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African Diaspora: Hard times for Africans in France and Belgium

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Several francophone blogs have tackled African immigrants’ latest tribulations in France and Belgium.

Choosing Immigrants

Le Pangolin criticizes French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy [1]’s latest round of immigration policies. The blogger sees Sarkozy’s approach as a diversion from the real social issues raised by protestors of the CPE [2][Youth Employment Law]. Le Pangolin, belies Sarkozy's assertions that France wants to start “choosing its immigrants” [3] through new, tighter policies:

La France a toujours choisi son immigration, rappelez-vous des balayeurs sénégalais que la France est allée prendre au Sénégal et Mali, des ouvriers des usines automobiles Renault et Peugeot qu’ils sont allés chercher au Maghreb pour casser le parti communiste et la Cgt qui étaient virulents et puissants dans les années 50 à 1970.

France has always chosen its immigrants. Remember the Senegalese janitors whom France imported from Senegal and Mali, the Renault and Peugeot auto factory workers they went to fetch in Maghreb to break the communist party and the CGT union’s strong influence between 1950 and 1970.

Le Pangolin ridicules a French government drowning under youth unemployment protests attempting desperately to redirect public attention towards a scapegoat [3], the African immigrant:

Le message est donc clair, on ne fera plus venir ces gens, on veut des immigrés qualifiés ayant fait des études chez eux, désormais vous aurez ces emplois (…) Les personnes qui sont visées par le CPE sont surtout les non qualifiées, or depuis longtemps le patronnât français et l’élite française ont réservé ces emplois aux immigrés (balayeurs, femmes de ménages, gardiennage, garde malade, éboueurs, ouvriers du bâtiment, coursiers).

The message is clear, we will no longer let these people in, we need skilled immigrants educated in their home countries. From now on, you will get these jobs (…) People affected by the CPE [2] [Youth Employment Law] are unskilled for the most part and up until now the French elite and French employers have reserved these [unskilled] jobs for immigrants (janitor, maid, security guard, nurse’s aid, construction worker, messenger).

Love France or Leave It

At Forum Realisance, blogger Musengeshi Katata critiques Sarkozy’s “Love France or leave it” quote [4]which he finds ironic in light of France’s unwillingness to integrate Africans or to grant them opportunities similar to those afforded French whites:

La France, monsieur Sarkozy, ce n´est ni une prostituée obligée à lever ses jupons les jours de famine, ni une église où tous les vices sont acceptés pourvu qu´on dise amen ou encore une nations gouvernée par des principes occultes et douteux ; c´est hélas bien autre chose que cela : c´est une des nations les plus ambitieuse de cette terre. Et malgré tous ses manquements et ses défauts, dans son cœur vivant et chaud, elle couve un des meilleurs idéals de l´existence humaine, et ne vous en déplaise, c´est ce havre brûlant et vertueux que nous aimons aveuglément. Et croyez-le ou pas, nous allons la défendre et continuer à l´aimer, parce que nous sommes persuadé qu´elle représente, dans son âme attendrie et sincère, le plus beau de tout rêve humain.

France, Mr. Sarkozy, is neither a prostitute obliged to lift her underskirts in hard times, nor a church where all vices are accepted provided that one says amen, nor a nation ruled by occult and doubtful principles; it is different from all that : it’s one of the most ambitious nations in the world. And in spite of all its shortcomings, in its living and warm heart, she harbors one of the best ideals of human existence, and it is this burning and virtuous haven that we love. Believe it or not, we are going to defend it and continue loving it because we are convinced that it represents in its tender and sincere soul, the most beautiful of human dreams.

Stranded in Belgium

From France, we skip over to Belgium with Le Renouveau Congolais‘ Etienne Ngandu who writes about a group of African immigrants threatened with deportation who have been taken in by Sint Antoniuskerk Church. They have lived in Gand for years and their children go to school there, says the blogger, but they are being denied residency. The blogger recounts [5]:

Nous sommes allés donc à la rencontre de ces hommes et femmes qui ne demandent qu’à vivre et être traités avec dignité. En effet, ces personnes ont perdu complètement tout repère de la vie, puisque se retrouvant en marge de la société car tel est le sort réservé à tous ceux qui n’ont pas le fameux sésame qu’est un titre de séjour valable. Tous vivent dans la peur et l’angoisse de se faire expulser à tout moment de la Belgique.

I went to meet with these men and women who ask for nothing more than the right to live and to be treated with dignity. Indeed, they have lost touch with life because they are on the fringe of society. That’s the plight reserved to all those who do not have official permission to reside here. Each and every one of them lives in fear and anguish of being deported at any time from Belgium.