Petition urges France end Tunisian arrests

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Politicians and rights campaigners Friday urged French authorities to stop rounding up Tunisian migrants who have flocked to France in the wake of the revolution in their country.

Dozens of Socialist opposition lawmakers, union leaders and rights groups published a petition calling on the government to "end the police interventions in the Tunisians' gathering places."

It urged Nicolas Sarkozy's government to avoid "ideological and political manipulation of the situation."

The government has since last summer been pushing a hard line on immigration which critics brand a ploy to defend its support base from the far-right National Front, which has been rising in the polls.

In the wake of revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt and conflict in Libya, north African migrants have been flocking to Europe, most of them landing on Italian soil.

Among them are thousands of French-speaking Tunisians who have headed on to France to seek work and join relatives.

Many have Italian-issued temporary EU residency permits but France has vowed to deport those who cannot support themselves and has started arresting Tunisians on the streets of Paris, Marseille and Nice.

The petition, signed by figures including Socialist Party leader Martine Aubry and the mayor of Paris, Betrand Delanoe, branded the arrests of the migrants "discriminatory, aggressive and pointless."

In a statement Friday, the Paris-based Tunisian civil group FTCR denounced the detentions as "targeted racist raids."

The petition called for France to provide temporary reception facilities for the Tunisians, many of whom are sleeping rough in Paris's parks and streets, aid for those who volunteer to leave, and professional training for those eligible under existing migration agreements.

© 2011 AFP

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