential for mobilization and the sensitivity of French public opinion did not permit a head-on attack. So the criminalization of the "illegals" was set in motion; they were presented as a threat to public order, but the unemployed were also stigmatized ("self-induced inactivity") and second-generation juveniles were regarded as potential criminals. In this way the authorities were subsequently free to imprison and deport them. The figures for juveniles tell the whole story: the number of deportations rose from 5,380 in 1977 to 8,000 in 1980. Police controls and raids aimed in principle at "illegals" now included children playing in the street or public playgrounds!
In 1977 the new Secretary of State, Stoléru, said openly he wanted to reduce the foreign population from four to two million by 1990. To this purpose he no longer intended to issue residence permits - particularly to Algerians. In this way he reckoned with 500,000 departures in 1979. He offered the possibility of repatriation aid, which came known as the "immigrant million". Immigrants with regular status were to receive 10,000 FF on their definitive departure from France (inc. the return of their residence permits); in this manner some 35,000 repatriations per year would result, according to forecasts. Whereas this repatriation aid was an unexpected stroke of luck for the Spanish and Portuguese, who had often decided on returning or travelling on, and who now profited in large numbers (23,033 and 16,193 respectively up till May 1979), there were only a few hundred or few thousand candidates of other nationalities. In the face of these figures, Stoléru regretted that only one or two per cent of immigrants actually left France, when some 10 % had been obliged to leave Germany.
Stoléru, who had sworn not to tolerate any form of racism in France (he came from an orthodox Jewish family with its origins in Rumania and frequented, as he himself asserted, institutional anti-racist circles), now provoked at his own expense a general mobilization against the racist laws for which he was responsible. The Bonnet law passed in their wake in 1980 aroused little attention however, although, as a veritable police law, it treated illegal entry and residence as grounds for deportation, being a threat to public order, and institutionalized administrative arrest centres and escorted return to the borders. In February 1981 it was supplemented by the Peyrefitte Law, which legalized preventive identity checks. [back to top]

From Rock against Police to the Intifada of the working class districts
At the end of the 70's the second generation of immigrants took the stage. Those of them who had been born before 1963 still did not have French citizenship. They left school in hundreds of thousands with no hope of apprenticeships or job. In addition to this, they displayed a certain scorn for the social order and its work ethic and developed their own everyday rhythm, which was characterized by muddling through, playing tough now and again and taking night-time joyrides. No one had really foreseen this increasingly visible presence in public places. They very quickly became a target for the security mania which had overtaken public opinion. The confrontation with sober-sided citizens who equipped themselves with hunting rifles they could buy freely in any supermarket, as well as with the police, who were evident everywhere, led constantly to dramatic situations and clashes. The deaths of several young people, imprisonment and above all deportations resulted in spontaneous collective mobilization. A kind of network of informed groups supported those people in the housing areas threatened by deportation and ad hoc anti-deportation committees launched autonomous campaigns bringing the repeal of a number of deportation orders. Parallel to this, groups of young immigrants articulated their claims via their own cultural means (action theatre and cinema, photography, music, comics, newspapers) to live here and now according to their own conceptions and not those of first-generation immigrants or French anti-racists or moralizing social workers assigned to take care of their needs.
Inspired by the autonomous cultural movement begun by their older comrades, but even more direct and always open to improvisation, groups like "Week-end à Nanterre" (Theatre & Film) and the collective Mohamed à Vitny (Super 8) documented a slice of life in the "forbidden zones" and various collective activities. When television teams entered their housing areas to record eye-witness accounts by young people, the juveniles themselves determined what was to be edited out, and discussed with the journalists how the final version would appear. These practical experiences ended in the foundation of "Rock against the Police", the first experiment attempted by the National Coordination of Young Immigrants and Proletarians in the housing areas between 1979 and 1982, and led in 1982 to "Immédia", a press agency for immigration and urban culture. This new current, which was anchored mainly in the transit-housing areas of the Greater Paris Region and in the council estates (HLM) of the dormitory towns (Nanterre, Vitry, Argenteuil, Bondy...) caused a resounding echo, especially in the suburbs of Lyons. It was active for a short period in a kind of co-existence with the Parisian autonomous movement, whose militancy, arising from a radical student milieu, they did not however share and attempted more or less successfully to cooperate with former members of the MTA in the "by and for immigrants" context of the newspaper "Sans Frontière" (Without a Frontier) and later with the radio station Soleil Goutte d'Or run by Mokhtar Bchiri, formerly a member of MTA and the Al Assifa group. Contact was also made with the collective "Race Today" in Brixton and with the Black Radical and Third World Bookfair organized by Caribbean and Indo-Pakistani activists who up till then - in contrast to France - had managed to uphold the connection between anti-colonial conflict and youth rebellion (cf. Mogniss H. Abdallah, Jeunes Immigrés Hors-Les-Murs, éd. EDI, Paris 1982.
Back at home in France, activities were aimed at the PCF, which drove newly arrived North Africans out of a workers' hostel in Vitry-sur-Seine, but the experienced agitators of "Rock against the Police" had difficulty joining forces with the tenants, as they had scattered after their eviction. On the other hand they managed to mobilize, with an ease that astounded observers, the young people and other inhabitants of the transit housing areas and council estates with the objective of obtaining justice for the murdered youths and immigrants. From this dynamic movement resulted the Association of Relatives of Victims of Racist Crime and Security Mania, comprising some 40 mothers and other relations, who were called the "crazy women of Place Vendome". The struggle against racist crime went hand in hand with the fight for new housing for the evicted. A coordination between the transit settlements was set up, which was quite new and doubtless the only occasion when young people, little by little and autonomously, had engaged successfully in such a conflict on their own ground and achieved their aim of new housing for all the families affected. [back to top]

