France could not shirk its responsibilities in the Mediterranean

Historically, France is a wonderful melting pot of migration. There are more communities of foreigners, among whom the Italians, who have made this country.

Geographically, with a territory the population density is lower than that of neighbouring countries in the G7 (Germany, the United Kingdom and Italy), France has many lands in search of a revitalization of population.

→ WHAT A WELCOME FOR MIGRANTS (3/5). To Bernes-sur-Oise, refugees are preparing for the profession of a mason

Philosophically, France claims itself as the birthplace of the Enlightenment, advocating a universalism and humanism, which, grafted into the base civilization judeo-christian, is conducive to the respect and welcoming the stranger.

Diplomatically, as a permanent member of the security Council of the united nations, France is very oriented towards the big geopolitical issues of the day, including the challenge of migration planetary.

The furnaces humanitarian

France looks so well to the portrait-robot of the nation that seeks to become an exemplary and innovative in its hospitality policy.

Yet, as we know, the reality is much less idyllic. It is sad to read that the greatest regret policy of the former president Valéry Giscard d’estaing is to be granted family reunification to immigrants of how unconditional…

→ WHAT A WELCOME FOR MIGRANTS (2/5). At Ventimiglia, a solidarity with the migrants over the border

It is especially disheartening to note that France just to deploy all means necessary to find a lasting solution to the tragedy of refugees in africa and asia raised all around the coastline of Calais, along the boulevard périphérique nord in paris, or at the border with Italy.

Become chronic, of the furnaces humanitarian also unbearable reinforce the impression that the French governments of the last twenty years have sometimes abused their republican values by producing fake alibis. Constantly revived and turning often in circles, the debate on whether or not to have quotas of migrants was able to look like a smoke screen.

However, for example, by starting to answer the call of the community of Sant’egidio to open corridors to humanitarian air from the camps of syrian refugees in Lebanon, France has already proven that it can be effective and pragmatic, and if she wants to.

France is expected by its neighbours

Today, the president and Emmanuel Macron knows that his ambition to relaunch the construction of europe is doomed to failure if it does not to arm-the-body the humanitarian emergency in the Mediterranean. Emergency, moreover, the origin of many tensions between Paris and Rome.

→ WHAT A WELCOME FOR MIGRANTS (1/5). The “crisis migrants” to the crisis of the home

Of course, the steady rise of the extreme right and of populism has certainly conditioned the migration policy of the French governments of the last twenty years. But for many, the fear of being oneself, namely, a nation open and humanist, has never defeated the xenophobia.

→ TO READ. United states : Donald Trump extends the immigration restrictions

France is expected by its neighbours on this front where the playing of the honour of the european Union. With a degree of certainty to the key : the temptation to shirk its responsibilities in the Mediterranean is France the most treacherous enemy to defeat. Without delay.


To Bernes-sur-Oise, refugees are preparing for the profession of a mason

“C’mon guys ! We will pack up the gear and we are going ! ” When André Rault increase the tone, it is with a smile. “It happens like that on a site “, explains this trainer. In front of him, twenty men from 21 to 38 years working on a technical platform of 30 meters wide and 70 meters long, within a training centre, 40 hectares lost in fields to Bernes-sur-Oise, 40 km north of Paris. They are refugees, arrived there in January in order to learn the trade of a mason, with a specialisation in roads and various networks (VRD), for a job contract with the company NGE.

Orange vests and helmets are tucked into the top of the jeans with holes and t-shirts. Wheelbarrows, shovels, pickaxes… It should fill holes with heaps of stones, under a shy sun. “The training helps to get them used to the environment in which they will operate and provide the technical expertise required in order to be self-sufficient and have a responsible attitude “explains André Rault. It is the interns who are extremely motivated and resourceful. “We need people like that on a site ! “

The desire to learn

In the group are Afghan, Sudanese, Eritrean, Somali, Libyan or Ivorian. These men have been granted refugee status in France and are now benefiting from the program “Hope,” developed by the national Agency for adult vocational training (Afpa) and the French Office for immigration and integration (Ofii), with the support of the ministries of labour and interior. “The majority of guys is housed in the centre “says Marc-Antoine Sheaf, manager of training, responsible for the device in the Val-d’oise.

→ WHAT A WELCOME FOR MIGRANTS (1/5). The “crisis migrants” to the crisis of the home

The program also puts emphasis on the learning of the French language, which is necessary for a successful integration. Jilianne Roucou is a trainer at the centre of Bernes-sur-Oise. It follows the “group of 22” since the month of January 2020, and praises their desire to learn. “This is the thing that makes the difference “, she summarizes. Even during the confinement, of the courses were provided by webcams interposed.

Landry, one of the refugees, is more comfortable with the language and the link with some of his comrades in difficulty. The ivory coast 28-year-old was household to Abidjan to live, but had to leave his country in 2016. It remembers the path taken up to obtaining the status of refugee, three years later : “In Morocco, I worked as a fishmonger for 100 dirhams per day (9 €), he said. I have saved up to be able to pay the crossing of the Mediterranean to a smuggler, almost 2 000 € ! “

“I want to work “

It happened on board a rubber dinghy overloaded, rescued by the Spanish Red Cross. After a stint at Bordeaux, Landry went to Paris, in the neighborhood of the door of the Chapel, where he is welcomed by the association Emmaus and then stayed at the hotel for 200 € allowance for asylum-seeker will be allocated by the Ofii. For him, the program “Hope” is a “great-chance “. “I want to work, I want to stay in France and may have to ask for the French nationality “, he said.

