Terrorist fears serve anti-immigration ends
The US terrorist attacks has prompted a further tightening of an already repressive immigration policy in France and a closing of EU ranks.
Paris, 17/10/01 – In the wake of the September 11 suicide attacks, France put into operation its draconian antiterrorist security plan, dubbed Vigipirate. There are growing fears that the French authorities have used to antiterrorism to accentuate a policy that has been getting steadily more repressive for years.
The soaring numbers of random ID checks in public places and arrests of foreigners without documentation chiefly targeted – surprise, surprise – North Africans.
A French ecumenical charity, CIMADE, released figures showing that by the end of September, the numbers of illegal foreigners arrested and detained had risen by 30%. Numbers held in the detention centre of Vincennes, just outside Paris, were up 46%, 39% in Marseilles, 21% in Lyons and 18% in Toulouse.
There are worries that this strongarm approach has fuelled the perception that the struggling migrant worker and potential terrorist are one and the same.
More disturbing still, is that the clampdown on foreigners is not opportunism in exceptional circumstances, but the intensification of a momentum that has been gathering for three years.
The latest parliamentary audit on the French police shows that expulsions for illegal immigration or public order offences had begun rising after a drop in 1997 and 1998. In 1999, there were 8,300 official expulsions and over 5,000 in the first half of 2000 alone – an increase of 40,25 % compared to the same period year on year.
Security measures are being taken across Europe. All states are restricting migrant flows, a move at odds with the resolutely humanist declarations at Tampere in October 1999, when the European Council had talked of the EU’s absolute commitment to the right to asylum.
The Council of Europe also expressed its concern in March 2001 at abuses of law governing expulsions that failed to provide for a stay of execution. The Council added that it was dismayed that the European Court of Human Rights had failed to take a clear stand on the issue of immigrants who had settled years previously.
In its October 13 issue French business publication La Tribune reported that the UK and France were putting together a new partnership to curb immigration with tighter police checks on the French side and enhanced technical measures to ensure more effective security for the Channel Tunnel. France had also said it would step up its campaigning to put off would-be economic migrants.
The EU is to examine the issue of economic migrants and ways of spotting bogus asylum applications as part of a move to harmonise legislation in all member countries by 2004.
It has already compiled the Eurodac file of asylum seekers designed to stop several applications from the same person in different countries. There are also plans for a file known as the Visa 2 World Network that will inventory visa requests.
In a delayed response to demands from the Austrian right-wing populist politician, Jorg Haider for a rethinking of the status of refugees, the Italian parliament is shortly to debate a bill that would make it an offence to legalise illegal immigrants from countries outside the EU and link resident permits to a job contract.
Under the terms of the Italian bill any illegal immigrant would be expelled and all second offenders would be liable to prison sentences of up to four years.
Hopes are pinned on the centre-left opposition to block legislation that makes it a criminal offence to enter Italy without a visa and amounts to a policy of racial discrimination.
Particularly worrying against this background is that if European immigration policies are to be harmonised, the most repressive common denominator is likely to apply… And the rotating EU presidency falls to Italy next time round.