The 80's and the switch to integration
At the same time Christian activists supported the young immigrants in word and deed. The priest Christian Delorme and Parson Jean Costil began a hungerstrike in April 1981 together with Hamid Boukhrouna, a young Algerian who was facing deportation. They demanded an end to the deportation of juveniles. This initiative aroused intense public interest. Francois Mitterand, the Socialist presidential candidate at the time, promised if elected to end deportation of juveniles and other long-term immigrants. And he kept his word. The day after his election (10 May 1981) one of the first measures introduced by the President was to end these deportations. He was acclaimed from then on as the "President of the Immigrants", having already visited the Sonacatra residents evicted by the police from their hostel, and the Turks striking for papers in the Sentier quarter, as well as offering the Socialist Party's private station to the immigrants so that they had own free radio transmitter. In this phase of almost surrealist generosity, Mitterand symbolized the breach with the notion that sees immigration only under the aspect of economics and security. It asserts the idea that the immigrants are also part of French society: "They are a part of the national reality". In the general jubilation over the collapse of Giscard's "old régime", the fate of the Sans Papiers was however lost from sight. In fact, public interest switched to the defence of long-term immigrants in France, and this otherwise positive development brought about serious and perverse consequences: the anti-racist and immigrant movement tended to reproduce the split into "illegals" and "regulars" which the authorities had introduced with the official end of immigration in 1974. There no longer existed the same overlapping of agitation, and activists increasingly ignored each other. From this period onwards a section of the immigrants internalized the talk of "illegals", who allegedly threatened their new hopes of greater acceptance within French society.
In the face of the special legalization procedures introduced by the left-wing government, the controversy over the number of illegals, estimated at more than 300,000 in 1981, reinforced their image as parasites. In any case, the division in the treatment of immigration led consequently to a slump in agitation against the whole spectrum of regulations controlling the entry and residency of foreigners. The left-wing government repealed the Bonnet-Stoléru-Peyrefitte Laws, decided on new guarantees for a series of "protected categories", strengthened judicial control over independent action by the authorities (including the police) and legalized immigrants at last. But the new aspect was that it was legalization for political motives which allowed the right of residence only according to the needs of the economic situation and the labour market. The creation of a uniform right of residence with 10 years' validity (Carte de résidence unique de dix ans) which immigrants and their families had full legal right to if they had lived in France for at least 3 years, corresponded with this policy. This residence permit was automatically extended and permitted the exercise of a vocation of one's own choice anywhere in the country (Law of 17 July 1984).
Paradoxically however, the legalization of 1981-1982 served as the starting point for intensified action against illegal immigration on the grounds that since the overflow of illegals had been eliminated, the past should be forgotten and the problem regarded as solved. This "special" solution was at the same time a first-class burial of any policy of legalization after the event, as normally practised up till that time. It also reinforced the switch in policy in 1974. Even worse, the left-wing government made an everyday event of attacks on illegal immigration, detention centres and "escort to the borders", by systematically prosecuting foreigners without legal status in the country.
"Illegals" could be legally sentenced to deportation with immediate implementation. Deportation increasingly became a matter for summary proceedings. From now on, the legality of entry and residency became the decisive criterion for legalization, even for juveniles who had not entered the country with the family, and for the family itself.
When the left-wing government was overtaken by the complications of immigrant administration, it showed its irritation and outrage. It limited the entry of family members and forbade henceforth the automatic legalization of spouses and children. In April 1984 Stoléru's repatriation aid, under the name "public support for repatriation", was reintroduced for immigrants made redundant in the motor industry - this was their answer to the widespread strikes by unskilled immigrant workers against mass redundancy at Citroen-Aulnay and Talbot-Poissy in 1982 and 1983, which had enraged a number of Socialist ministers. Prime Minister Mauroy went so far as to defame the North African strikers as "Islamic Fundamentalists" who had no place in French society. In the Talbot factory occupied by strikers in 1983/84, violent racist clashes took place between striking immigrants and non-striking French workers, who shouted "Into the oven, into the Seine!" at the North Africans. Support for the Talbot workers was extremely weak, with the exception of former members of MTA and MTI, together with young immigrants who had just completed the march for equality and against racism. But they were far from the euphoria which had accompanied the triumphant arrival of this march.
On December 3rd 1983, 100,000 people had elebrated the arrival of the "Beurs", the slang term for the Arabs in the outer suburbs. The media were immediately attracted to the phenomenon and built it up as a veritable fashion which would regenerate French culture. The Arab rock music of the group Carte de séjour (Residence Permit) and the exciting rap melodies of the outer suburbs soon became culture products and export successes of world music made in France. A new elite, the "Beurgoisie", found favour in the corridors of power. It was their mission to take the place of the "hooligans" in the movement who kept the revolt going in the suburbs, and to project a positive image of fraternity towards French society. They were also to act as an antidote to the spectacular rise of the Front National, which since its victory in union with the Right in the communal election in Dreux in September 1983 had been the centre of attention.
However, as the vox populi had always suggested, Arabs can never really be trusted. The powers that be therefore had several irons in the fire. The "SOS Racisme" Association, founded by Mitterand's office in the Elysée Palace at the end of 1984, experienced immediate success. It was formed as a connecting link between the authorities and French youth, who were extremely sensitive to racist issues and celebrated their new identity as "black-blanc-beur". But the groups which had emerged from immigration, with thousands of members since the law of October 1981 on freedom of association by foreigners, played their own role. Through the award of subsidies they became more and more dependent, falling under control, and gradually developed into lackeys of the authorities. They became institutionalized and decrepit and their officials were now specialized, in the name of professionalism. In this way there was a decline in militant culture and agitation by the immigrants and a strong inclination towards an "administration of misery". The authorities kept up the pressure in this regard: they subsidized activities aimed at "integration" but warned the institutions against any support for "illegals". The move towards integration was therefore accompanied by non-commitment towards new arrivals, whose movements were necessarily very discreet in the 80's. The first and second generation immigrants succeeded in turning this page of their history and to concentrate on obstacles blocking their social advance: racism and limitation ofy civil rights. To take these hurdles, many of them now demanded French citizenship. As a warning prediction, the latest issue of the newspaper "Sans Frontière" carried the headline: "Ciao Immigration?". [back to top]

