Storm in Paris over evicted Africans

French government, police and Catholic leaders found themselves at the centre of a row yesterday, following the eviction by force of 300 African immigrants from a gymnasium in central Paris where they had sought refuge. The group, some of whom have lived in France for more than 10 years, have no residence papers and are demanding the right to stay.

Yesterday's eviction, carried out shortly after 6am, was the second time in three days the Africans had felt the force of the French law. They were part of a larger group that had been forcibly removed from the nearby church of St Ambroise on Friday morning after an occupation lasting almost a week. Both operations involved almost 1,000 police, including a large contingent of CRS riot troops.

After the outcry caused by Friday's eviction, and its only partial effectiveness, yesterday's operation was personally overseen by Philippe Massoni, the Paris police chief who was responsible for the anti-terrorist measures in the French capital last summer and autumn.

What initially seemed a straightforward action against illegal immigrants, of the sort pledged by the government of President Jacques Chirac when he became President, has given rise to a controversy.

The first to become embroiled were Church leaders, after it became known that the priest at St Ambroise had requested the first eviction order "on grounds of sanitation and health", and that he had had the support of the Cardinal Archbishop of Paris, Jean- Marie Lustiger.

Mgr Lustiger had visited the Africans only a day before their eviction and had reportedly expressed his support. The second to face criticism were the police, for the heavy-handedness of the first operation, its limited success and its dubious legality.

Local magistrates who questioned the legal basis of the eviction warrant yesterday freed 40 members of the group in custody pending deportation. The magistrates found the police had acted illegally by mounting their operation in the church before 6am.

The row has extended now to the government, with the Prime Minister, Alain Juppe, being accused by the veteran Paris campaigner for the homeless, Abbe Pierre, of acting in bad faith. The abbe, who has been involved in the Africans' case since the start of the protest, said Mr Juppe had given him an undertaking that there would be no action by the police against the group after the eviction from St Ambroise.

After yesterday's police raid, the cleric said that either Mr Juppe had not kept his word, or that he did not know what his ministers were doing, "in which case he lacks authority and should go".

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA celebration of British elections
  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Guru Careers: Software Developer

£30 - 35k + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a Software Developer (JavaS...

Guru Careers: Software Engineer / Software Developer

£40-50K: Guru Careers: We are seeking an experienced Software Engineer / Softw...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey/ South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Ashdown Group: Trainee Consultant - Surrey / South West London

£22000 per annum + pension,bonus,career progression: Ashdown Group: An establi...

Day In a Page

Fishing for votes with Nigel Farage: The Ukip leader shows how he can work an audience as he casts his line to the disaffected of Grimsby

Fishing is on Nigel Farage's mind

Ukip leader casts a line to the disaffected
Who is bombing whom in the Middle East? It's amazing they don't all hit each other

Who is bombing whom in the Middle East?

Robert Fisk untangles the countries and factions
China's influence on fashion: At the top of the game both creatively and commercially

China's influence on fashion

At the top of the game both creatively and commercially
Lord O’Donnell: Former cabinet secretary on the election and life away from the levers of power

The man known as GOD has a reputation for getting the job done

Lord O'Donnell's three principles of rule
Rainbow shades: It's all bright on the night

Rainbow shades

It's all bright on the night
'It was first time I had ever tasted chocolate. I kept a piece, and when Amsterdam was liberated, I gave it to the first Allied soldier I saw'

Bread from heaven

Dutch survivors thank RAF for World War II drop that saved millions
Britain will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power - Labour

How 'the Axe' helped Labour

UK will be 'run for the wealthy and powerful' if Tories retain power
Rare and exclusive video shows the horrific price paid by activists for challenging the rule of jihadist extremists in Syria

The price to be paid for challenging the rule of extremists

A revolution now 'consuming its own children'
Welcome to the world of Megagames

Welcome to the world of Megagames

300 players take part in Watch the Skies! board game in London
'Nymphomaniac' actress reveals what it was really like to star in one of the most explicit films ever

Charlotte Gainsbourg on 'Nymphomaniac'

Starring in one of the most explicit films ever
Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi: The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers

Robert Fisk in Abu Dhabi

The Emirates' out-of-sight migrant workers helping to build the dream projects of its rulers
Vince Cable interview: Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'

Vince Cable exclusive interview

Charging fees for employment tribunals was 'a very bad move'
Iwan Rheon interview: Game of Thrones star returns to his Welsh roots to record debut album

Iwan Rheon is returning to his Welsh roots

Rheon is best known for his role as the Bastard of Bolton. It's gruelling playing a sadistic torturer, he tells Craig McLean, but it hasn't stopped him recording an album of Welsh psychedelia
Morne Hardenberg interview: Cameraman for BBC's upcoming show Shark on filming the ocean's most dangerous predator

It's time for my close-up

Meet the man who films great whites for a living
Increasing numbers of homeless people in America keep their mobile phones on the streets

Homeless people keep mobile phones

A homeless person with a smartphone is a common sight in the US. And that's creating a network where the 'hobo' community can share information - and fight stigma - like never before