Monday, February 6, 2017

Aiding refugees and migrants - at your peril!

France seems to have an ambivalent attitude towards migrants and refugees who arrive in France, often after a hazardous journey from their home country, and take advantage of the free movement within the European Union thanks to the Schengen agreement on open  borders. Many as we all know know face a block when they reach the French channel ports and try to travel to Britain,

The result has been the accumulation of up to 10,000 refugees - including many young children and teenagers - in huge makeshift camps, which were finally cleared towards the end of last year and the occupants dispersed to 'reception centres' all over France. Not all them agreed with this policy and set up their own camps in central Paris and elsewhere, only to be dispersed again by the authorities. Reports indicate that many have also driffted back to Calais and there is increasing concern for large numbers of unaccopanied minors and young adults, regarded as specially at risk. There is a sad irony in all of this, as many wish to join their families already settled in Britain but face growing intransigence by officials and prejudice from many individuals, as the pro-Brexit vote shows.

Sterling work has been done by the acknowledged helpinng organisations such as the international Red Cross, buit private individuals have been prosecuted for 'aiding and abetting a person illegally living in France' despite another French law which also prosecutes for 'non-assistance to persons in danger' - such as ignoring a person injured in the street or driving away after a traffic accident.

Some of the individuals accused of  aiding and abetting refugees found themselves prosecuted for simple gestures such as charging mobile phones or providing temporary accomodation or food. Fortunately, such help can be provided by joining one of the recognised charity organisations but many individuals have continued to 'do their own thing' and face the verdict of the French courts and organisatons (established or hastily formed) have found themselves in difficulty. A group of jurists and some 250 voluntary organisations have banded together with two old established French campaigning organisations Gisti and Cimade and to press for changes in the law.

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