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ORIGINAL FRENCH ARTICLE: http://www.humanite.fr/2007-10-02_S...

by Émilie Rive

No family life for immigrants?

Translated Wednesday 24 October 2007, by Gene Zbikowski

Bill of law. The French Senate is examining French immigration minister Brice Hortefeux’s bill on immigration. It not only provides for DNA tests, it also toughens the already-drastic conditions for family reunification.

Well before his election, the French president declared war on the family life of foreigners in France. Considering his vision of the labor market, this is not as paradoxical as it might seem on the part of a practicing Roman Catholic: a good foreigner is one who is chosen with regard to the needs of the French economy. Period. Why am I reminding you of this self-evident fact? Because the latest version of the law on immigration and asylum, which the French Senate will consider until Thursday, particularly attacks the reunification of the families of foreigners legally residing in France, and the reunification of the families of individuals who are married to French citizens. It requires that the French language be learned outside of France, imposes numerous tests of one’s knowledge of France, requires the possession of exorbitant financial resources, and, to crown it all, includes the latest version of UMP-style eugenics, a DNA test which is not quite obligatory, but which is so strongly recommended... Family reunification does not amount to a migratory tsunami. At most, last year, 9,000 children were concerned. And under what conditions?

How people’s lives are broken.

Sid Hamed and Nababaté Benikhlef have been fighting, since 2001, to bring their two children Meryem and Mohamed, from Algeria to France. Minors at the time, they have now, of course, reached the age of majority. Sid Hamed and Nababaté obtained a residence permit in 2003, and they immediately initiated family reunification proceedings. Zakharia and Boumedyene, their other two children, who came to France with their parents, are “perfectly integrated,” as the French administration puts it. The family’s apartment has been declared “sufficiently large” for family reunification.

On the other hand, there have been a few administrative malfunctions. Thus, Sid Hamed’s files show him as born in 1982 (in reality in 1954, when Algeria was still part of France), with his first child being born two years later (!). Whereas he was working two jobs, one under the “chèque emploi” solidarity program, and the other for the municipality, the administration has not taken cognizance of town hall’s pay slips. This is a slick way to justify refusing family reunification on the grounds of insufficient financial resources, which is exactly what they did.

“The authorities delayed the procedure,” Sid Hamed Benikhlef explained, “and now my children are adults. They are still my children. How do you to expect them to accept, or for us to accept, being eternally separated? My children have requested a visa fifteen times, and every request has been turned down. They keep saying ‘When will we go to France?’”

“On March 10, Mohamed left Algeria,” his father continues, “together with ten people whom he did not know. They bought a ‘skater’ and embarked on the sea. My daughter phoned me to tell me that her brother had disappeared ten days earlier. I ran everywhere to try to get some information. Everybody was in tears. In the end, they were picked up by a boat which called the Spanish aid station (as was still being done at that time, luckily – editor’s note). He was put in a detention center for three weeks. I went down there, and I stayed with the children for ten days, it was during the summer holidays. We slept outside and we borrowed money. The Spaniards released him, and I brought him to France. I had him fill out an application for political asylum. He was to check in at the prefecture, which had taken his papers. The fourth time, I went with him, but he phoned me to say that he had been locked up in a separate room. ‘In two days, you’re leaving for Madrid, to file your request there,’ the police told him. He remained in Satolas [the Lyons airport]. The plane left at 9 a.m. I took the train for Madrid. I stayed there thirteen days. The Red Cross put him up in a hotel. But he didn’t want to stay. We fled, and we arrived in Hendaye [just across the border in France]. We were arrested. I was released. He is to get an answer from the Spanish authorities this week. »

Is all this humane?

“But the worst thing, the worst thing, the worst thing is my daughter. She is not well. I’ve got the certificates from the psychologists and psychiatrists. She’s got to come here to get well, the lawyer has got to get the file re-opened, it is necessary to... I’m fed up, I’m upset, I’m worried, I can’t go on, I can’t take any more. Why have they taken my daughter away? Do the people who took her have children? I’m working at the school, I take care of the children of others. And my children? Who, besides me, takes care of them? Why did they refuse Meryem ? She should be here, with us. Is all this humane ?"

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