This discourse, found in all of the participants to the training. Issa arrived in France in 2016 from Sudan. He crossed the Libya, the Mediterranean, Italy, Nice, Marseille, Paris… Then back to Italy, twice.

“I’m a dubliné “quips the young man, referring to the european regulation, the so-called Dublin, which applies to persons who seek asylum on French territory, but for which an other european country proves to be responsible for their application, in this case Italy. “Here it issighs Issa. It is good to work. “

Of contracts of alternation in the whole of France

After the training, all the trainees in the group will be divided in pairs across France. From Lyon to Bordeaux, Toulouse, Lille, contracts of alternation, the waiting with the hope of a contract of indefinite duration. “We want to reach out but also to find enthusiastic people for our company, which employs 4 000 people each year “, explains Bruno Pavie, director of human resources of NGE, a company in the CONSTRUCTION industry that builds and renovates buildings and infrastructure already in service.

→ TO READ. Migrants : Teresa maffeis abodes, hyphen between Nice and Ventimiglia

The 22 trainees were selected among fifty candidates. “The interviews were in English at that time, we asked them about their motivation, their interests and their career “, states Bruno Pavia.

From 8 July, Issa will discover Nantes with one of his comrades. He would have preferred to Lille, because “a lot of big players from League 1 are passed through this football club “. He was watching matches of the Losc with its friends in Sudan. The future mason has watched it on YouTube dozens of videos on the city of the dukes of Brittany. He is confident : “No one told me that it was that good ! “


“Hope,” the good pupil of the integration

Launched in 2017, the program “Hope” has already hosted 2 154 trainees of which only 4 % have dropped out, generally for reasons of health.

76 centres of the national Agency for adult vocational training (Afpa) are mobilized for 180 sessions of scheduled courses.

More than 250 companies are partners and 30 trades are proposed, of which 53 % in the building sector, 28 % in services and 19 % in the industry.

More than 80 % of trainees have obtained a home at the end of their journey, more than 70 % have a job or are in training.


At Ventimiglia, a solidarity over the border

Five. Ismail throws the arm with an open hand to indicate how many times it has been discharged in five days by the border police in French. By train or on foot, he has never been able to reach Garavan area of Menton located in front of Ventimiglia, Italy.

The young man was 22 years ago. He landed in Italy at the age of 14 years, arriving from Somalia. “I am from Mogadishu, there is the war out theresums up there. I want to work and send money to my mother. I lived in Rome until my 18 years. Then I went to Stuttgart in Germany. I have worked in the black for four years, for 2 000 € per month. But the police sent me back in Italy. Here, I am in a regular situation, but it is not working. In Germany, I earn the money, but I don’t exist. I want to go to France. “

The border italo-French closed during the pandemic

We meet Ismail in the court of the Caritas in Ventimiglia, where volunteers hidden distribute food and clothing to those who try to cross illegally the border. Near him, a score of Somali and Sudanese just landed in Italy from Libya. There are also Algerians, Afghans, Pakistanis and iraqi Kurds.

During the outbreak of coronavirus, the border italo-French has been closed in both directions. But when Italy has re-opened the passage on 3 June, a crowd formed to enter France, the most to travel to the United Kingdom or in the northern countries of the european Union (EU). Those who have 200 € can pay a smuggler who takes them on a truck. Other trying to make Nice by train. Still others try their luck on foot, even on the very dangerous path dubbed “passage of death “at Grimaldi.

The summer promises to be hot to Ventimiglia. “Since the beginning of June arrived refugees who have crossed the Mediterranean, others who come from the Balkan route, via Bosnia and Croatia, others who simply want to leave Italy “observes Serena Regazzoni, operator of Caritas. The centre counts an average of twenty arrivals per day, and estimates the number of refusals at the border by the French police to 250 per week. “Even the Italian police returned to search the trains and check the documents “note Maurizio Marmo, director of the diocesan Caritas.

The NGOS of the two countries organize themselves

By 2017, about 50 000 migrants have passed through the roads, railways and trails in the area, according to unofficial estimates. By 2018, the number dropped to 30 000, then 20 000 in 2019. In April, the transit camp, Roja, which has 500 spaces and is managed by the Red Cross, has been temporarily closed by the prefect, after two cases of covid-19. Today it houses 95 people, but 250 people are sleeping on the beach or along the river Roja.

During all these years in which the relations between Rome and Paris have experienced many low and few high, a unique collaboration was established between the NGOS of the two countries. Ventimiglia has become a border of solidarity. The spark was the crisis of may 2016, when hundreds of migrants have been blocked by the Italian police on their way to France.

