AntiNote: This article on refugees in France first appeared in English at Theory Without Borders, a new anarchist translation project worthy of your support.
Charity, the Perfect Alibi for the Expulsion Machine
4 September 2016 (original post)
The wars and shitty conditions inflicted by capital and the state drive thousands of people towards exile. Many of them flee religious and state persecution, towards European countries, in hopes of being granted asylum or refugee status. For the authorities, the main issue is to get them on file (notably via a genetic database put in place by the EURODAC regulations, which form part of the Dublin II law), to keep them under control, and to park them until they can be sent back. Those with degrees can “win” the right to stay, since they are directly exploitable by the economy. But hell awaits the vast majority of those who manage to set foot alive on the national territory: a “life” of permanent anxiety and fear of being arrested by the police, of ending up locked in CRAs (French detention centers) only to be deported back to their country of origin (or to the first European country they arrived in, according to the Dublin III rules).
To file, sort, detain and expel undocumented migrants, the state relies on many charities, who in exchange are generously showered with subsidies. The most notorious are:
The Red Cross, which currently cooperates with the police at the border between Menton and Ventimiglia in order to send migrants who seek to enter France back to the CIEs (Italian detention centres), which it runs;
Emmaüs, abbot Pierre’s association, which sorts undocumented migrants in Paris so as to facilitate the police’s job, and runs reception centers;
The Order of Malta and France Terre d’Asile (“France Land of Asylum”), which run practically all of the detention centers in France; and
The CIMADE, which supposedly intervenes in the CRA to guarantee refugees’ rights but in fact seeks to make their internment “more humane,” in other words more acceptable.
They play the ideal role needed by the state: that of social pacification. But the large charities (the most well-known ones) which manage the lions’ share of the market of misery are far from the only ones to intervene. We recall the role of La Vie Active (“Active Life”) in Calais, where the organization was granted management of the high-security mega-detention camp.
In Besançon as in many other towns of France, a new method of policing undocumented migrants has been experimented with by the state during the summer of 2016, in the framework of the new reform of the CESEDA (Code of Entry and Stay of Foreigners and of the Right to Asylum) which was voted in on 7 March 2016: house arrests, presented as an alternative to detention. To extend internment beyond the confines of prisons is part and parcel of the current logic of the powers that be. Be it for the prisoners (under the authority of the Ministry of Justice) or for the migrants (under the Ministry of the Interior), the state is attempting to unclog prisons and detention centers by issuing alternative sentences, such as electronic bracelets, judicial reviews and various obligations to regularly appear before the police or judges, etc…
In the capital of the Doubs, the organisation which runs the “reception center for refugees” (night-time accommodation) at the St-Jacques hospital is ADDSEA (Departmental Association for the Safeguarding of Children and Adults of Doubs), located at 23 rue des Granges. Its staff, particularly its mediators, in true policing form, exert ever-increasing control over the lives of migrants, even imposing a curfew (9 p.m.). If the migrants don’t return to the accommodation on time, they are barred from all social services (meals, supplies, pocket money, etc) and have no other choice than to “fend for themselves.” They are made to pay for the slightest help they receive, such as access to a less hostile, gloomy and miserable environment to sleep in than the “reception centers.”
Furthermore, the migrants have to go to the police station every day to signal their presence. If there is the slightest departure from the center’s regulations, the association expels them and sends the police after them to catch and deport them. This informal policing, which definitely doesn’t save migrants from the risk of deportation, forces them to accept being controlled in order to receive the bare minimum needed to survive. It is to the formal police’s advantage since they know where to find the migrants when the order to deport them comes. Thus, some undocumented migrants decide to put an end to this loathsome blackmail by deserting the state and town services—at risk of being caught, locked up in the CRAs, and forcibly deported.
Considerable means of expressing mutual aid and solidarity towards undocumented migrants do exist (such as opening squats or collecting food and clothing). However, a large number of revolutionaries and folks who stand in solidarity tend to forget that practical solidarity can be carried out by sabotaging the innumerable cogs in the expulsion machine, which are to be found everywhere: the banks who report undocumented migrants to the police (such as La Poste, BNP Paribas, LCL), the airline companies who charter the expulsion flights (such as Air France), cleaning companies who maintain the CRAs (such as Derichebourg), or the infamous charities which collaborate with the state’s migration policies.
Featured image credit: Félix Brassier (blog)