FECL 15 (May 1993):

NEW FRENCH INTERIOR MINISTER: A CRUSADE AGAINST DRUGS, ILLEGAL IMMIGRATION AND URBAN VIOLENCE

Charles Pasqua, an old hardliner within the gaullist RPR-party, is the interior minister of the new French center-right government. He presented his view of the country's internal security situation at the council of ministers, on 14 April.

According to Mr. Pasqua, France is, since several years, confronted with increasing insecurity: "drug trafficking, illegal immigration and urban violence which are evermore linked to each other are its main components."

As a remedy, the Minister intends to extend police powers, put an end to "impunity" for recidivist youth delinquents, and provide for the effective execution of deportation measures against aliens.

In the beginning of April, Mr Pasqua had presented his new ministerial staff. Among them are Alain Robert, a former leader of the fascist groups "Occident" and "Ordre nouveau" who later joined the RPR after an intermezzo with Le Pen's "Front National", and professor Jean-Paul Séguéla, a physician known for his repressive stance on drug addiction.

Pasqua's policy statement comes against the background of four cases of police violence within less than two weeks. 3 youths had been shot and killed and one seriously wounded by police in separate incidents. All of them were unarmed.

 

Youths, immigrants and drug addicts as scapegoats

In his communication to the council of ministers Mr Pasqua notes that drugs have become "the public ennemi No.1". Remedy must be taken at a European level, the Minister says with a passing shot at the liberal Dutch policy. "Drugs are at the heart of the phenomena od delinquency" and are at the bottom of half of the delicts ascertained in cities". But according to Erich Inciyan, a journalist at "Le Monde", this assertion is based on uncompleted evaluations and estimate figures.

Minors have a growing part in delinquency, the Minister states.

Indeed, within the last 20 years, delinquency increased faster among youths than among adults. In 1991, 101'631 youths between age 13 and 18 were incriminated. The summit was however reached in 1983, with 107'808 cases. More than three quarters of youth delinquency cases concern violation of property (72% relate to theft, 9% to vandalism). These figures somewhat reproportionate Mr Pasqua's assertion that "youths are at present responsible of more than a third of all delicts committed with violence". As a matter of fact, delictuous acts against persons make up "only" 8% of youth delinquency.

However, the Interior Minister's remark that illegal immigration "has its part in delinquency and in the general degeneracy observed" and that "foreigners" were involved in "a third of all cases" of drug trafficking, forms the most disquieting part of his statement.

Once again, the member of a Western European government presents immigration as mainly a security issue, thus comforting the demagocical claims of anti-foreigner groups.

 

Firework of statistical figures serves as a smoke curtain

Pasqua points at the fact that in 1992 only 20% of all deportation orders (9'000 of a total 43'000) were actually carried out. As for the remaining 80%, the person concerned could not be found (43%), was undocumented, thus making deportation impossible, or could not be deported within the prescibed delay of 7 days, either because of lack of seats on flights or because of physical resistance to embarcation (20,5%). The average cost of a deportation measure was 30'000 French francs.

With regard to the deportation of undocumented persons it is noted that many deliberately destroy their travel documents in order to prevent being sent back to their country of origin. According to the Interior Minister the main problem with these cases lies in the refusal of their home countries to take them back.

Mr Pasqua designates these non-deportees who continue to reside in France as "irregulars" as the "growing ground of a new delinquency", and further points out at the "abuse of procedures" with respect to family reunification through marriages and accommodation certificates of convenience.

With respect to the non-execution of deportations, his figures are correct, but Pasqua falls into demagogy when naming laxist practices of the former socialist government as the principal cause. It is true that the number of deportation orders has tripled since 1990, while the number of actual deportations has remained quite steady within the last five years (1987: 6'951; 1992: 6'229). But this is very obviously due to a regulation introduced in 1991, according to which deportation orders are issued not only to persons under police custody or detainees, but also to free persons whose stay permit has expired. Many choose to go underground rather than being sent back to their home country.

The Minister's interpretation of statistical figures with the obvious aim to establish a link between crime and immigration is very objectionable in the light of closer examination. As a matter of fact, any alien staying in France without a regular permit, is per definitionem a delinquent by the mere fact that he breaches against French legislation on foreigners. Thus, of 128,000 foreigners incriminated in penal cases in 1990, 33'200 (17%) were incriminated merely for breach of the above legislation on entry and stay. The part of this type of delict in foreigner delinquency has significantly increased since France put a stop to immigration some 20 years ago. Leaving out of the account these infractions of foreigners legislation the part of foreigners in crime figures has remained about the same since 1976, with around 14%. Even this relatively high percentage does not permit linking delinquency to foreigners but rather indicates a correlation between delinquency and other factors. Among the foreigner population in France, young males are over-represented, foreigners are more likely to arouse police interest, they often live in a trying social and family context. Nothing indicates that delinquency is more common among foreigners as compared to French citizens living in similar conditions.

 

Repressive action instead of social solutions

While Mr Pasqua, probably in an effort to draw support from Mr Le Pen,s electorate, went into colourful detail when depicting the allegedly catastrophical state of French internal security, he remained much more vague in presenting his policy of remedy.

Thus, he deplored that "action of the police forces has been made more difficult by the limits set to identity checks...the complexity of procedures...the reform of the code of penal procedure" and announced that he wants to provide the police with the legal means enabling them to efficiently carry out repressive action.

Heavier punishment of recidivist youth delinquents, the changing of those provisions of the reform of the penal procedure which impede efficiency of police investigations (see FECL No.14, p.2), and modification of legislation pertaining to identity checks. Pressure within the new parliamentary majority is growing for a plain removal of all restrictions to random checks.

Identity checks, i.e. the right for the police to stop and eventually hold a person in order to control their identity, has been a frequent subject of heated debate in France since long ago. Critics have labeled such random checks as an encroachment on individual liberty paving the way for arbitrary, discriminatory and racist behaviour of the police and detention without grounds, and have advocated their simple abolition. This led to the introduction of some timid provisions, confirmed by restrictive jurisprudence, limiting the carrying out of random identity checks (see CL No.8, p.6).

The re-introduction of unrestricted random identity checks on the grounds of "general insecurity", would quite obviously make easier the detection of illegal immigrants, but is also likely to result in increased police harassment of persons based on their physical appearance (non-whites, socially marginal people, youth).

Finally, Mr Pasqua denounces the manifest unwillingness of some of the immigration generating countries to take back undocumented deportees from France. The effectivity of deportation measures is to be increased not only by more frequent identity checks but also by exerting diplomatic and economical pressure on those countries - Algeria in particular - which refuse to "co-operate". Such a policy would be very much in line with similar action already introduced by the Spanish government (see CL No.10, p.1).

Mr Pasqua was the first member of the new French government to present his policy program. It remains to be seen, if, after the bellicose rumbling of her colleague, Mrs Simone Veil, named Minister of Social Affairs, will be able to come up with proposals for a more soft and constructive approach of the real problems at the root of crime and insecurity in France: rising unemployment and growing poverty.

In doing so, she could count on the support of Francois Mitterrand. After Mr. Pasqua,s declarations, the President was quick in expressing his "numerous reservations".

 

N.B.

 

Sources: Le Figaro, 5.4.93, 15.4.93; Le Monde, 15.4.93, 16.4.93 (Contrôles d'identité: un débat symbolique, by Anne Chemin; Délinquance: un tableau alarmiste, by Erich Inciyan; Etrangers et violence: un raccourci discutable), Le Monde, 17.4.93.