Deportations bog down in France Legal 'muddle' frees African illegal immigrants

August 27, 1996|By NEW YORK TIMES NEWS SERVICE

VINCENNES, France -- Almost all of the 210 illegal immigrants from Africa thrown out of a Paris church and arrested by police Friday were free yesterday after official attempts to deport most of them bogged down on legal grounds.

Ten men who had been on a hunger strike for 52 days in support of the group's demands for official permission to stay here returned, along with scores of other men, women and children, to a theater complex where the group had stayed before in the Bois de Vincennes, a park on the eastern edge of Paris, to await the outcome of deportation proceedings against 94 of them.

Over the weekend, magistrates refused to let the immigrants continue to be kept in custody in Vincennes pending expulsion because the police had improperly prepared warrants for them.

The immigration authorities themselves allowed the hunger strikers to go free from the military hospitals where they had been taken Friday, and all of them began taking nourishment again Sunday.

"A great muddle," the leftist daily Liberation wrote in summarizing the outcome.

President Jacques Chirac and Prime Minister Alain Juppe said the conservative government had no choice but to enforce strict laws intended to discourage foreigners from sneaking into the country.

But at the end of the day, most of the Africans were back in the limbo of clandestine immigration with hundreds of thousands of others from former French colonies who trickled in before immigration clampdowns in 1994.

Increasingly, the illegal immigrants have had difficultly finding employers who would hire them without immigration papers -- a felony under French law as it is in the United States.

What the muddled outcome showed, the Paris daily Le Monde said, was that the use of force in high-profile cases like St. Bernard's did not solve the underlying problem, which is that hundreds of thousands of people from poor, undeveloped parts of the world will continue to find ways to come to the rich, developed part no matter how hard the authorities try to keep them out.

Pub Date: 8/27/96

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