Making migrant camps invisible won’t make them disappear

The police operation which brutally dismantled, Monday, November 23, an ephemeral exile camp installed by associations on the Place de la République, in Paris, deeply shocked, including in the ranks of the party of the President of the Republic .

The report ordered by the Minister of the Interior to the General Inspectorate of the National Police (IGPN), the police force, only retains the head of a disproportionate use of force in the case of a croc-en-leg performed by a commissioner on an exile who was trying to escape.

The director of the French Office for Immigration and Integration (OFFI), Didier Leschi, invited on Thursday November 26 on France Inter, meanwhile considered that it was “not good to say that we are not a welcoming society” because “it ends up disturbing the population”.

The police intervention, however, followed the dismantling, the previous week, a camp at the foot of the Stade de France, in Saint-Denis, which housed around 2,000 exiles, mainly Afghans.

This operation had already aroused strong criticism from associations, both because of its brutality, but also because of the lack of accommodation solutions for a large number of migrants, who therefore found themselves on the street.

It was to raise awareness of this issue that associations had set up a makeshift camp on Place de la République, with the exiles who had been dislodged from Saint-Denis. The aim was to make the situation of those who were refused to welcome with dignity visible to everyone.

Images of unworthy violence

The dismantling operation strikes first by its violence, recognized by the Minister of the Interior himself, in a rare disavowal of the police. Many have pointed out that the images of violence, which have looped in the media and on social networks, are unworthy of a democracy. Some, in the ranks of the police, advance the explanation inadequate training of the brigade which was dispatched to the scene in an emergency, and which was not used to this type of operation.

This explanation, whatever it may be, hollow out the real motive for the operation: the camp had to be prevented from setting up and becoming visible to passers-by and the press.

And it was therefore necessary to act urgently, because the symbol of bankruptcy of European asylum policies was no longer relegated to the outskirts of the city, but exposed in the center.

Therefore, the aim of the operation was not to solve the problem of the camps, but to conduct a communication operation, which was to be accompanied by a show of firmness.

The operation will not solve the problem of the camps in any way: it will simply remove migrants from the field of vision of passers-by, the lenses of cameras and cameras.

A political logic

In this, it is part of a logic deeply rooted in our immigration and asylum policies. A logic that consists in pushing migrants back to the borders of our States, our cities and our fields of vision, so that they become invisible.

It’s the same logic that governs the new Asylum and Migration Pact proposed in September by the European Commission: the aim is to outsource the asylum procedure as much as possible, to push behind the border those who might want to cross it.

The externalization of asylum proceeds from the same logic as that of the dismantling of camps: it is a question of keeping from view those who want to migrate to Europe, and whom Europe refuses to welcome with dignity. For want of having been thought out and organized, migration has become an anomaly to be solved, a problem to be solved. “The State, sedentary construction, despises by nature the nomad”, writes rightly Francois De Smet.

And migration policies are therefore placed in a strategy of resistance to migration, which tries to prevent them, to control them and to curb them, much more than to organize them.

This strategy is doomed to failure, because migration is largely determined by exogenous factors, which do not depend on the migration policies of the destination country. It is also deeply dehumanizing for migrants: if migration is a problem to be solved, then migrants are the embodiment of that problem. And the more visible they are, the more public opinion will be convinced that this problem is not solved, and that policies are failing to control immigration.

Keeping numbers constant

This is why the policies pursued by governments on the left, in matters of asylum and immigration, do not differ appreciably from the policies carried out by governments on the right: it is a matter of keeping the numbers constant, of ‘expel the same number of individuals, especially not to be accused of laxity.

These are managerial policies, which are no longer based on values ​​or principles, but simply on the concern not to vary the curve of entries and exits from the territory.

The existence of refugee camps, within Europe itself, symbolizes a terrible collective failure to put in place reception and accommodation solutions up to the level of the European project.

In the collective imagination, refugee camps are reserved for developing countries, readily portrayed as countries incapable of controlling their borders. The camps exist because solutions have not been found. And if these camps are set up in Europe, that would therefore be a sign that we are not succeeding, in Europe, in finding solutions.

However, as long as solutions have not been found in Europe to set up real common asylum and immigration policies, these camps will continue to exist. They each confront the idea that behind the figures for entries and exits from the country, asylum requests and expulsions, there are men, women and children. The camps break the managerial logic of our asylum and immigration policies.

Without a doubt, these camps are the most terrible symbol of the failure of our asylum and immigration policies. They recall that “France, land of asylum” is a slogan which no longer has much materiality. And it is this symbol that had to be removed from view on Monday evening. Otherwise, to use the words of Didier Leschi, it could “end up disturbing the population”.

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