“Hundreds of people slept in the streetsays Maurizio Marmo. After having heard the bishop of Ventimiglia and the parish priest Don Rito Alvarez, we opened the courtyard and the rooms under the church of Sant Antonio to the families and minors only. We have hosted up to 1,200 guests. There has been an extraordinary demonstration of solidarity. From everywhere came the volunteers, food assistance, clothing. Of France also. This has lasted for a year. Thus was born the collaboration with the associations Italian terrain, such as Diaconia Valdese and WeWorld, and the French associations. “

Denounce references to illegal

On the other side of the border, in Nice, Agnès Lerolle anime the Cafi, a program that brings together Amnesty International, The Cimade, Médecins du monde, Doctors without borders and Secours catholique-Caritas France. “With the data collected in Italy, we began to monitor the border and to denounce the unlawful discharge of unaccompanied minors carried out by the French police, sometimes by changing the identity documents, as it should, on the contrary, protect, “she explains. We also follow the families. We have denounced the abuses, as these refugees locked up in containers without food or water to the Chin for 24 hours. References illegal, have decreased. “

To the north of Ventimiglia, the Val Roja becomes French. At the top of the mountains is located the farm of Cedric Herrou, who has been accused of “offence of solidarity “ for helping refugees (including some of Sant Antonio) to enter in France and ask for asylum. Half the world has heard of this peasant defender of migrants, including the use of up to the constitutional Council have made changes to the French law and led the State to recognize the constitutional principle of fraternity and the freedom to help others in a humanitarian aim. “It is not a question of being for or against the migrants, but to meet the people “, he insists.

Assistance to migrants : Cedric Herrou eventually acquitted

Back at the mouth of the Roja, among the migrants who camped, Maurizio Marmo evokes simple stories and dreams performed by many migrants who have passed through here and have integrated into the EU. With a tightness in his voice, he remembers three young Sudanese past in 2017 with a small child who could barely stand up. “In Libya, at the time of boarding, her mother has not been able to get on the boat and threw him in their arms, begging him to lead them to her father, who was already in France. I never knew how it ended. “


The rescue operations of the” Ocean Viking ” cover in the Mediterranean

This is a crisis that the coronavirus and containment have completely passed under the radar. After three months of arrest, the vessel humanitarian Ocean Viking of the association SOS Mediterranean , the successor of the iconic Aquarius – went to sea Monday, June 22, in order to resume his rescues between Europe and Libya, as migrants continue to flee at the peril of their lives.

→ TO READ. The migrants abandoned in the Mediterranean

“There is a drastic increase of the departure “ and “our role is to save lives in the central Mediterranean, where there is a gap between Libya and the european countries “ who do not assume their rescue mission, down to edge Nicholas Romaniuk, which coordinates rescue operations at sea.

“It was not there, and people go through it anyway ! “

The latest data from the office of the High Commissioner united Nations for refugees (UNHCR) supports this finding. Between early January and late may, the attempts of crossings at the start of the Libya have increased by 150 %, compared to the same period last year.

“For years, it has been said that they were leaving because there were NGOS “ at sea, plague Nicholas Romaniuk, recalling that there are no more boat humanitarian was sailing in the area for several weeks during the pandemic. “It was not there, and we can now say categorically that people go through when even ! “

The return of theOcean Viking comes with an extra challenge : prevent the virus from spreading on the ship. For this, SOS Mediterranean has put in place a strict protocol, equipment almost surgical for marine-rescuers to a decontamination aboard, passing by places of isolation in containers in case of need.

Not to mention that the NGOS had to build up a medical team, after that its partner Médecins sans frontières (MSF) has slammed the door in April. A breakthrough is looming, however, over the course of the ship red and white flagged in norway who is scheduled to arrive off libyan waters on Thursday. The european borders reopened gradually.

Restart of european solidarity

The Sea-Watch 3the German NGO, Sea-Watch, and the Mare Jonio, of the Italian Mediterranea Saving Humans, are the first two boats to be returned to the area, respectively on 8 and 10 June. Thirteen days later, the Sea-Watch announced Sunday the transfer of 211 shipwrecked on a ferry in a port in sicily, where they will observe a quarantine. On the same day, the Mare Jonio announced that it had landed, also in Sicily, 67 people rescued the previous day.

→ TO READ. The Europeans let themselves die twelve people in the Mediterranean sea

“This is good news, we see the restart of a european solidarity “says Frédéric Penard, responsible for SOS Mediterranean. Before tempering : “so we are back to the situation prior to the Covid, where the landings can be decided on a case-by-case basis. This is not enough, because there is no automatic mechanism “.

A new “pact of migration” soon to be presented in Brussels

Since the signing of the preliminary agreement of The Valetta, which had helped draft last September, the terms of such a mechanism which would make automatic the reception of migrants in several european countries, Italy and Malta, in the first line, have their eyes glued to the pact of migration, which should be unveiled in the coming days in Brussels.

→ TO READ. European pact on migration, a project in the impasse

“This is an emergency. We hope that an effort will be made to a european system that protects, that integrates with and who is aware that these are not the rich countries that bear the brunt of the refugee reception “ in the world, ” said Paolo Artini, representative in France of the UNHCR.


