mardi 8 avril 2008

Sans Papiers

'Sans teeth sans eyes sans everything'. I remember these eerie lines in the supposedly comic Shakespeare play 'As You like it' (er, not very much). To be sans papiers in France is a damned sight more serious than Jacques whimsical soliloquy on mortality, as this chap, pictured, is probably finding out.
To be without documentation in a fanatically bureaucratic country such as this, is a major crime. Plus these state thugs aka police are very fucking far away from being your average 'come in for a nice cup of tea' Dixon of Dock Green types. Yeah, I know, the average British rozzer is not the diplomatic type either, but for one thing, one section of the French lot are routinely armed. Not with anything heavy, just some kind of pistol but enough to let you know what they are there for.
Also, on the journey into work of a morning, I have to go through Lille station to get to the underground. Without fail, there is a clutch of these 'pigs man' together with a squad of three sometimes four heavily armed soldiers. Fucking proper tooled up soldiers. I mean heavily armed - the kind of thing you see in war zones on telly. Maybe the French authorities have started to think of their own homeland as a colonial outpost and feel it's best to be ready with the hardware, but if it's just meant to be intimidating, I, for one, have to say it works.
For I have to confess - I am that sans papier - no not the mec in the pic. but (technically) an 'illegal'. I remember last year I went to a rally in support of the Sans Papiers - those exiles from other countries who are pulled to the West by the lure of jobs and wealth - and got talking (as best as my pidgin Franglais could get) to a 'genuine' sans papier. He smiled at my bureaucratic laziness and said "Vous êtes blanche ca va allez". The point being - apart from the fact that I'm from a EU country, I was born 'white'. Thus in the eyes of the average French copper, there's no need to ask me those dread words "You papers sir" with that stress on the 'sir' that transforms the word into '. . .you shit."
And according to subjective research here at the League (ie the goings on at Lille Station) if you're bleck and look a bit lost, then they'll swoop on you, surround you and ask aggressive questions. There is no statistical proof of this because there are no break down of the figures into 'racial profiling'. That wouldn't accord with the mythical belief that everyone is equally a republican. But I overheard on such encounter the other day, and these roborozzers were giving these three Afro-descent (?) blokes a real drilling. 'Where are you from?' They kept asking these kids. The lads spoke perfect French and brandished their ID cards. They were reluctantly allowed to go on their way. I've conducted an unscientific survey amongst my friends and colleagues over here and they have never been asked for their papers on the street and the only time they've seen it happen is to their "dark skinned" comrades. Funny that.
I reamain an administrative ghost. If the batards ever asked me - I'd have to garble something about 'Will this Sainsbury's Loyalty card do?', and do a runner - which in French is called 'Fil un Anglais'.