Here I am, here I stay
The return of the Right to Power in 1986 placed the question of insecure residence status firmly on the map. In fact, the Pasqua laws, which instantly facilitated deportation, led to general suspicion in a climate where "illegals", delinquents and immigrants were all thrown into one pot. Fear was widespread, and exacerbated by the deportation of 101 people from Mali in a chartered plane, an event consciously sensationalized by the media. No one felt safe any longer. The Minister of the Interior, Charles Pasqua, made no secret of his intention to limit the right to asylum and to have "illegals" escorted on a massive scale to the borders, to reduce "protected categories", and even to place in question the French citizenship of immigrant children born in France.
To this purpose the law on citizenship was to be amended. In practice the immigrants were open to endless oppression on the part of the administration and many had their papers confiscated. The idea of deporting unemployed immigrants also gained renewed popularity.
The brutality of Pasqua's offensive surprised the immigrant and anti-racist groups. Amid the general cacophony, Djida Tazdait and Nacer Zair, members of the JALB (Jeunes Arabes de Lyon et Banlieue: Arab Youths of Lyons and outer districts) went on hunger strike against the proposed Pasqua law. Their main demands: retention of the non-deportable categories and full rights to 10-year residence permits; Father Christian Delorme joined the hunger strike at once in solidarity. True to his old commitment, he had a debt to pay: after his hungerstrike in 1981 he had discovered a "paternalistic attitude" in himself, "a lack of faith in the ability of the young people to fight", which led him to disregard initiatives of self-organization such as "Rock against the Police" (Christian Delorme: Le mouvement beur a une histoire, ANGI, Aubervilliers 1984). Other hunger strikers joined in solidarity, while the Church and the Paris Mosque became active as intermediaries during the Pope's visit to Paris.
Apart from some concessions by the government, this strike initiative succeeded in mobilizing the beurs movement which had suffered badly from the competition of SOS Racisme and France Plus. The committees formed on this occasion in a dozen cities joined quickly to form the network "Here I am, here I stay". But as from autumn 1986, the presence of a large student movement and a crisis in the Chirac government were dominating factors. The death of Malik Oussekine, who was killed during a demonstration by a motorized police unit, led to agitation in which a million people went onto the streets in memory of this French student of Algerian origin.
The university reform project of Devaquet was then abandoned, as well as the planned reform of the law on citizenship. The government created the Marceau Long Commission instead, so as to discuss French citizenship in detail. It thereby became evident that immigration constituted an important component of the French population: the parents and grandparents of some 18 million people are not of French origin. "First, second, third generation, we are all immigrant children!" was now chanted at every demonstration in contempt of Pasqua. In reaction to this public outcry, the Mémoire Fertile (Fruchtbare Erinnerung) group, which was formed in connection with the "Here I am, here I stay" campaign, fought for a new citizenship no longer coupled to nationality. The demand for political franchise for migrants was made, a promise made by Mitterrand in 1981, but regularly deferred on the pretext that public opinion was not yet ready for it. In addition, the former hunger striker Djida Tazdait campaigned for election on the subject of political rights for immigrants and was duly elected at the top of the Green party list to the European Parliament. [back to top]

Against double punishment (prison and deportation)
In 1988 the left won power again and returned once again to the regulations which had applied before Pasqua. But they no longer wanted immigration to be the central themes in French political life, and no one was interested any longer in deportation stories, not even in the thousands who were thrown out by the Pasqua laws.
In this context, young people in the collective "Résistance des Banlieues" (Suburban Resistance) formed the countrywide Committee Against Double Punishment (Comité national contre la double peine). Double punishment means that in addition to imprisonment a temporary (ITF) or permanent (IDTF) residence ban from entering France was imposed.
It was aimed at immigrants who had been sentenced for various offences but above all, drugs dealing. Existing associations were reluctant to defend "criminals".
The committee criticised them mercilessly for this, organized itself autonomously and organized instruction in judicial matters for those affected. It demanded the abolition of double punishment, which affected some 20,000 people, and achieved some concessions after a collective hunger strike in Paris. Regulations were proposed for individual cases and an amendment to the law repealed the ITP, which in principle was not to be applied in "privileged cases", e.g. to the seriously ill, such as Aids victims.
However, the administration could avoid this hurdle if it invoked the "absolute urgency" of a deportation. In the committee's judicial consultation periods, other problems such as police violence, racist murders or simply daily chicanery obliged the activists to develop a political structure to cope with the general situation. After a lengthy running-in period they formed the MIB (Movement de l'immigration et des Banlieues: Immigration and Suburban Movement). Some activists from immigrant groups of the first generation joined them.
The question of double punishment was tabled again and again. And the Sans Papers movement discovered it for itself after the occupation of the St Bernard church, when it was overwhelmed by a wave of imprisonments and subsequent deportations due to irregular residency or refusal to board deportation flights (for 1999, it was estimated that some 3000 Sans Papiers per year were thus affected, mostly with 3-month prison sentences and 3 years ITF). [back to top]

Rejected asylum-seekers (1991-92)
At the same time as the campaign against double punishment, there was a further hunger strike in a church in the Rue Saint-Maure in Paris. This time it involved rejected asylum-seekers, above all Turks, Kurds and a few North Africans. The movement, which had started in Bordeaux in August 1991, spread through some 60 cities; about 1500 people took part in the hunger strike and it continued till September 1992. It clearly showed the consequences of the refusal of the Left to repeal the limitation of the right to asylum. The number of rejected asylum seekers was estimated at ca 100,000. They had often lived in France for a number of years, awaiting a decision by the relevant authorities, and had integrated little by little into French society. But the administration suspected them of not being refugees, wanting only to abuse the privilege of asylum, and rejected more and more applications. The rejection quota constantly rose from the beginning of the 90's and reached 84% in 1995. According to data from "France, terre d'asile" (France, land of asylum) only 3,900 people from 22,632 applicants were recognized as refugees in 1998. Rejected asylum-seekers were ordered to leave the country; their only alternative was to swell the army of "illegals".
The government pinned its hopes increasingly on measures which reduced the appeal of France and checked the flood of applicants whose asylum application was "clearly unfounded". Prime Minister Michel Rocard announced: "France cannot absorb the whole misery of the world" and a new law institutionalized "waiting zones" in ports and airports, so that new arrivals could not even land on French soil while their applications were being examined. Asylum seekers living in France had their work permits confiscated and now had to fear for their right to welfare benefits. This situation explains the motives of the movement of rejected asylum seekers, of whom 20,000 who had lived for at least 3 years in France were finally legalized. The others found themselves driven once again into illegality - until 18 May 1996. In fact, some of those not legalized in 1991-92 were amongst the "refugees of St Ambroise" who decided on this day to come out in the open and occupy the church. [back to top]