Poor living conditions in the Frankfurt refugee accommodation

Die wood modular buildings behind the Old airfield in Frankfurt-Bonames look chic. Quite idyllic, the refugee accommodation is located between the trees, you can hear crickets chirping. But Soma Rashid pulls her cell phone out of his pocket and shows Videos of broken cupboards, chipped door frame, old mattresses. And a photo of an infant, over whose breast a red pustules and nodules pull. He has scabies, scabies, practically since his birth, says Rashid.

The woman with the short hair cut is living since two years in the accommodation at the Old airfield, whose carrier is the Diakonisches Werk Frankfurt and Offenbach. Since a few weeks, she is the spokeswoman for the residents. You all complain about the living conditions in the accommodation. The atmosphere is heated – the refugees feel left alone and protest. Rashid says that you’ll be threatened. “You must be in a worse accommodation”, hot it. Or: “you’re not in halls, if you bring the shoes in.” In a clarifying conversation with the city leaders, the conflict could not be resolved. Last week, apparently employees of the Diakonie verbal residents were threatened. Diakonia and social Department will meet today, Monday, once again with the residents. You want to stay in the conversation.

Fights: Soma Rashid has become a kind of spokesperson for the residents.

It all started with the hot plates. The 330 refugees live in separate modules that are set up like small apartments: Two rooms, kitchenette, small bathroom. 40 square meters Rashid for themselves and their four children. Next to the sink and two cooking plates. Because the power supply in the conservation area in which the facility is located, is poor, overloaded the lines. Devices that need a lot of energy, can not be connected. But the two small plates are not enough to supply a family of five. So worried Rashid, like almost all the other inhabitants, an external oven and put it in your module is to be connected.

“How do not require of us that we are sick”

According to Rashid and the other inhabitants this went on for almost two years. Then the diakonia sent a Letter that the herd would have to be switched off. Because the current load for the network is too large, a cable was scorched face. Michael Frase, the head of diakonia, says there’s no simple way to solve the current problem, as the property is located in the green belt. Just a line in the protected area that is not.

Rashid pulled himself to tell the story quiet, but then out it bursts out of her: “I need four hours until I get on the two plates a meal ready!” Tears run over her face, she wiped them defiantly. “That is not to say that we are grateful. We know exactly what has been done in this country for us – but we want to live a life of value, that’s why we are here. In our countries, Evil prevails.“


In Bangladesh, the Rohingyas without hope of return

They remain almost a million in camps between Cox’s Bazaar, Bangladesh, and Burma, the countries they have fled to 800 000 of them during the fall of 2017, subject to the exactions of the burmese army. Not to mention the other, those who arrived there nearly twenty years, who still live here, under their shelters of the fortune.

→ TO READ. New attempt of repatriation of the Rohingya

This month, the buses put at the disposal of the Rohingya by the government of Bangladesh to bring them home in their native land remained empty. These muslim refugees, officially stateless, do not count leave before the burmese authorities to grant a legal identity.

A quarter of the aid workers may work in camps

The Rohingya, like the millions of afghan refugees or syrians, are not close to to revise their land. The report of the High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) published Thursday, June 18, two days before world refugee Day, Saturday 20, note that three-quarters of those who have had to leave their country “are trapped in situations of prolonged movement “.

In Bangladesh, the Rohingyas without hope of return

Then the international solidarity was organized. With its NGOS and un agencies. The annual budget necessary for the refugees the Rohingya is estimated at 850 million euros, “with only 20 % for the moment are covered “, estimated Ram Das, assistant director of Care in Bangladesh.

His NGO is present in the distribution of drinking water, sanitation, and solar energy production. “In normal times, the 300 NGOS active in the camps near Cox’s Bazar employ 20, 000 aid workers. Currently, only 5 000 are authorized to work because of the containment measures taken to combat coronavirus. “ Only essential activities, such as health services and distribution of food and water are provided.

Since the beginning of the epidemic Covid-19, we in the west are stigmatized. Jean-Pierre Becue, which the Committee supports since 1972, the bangladeshi NGO GK Paralysed, explains : “Our partner operates 12 health centres in the camps for the Rohingya. He has found that Westerners were virtually prohibited from entering the camps, which can be understood, because the disease’s arrival by workers in bangladesh income in Italy”.

“The situation is under control “

Since, the whole country lives under containment, public transport is limited, the textile mills are closed. In Dhaka, GK savar lives has put in place of distributions of food parcels to several tens of thousands of families without resources.

The area of Cox’s Bazar is in the red zone since 6 June. The official figures are 1, 600 cases tested positive for the region, 38 in the camps, where we don’t account for the moment that two people died. “The situation is under control “, summarizes Ram Das, who enumerates the measures taken : regular testing, a centre mounted isolation for cases requiring quarantine, measures of distance imposed to the distributions of food or water, travel between the camps banned…

→ TO READ. Genocide of the Rohingya : burma’s Aung San Suu Kyi in first line

The refugees, therefore, learn self-management. The instructions have been passed by the imams of the camp and by 2 000 Rohingya trained by the relief workers of bangladesh. The phone and Internet can be a relay to inform the refugees, because the government of bangladesh has reduced the use to avoid the rumors.

