French woman dies after setting herself on fire
A 60-year-old French woman in Le Mans set herself on fire Saturday to protest her partner’s deportation back to Armenia.20 October 2008
TOURS -- A 60-year-old French woman died Sunday after setting herself on fire to protest a decision to deport her partner back to Armenia, hospital staff said.
Josiane Nardi suffered third-degree burns to almost her entire body after soaking herself with alcohol and setting herself on fire in front of a detention centre in the western city of Le Mans on Saturday.
She was rushed to the burn victims' unit at Tours hospital where she died on Sunday, hospital staff said.
Mayor Jean-Claude Boulard ordered an investigation to be opened and said it must provide answers on "how a woman was led to make the ultimate sacrifice to save her companion".
An illegal immigrant, Nardi's 31-year-old partner Henrik Orujyan was serving a two-year jail sentence for various crimes before being transferred to a pre-deportation centre.
He was released late Saturday due to medical reasons and placed under house arrest, according to a rights group.
Nardi arranged to meet local media to draw attention to her companion’s troubles.
But journalists said they were unaware of her intention to set herself on fire and unable to prevent her from doing so.
"She took out a bottle of alcohol, and when we approached her, it was too late", said a witness.
One reporter was taken to the hospital suffering from shock, another with slight burns to a hand.
A rights group said the incident raised new questions about France's fight against illegal immigration.
"This act of absolute despair, which unfortunately will lead to others, is an unbearable reminder of the ravages of this brutal, cruel and inefficient policy", said Mouloud Aounit, president of the Movement against Racism and for Friendship between Peoples (MRAP).
The French government set a target for 2008 of deporting 25,000 illegal immigrants. In 2007, it fell short of that target by some 1,000 deportations.
But government spokesman Luc Chatel said the case had little to do with illegal immigration and stressed that Orujyan had three criminal convictions.
He said Orujyan often challenged deportation orders even though he "has strong family ties in Armenia where he has a wife and child".
"This is not a case involving an undocumented worker but a deportation order given by a judge based on three convictions", Chatel said in a radio interview.
[AFP / Expatica]