The Statistics *

24: the number of holding centers in France

1 693: the number of places in the holding centers

32 268: the number of people held in one year (6% women)

29 796: the number of people deported in one year

230: the number of children held with their parents

32: the average age of detainees

10.71 days: the average period of detention

32 days: the maximum period of detention

163: the number of nationalities of detainees in one year

533 millions euros: the annual cost of deporting detainees (€394 million for custody and guarding; €80.8 million for operational expenditure; €58 million for extension plans for the centers)

27 000 euros: the average cost of deporting one person (with 20 000 effective departures per year)

  • Figures for 2008 from the French NGO, Cimade

160 000 euros: the estimated cost of attempts to deport Guilherme


A Face

It is the face of Guilherme Hauka-Azanga, from Angola, aged 45, father of two children born in France, and a man who does not hold a residence permit. He came to France in 2002, fleeing a country where civil war had lasted 25 years leaving half a million dead, a country where the life expectancy is 41 years, where 40% of the population live beneath the absolute poverty line and where more than 60% do not have access to clean water. In France, Guilherme, like many other migrant workers without official papers, worked in the building industry which (with hotels, restaurants and the textile industry) employ most illegals. Ironically he worked on the building site of Corbas prison where he later served a sentence of two months for refusing to board the plane when the first attempt to deport him was made.

For six years he worked for the same employer who made two applications to the administrative authority [Préfecture du Rhône] requesting a work permit, but, according to Guilherme, no reply was ever received. Faced with this silence, plus three applications for political asylum being rejected by the French office for the protection of refugees and stateless persons (OFPRA), he continued to work and pay taxes until, one day in late 2009, his employer, fearing a labor inspection, finally dismissed him.

Guilherme is just one of a number of faces, one face to remind us that behind the statistics there are human beings; to remind us that deportation has serious consequences; and also to remind us that there are many people who refuse to accept the government policy introduced in 2003 setting annual figures for deportations. It is the first time in the history of France that such a quota has been set.

A spirit of solidarity plus a sense of commitment and determination are the forces behind Guilherme’s support committee. Their efforts and tenaciousness are fine examples of the righteous anger felt by individuals confronted with such intolerable situations, both unjust and arbitrary.

Acting together in civil disobedience, they have expressed their opposition to what they see as violence perpetrated on a human being. The battle being waged is justice versus the law, citizens versus the State system, opposing the relentless, dogged pursuit of their neighbor and friend whose one offence is not to have been born in France.

“A Face Behind the Statistics” is a visual report on the move by citizens rallying in response to the urgency and vulnerability of the situation. The story of Guilherme and his entourage is not the only case of this kind; it is the result of political moves to enforce more and more rules and regulations making it even more difficult for non-French citizens to come to France or for those who are here to be granted legal status. Tougher laws backed by security-focused policies led by President Sarkozy’s ministers of Immigration (Eric Besson, Brice Hortefeux and Claude Guéant) have confused the issues, with a tendency to portray immigration as the cause of security problems and unemployment. Yet the figures for immigrants have barely changed in ten years, remaining around 75 000 a year.

The latest legislation (known as the “Besson Law”), passed on May 11, 2011, added a number of provisions: extending the maximum period of detention from 32 to 45 days, banning the return of persons deported, extending the qualifying period for action by a judge ruling on custody/release (from two to five days) and making even tougher restrictions on residency rights for non-French persons requiring medical care. The laws applying to foreigners entering and residing in France [CESEDA – Code de l’entrée et du séjour des étrangers et du droit d’asile] have been amended five times in seven years.

Guilherme has still not been granted a residence and work permit.

Bertrand Gaudillère, 2011

Bertrand Gaudillère

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