“Several NGOS, we have forwarded a request to the authorities to recover the phone so that the instructions and information on the epidemic arrive more quickly to the refugees “, explains Rama Das. The health crisis have had the effect to isolate a little more the refugees Rohingya. They accept it, aware of the risk of getting epidemic in this place, confined and overcrowded.


Refugees have more difficulties to return home

Two days before world refugee Day, Saturday 20 June, the High Commissioner for refugees (UNHCR), the united Nations agency, is releasing this Thursday, June 18 with its annual report. Forced removals are currently more than 1 % of humanity – one in 97.

79.5 million people were uprooted at the end of 2019, which represents an unprecedented figure. The UNHCR shows that $ 45.7 million of these people had fled to other regions of their country. The others are gone abroad, of which 4.2 million were awaiting response to their request for asylum, while 29.6 million were refugees or were among other uprooted populations outside their country.

The increase of nine million in a year the number of uprooted people can be explained by several crises in the world : democratic Republic of the Congo, in the Sahel, Yemen, Venezuela, and Syria – who currently lives in its tenth year of conflict, and accounted for only 13.2 million refugees, asylum-seekers and internally displaced people, one-sixth of the global total.

Of refugees caught in the trap of the exile

The report notes that refugees are less numerous to be able to return to their country. In the 1990s, 1.5 million refugees on average could return to their countries of origin each year. Over the last decade, this figure has risen to about 385 000. Thus, more than three-quarters of the refugees around the world are trapped in situations of prolonged movement. As the afghan refugees who cannot return home for five decades. As also 5.6 million palestinian refugees.

The high commissioner of united Nations for refugees, Filippo Grandi, has launched an appeal : “We must adopt an attitude that is fundamentally innovative and more welcoming to those who flee, coupled with a determined effort to put an end to the conflicts that have existed for years and are at the origin of these intense sufferings. ”


The Holy See draws attention to the internally displaced

The Vatican presented, Tuesday, May 5, pastoral guidelines for the internally displaced, those more than 50 million people who had to flee their homes due to conflict or natural disaster without benefiting from the international protection of refugees who crossed an international border.

These guidelines aim to ensure that displaced persons are recognized and supported, promoted and, possibly, reintegrated, in order to play an active and constructive role in their country even if powerful causes have forced them to flee their homes and find refuge elsewhere. “Said Cardinal Michael Czerny, under secretary in charge of the section for migrants and refugees of the Department for Integral Human Development.

“Fruit of proven experiences in the field”

Although they are addressed to all, these orientations strongly insist on the role of the Christian communities, in particular with regard to the reception of the displaced.

We focused on the needs of the displaced, how the Church responds to it and how it could better respond to it “, Insists the Canadian cardinal that this work is” the fruit of good practices, proven experiences in the field

→ IN LOIRE. Vatican promotes care for internally displaced people: “welcome, protect, promote and integrate”

The 54 pages of the document, which widely quotes the magisterium of the Catholic Church, start from the four verbs ” welcome, protect, promote, integrate “On which Pope Francis articulated the action of the Church in favor of migrants in general.

“The great problem of the displaced is their invisibility”

For Father Fabio Baggio, the other under-secretary of the section for migrants and refugees, it is about promoting “ socio-economic inclusion which necessarily goes through recognition and personal identity ” but also ” the emergence of durable solutions which take into account the integration of the displaced in the host communities and, as much as possible, their return home

Even if the Holy See recalls that it is not in any case about ” take the place of national responsibilities “, The document also points to the absence of an international instrument of protection for these displaced persons who, in law, remain under the responsibility of their country of origin whose borders they have not left.

The great problem of the displaced is their invisibility “Warns Amaya Valcarcel, international advocacy coordinator at the Jesuit Refugee Service (JRS), who also points to the difficulties of access to displaced people” which can sometimes be restricted due to conflicts or lack of recognition of their rights and necessity

“Respond to the needs that God indicates to us everywhere”

She gives the example of the Burmese state of Kachin (north) where certain camps are beyond the reach of NGOs and the United Nations.

With the current pandemic, people do not have access to information to protect themselves from the virus, she explains. The displaced know how to wash their hands but do not have access to clean water, including to drink.

For Cardinal Czerny, the publication of these guidelines in the midst of the coronavirus crisis is, moreover, a sign of the attention of the Holy See for pre-existing crises has not weakened.

The Covid-19 crisis has shown that migrants “are particularly necessary”

Our duty is to respond to the needs that God indicates to us everywhere, pandemic or not, he insists. It is a beautiful sign that the Church is doing new things to respond to new emergencies, while continuing its work for old forms of need: it is, in my opinion, a very Catholic attitude.

During a pandemic, the virus does not distinguish between those who are important and those who are invisible, those who have a roof and those who are displaced., he adds. Everyone is vulnerable.