The Pasqua Laws and general suspicion
When the Right came to power again in 1993, the right-wing Pasqua government had prepared the ground well: visas only sporadically, accommodation certificates, stricter sanctions for aiding "illegal" entry and residence, deportation charter, etc. But Pasqua employed the same brutal network as in 1986 and choked any attempt at resistance with his rules and regulations, which were issued at a breathtaking pace: reform of citizenship rights, identity checks, entry and residence of foreigners, asylum laws, criminalization of aid for immigrants, denunciation and arrest; all of this was carried through. The manifold restrictions heightened the sense of insecurity once more amongst immigrants; in fact, the right of residence of every individual was threatened. In order not to be misunderstood, Pasqua began with powerful symbols, the young and the family: the acquisition of French citizenship for those born in France, which had resulted automatically till now at the age of 18, was now made dependent on an oath of loyalty. This could be denied to those with a criminal record. "French citizenship must be earned" - this extreme right slogan became the official policy of the country. The government set its sights on immigrants whose children had French nationality and adopted the position that immigrants produce offspring only to prevent their deportation and obtain welfare benefits. From now on they were unable to apply for citizenship for their under-age children, and for welfare benefits they required regular status and valid papers.
Nevertheless, many parents could not be deported, as the law was not retrospective. They created a new category of people who could neither be deported nor legalized. In the face of the absurdity of their situation, six immigrant families whose children had citizenship went on hunger strike on the premises of the Cimade, a Christian support group in Paris. This campaign, although attracting little publicity, raised the question openly of the right to family life and marked the beginning of new agitation after two years of apathy. In a gesture of sudden generosity, Pasqua issued a circular on the eve of the presidential election of 1995, which ordered the Prefecture, with regard to some contradictions in his own laws, to examine the situation of foreign parents with French children in a benevolent matter. This recommendation, however, was largely ignored. During this period, the pedantic application of the Pasqua laws created thousands of Sans Papiers, which meant that in this new context immigrants lost their former rights. The other feature of the Pasqua offensive was the intensification of police and administration control, as well as the extension of registration and interference in the private lives of the whole French population in order to uncover fraud. Officials in public service (the post office, hospitals, social insurance, tax and labour offices, etc.) were ordered to join in the checking of clients' papers and report any "irregulars", especially to the police. The denunciatory zeal of some authorities sometimes exceeded ministerial instructions, and often went so far as to refuse welfare benefits to members of the community who had a right to them, on the pretext that there were irregularities or anomalies of some sort or other. This extraordinary internalization of the hunt for "illegals" in some officials can be explained, not so much by their own convictions or particular racist views on immigrants, but above all by their fear of sanctions for "supporting illegal residence", as this offence of voluntary or involuntary solidarity was now punishable by imprisonment or a fine of up to 2,00,000 FF. [back to top]

The Sans Papiers of St Bernard (18 March- 23 August 1996)
The Sans Papiers lived in constant fear of police controls and chicanery, which increasingly dominated their everyday lives, many of them being completely without means.
To set an end to this insufferable situation of having no rights of any kind, a group of African men, women and children decided to emerge from the shadows. On the 18 March 1996 they occupied the Church of St. Ambroise in Paris, to the general amazement even of the groups specializing in immigrant issues. They came from the African workers' hostels in Montreuil, a Parisian suburb where the immigrants had been practising a kind of self-administration for years. The initial group thus consisted of people who knew each other and had no papers for various reasons, parents of children with French citizenship, rejected asylum-seekers, single persons. After earlier failed attempts to achieve something with the help of SOS Racisme and others through individual claims, they now decided to gain the government's attention by acting together. They pinned their hopes on the fact that Jacques Chirac had been elected to the presidency in 1995 after making the "fracture sociale", the social division in society, a major theme in his election campaign - perhaps he could do something for them.
The Sans Papiers were hardly inside the church when radio and television stations were at the door, and the church became a rallying point for Sans Papiers, amongst them their future spokesman and -woman, Ababacar Diop and Madjiguène Cissé. The humanitarian organization Médicins du Monde was first on the site and informed committed groups such as Droits Devant!, a street people's organization, which played a major role in the mobilization of prominent supporters. Léon Schwarzenberg, Albert Jacquard, Monseigneur Gaillot and many others stood by the Sans Papiers, then and now.
As more and more people, French as well as immigrant, wanted to take part in the occupation of the church, it was decided to limit the occupying group to 300 Sans Papiers, above all black Africans from Mali, Senegal and Mauretania. The church hierarchy under Cardinal Lustiger denounced the occupation as "manipulated" and indicated, indirectly, support for eviction by the police, which promptly followed. The Africans found themselves on the street again. But the pictures of Africans wandering round the Paris streets awakened memories of the exodus of war refugees in Africa (the drama in Ruanda was unforgotten) and caused an outrage in the media and public opinion generally.
Humanitarian organizations, the radical left and several trade unions, as well as numerous public names, came to the support of the Sans Papiers. The Communist Party and members of the Socialist Party also joined the movement.
Even more remarkable was the fact that thousands of ordinary citizens from all walks of life spontaneously offered help. This solidarity was evident too in the opinion polls, according to which 53 % of all French sympathized with the Sans Papiers movement. A situation which reminded one, not by chance, of the popularity of the social agitation from November to December 1995, when the strikes which had paralyzed public transport in protest at the social insurance reform gained widespread support, even though they seriously disturbed everyday life. The rejection of government policy found expression at that time in a kind of authorization of the strikers, and the campaign of the Sans Papiers following three months later was seen as a welcome continuation of the social agitation. The Sans Papiers evicted by the police were therefore logically provided with accommodation in the LCR bookshop (a Trotzkyist organization), on the premises of the postal trade union Sud-PTT and those of the Droits Devants! Group, and then long-term in the empty rooms of the SNCF Railways in the Rue Pajol (18. Arrondissement), which had been allocated to them by railway workers in the CFDT union. [back to top]

