The without-papers

We call them the without-papers. What are the papers which they do not have? Permits to stay which allows them to give them both the right to reside and to work.

Seven without-papers have been on hunger strike in Lyon since 26 February. There are seven of them, two women and five men, illegal immigrants in France not having a valid visitor’s visa. There are three Algerians, two Moroccans, a Tunisian and a Chilean woman. All of these people have one thing in common; they have been living for a long time in France, then for different reasons they returned to their own country. Now they would like to remain in France, but the government refuses to legitimise their situation. To attract public attention they have chosen to go on hunger strike.

Tania, explain to us your own case:

I come from Chile you see…

I was born in France, I left at the age of eleven, and I returned a while ago, a year ago now.

According to the law, as I left more than five years, I do not have the right to live here.

I received a refusal from the local authority and they gave me a month’s notice to leave French territory and if not I would be deported.

If we are on hunger strike, it is simply to improve our future and then to be able to have papers at last and then to live normally as everyone in France.

They have some people to support them. Stéphane Berger is one of them. He explains why he takes their side. We met him several days ago.

Because there are seven people who are… who have very strong links with France or who have been here for a very long time or who have close family ties with people who live here already, and so, there is, as I see it, a legitimacy… their legitimacy to want to live here… well, legitimately, well that is beyond discussion… whilst, well, the town hall or the French state is refusing them…. refusing their papers on administrative pretexts without studying their real situation, there you are.

They have accommodation in a room of the ecumenical building. On the floor, the mattresses are rolled out. The strikers remain lying all day long. They are weak. They only drink water and tea. After so many days of deprivation they are suffering cruelly, no doubt about it.

Yesterday, things we3re not going very well, I had to pass almost all the day in bed because I had very very strong muscular pains, and then well, well afterwards I took a pill for the pain and then today, things are going a bit better. I was able to sleep at least four, five hours straight and that enabled me to recover a bit on the physical level.

Despite that, they are not envisaging giving up.

No, not at all, because in Chile I experienced things much worse than a hunger strike in France. So it is a choice which I have made. I never got used to Chile, I do not see why I must return to that country since it is not mine, it is the country of my parents but it is not mine, my country is France and so that is why I want to sty here and I am going to do everything to stay here even if it is necessary to go on hunger strike and then it will be necessary to deal with the consequences because, well, it is logical, I am going to do it. I do not want to go to Chile any more, personally, to live there at least.

Mourad is a man from Tunisia; he lived in France until the death of his brother. Then he went back to Tunisia. But he did not get used to things over there, life was difficult. Maïssa is a woman from Algeria. She has lived in France since the age of three. In Algeria her father wanted to force her to marry. All of the strikers have decided to stay together, to the end.

When we decided to go on hunger strike we said we were going to the end, and the end, it is not we who are going to decide that, it is the regional governor and the minister who are going to decide what end we are going to… where we are going to finish. As for us, we are ready for anything.

For the moment, the local authority is only offering them a temporary permit for a year. They have turned it down.

So, the worst… I don’t know. But let’s say that it is true that now, it is 38 days, today is the 38th day of the hunger strike, so the more the days pass, the more their state of health deteriorates, then, effectively, well everyone is hoping that there will be a solution found before something serious happens, there it is.

The last elections which brought the left to power have not changed anything much.

Well there are effectively some people elected who have made steps, but for the moment that has not initiated anything much, we must say.

When we asked Tania how she feels about the settlement by different countries in the east of Europe of the Kurds recently arrived in mass, clandestinely on a boat, she has no anger, no jealousy, on the contrary:

Well, I am happy for them because there were a lot of them who arrived clandestinely, not massively, and they do not have the same chance. I am very happy for them and I think that they are going to stay, for one year, and then in a year they are not going to have papers any more… and if they want to return to their country one day, and they may well do that, but then the French government may not lock them out because they are still threatened in their own country and they have the right to live peacefully in whatever part of the country as everyone.

Additional note: The without-papers of Lyon who were on hunger strike got satisfaction on 15th April. Their situation is going to be legitimised. So they have been able to put an end to their strike.

$Id: 2001_04_soc.htm 35 2021-02-12 12:17:35Z alistair $

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