By the way, this Jesuit close to Pope Francis, whom he cares about for migrants, recognized that this Covid-19 crisis had demonstrated the inanity of ” Hollow and superficial attacks of a xenophobic nature “Against the migrants, stressing how much they, particularly in health and agriculture, have shown that” far from being intruders, they are particularly necessary and welcome, and have a role to play


Behind the scenes of Brussels – Containment: the debate prohibited

It only took a few moments, on March 16, for the Head of State and his government, in the name of the fight against the coronavirus pandemic, to place the French under house arrest and deprive them of most of their freedoms civil, political and social that we thought inalienable: freedom to come and go, freedom of assembly, freedom to undertake, freedom to work, etc. Justice has almost been brought to a halt, lawyers confined, provisional detentions automatically extended, the police (understood in a very extensive sense since they include municipal police officers and the like) invested with full powers apply these custodial measures.

Containment without legal basis

This suspension of the rule of law was done without legal basis. Indeed, the decree of March 16 restricting the movement of citizens does not fall within the powers of the executive, since only a judicial judge, the liberty judge, can normally decide on an individual basis. Nevertheless, administrative justice, in this case the Council of State, validated it on the basis of the jurisprudential theory of “exceptional circumstances”, which is probably not its most inspired decision.

It was only on March 23 that Parliament gave a legal basis to the measures announced on March 17 by hastily passing the law creating a “state of health emergency” which authorizes the government to trigger it “in the event of a disaster. health endangering, by its nature and gravity, the health of the population ”, a particularly vague definition. This whole law cultivates vagueness, the offenses it provides for example leaving a large part to police interpretation and therefore to arbitrariness. Renewable by Parliament – possibly for a period longer than two months – it gives full powers to the executive, Parliament being stripped of its powers and reduced to the role of mere spectator. If the Assembly has not changed the government’s plan, the majority being what it is, the Senate, dominated by the classic right, has fortunately managed to introduce some safeguards in this improvised text and poorly put together in providing in particular that it will cease to apply in any event on 1er April 2021, unless a law to the contrary is passed. A fundamental clarification which the government services had curiously not thought of.

Not quite a dictatorship

It is remarkable that this exceptional legislation, justified by the use of a warlike language unique in Europe (“We are at war”) was not the subject of a referral to the Constitutional Council, the opposition, all as forbidden from terror as public opinion, having given up exercising its rights, an unprecedented fact, when it is a particularly serious attack on the rule of law. The constitutional judges were only seized on one point of detail, the suspension of the time limits to judge the questions preliminary of constitutionality (QPC), a provision which it moreover validated.

As long as the state of health emergency applies (until the end of July we have just learned), France is no longer a democracy, even if it is not quite a dictatorship. In his time, François Mitterrand denounced the “permanent coup” that were the institutions of the Fifth Republic. The coronavirus has made it possible to carry out this institutional logic. The head of state, relying on a submissive majority and facing non-existent opposition, seized all the levers of power by invoking the need to preserve the health of the French and a health emergency that he does did not want to see it coming, he who ten days earlier encouraged the French to continue living as before.

This parenthesis of the rule of law was accompanied by the brutal halt of a large part of the economy, a logical consequence of confinement. Above all, the government decided, without any consultation, which businesses could remain open, forcing companies to lay off more than 11 million private sector workers.

Lack of debate

It is truly staggering that these exceptional powers entrusted to the State to apply a brutal and without nuance confinement to an entire country, one of the hardest in Europe with those of Spain, Italy and Belgium , did not give rise to any debate, as if there was no other choice. However, never a democracy used in the past this method to fight against a pandemic (there was only partial confinements at the beginning of the previous century), in particular during the Spanish flu of 1918-1919, of the Asian flu of 1959 or of the Hong Kong flu of 1969. The fact that containment was a solution invented by China, a totalitarian regime, to contain the coronavirus pandemic should at least have questioned its legitimacy. However, it imposed itself almost naturally, all playing in reality when Italy took the decision to confine the whole of its population from March 10, which caused a domino effect, each wanting to show that he was also keen to protect its population: Spain imposed it on March 15, France on March 16, Belgium on March 18 …

However, there was room for debate and on all fronts. On the principle of containment itself first. Because it is only a stopgap aimed at slowing the spread of the virus and avoiding congestion in hospitals which could result in additional deaths. Clearly, the virus will continue to circulate and kill those it must kill after the containment is lifted – in a proportion that no one knows – since it does not exist and will not exist for one or two years a vaccine and that treatments are still in the experimental stage.

Containment is a political trap

Obviously, no one realized that it was going to be very difficult to get out of the containment once decided without political damage, a part of the public opinion risking to be self-persuaded over the days that it is in eradicating the disease. If the pandemic continues to kill, and it will, the government will be automatically accused of endangering the health of its citizens to save “the economy”, a swear word for some French people as if working for a living was secondary to health… In other words, the temptation will be strong to return to blind confinement to silence the controversies or to get out of them as late as possible, the path chosen by France after six weeks of state of emergency sanitary.

This is also why countries like Sweden, Switzerland, Germany or the Netherlands either have not adopted this strategy, letting life take its normal course, or have applied it with much more finesse, which made it possible to avoid passing through the box of exceptional powers entrusted to the executive and especially to break the economy.

Why confine an entire country?

