Police evict France's biggest squat

Gerrard Winstanley office at evnuk.org.uk
Tue Aug 22 17:52:35 BST 2006

3 articles here......

Police evict Africans in raid on France's biggest squat 


· Legal immigrants among 1,000 forced out
· Sarkozy is accused of staging publicity stunt 

Angelique Chrisafis in Cachan
Friday August 18, 2006
The Guardian 

Police yesterday stormed the biggest squat in France, evicting 
hundreds of west African families from a squalid, disused hall of 
residence at one of France's elite universities.

The decaying, five-storey Building F on the campus of the Ecole 
Normale Supérieure in the south Paris suburb of Cachan, had become a 
symbol of France's social and racial divide. Once a smart residence 
for female students at one of the country's prestigious "grandes 
écoles", it began being occupied by homeless immigrant families five 
years ago when it was left empty. Students continue to live nearby in 
smartly refurbished blocks while the affluent neighbouring streets 
boast manicured flower beds.

Article continues
Up to 1,000 squatters, including 200 children, many from Ivory Coast, 
Mali and Senegal, were crammed into 300 small student rooms with 
improvised wiring, poor sanitation and damp. But only half were asylum 
seekers or illegal immigrants. The rest had legal status to remain in 
France but, support groups said, they could not find housing because 
of racism and discrimination.

Most of the squatters had jobs, some men worked as security guards or 
builders, many women as nannies and cleaners for families in Paris.

As the Red Cross helped the evacuated families in makeshift tents 
yesterday, non-governmental groups accused the interior minister and 
presidential hopeful, Nicolas Sarkozy, of staging the squat clearance 
for publicity.

Mr Sarkozy, leader of the conservative UMP party, has used the summer 
holidays to make his mark on the key issue for voters in next year's 
presidential race: immigration. Appearing on TV this week, he ruled 
out the possibility of granting resident status to large numbers of 
illegal immigrants, warning it would be "irresponsible".

About 30,000 illegal immigrants with children in French schools have 
recently applied for a special amnesty, but he said only 6,000 would 
succeed, and the rest would be deported

Building F, once dubbed "Sangatte on Paris's doorstep" after the 
former immigration camp near Calais, has long been an embarrassment to 
the government.

In 2004, the local student accommodation agency won a court order to 
evacuate and demolish the building to make way for a car park, but 
officials were wary of sparking riots if they forced an eviction.

The local authority said yesterday it evacuated the building to end 
the "stalemate" because of a "fire risk" to squatters. Several fires 
swept through dilapidated housing in Paris last year, killing about 50 
people, mostly African immigrants.

Riot police and gendarmerie arrived at the squat at 9am yesterday, 
just after many of the men had left for work, leaving the women and 
children. They evicted 508 people, including 141 children. One witness 
described an officer carrying a ram to break down doors.

"Welcome to the biggest round-up of black people in France," said one 
white resident of a smart street nearby who opposed the operation. But 
an elderly woman shouted down from her window: "Enough is enough and 
something has to be done about immigrants. Mr Sarkozy is right."

Ghislain Thierry, 25, an electrician, had lived in the squat for 18 
months, sleeping on a mattress in a shared room. Born in Cameroon, he 
had been in France legally since the age of 13, attending school and 
then university.

"I have a decent job and enough money to rent a flat. You'd think I 
would be able to find a roof over my head without having to live in a 
squat, but not in France. I experience racism every single day, in 
every aspect of my life."

Amadou and Kaloja, a young couple from Mali, also legally living in 
France, shared a room with their one-year-old son, who was born in 
Paris. They left the squat with no possessions but a handbag and a bag 
of nappies from the Red Cross. "I just want a normal place to live," 
said Kaloja, who would not give her surname.

Mariama Diallo, who runs a local women's support group, said the 
conditions inside the squat "tested the limits of human endurance".

She added: "When I come out, I scrub myself but I can still feel 
fleas. The place has never been fumigated. You can't breathe from the 
smell of damp, leaks and decaying building. It's nauseating. I see 
children covered in rashes, kids with allergies or asthma, but what 
can their parents do?"

The local council requisitioned 350 hotel rooms to house about 800 
squatters. Those with residency permits could then apply for social 
housing. Illegal immigrants were to be taken to holding centres before 
being deported.

Pablo Krasnopolsky, of Education Without Borders Network, said: "This 
evacuation was a planned publicity coup by Sarkozy for political 
reasons. He is trying to appeal to far-right National Front voters and 
is being attacked on two fronts. The extreme right say he is too soft, 
other parts of society say he is too harsh."

The Right to Housing group staged a protest near the squat last night, 
demanding accommodation for all those evicted.

Criticism as France's largest squat evacuated 

Police have evacuated what is thought to have been the largest squat 
in France citing fears that the building was a fire hazard. The former 
university residence south of Paris was home to about 1,000 people, 
many of them illegal immigrants. Non-governmental organisations are 
critical, saying not enough help has been given to those who are now 
homeless. "Those who have residency permits will be taken by bus to 
hotels and those people who are here illegally will be provided with 
provisional documents valid for the next 10 days or so and given 
accommodation but that situation could change," said one Communist 
Party councillor.

Local authorities had ordered everyone to leave the building in 2004 
but negotiations broke down, apparently after some squatters demanded 
residency permits and alternative housing. "We don't deserve this in 
France," said one former squatter. "It's really sad. We don't know, 
we're in the hands of the local authorities, they will decide our 
fate, we'll see what they do." Thousands of families in France face 
expulsion in a crackdown on illegal immigrants ordered by Interior 
Minister Nicolas Sarkozy.


Police clear France's biggest squat

PARIS (Reuters) - Police cleared hundreds of people from France's 
biggest squat, a former student hall of residence near Paris, the 
Interior Ministry said on Thursday.

The Communist Party, which said 1,000 people were occupying the 
building, denounced the move as part of what it called French Interior 
Minister Nicolas Sarkozy's "determination" to arrest immigrants on a 
large scale.

"This expulsion on a large scale marks a further step in the violence 
and irresponsibility," it said in a statement.

The squatters in the town of Cachan had held demonstrations demanding 
they be rehoused and that the illegal immigrants among them be granted 
residency permits.

Of 508 people evicted from the building, 49 adults had been arrested 
with a view to being sent back to their country of origin, the 
Interior Ministry said.

"The building is now empty ... Its demolition will begin in the coming 
days," the ministry said.

The prefecture of the Val de Marne department said the building, which 
has 300 bedrooms and had been occupied since 2001, had to be cleared 
because improvised electrical wiring posed a fire hazard.

The Communist Party had said half the squatters were illegal 
immigrants and 200 of them children. The prefecture said a court had 
ruled in April 2004 that the squatters should leave.

Sarkozy has tightened immigration rules and decided to expel thousands 
of illegal immigrants this year.

The prefecture said 350 hotel rooms had been set aside to house 800 of 
the building's occupants. The Interior Ministry said 190 people had 
agreed to be put up in the hotel rooms.

Squatters with French papers would "be examined attentively to allow, 
insofar as possible, their relocation in social housing", the 
prefecture said.

More information about the Diggers350 mailing list