Papers for all
The Sans Papiers movement which was now evolving accepted this support gratefully but insisted on the autonomy of its campaign. They did not want others to speak in their name or act as their spokesmen with the authorities or media. In fact, contradictions soon became obvious: some groups made their support dependent on certain conditons. SOS Racisme, for example, wanted only to help parents of children with French citizenship and demand for them the right to family life. To this attempt to split the movement, Madjiguène Cissé replied with her special knack for hard-hitting words: "Some people demand the right to live as families. We however simply demand the right to live!" In the face of the increasingly uncontrollable and explosive situation, other support groups felt out of their depth and panicked. They ordered the Sans Papiers, who were arriving in ever larger numbers to join the conflict, to "go home again". In view of the rather unfavourable odds, the demand for "papers for all" seemed quite unrealistic. "You cannot win on all fronts at the same time", they said. "Only the battles which aren't even begun are lost at the start", Madjiguène Cissé replied. Tension reached their climax, when, after arrests on 27 March, 57 people from Mali were deported to Bamako by charter flight.
On the initiative of theatre director Ariane Mnouchkine the 300 Africans of St. Ambroise were then accommodated on the premises of the Cartoucherie theatre in Vincennes outside of Paris; subsequently they moved into the empty railway building in Rue Pajol. The movement developed its own structure. The full general meeting of the families became a democratic instance of advice and decision-making, on the initiative of the women, who made their mark on the meeting with their presence and readiness for action. They also organized some meetings in which they determined the course of action and so formed an opposing force to any possible resurgence of the tribal tradition of the "village chief".
The general meeting selected - as a sovereign body - their own delegates, who could be dismissed at any time. These, on the other hand, entered into discussions with the support committees recruited from associations and groups. However, the numerous unorganized supporters not participating in the discussions developed ever-friendlier relations with the Sans Papiers and played an important but informal role in the movement. New Sans Papiers groups emerged in a dozen cities, in Paris, the suburbs and in the provinces. At first they joined up in regional coordination, to take up negotiations with united force with the Prefecture on their cases, and they dreamed of countrywide coordination to force the government into discussions on a general solution. They largely agreed to reject individual regulations and all discussion revolved around general provisions for global legalization.
Moreover, under the leadership of the former French ambassador Stéphane Hessel, a committee of 26 mediators was established to start negotiations with the government. This body made a list of ten criteria by which global legalization of all immigrants was to be made possible for those whose "integration into French society could be proven". This attempt at mediation, however, proved unsuccessful. On 26 June, the Minister of the Interior announced in a communiqué that he would legalize only 48 of the 315 Sans Papiers cases presented to him and ordered the others to leave the country, although they too fell under the criteria by which the 48 had been legalized - in other words, it was a purely arbitrary decision. Even the more moderate mediators were outraged, saw a breach of the republican principle of equality before the law, and felt insulted by the government's scornful attitude to the mediators themselves. The widespread coverage in the media since the beginning should not lead to false conclusions; the Sans Papiers went through long and difficult times between April and June 1996. More than once, exhausted and discouraged, they were close to giving in.
The decisive role in new mobilization was played by the women, the "Sans Papières". They were ready to continue the campaign alone if the men decided to go home. In this way they initiated a number of independent activities such as the March of the Women on 11 May 1996 or the occupation of the (Socialist-governed) Town Hall in the 18th arrondissement in Paris on 25 June. The movement gained new impetus again and again through these initiatives. [back to top]

The debate on immigration in St Bernard Church
After the failure of attempts to negotiate "on a more realistic basis", the Sans Papiers movement achieved new élan when, this time with the agreement of the priest responsible, Father Henri Coindé, they occupied the church of St Bernard in Paris. On 5 July 10, Sans Papiers went on hunger strike. In the middle of summer, mobilization reached its climax and gained international attention. Support increased dramatically and hundreds, even thousands came to prevent the police from intervening. The media were present everywhere and turned the event into the main topic of debate that summer.
This public interest in the question of immigration, quite unique up to this point, except perhaps for the march for equality in 1983, led to a dramatic leap in the quality of discussion by placing the event at St Bernard within the new context of globalization, the domination of the north over the south and the general precarious situation of French society. Many who had up till then shown little interest in the questions arising from immigration now had an intensive course in the realities of the issue, and the idea of "zero immigration", so much favoured by the former Minister of the Interior, Pasqua, became completely discredited.
The "Left to the left of the Left", as the sociologist Pierre Bourdieu called them, now concentrated on the discussion about freedom of movement and the fundamental right to come and go within the framework of the globalization of free circulation, restricted up till now to capital, commodities and to the rich.
The support groups now had the opportunity to pose hard questions about what they themselves stood for. Jean-Pierre Alaux, a member of GISTI, showed his amusement about the confusion aroused by the autonomy of Sans Papiers: "It is quite extraordinary to observe how the associations, my own included, have been caught on the wrong foot ... It's somehow rather amusing to see how they wonder how they are to accommodate the people evicted from St Bernard. Put them up even in our own offices? But then we won't be able to work there any more! As if it was no job for the support groups who ostensibly clamoured for the defence of the rights of foreigners, to accommodate actively struggling foreigners. And although all these groups said their daily legal advice had been ineffective for years. And now it could at one stroke have an immediate effect again! But to break up a pointless routine, that would break up the support groups themselves!
So I am of the opinion that this could bring about a change in their work and in their relationship with the foreigners. The foreigners, with regard to their allies, now have more influence. They themselves will now feel that they have allies, whereas previously they were the allies of those who defended them. (cited at the end of the film "La Ballade des Sans Papiers" and "Sans Papiers, chronicles of a movement", IM média/Reflex, Paris 1997).
The greatly feared but nevertheless inevitable eviction took place on 23 August 1996 at 7.30 in the morning. The axe-blows on the church door, the use of brute force against these people, against women and children who wanted nothing more than papers whereby they could live, the deliberate splitting up of whites and black, all this aroused the disgust of the public, which experienced the eviction live on television. Public outrage had reaches its peak, and spontaneous demonstrations were held the same day all over the country.
25,000 people gathered in Paris at the St Bernard church and marched, to the slogan "Let the Sans Papiers go free!" to the detention center in Vincennes. The wave of indignation was even echoed in Africa, where protest demonstrations were also held. At the airport in Dakar the ground personnel refused to attend to a military Airbus full of deportees from France who had been forced to board the plane.
In the course of the following days the arrested Sans Papiers were freed again - the consequence of completely chaotic administrative tribunal proceedings, where most of the arrests for deportation were declared illegal. 13 Sans Papiers from St Bernard, however, amongst them two heads of families, were ordered to leave the country; in reaction the trade unions CGT and GFDT of the air transport branch organized a demonstration against "the charter of shame" at Charles de Gaulle Airport. The released Sans Papiers, on the other hand, moved into the Cartoucherie at Vincennes before being put up in the premises of the employees' council of the Banque Nationale de Paris in the Rue du Faubourg-Poisonnière in Paris. The authorities had tried to force them back into illegality but they had chosen the opposite, to continue and widen the campaign and prepare for a longstanding battle. [back to top]

