Outside a school in Central Paris. The new school year starts this week, some kids are happy, others still want to play and run. This is where last may, a Chinese grandfather was handcuffed and taken away by the French police when he was to take home his 4 year old son. The police say Lin, a Chinese immigrant, had been living in Paris without valid residency papers. Many cases like this have come up in the past few months in France. Children and grandchildren are French citizens, their elders are illegal immigrants.
At the Paris Tribunal, 5 Chinese families are waiting to know if they can stay in France or if they will be forced to leave. One of them is a 35 year old woman who was afraid of revealing her identity.
The immigrants wait for the courts to decide their case. Most of them do not speak French because they work in a completely Chinese environment. They now have their kids as translators! Jacques Daguenet is the elected representative of the Communist party in the 11th district of Paris. He says since he returned from summer vacation two weeks back, he has been talking day and night to immigrants who have received eviction notices.
“The first day I returned to the office, I has a long queue of people who wanted to see me. I tell their translators what they should say, how to form a sentence, train them on answering such and such questions… because the translators are young and a court room vocabulary is not easy. I have been receiving faxes, telephone calls, I go out all the time to see these families who risk being separated, fathers who are being forced to leave their kids here for ever and go back to China… or some other country. I have even had to go to police stations to get these people released. You see, we are in France; we talk about human rights and human dignity all the time. And recently the minister for National Identity visited the police stations and said that the evictions should go faster. I think he also sent a message to people like me that there is no point in fighting and that the police is stronger.”
The number of Chinese immigrants being asked to leave France is rising. Last year, the French Interior Ministry distributed a circular in police stations saying illegal immigrants could get residency papers if they fulfilled certain conditions like living in France for a long time, being married and having children… Anthony spelt Jahn is a member of the Non government organisation called Education without borders. He says it did not guarantee they would be able to stay in France, but it was a way of getting the illegal immigrants to declare themselves.
“In particular the Chinese families, jumped on the boat. They appeared kind of massively. At one point there were 900 families on one day. The all kind of came out of the woods, after living hidden and largely within their community, they are now in great danger. One because, in fact, there are a great deal of Chinese immigrants in Paris, the second element is that Nicholas Sarkozy when he was interior minister and now as president has still fixed an objective of 25 thousand expulsions per year.“
Anthony Jahn says with the enlargement of the European Union, the police are no longer after the Eastern Europeans whose countries are now a part of the European Union. They now focus on the Chinese population. But at the same time, Europe has changed.
“In 2006, 30 percent of the people expulsed were from Eastern Europe, from Romania and from Bulgaria. Now they can’t expulse them anymore, so they have to find that 30 percent some where else. And the Chinese community is obviously an easy target. Most of them come from the Wenzhou province, I’d say even 99 percent. They have escaped a lot of rural poverty. By coming here, a lot of people do work very hard and you have actually some very brilliant students, and those are the ones of some of the one’s they want to throw out”.
The number of expulsions of Chinese has gone up by more than 20 percent in one year. This year, many more are expected to leave.