IIs using children to fight for abode in France

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 October, 2002, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 October, 2002, 12:00am

Chinese living illegally in France are using their children in their attempts to obtain legal status, a report said yesterday.

The Global Times also said Chinese immigrants were becoming less and less afraid of being arrested by police because forced repatriations had declined.

It said about 90,000 Chinese lived illegally in France, 80,000 of them from Zhejiang province, in particular the cities of Wenzhou and Qingtian, and the rest from the three provinces in the northeast.

Early last month, eight Chinese children under the age of 18 presented themselves at a police station outside Paris and demanded political asylum. Chinese account for one-third of the 1,000 such children who apply for asylum in France each year, hoping to take advantage of laws that are more liberal towards minors than adults.

However, the report said these children had been coached by their parents on how to proceed. If a child is granted asylum, all the members of his or her family will then apply for legal status.

For the first time, Chinese have been playing a prominent role in a movement of demonstrations and protests by sans-papiers, those without legal papers, that started this summer.

Chinese accounted for half of the 600 illegal immigrants who took part in a street march in Paris on September 13. Previously, Chinese were too afraid of arrest and deportation to take part in such protests.

What has changed their minds is the perception that French police are deporting fewer and fewer illegal immigrants, because the number of people arriving from Africa, the Middle East and Asia has increased substantially and the procedures for deportation are complex and time-consuming.

Another factor is that Chinese do not want to miss out on an amnesty for illegal immigrants if the government decides to grant one.

In March 1981, Chinese accounted for only a fraction of the 132,000 immigrants to win legal status. In 1992, 12,000 Chinese immigrants obtained legal status and in 1997 and 1998 a further 8,000.

Those smuggled by land usually travel to France via the former Soviet Union and Yugoslavia to Italy and other EU countries, while those coming by sea cross the South China Sea, the Indian Ocean and the Mediterranean to land in Italy or Marseilles.

The difference between Chinese and other illegal immigrants is that the snakeheads who bring them arrange housing and a job for them in a restaurant or illegal factory. One said that when he came 10 years ago, he worked 15 hours a day for 2,000 euros (HK$15,300) a week and within two years was able to recoup the money he paid to be smuggled in.

Many illegal immigrants live a twilight existence, afraid to go out for fear of being arrested or robbed by those who know they cannot report crimes to the police.