Thousands of people, including many undocumented migrants, marched in Paris and other French cities on Saturday to protest against planned changes to the law on immigration and deportations from the island of Mayotte in the Indian Ocean.
In the French capital, demonstrators marched behind a banner proclaiming “No to the Darmanin law. Against repression, imprisonment and expulsions, for a welcoming migration policy”, in reference to the Minister of the Interior Gérald Darmanin.
The immigration bill, which the government has just postponed until the fall, “is a racist law, which aims to criminalize foreigners” and lead to “more deportations”, said Aboubacar, 31, a Malian without papers.
“The problem is not immigration, it’s exploitation and rogue bosses,” added the postal contractor who, along with colleagues, has been fighting for 17 months to get his official papers to live and work in France.
Protesters also targeted Operation Wuambushi (reprise) by authorities on the French Indian Ocean island of Mayotte to return illegal immigrants, mostly from neighboring Comoros, currently housed in unsanitary slums.
“The way undocumented Comorians are treated is unworthy of a country like France,” said Marie-Christine Vergiat, vice-president of the French Human Rights League and former MEP.
>> Learn more: Expulsions in Mayotte: France is preparing to expel migrants in a context of serious violence
The Darmanin bill and the operation in Mayotte are linked, Said Mhamadi, a Comorian civilian leader, said in the southern port city of Marseille, where up to 300 people protested.
The controversial bill, entitled “Controlling immigration while improving integration”, aims, among other things, to give more latitude to expulsion, in particular for foreigners who commit crimes.
It also stipulates that a minimum level of French must be required before a multi-year residence permit is granted and allows compulsory fingerprinting as well as stricter requirements for the renewal of long-term permits.
In Rennes, in the northwest of the country, more than 1,500 people took to the streets chanting “Down with the police state”.
“I came in solidarity with the Comoros and to protest against the brutal measures taken by France in Mayotte, it is very violent and there are other ways to deal with it,” Théodore told AFP. Sobezy, 32 years old.