The Sans Papiers and the illegal labour market
On 31 August 1996 the National Coordination Group of the Sans Papiers Collective founded on 20 July called for a broadening of the campaign. The appeal was aimed at Sans Papiers but also at trade unionists, workers and teachers as well as other levels of immigrants and "sans" (the homeless, unemployed and illegally employed are described as the "sans"). Other immigrants joined the movement: the Chinese, absent from immigrant agitation up till then, turned up at meetings on St Bernard. They formed, together with Turks, North Africans and various other nationalities (27 altogether) the "3rd Collective".
The immigrant groups which had long been in existence were active in the background, at the side of Sans Papiers and organizations like Cedetim and the Human Rights League. Amongst the founding members were people like Said Bouziri, the former president of the MTA and a 1972 hunger striker, and the university anthropologist Emmanuel Terray. The 3rd Collective made itself known by stressing the role of the Sans Papiers in the economy, thereby publicising their importance as workers. It attempted to establish contact with the trade unions in the sectors in which Sans Papiers and illicit work are generally to be found: the building, hotel and restaurant trades, the textile industry and farming. In fact, police repression hurt the labour force without papers more than it did the employers hiring them. There were 12,000 deportations in this context in 1996, whereas only a few dozen employers - moreover, usually foreigners - were prosecuted, and seldom the actual persons responsible, who hid behind an extremely complicated system of cascade-like sub-contracts and sham companies and so were able to cover their tracks.
Theoretically they could be sentenced to two years' imprisonment and a fine of 200,000 FF, be barred from conducting business, and have their goods confiscated. But in practice, according to a police official in the newspaper "Le Monde" on 16.10.1996 "The sanctions are so mild that it's not worth the trouble". And rightly so, as illicit work has strategic significance in some sectors of the economy. The above official alleged: "You can say without exaggeration that practically all the Made in France clothing for women comes from hundreds of workshops which employ illegals. Moreover, this sector can only compete on that basis".
It is not a matter here of a marginal phenomenon in archaic sectors opposing "modernization", but a matter of this "modernization" itself. "From the crisis management of the second half of the 70's up to the restructuring in the 80's, the employment of foreign workers was always the decisive moment whereby a reaction took place to the new demands for flexibility and the smooth flow of the global labour supply. The massive reduction in the pay rates of foreign labour in industry, their increasing invasion of the tertiary sector, their relative stability of employment in small businesses, and the renewal of the forms of illegal work, have in this way accompanied, promoted and even anticipated the productive and employment systems and the renewal of working relationships" (Claude-Valentin Marie, "En première ligue de l'elasticité de l'emploi", in: Plein Droit No. 31, April 1996).
"Flexibilité" - the word has been uttered. It rhymes with "precarité " (precariousness, insecurity - of employment, for example - conquers the whole labour market and affects social life. Suddenly many French people accepted "dirty" jobs they had previously rejected. Various surveys showed that the proportion of Sans Papiers involved in illicit work was on the decline, and according to estimates of registered offences was now below 10%. The struggle for legalization of the Sans papiers employed illicitly led in this way to the question of illicit work in general.
It would however be illusory to believe that the legalization of residence would place the illegalization of employment in question. To counter demands by legal wage-earners, employers often resorted to taking on other, illegal workers: French people, immigrants with residence status or new Sans Papiers. This situation explains why many Sans Papiers preferred to remain under cover. They wanted above all to keep their jobs, no matter how illegal or badly paid they were. It was a matter, then, of a global struggle against capitalist exploitation in ever newer forms.
The authorities were unhappy to discuss these realities and reacted violently if the Sans Papiers became active in this area. The attempt to occupy the giant Stadium of France in St. Denis was thus choked at the outset and one of the initiators, Hadj Momar Diop, was imprisoned on the spot. By this action the movement wanted to indicate that the Stadium of France, where the World Football Championship Final was to be held in 1998, would never be completed in time without the employment of Sans Papiers. [back to top]

Humanitarian commitment and political instrumentalization
The agitation about economic aspects did not however stand at the centre of the movement's efforts. The argument of economic benefit had no validity for the legitimation of Sans Papiers activities. "The arguments used as a basis for demands have changed completely; they have left the field of economics in favour of the humanitarian and/or political area. Agitation in 1992 revolved around the question of asylum, the mobilization from 1996 to 1998 proclaimed as its main argument, "The right to live in the family" or "good integration". (Claude-Valentin Marie, "Emploi des étrangers sans titre, travail illégal, régularisation: des débats en trompe-l'oeil" in : Immigration & Intégration, l'état des savoirs, (La Découverte), Paris 1999). On the eve of the eviction from St Bernard the movement found itself at the cross-roads between humanitarian and political orientation.
Beside the constant efforts to ensure unity at the roots of the movement, which was torn between the different interests of the various categories of Sans Papiers, it now had to try and resist the instrumentalization of its campaign for political purposes - namely the downfall of the Juppé Government.
SOS Racisme wanted "new, wide-reaching agitation against the Pasqua laws" and played down the role of the Sans Papiers campaign even in this formulation. In this way they wanted to prepare the ground for the Socialist Party, whose leaders had been markedly absent during the whole St Bernard affair. The radical left followed the same pattern with their seemingly more radical slogan: "Debré and Juppé should be thrown out, not the Sans Papiers!" The Sans Papiers reacted coolly to this, announcing : "Debré, Juppé don't matter to us, what we want are papers!" To show that they needed no lessons from others, the Sans Papiers demonstrated their political autonomy by organizing caravan treks throughout the country to hold public debates on site and at the same time to draw the Sans Papiers collective into a common line of action as agreed in the proclamation of the National Coordination Body on 31 August 1996: "The important thing is the abolition of the Pasqua-Méhaignerie Laws and the whole arsenal of legislation hostile to foreigners in the last 20 years, whereby this uniform demand should not just be a consolation till some distant election day, but used as a rallying point for mobilization here and now". [back to top]

