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by Maurice Ulrich

Beck and Call

Translated Friday 11 July 2008, by Gene Zbikowski


My immigrants, my immigrants. Now we’ve got the government running after the former Vincennes inmates. Five lawyers dispatched by the government arrived in Nîmes yesterday to block their liberation. In the absence of documents supporting their detention, following the fire [that destroyed the Vincennes detainment camp], the law said that they had to be released. But the obsession with filling quotas dictates otherwise. No matter what the law might be, action is what counts.

That’s an indication of what’s going to happen in the near future with the European Union “return directive.” Not only does it scandalously lengthen possible detention time to 18 months, not only does it forbid a deportee from entering any EU country, not only does it make it possible to hold minors for as long as adults, but it maps out a Europe where decisions are taken arbitrarily regarding these men and women who want to live and work in these so-called lands of democracy.

Moreover, most of the detainees in the centers had a job at the time they were arrested. Indeed, the directive spells out that, while decisions on detainment can be taken by the judicial authorities, they can also, “in case of emergency,” be taken “by the administrative authorities.”

And who’s going to decide if there’s an emergency? The administrative authorities, of course! The essence of the law is that it should apply to all. Excluding men and women from the legal system is a threat to the rights of all. And as if that were not enough, the Judges Association has revealed a document which tries to link demonstrations supporting undocumented immigrants with terrorist actions.

In less than a week, France will assume the rotating presidency of the European Union. But, far from desiring to reestablish justice, Nicolas Sarkozy intends to propose an “immigration pact” — he wants to forbid any country from undertaking “massive legalizations” – without saying what that means, of course. Arbitrary decision-taking once again. Can the 400 legalizations obtained recently through struggle in France be considered as massive? Everyone knows that the government and Immigration Minister Brice Hortefeu don’t want to hear of anything except case-by-case legalization. And that, for a very good reason: the immigrant and the candidate for immigration must not come under the common laws or benefits won through collective bargaining; they must be “at beck and call.”

It’s easy for Nicolas Sarkozy to boost his Union for the Mediterranean. It’s a handsome project, isn’t it? It’s meant to open up a new space for cooperation, to free the path for solidarity, to put an end to domination policies between the European Union and the concerned countries, isn’t it? Lies. Why, in that case, should an Algerian or a Tunisian be treated differently from an EU citizen? Why should there be two categories of people according to whether you live on one or the other side of the Mare nostrum, our common mother, as they say in their great speeches? The reality is that the Europe of the big market, of generalized competition doesn’t want real cooperation on a basis of equality. She intends, on her side, to eliminate all of the obstacles to the domination of capital in every area of life, and she intends to maintain a relationship of domination with the countries of the Mediterranean. Arms and labor capacity when we need them. Brains when necessary. What’s the going price of a medical intern when he comes from North Africa? And when he comes from one of the countries of what is called black Africa? The immigrant “at beck and call,” whatever his level of training, is not to have any way of becoming a citizen.

These are big stakes. This policy sets up a hierarchy both between people and between governments. Between those who command and those who are commanded.

Between those who grant themselves every right and privilege, and those who have none. Between exploiters and exploited.

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