News

    Illegal Immigrant Workers in Paris Want Resident Status in France

    Illegal immigrants working in the Paris area have launched an unprecedented wave of sit-ins and strikes to demand their situation be normalized. The movement is spreading - and is supported by the country's largest trade union. From Paris, Lisa Bryant reports it also challenges France's tough stance on immigration - which the government aims to highlight when it takes over the European Union presidency in July.

    Chez Papa is a typical French restaurant in downtown Paris, serving up traditional specialties like foie gras and steak frites. But the clientele has been staying away from the establishment since mid-April when three dozen illegal immigrant workers, including some of the restaurant's employees, essentially took over the establishment.

    They are still here - sleeping on the restaurant's floors and on this recent morning watching television and drinking coffee. They are men like 30-year-old Guy Kebe, who has been working in the kitchen of Chez Papa for the past nine years - illegally.

    Kebbe said he arrived to France from his native Mali 10 years ago. His father and his siblings all have legal residency. But he does not. He got his job on the kitchen staff using false working papers.

    Kebbe said the workers began their sit-in April 15, after their boss fired a couple of workers who he discovered had been using false documents.

    France's largest labor union, the CGT, has supported this and other sit-ins taking place in dozens of Paris businesses. Most of them involve the restaurant, construction and cleaning industries - all sectors, experts say, that often face labor shortages. Many of those hired are immigrants.

    CGT spokesman Remi Picaud says that is one key reason why France's immigration policy has to change.

    For the past 30 years, Picaud says, France's immigration policy has been against luring foreign workers. But like other European countries, he says, France needs foreign labor.

    Others agree. The head of France's hotel union recently urged the government to legalize up to 100,000 clandestine workers in the hotel and restaurant industries. Other businesses are also siding with the immigrants' cause. But employers are far from united on the subject.

    Chez Papa owner Bruno Druihl initially supported the workers.

    But his associate, Catherine Bosserelle says she now feels his employees took advantage of him. They continued to strike even though he agreed to support their applications for legal papers. And their sit-in is costing him lots of money.

    Many of those protesting at Chez Papa and elsewhere pay French taxes and social charges. That includes 34-year-old Malian Camara Adama, who earns about $2,000 a month working in the restaurant's kitchens. But that does not go far in Paris, where the average rent for a small apartment is about half that amount.

    Adama says its very difficult to work legally in France. Like many illegal immigrants, he says, he lives in fear of being stopped by police.

    The CGT remains a staunch supporter of the sit-ins that have grown to include about 800 Paris-area workers, and are spreading to other parts of the country. Union members like Denise Coupe visit the strikers at Chez Papa on a daily basis.

    Coupe says she is disgusted that workers pay taxes yet cannot obtain legal papers. She says it contradicts France's creed of being a country of human rights.

    The center-right government of President Nicolas Sarkozy, which toughened immigration rules last year, says it will legalize foreign workers on a case-by-case basis. But the illegal workers and activists supporting their movement say they want standardized rules for all.

    What is clear is that France is unlikely to follow the example of Spain, which granted amnesty to about 600,000 illegal immigrants in 2006. The French government says it will push for a common European immigration policy - one which rejects blanket amnesties for illegal aliens - when it takes over the rotating European Union presidency, in July.

    This forum has been closed.
    Comments
         
    There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movementi
    X
    July 22, 2016 11:49 AM
    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video In State of Emergency, Turkey’s Erdogan Focuses on Spiritual Movement

    The state of emergency that Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan has declared is giving him even more power to expand a purge that has seen an estimated 60,000 people either arrested or suspended from their jobs. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports from Istanbul.
    Video

    Video Scientists in Poland Race to Save Honeybees

    Honeybees are in danger worldwide. Causes of what's known as colony collapse disorder range from pesticides and loss of habitat to infections. But scientists in Poland say they are on track to finding a cure for one of the diseases. VOA’s George Putic reports.
    Video