The wave of petitions urging "civil disobedience" (February 1997)
This warning was made at a recent internal French political debate sparked off by the elections now on the horizon. Jacques Chirac had not yet announced the surprising dissolution of Parliament and new elections in May/June 1997, when the Right as well as the Left closed ranks for the election campaign. A section on the right wanted to counter the view that the social and economic programmes of the different parties seemed all the same to the voters, and to win the election on the basis of an energetic immigration policy. This programme was then presented as a draft law of Debré's - under the name of the then Minister of the Interior, who wanted to put his stamp on immigrant legislation with a renewed modification of the decree of 1945. Article 1 of the draft proposed that anyone receiving a visit by a foreigner had to report this to his local town hall, otherwise he/she was threatened with the charge of aiding and abetting illegal residency. At exactly the same time, Jacqueline Deltrombe, a Frenchwoman living with a Sans Papiers in Lille, was sentenced on just these grounds. The reaction was spectacular: 66 film-makers held a press conference and made an appeal for civil disobedience against the proposed Debré law. Immediately afterwards, writers, artists, scientists, university teachers, jounalists, doctors, lawyers and members of many other professions drew up a petition to this end, and the daily newspapers carried never-ending lists of people ready to accommodate foreigners without asking for papers.
On 22 February 1997, 100,000 people demonstrated in Paris against Debré. The Socialist Party was once again completely overtaken by events. A further important political factor helped to explain this wave of petitions: at the beginning of February, Bruno Megret, or rather his wife, won the communal election in Vitrolles in the South of France. Bruno Megret, the No. 2 in the Front Nationale and an ideologist of the "New Right", had made a frontal attack on cultural circles as "cosmopolitan" and "depraved". In cooperation with the other FN-mayors in the region brought to power in the Toulon, Marignane and Orange elections, he now wanted to close prestigious institutions such as the drama school "Centre d'art dramatique" in Chateauvallon. Intellectuals and artists had then begun, faced with the threat to their livelihood, to mobilize all their networks against the cultural looting envisaged by the new mayor of Vitrolles and Le Pen's future rival. No one could imagine reporting a visit by a foreign friend to such a person, even if he were the mayor of a large city. In this way the movement for civil disobedience finally succeeded in forcing Debré to withdraw Article I. The rest of the law was approved by Parliament and officially published on 25 April 1977.
But the mood had changed. The election campaign had already begun. With regard to the sudden flood of petitions, they represented an independent movement with its own fundamental ethics of civil disobedience. Free from "support" complexes arising from ambigious and fixed role allocations, this new movement was to articulate itself on a much more organic basis, together with the autonomous Sans Papiers. Both currents of resistance against the government developed in this way a kind of give and take relationship. This was illustrated in an exemplary way at the Cannes Film Festival, when a short film supported by 175 directors and film-makers was presented, in which Madjiguène Cissé, in close-up, recites eye to eye with the audience: "We, the Sans Papiers of France, have decided to come out into the open". And although, after the withdrawal of the contested Article 1, numerous signatories to the petition dropped out, the civil disobedience campaign was not short-lived; on the contrary, many believed they saw signs of a possible resurgence of the left (compare, for example the call on the eve of the election: "We are the Left!"). [back to top]

Help! The Left is coming back!
A gift from God - the left-wing election victory on 1 June 1997 awoke wild hopes amongst the Sans Papiers. A march for legalization set out the same day from Angouleme and reached, some ten days later, Matignon, the seat just won by Prime Minister Jospin. A delegation was admitted. Eventually Ababacar Diop announced that he had Jospin's agreement to the legalization of all Sans Papiers of St Bernard. In all other cases the government proposed a case-by-case legalization limited to conditions and pronounced by the Prefects according to the stipulations of a decree. The six criteria which the Human Rights Commission had drawn up in September 1996 were also to apply, being close to those of the negotiating committee: spouses of French people and foreigners with residence status, parents of children born in France, people well integrated into French society, rejected asylum-seekers, those in serious danger in their home countries, the seriously ill, and students. In addition, the senior government official Jean-Michel Galabert was to act as a "transmission belt" between administration and Sans Papiers, especially in difficult cases.
The government refused, however, to place a moratorium on deportations. Promptly on the 17 June, Gary Moussa, a member of the St Bernard collective, was deported. On 14 July an extraordinary meeting of the National Coordination Committee of Sans Papiers took place in the Paris Employment Centre. In a heated atmosphere due to the importance of the matter, the committee was to decide on the course to be taken now. The views conflicted: were the government proposals to be seen as an act of good will, a first step or even as an initial victory which could lead to others? The committee finally decided to stick by its rejection of the case-by-case regulation, demanded the repeal of the Pasqua-Debré laws and all laws directed against immigrants, an end to deportations, the return of deportees as well as the release of arrested Sans Papiers.
The necessity of a law on global legalization similar to that of 1981 or those of other countries (Spain, Italy, Portugal...) was also stressed, but the battle for all this did not really begin. The Committee was weakened at this time by personality conflicts in its leadership and was subjected to a kind of passive boycott by its supporters, which did not accept the autonomy of decisions by the national secretariat, which consisted solely of Sans Papiers. In the face of the unwillingness of the government to adopt a genuine policy of legalization, "the National Coordination Committee, caught up in conflicts about its own work, was unable to unleash new, collective dynamic forces which might have brought about global legalization" (Salah Teiar and Madiguène Cissé, in an open letter to the Sans Papiers Collective and support groups on 5 May 1997). Said Bouamama, one of the spokesment of the Sans-Papiers Collective North (CSP59) had already written before the left returned to power: "We are far from having the political leadership necessary to launch countrywide initiatives and stick to them. Coordination at present is just an occasion for monthly meetings without real power of decision or a precise mandate. This absence of national structuring is a serious weakness in the present phase". (in: "Sans Papiers: Chronicle of a movement", IM média/Reflex, Paris 1997).
The other serious strategic gap in the Sans Papiers movement was the absence of an organic link with legal immigration. The movement which had emerged from immigration was doubtless going through a difficult period, was demotivated and suffering from an obvious lack of perspective. For many activists, commitment on the Sans Papiers front line was a substitute for this lack of presence.
Suddenly, immigrants with regular status found themselves supporting the Sans Papiers, but were swamped by the number of those who in their ignorance saw immigration as something connected only with the particular Sans Papiers situation.This helps to explain the anger of the MIB, the immigration and suburban movement, at the alliance policy of the St Bernard Sans Papiers, which from the beginning had preferred good relations with the solidarity groups.
For the MIB, the tensions between the Sans Papiers and these groups were irrelevant, and diverted attention from the important thing: the necessary redetermination of an alternative capable of reconstituting the immigration campaign. The Sans Papiers neatly avoided this question by pointing out the absence of legal immigrants in the movement. The open hostility of many "beurs", (a slang word for North Africans) towards the "clandos", or Sans Papiers, did not help the situation, but hinder it. In many respects the Sans Papiers movement had lagged begind the immigrants' historical political demands with regard to the 10-year residence permit, the new citizenship and even freedom of movement. For the most part this retreat in Sans Papiers demands can be ascribed to French humanitarian "support" and its concern about "realism".
This situation intensified the sharp criticism of MIB activists, who rejected decisively the principle of unconditional support for the Sans Papiers ("Either you support us or you shut up!"). "It is not enough to know who you are fighting, you must also know who your allies are", said the MIB. In the spring they launched a counter-attack in the form of a CD entitled "11'30 contre les lois racistes" (11'30 against the racist laws) which began with a discussion between the film buff Jean-Francois Richet and Madj, from the Rap group Assassin. "Laws by Deferre, laws by Joxe, laws by Pasqua and Debré - all with the same logic: hunt the immigrants. And don't forget the flood of decrees and regulations. We will never forgive the barbarity of your inhuman legislation. Only a racist can pass racist laws. So stop all this folklore of anti-racism and putting up a good front in the euphoria of the national holiday. Legalize all immigrants without papers and their families! Repeal all racist laws regulating immigrant residency in France. We demand the emancipation of all the exploited in this country, be they French or immigrant. What do you think of that?" Over 120,000 people would buy this CD to support the MIB, "a group that always defended those that others did not consider defensible". [back to top]