This total foreclosure of a country is all the more questionable since whole regions were and are almost untouched by the virus: why impose the same treatment in Creuse as in Ile de France, in Puglia as in Milan ? Why not have it confined to the extent of the pandemic, just like Germany, where the Länder are competent in public health, has done with the success we know? Thus, from the start, two foci were identified in France: the Oise and Mulhouse. However, rather than reacting immediately by isolating these two regions and deploying military medical means to relieve hospitals, the government procrastinated, allowing the virus to spread. It remains staggering that it was not until March 24, a week after the decision to confine the country, that the military medical service was sent to reinforce Mulhouse! From there to think that total containment was also motivated by the inability of the authorities to anticipate the crisis, there is only one step that I will be careful not to take.

Similarly, the choice of companies to close and the precautions to be taken would also have been a possible area of ​​discussion. For example, it quickly became known that air conditioning allowed the virus to circulate more than a meter and contaminate many people. So does closing shoe repair shops, art galleries or florists and leaving supermarkets open make medical sense? Likewise, was school closure necessary? All this was left to the discretion of a bureaucracy without control and without any consultation with all economic and social actors.

Why place an entire population under residence?

Finally, it appeared very early on that the disease was overwhelmingly fatal for people over the age of 70 (average age of death in Italy or France: 80) and those with serious pathologies, in particular clear the weak. Was it therefore rational to confine all assets and plunge the country into recession? Perhaps we should have focused on protecting these at-risk groups rather than putting a whole country under wraps without thinking of tomorrow, especially since we know full well that the virus is here for a long time.

The debate becomes, at this point, particularly emotional, because it refers to our relationship to death. Why has such a pandemic, which is not the first the world has faced and which is especially far from being the most deadly in history, led states to decide on unprecedented measures while knowing that they were not a cure? Why such a panic, especially when you compare the mortality caused by the coronavirus with that of other diseases? Although we must still be careful, since five months after its appearance, we still know very little about covid-19, which should warn us about the scientism that seized us, the doctors having said everything and its contrary to this pandemic, making political decision particularly difficult. However, let’s remember that 400,000 new cancers are diagnosed each year in France and that 150,000 French people die from it, and yet tobacco and alcohol are still not banned, while that would avoid much of it. If all life deserves to be saved, why be so casual about cancer? Similarly, seasonal flu (while there is a vaccine that a large majority considers dispensable) kill each year between 3,000 and 15,000 people (not to mention the more than 30,000 deaths from the Hong Kong flu in 1969 in a country of 51 million inhabitants or the equivalent number of deaths in 1959 in a country of 45 million inhabitants), seasonal respiratory infections 68,000 people, road accidents 3500 people to which must be added the disabled for life. And yet, no one has thought of banning the car (and every measure aimed at strengthening safety has its share of protests, remember the 80 km / h) or to make the fight against pollution or junk food a categorical imperative.

If we look at the statistics of mortality in the world, we see that hunger (yet easy and inexpensive to eradicate), malaria, AIDS or even wars (often made with the weapons produced by our industries) kill infinitely more than the coronavirus will ever kill.

Choose your comrade side, but there is only one good side, that of containment!

It would probably be necessary to question the responsibility of the audiovisual media in this panic which has taken hold of Western public opinion (with a German exception, German televisions having voluntarily decided to treat covid-19 in the place it deserves). Announce every morning the number of dead without putting them in perspective (compared to the usual average of the dead, their age, the comorbidity from which they suffered, etc.), devote entire newspapers to the pandemic can only shake even the best made heads … Imagine that every morning the number of deaths in France is truncated for all causes and that all the newspapers are devoted to it: who would still dare to simply live?

This is not to say that a death is immaterial, but simply that any public policy must be subject to a cost-benefit assessment. If we do not ban the sale of weapons, tobacco, alcohol, cars, trucks, thermal power stations, it is because collectively we believe that the cost would be greater than the benefit we would derive from it. But this debate, in the emotional surge that has been going on for two months, is in fact prohibited. Those who dared to question the chosen strategy and especially on its duration were pilloried by the most radical, those who are heard. To be opposed to the prolongation of confinement is to be for the “sacrifice” of those who are sick, “to spit in the mouth of the dead” and so on. In short, choose your comrade side, but there is only one good side, that of containment! I have even been threatened with death, myself and my family, by good people who believe that all life must be saved at any cost without the contradiction of their words touching their minds for daring to me. question in two tweets from April 9, three weeks after the start of confinement: ” It’s crazy when you think about it: plunging the world into the worst recession since the Second World War for a pandemic that has so far killed less than 100,000 people (not to mention their advanced age) in a world of 7 billion inhabitants. Seasonal flu, which kills especially young children, is between 290,000 and 650,000 per year worldwide. And everyone fucks, but serious. “

The worst recession of all time outside of the war (and more)

However, confinement will lead to an unimaginable recession by its violence: it should reach between 8% and 15% of GDP, an unprecedented decline in activity in peacetime (we must go back to 1942 to record a recession of -10 %). We have never brought an economy to a complete halt as we have just done, we must be aware of this. Partial unemployment now affects nearly twelve million workers (one in two private workers!) And the layoffs caused by thousands of business bankruptcies will number in the hundreds of thousands or even millions once the partial unemployment scheme supported by the state will expire (because it costs a fortune). And the longer the shutdown, the more difficult it will be to restart. The cost generated by the establishment of a social safety net and by economic plans will lead to an unprecedented deterioration in public accounts and the young generations who will have to pay twice for confinement: by the loss of their jobs and by raising taxes for those who will keep it.

