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France Expels 57 Africans, Including 4 From Paris Sit-In

Europe: Deportations come a day after raid on church in capital. Military plane is used for mission.

August 25, 1996|From Times Wire Services

PARIS — A French military plane carried 57 undocumented immigrants to Central and West Africa on Saturday, including four Africans who were among 220 forcibly dislodged from their shelter at a Paris church a day earlier.

The French air force Airbus A-310 flew to Mali, Senegal and Zaire, the Interior Ministry said.

A group of demonstrators had sought in vain to block a convoy of Africans taken from a detention center near the capital from entering the Evreux air base west of Paris, which was tightly guarded by troops and riot police. Lawyers for the Africans had also launched a string of appeals against expulsions.

The Interior Ministry statement did add that more than 40 of the Africans who occupied the St. Bernard Church for nearly two months will receive residence papers this week.

Riot police broke up the occupation on Friday, removing from the church 98 men, 54 women and 68 children. The figure released by the Interior Ministry on Saturday revised earlier reports that 300 immigrants had been in the church.

The Africans' demand for residency--and the government's refusal--came to symbolize France's dilemma over thousands of undocumented immigrants.

The conservative government, beset by 12.5% unemployment and polls showing simmering anti-immigrant sentiment across France, has redoubled its crackdown on undocumented immigrants since the beginning of the year. It has chartered 22 previous flights in recent months for deportations, although Saturday's was the first using a military base.

Authorities released all the women and children except three women who had unspecified "particular procedures," the Interior Ministry said. Most of them were regrouping in a Paris shelter run by a humanitarian group.

Ten immigrants who had staged a hunger strike during the church occupation were in police custody Saturday, vowing to continue the strike they began in early June. Eight of them were hospitalized.

The government has said that none of the hunger strikers will be allowed to remain in France but that it would not immediately expel anyone who was "gravely ill."


The cases of those Africans remaining in custody will be examined individually and presented in court starting this morning.

Prime Minister Alain Juppe and Interior Minister Jean-Louis Debre stressed over the last week that the government will look at each case individually and not break up families or expel women who have just had children.

French President Jacques Chirac, who has not commented publicly on the arrests, met with Juppe on Saturday at the president's summer retreat as part of a weekend of talks.

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