French passengers held in on-board protest

30th August 2006, Comments 0 comments

PARIS, Aug 30, 2006 (AFP) - Two air passengers were arrested Wednesday as a protest erupted on a French flight being used to deport a Nigerian youth at the centre of weeks of media controversy, union officials said.

PARIS, Aug 30, 2006 (AFP) - Two air passengers were arrested Wednesday as a protest erupted on a French flight being used to deport a Nigerian youth at the centre of weeks of media controversy, union officials said.

"A dozen passengers refused to take their seats on the flight out of solidarity and two were arrested by border police at the pilot's request," a unionist told AFP. Airport officials confirmed the incident.

Jeff Babatunde-Shittu, a 19-year-old high-school student who arrived illegally in France in 2004, was deported to Nigeria on an Air France flight early Wednesday despite a high-profile campaign in his favour.

Around 50 activists and left-wing politicians including a Socialist former minister, Jack Lang, turned out in protest at Paris Charles de Gaulle airport.

Campaigners fighting for the right of illegal immigrants with school-age children to remain in France argued the young man's case, saying he was well integrated in France and had no remaining ties in Nigeria.

But the interior ministry finally ruled against him, saying he had lied about his identity in his residency application, something the campaign group Education Without Borders Network (RESF) denies.

French authorities are examining some 30,000 residency applications from families with school-age children, but many campaigners are calling for a general amnesty for France's estimated 200,000 to 400,000 illegal immigrants.

The centre-right government has recently toughened its immigration policy, vowing to step up the pace of deportations and scrapping the automatic right to residency papers for migrants who have been 10 years in the country.

At a French ambassadors' meeting on Wednesday, Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin called for a twin effort to combat illegal immigration through tougher border policing and stepped-up development aid to countries of origin.

He said France was "obliged to master migratory flows into our territory in the interests of social cohesion", as he announced a 3.5-percent rise in the foreign ministry's budget to be used partly to tackle illegal immigration.

"Immigration is a major issue today for France and the European Union, where cooperation (between member states) is essential: by 2050, Africa's population will double while Europe's is set to shrink.

"We will build a more stable world only through more solidarity," Villepin said, stressing that "true co-development, in partnership between countries of origin and destination, is a vital tool."

Copyright AFP

Subject: French news

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