    Video Wall Already Runs Along Parts of US-Mexico Border

    The Republican Party’s presidential nominee, Donald Trump, gained the support of many voters by saying he would build a wall to keep undocumented immigrants and drugs from coming across the border from Mexico. Critics have called his idea impractical and offensive to Mexico, while supporters say such a bold approach is needed to control the border. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from the border town of Nogales, Arizona.
    Video

    Video New HIV Tests Emphasize Rapid Results

    As the global fight against AIDS intensifies, activists have placed increasing importance on getting people to know their HIV status. Some companies are developing new HIV testing methods designed to be quick, easy and accurate. Thuso Khumalo looks at the latest methods, presented at the International AIDS conference in Durban, South Africa.
    Video

    Video African Youth with HIV Urge More Support

    HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, is the top killer of teens in sub-Saharan Africa. But many youths say their experience with the virus is unique and needs to be addressed differently than the adult epidemic. VOA South African Correspondent Anita Powell reports.
    Video

    Video Poor Residents in Cleveland Not Feeling High Hopes of Republican Convention

    With the Republican Party's National Convention underway in Cleveland, Ohio, delegates and visitors are gathered in the host city's downtown - waiting to hear from the party's presidential candidate, Donald Trump. But a few kilometers from the convention's venue, Cleveland's poorest residents are not convinced Trump or his policies will make a difference in their lives. VOA's Ramon Taylor spoke with some of these residents as well as some of the Republican delegates and filed this report.
    Video

    Video Pop-Up Art Comes to Your Living Room, Backyard and Elsewhere

    Around the world, independent artists and musicians wrestle with a common problem: where to exhibit or perform? Traditional spaces such as museums and galleries are reserved for bigger names, and renting a space is not feasible for many. Enter ArtsUp, which connects artists with venue owners. Whether it’s a living room, restaurant, office or even a boat, pop-up events are bringing music and art to unexpected places. Tina Trinh has more.
    Video

    Video With Yosemite as Backdrop, Obama Praises National Parks

    Last month, President Barack Obama and his family visited some of the most beautiful national parks in the U.S. Using the majestic backdrop of a towering waterfall in California's Yosemite National Park, Obama praised the national park system which celebrates its 100th anniversary this year. He talked about the importance of America’s “national treasures” and the need to protect them from climate change and other threats. VOA’s Julie Taboh reports.
    Video

    Video Counter-Islamic State Coalition Plots Next Steps

    As momentum shifts against Islamic State in Iraq, discussions are taking place about the next steps for driving the terrorist group from its final strongholds. Secretary of State John Kerry is hosting a counter-IS meeting at the State Department, a day after defense ministers from more than 30 countries reviewed and agreed upon a course of action. VOA Pentagon correspondent Carla Babb reports.
    Video

    Video Russia's Participation at Brazil Olympic Games Still In Question

    The International Olympic Committee has delayed a decision on whether to ban all Russian teams from competing in next month's Olympic Games in Brazil over allegations of an elaborate doping scheme. The World Anti-Doping Agency recently released an independent report alleging widespread doping by Russian athletes at the 2014 Winter Olympics in Sochi. So far, only Russian track and field athletes have been barred from the Summer Games in Brazil. VOA's Zlatica Hoke has more.
    Video

    Video Scotland’s Booming Whisky Industry Fears Brexit Hangover

    After Britain’s vote to leave the European Union, Scotland’s government wants to break away from the United Kingdom – fearing the nation’s exports are at risk. Among the biggest of these is whisky. Henry Ridgwell reports on a time of turmoil for those involved in the ancient art of distilling Scotland’s most famous product.
    Video

    Video Millennials Could Determine Who Wins Race to White House

    With only four months to go until Americans elect a new president, one group of voters is getting a lot more attention these days: those ages 18 to 35, a generation known as millennials. It’s a demographic that some analysts say could have the power to decide the 2016 election. But a lot depends on whether they actually turn out to vote. VOA’s Alexa Lamanna reports.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora