Reprieve for France's 'illegal' schoolchildren
France will not immediately begin deporting school-age illegal immigrants.
Thousands of parents have been queuing outside government offices in recent days to take advantage of new regulations that would allow many illegal immigrants with young children who have attended school in France to obtain residency papers.
"Families have till August 13 to lodge a dossier, there will be no child hunt ... there will be no expulsions this summer," Arno Klarsfeld told Sud radio.
*quote1*Klarsfeld — the son of Nazi-hunter Serge Klarsfeld — was named by Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy earlier this week to coordinate case-by-case reviews of thousands of potential deportees.
The appointment was in reaction to a nationwide protest movement to stop expulsions slated to begin after the end of the academic year on Friday, with campaigners vowing to hide foreign schoolchildren in their homes.
The children are from families who entered France illegally and who would normally be expelled along with their parents, but campaigners say that most of them know no other country and that deportation would be inhumane.
Bowing to pressure last week, Sarkozy told prefects — state-appointed local governors — to reconsider cases on the basis of new criteria, such as whether a child has "strong ties" to France.
"Children whose parents have lived in France for at least two years, who were born in France or those who came before the age of 13 and have been at school here since September 2005 — these can be given residence papers," he said.
"On the other hand someone who arrives with a child of 15, puts him straight away into a lycee and then plays a game of tag with the authorities saying you cannot touch me — these cannot be given papers. Otherwise you open the borders to everyone," he said.
French schools are obliged to take in children regardless of whether they are in the country legally. Government supporters say that blanket regularisation of all pupils from "paperless" families will encourage illegal immigration.
*quote2*In Paris this week thousands of parents — mainly Chinese — have queued up outside four processing centres in the hope of qualifying for residence papers under Sarkozy's new criteria.
The Education Without Borders Network (RESF), which has coordinated the protest campaign, said it mistrusts the government's latest moves and has organised a demonstration in Paris Saturday.
Subject: Living in France