- Title: FRANCE: HUNGER STRIKERS IN PARIS CHURCH AWAIT POLICE RAID
- Date: 17th August 1996
- Summary: PARIS, FRANCE (AUGUST 17, 1996) (RTV - ACCESS ALL) 1. LV EXT SAINT BERNARD CHURCH AT DAWN (4H00 GMT)/ SUPPORTERS OF AFRICAN IMMIGRANTS WHO FACE DEPORTATION WITH BANNERS OUTSIDE CHURCH 0.08 2. SV/LV SUPPORTERS OUTSIDE CHURCH (10 SHOTS) 1.14 3. LV/SV HUNGER STRIKERS INSIDE CHURCH/ CHILDREN (4 SHOTS) 1.41 4. SV BANNER OUTSIDE CHURCH 1.47 5. SV SPOKEPERSON FOR IMMIGRANTS WITHOUT PAPERS, FRANCOIS BRUN SAYING INTERIOR MINISTER JEAN-LOUIS DEBRE IS A COWARD, ACCUSES HIM OF TAKING A COWARDLY APPROACH AND USING FORCE ON THE WEAK (FRENCH)/ CUTAWAY (3 SHOTS) 2.22 6. SCU FRENCH WORKERS' REPRESENTATIVE, JEAN PIERRE ALLAUX, CALLING ON PUBLIC TO WEAR WHITE STARS (FRENCH) 2.49 7. CU WHITE STAR ON ALLAUX'S JACKET 2.52 8. SCU SPOKESPERSON FOR HUNGER STRIKERS, MADJIGUENE SAYING THE HUNGER STRIKERS ARE VERY TIRED (FRENCH) 3.31 Initials Script is copyright Reuters Limited. All rights reserved.
- Embargoed: 1st September 1996 13:00
- Location: PARIS, FRANCE
- Country: France
- Reuters ID: LVA9H8HZETE3A6PPEYOB3C4UOPD7
- Story Text: INTRO: Some 300 Africans occupying a Paris church to demand residence permits, including 10 on the 44th day of a hunger strike, are awaiting an expected police raid to remove them from the church and deporT them. They accuse the French authorities of a "cowardly approach" to the immigrants.
Hundreds of supporters are gathered inside and outside Saint Bernard Church where 300 Africans have been seeking refuge.
Ten have been staging a hunger strike and were forcibly removed earlier this week to hospitals for health checks. They returned to the Parisian church in the capital's multi-ethnic Goutte d'Or neighbourhood on their release, vowing to fast to the end rather than return home to poverty.
The French government has declared it will enforce the laws and will not bend to any "blackmail" by the protesters, many of whom face a Saturday (August 17) deadline to leave the country as they have no papers.
The Africans have denied they are in France illegally, saying virtually all came to France with a proper visa, only to have the state later refuse to let them stay longer.
They accuse the government of stepping up its battle against illegal immigration only because it fears inroads by the fiercely anti-immigrant National Front party ahead of 1998 general elections.
Spokesman for the immigrants Francois Brun pleaded for all authorities, democratic forces and citizens to intervene on behalf of the immigrants.
He told reporters outside the church that if the Africans were deported from France "it would signify that the values of liberty, equality and fraternity were not respected in the French Republic." A representative of French Workers, Jean Pierre Allaux, said a "humane approach" was necessary to settle the crisis. He called on the public to show their support by wearing a white star -- a reminder of the yellow star worn by Jews in France during World War Two to help identify them for deportation to Nazi death camps.
That episode in French history is filled with shame and guilt for many French and supporters of the immigrants without papers are hoping the symbolic action will stir empathy from the public.
One of the Africans, a woman who would give her name only as Madiguene, said the hunger strikers were very tired, due to the tension and noise of the night in anticipation of the arrests.
Conditions were not good, but she said the protesters were encouraged by the presence of outside support.
France has an estimated one million clandestine immigrants along with some four million legal foreign residents.
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