It should not be forgotten that unemployment is also a health catastrophe, but more diffuse and therefore socially more acceptable: we thus estimate at 14,000 the deaths which it causes each year in France by induced diseases. And how not to speak of its procession of misery, hunger, social downgrading, etc. The effects of confinement are also going to have terrible consequences on the minds of French people, on violence against women and children, on their health (for example, early screenings for cancer, stroke, heart attack are suspended and nothing is known about suicides, etc.), about dropping out of school (how many children have simply disappeared from the system? ).

A lastingly weakened rule of law

Finally, to believe that public freedoms, democracy, will come out intact from this episode is just a sweet dream. The state of health emergency will remain enshrined in our law for a long time exactly as the state of emergency, launched in 2015, was finally incorporated into ordinary law. It is rare for a state to give up on its own the powers gained over the legislature and the justice system. The tracking of individuals, via smartphones, which some consider to be a necessity, could well become the rule in the name of safeguarding our health which has become THE priority, privacy being reduced to the rank of concern of another age. Having chosen total containment and the state of emergency will leave lasting traces in French democracy.

I do not pretend to provide an answer here. Simply, the first elements of the deconfinement show that another way would have been possible: confinement not department, wide discretion left to local authorities, referral to the judicial judge to register the carriers of the virus, etc. I just regret the absence of democratic deliberation before the establishment of the state of health emergency and its extension. As if sacrificing generations under the age of 60 and suspending the rule of law were obvious facts.

In provisional conclusion, I think that we should not be mistaken about the meaning of the unimaginable event that we are experiencing: it is the triumph of individualism, that of the immediate health of the individual in the face of well-being current and future collective. The terms of the debate are in reality identical to those of climate change: should we accept to sacrifice our immediate well-being to ensure the survival of the human species?

Some reading tips:

Note from the magistrates’ union on the state of health emergency

“Let us beware of falling into a sickly, viro-induced, social and political reactivity”

The catastrophic cost-benefit of containment

Breaking out of blind confinement

Dare to discuss confinement (a Belgian point of view)

Will the remedy ultimately be worse than the coronavirus? (a Swiss point of view)

“Let us die as we wish” and “I prefer to catch covid-19 in a free country than to escape it in a totalitarian state”


complaint against Europe complicit in the horrors perpetrated in Libya

Arbitrary detention, torture, rape, slavery, etc. The abuse of migrants and refugees in war-torn Libya is widely documented. And the complicity of the European Union which outsources its migration management, strongly denounced.

→ READ. War in the shadow of the coronavirus in Libya

Human rights NGOs have chosen a new angle of attack to challenge European policy supporting the Libyan authorities to intercept at sea and keep asylum seekers on their soil at all costs. They decided to knock on the wallet.

Three NGOs file complaints

Three organizations specializing in legal and political expertise in migration, the Global legal action network (GLAN), the association for legal studies on immigration (ASGI) and the Italian leisure association and Culture (ARCI) filed a complaint with the European Court of Auditors on Monday, April 27.

The complaint is supported by a statement by twelve human rights NGOs, such as Amnesty International and FIDH. It concerns “breaches of the EU financial rules”. The three organizations consider European financial support for Libyan migration management to be illegal and demand that the Court of Auditors launch an audit on EU cooperation with Libya.

A “revolutionary” complaint

“EU budget laws give the EU a mandate to ensure the proper use of European development funds, in particular by continuously monitoring and assessing their impact on human rights. Without guarantees in terms of human rights, the EU program in Libya is in flagrant violation of European and international laws and is complicit in the human suffering caused by the return of migrants to Libya “, argues Valentina Azarova, legal counsel for GLAN.

→ READ. Libya: war continues without a break

Based on the material support given to Libya, this complaint is ” revolutionary “, said Leslie Piquemal of CIHRS, the Cairo Institute for Human Rights Studies, who co-signed the statement.

Respect for human rights transferred to Libya

In July 2017, the EU allocated € 91.3 million to the “Integrated Border and Migration Management in Libya” (GIF) program, which is to run until the end of 2021. The objective of this program is improve Libya’s ability to control its borders and provide rescue at sea, in a manner fully consistent with international human rights standards and obligations. ” These funds were committed through the European Union Emergency Trust Fund for Stability and Combating the Root Causes of Irregular Migration and Displaced Persons in Africa (EUTFA), itself mainly funded by the Fund European development.

If the European Development Fund is subject to sound financial management rules – the projects supported must in particular be accompanied by a system aimed at assessing, mitigating and monitoring their impact on human rights – the EUTFA, for its part, is freed from it. This compatibility with human rights has been transferred to the beneficiaries of the funds.

“The absence of rights monitoring programs and the risk of development funds being diverted to security programs, as the African Trust Fund shows, are glaring concerns that institutions and member states of the EU should seek to correct “, argues the complaint.

In 2018, the Court of Auditors itself pointed out the weaknesses of the EUTFA – lack of precision and risk of ineffectiveness – and stressed the need to review them.