The implementation of the Chevènement decyree on 24 June 1997: the trap of case-by-case examination
On 24 June 1997, the government published the so-called Chevènement Law, named after the Minister of the Interior. Some 150,000 Sans Papiers stormed into the Prefectures to hand in their particulars before the deadline on 31 October 1997. A veritable obstacle race now began with the aim of fulfilling the selection provisions, which became more and more restrictive the greater the number of applications. Apparently the government had vastly underestimated the figures. Moreover, it tried to win time so that the publication of legalization figures would not coincide with the regional elections in March 1998. Activists in legal advice centres were literally collapsing under the weight of paperwork required for acquiring the necessary documentation, by which the following had to be proven: a minimum residence of 7 years in France, a period of regular residency of 3-6 months, income from a steady job, regular attendance at school and even proof of political persecution.
In the end, the Sans Papiers received, at best, a residence permit for one year, with or without a work permit, according to the individual case. Such legalization, often nothing more than a stamp in the passport, was very limited compared with earlier legalization, which awarded residence permits to families for 10 years. From now on, the one-year residence permit had to be extended three times for any hope of a 10-year residency. After several postponements under the combined influence of agitation and bureaucracy, the legalization procedure was finalized officially on 31 December 1998. The result: for 143,500 appplications there were 81,000 legalizations and 62,500 rejections.
Three quarters of the applications on the basis of family bonds were accepted, but only 20% of the "single" applications. From one département to the other these results varied arbitrarily according to the goodwill of the respective prefectures, and a number of applications were rejected at one office but accepted by another.
Apparently some nationalities were given preferential treatment. 87% of the Chinese (with 9,000 applications) but only 37% of the Turks (with 8,000 applications) were accepted. The high percentage of legalized Philippinas (70% of the 1,900 applications) indicates the intention to legalize the situation of domestics. Last of all, the analysis of legalizations permits a vocational and sociological profile of the Sans Papiers. It confirms the large proportion of social classes which were relatively privileged in the countries of origin. Amongst the Algerians, for example, of whom 58% out of 11,000 applicants were legalized, were often "western-orientated, higher-level office workers, doctors and teachers; amongst the Malians (50% acceptance of 10,000 applications) the predominance of people from the middle-level farming sector was apparent. These findings, which had already become evident in the differing social attitudes of the Sans Papiers during their agitation, went a long way to relativizing the cliché about "the whole misery of the world". [back to top]

The registration of the "official illegals"
Retrospectively, the activists in the support groups suffered quite a shock. What if they had now become unwilling accomplices of a gigantic campaign aimed at registration of the Sans Papiers? In fact, all the available information was now stored in a central register established for the legalization process. The police now had all the data on rejected applicants. What would happen to them? "They are called upon to return home", Jospin said repeatedly and added reassuringly, "but they won't be picked up at their homes". These explanations induced a senate investigation committee (dominated by the Right) seriously to conjure the term "official illegals" and complain that this was "a signal that you could be illegal in France and stay there". A signal to foreigners that could produce a dangerous snowball effect? Rather more a signal to employers that they could carry on using illegal labour. They could continue to depend on them.
The Minister of the Interior, Jean-Pierre Chevenèment, also assured everyone that the rejected immigrants would not be deported. They would receive the order to leave the country within a month (IQT). If they so wished, they could receive "repatriation support" for their country of origin, 4,500 FF per adult and 900 FF per child. This measure, the outcome of an interministerial commission under the chairmanship of the university professor Sami Nour, was presented as a symbol of a new cooperative North-South policy ("codéveloppement Nord/Sud"). Several thousand candidates were to take advantage of it. But up till June 1999 only 21 rejected Sans Papiers had made use of it!
The Sans Papiers movement did not first await the end of the legalization procedure to react. From the summer onwards, new forms of activity such as the weekly picketing in front of the police prefecture of Par