Blog post

Communiqué from the Occupation of Paris-8, Facing Imminent Eviction

The refugees, migrants, sans-papiers, and people in solidarity occupying Paris-8 University to demand documents and housing for all denounce the manipulations of the French state. 

Verso Books18 June 2018

Communiqué from the Occupation of Paris-8, Facing Imminent Eviction

This text from the occupants of Paris-8 University was first published in French. See more on the occupation hereThe latest information from sources in Paris indicates that police are likely to begin attempting an eviction of the Paris-8 occupation early Tuesday morning. 

We — refugees, migrants, sans-papiers, and people in solidarity ­— have been occupying building A of the University Paris-8 since Tuesday 30th January 2018. Our demands have been clear: documents and housing for all. On Saturday 19th April 2018, in the third month of the mobilisation, the president of the University, Annick Allaigre, announced that, according to the supervising ministries [ministères de tutelles] with whom she had begun negotiations, all the occupants would get documents and housing. One and half months later, the president informed us that the negotiations were a failure and told us to leave the university by Sunday 17th June. In the circumstances, we denounce the manipulations of the presidency’s supervising ministries.

Against the individualising logics of asylum law, which sorts the "good" migrants from the "bad," which it locks up and deports, and against the criminal Dublin regulations, we decided to form a front. Our strategy was that of collective struggle to push the balance of power against the racist institutions of the French state. We protested a number of times outside the prefecture in Bobigny for a meeting with the Prefect of Seine-Saint-Denis, so as to submit a dossier for collective regularisation, refusing the administrative sorting of good from bad migrants. Since the beginning of this mobilisation, we have formed alliances with The Collective of Sans-Papier (CSP), and many other collectives (notably anti-racist and queer feminist) in the region, also with students, elected representatives, artists, and academics…The social movement this spring, which struggled against all aspects of the neoliberal reforms put in place by the government, strengthened our solidarity movement through the numerous occupations at other universities and the occupation of another building at Paris-8.

Over the course of this occupation, we have practised political and legal self-defense: we formed groups to accompany those going to meetings at the prefecture in which they were at risk, we politicised questions around health, we demonstrated outside the Mesnil-Amelot detention centre to free a comrade who had been shut up there for three weeks. While Annick Allaigre shut her university for four days because of so-called problems with the central heating and brandished the threat of eviction during the trêve hivernale [a winter "truce" where no evictions are authorised], we organised a protest gathering several hundred people which put an end to the possibility of an eviction. For four and a half months, we maintained a building in which up to 150 people of different nationalities lived. We were organizing so as to make the regularisation of the migrants of Paris-8 the concrete example in the struggle against the racist and criminal migration politics of the European Union and France. During this struggle, the migrants at Paris-8 have conducted their own political combat and demanded their rights. The negotiations and general assemblies were conducted in 5 languages through translations.

In light of this mobilisation and at the height of the social movement, the president, alongside a "committee of mediation," informed us that the supervising ministries (The Ministry of Higher Education and Research, and the Interior Ministry) were going to regularize all of the occupants. There was only one condition: that there was silence about these negotiations. They needed to avoid creating a precedent which might encourage the dozens of other occupied universities in France to host refugees and demand for papers.

While we acknowledged the initiatives of the presidency, our reaction to this "victory" was clear-minded. This was the result of a struggle within the University, and beyond, as it was at the height of the social movement. It was under no circumstances a gift. So we were sceptical. There had been too many intermediaries separating us from the decision-makers: "the committee of mediation," the president of the university, the prefect, and finally the ministries. Each of these mediating bodies prevented clear and direct negotiations in which we could have concentrated all our energy. Nevertheless, after several general assemblies, we took the collective decsision to give a list of the occupants names to the president, which she would transfer to the ministries, so as to proceed with the regularisations. This was despite the known risk of all of us being put on file, which had kept us from handing over our confidential list for some months.

Following that, we waited for news from the president, who had since gone worringly quiet. It then became clear that the authorities were making us wait so as to weaken us and then reject our claims. This is, indeed, what happened a few months later, at a conjuncture much more favourable to the government, when the social movement has tired out and only a few rare occupations remain.

Paris-8 University celebrates hypocritically the cinquentenary of Vincennes, created after May ’68. While it is here that sixty-eighters created the Group of Information and Support for Immigrants (GISTI) and supported the sans-papiers struggles, today, they put us on the street without a solution. A minor consolation, that shows the voluntarism of the presidency: we obtained from the University the promise to enroll around 30 migrants at Paris-8 for the year 2018-19.

Like a gift for Eïd, the ministries, the prefecture, and the president of the university want to see us gone before the 17th June 2018 and thus to send us back onto the street. This eviction would take place whilst all the camps around Paris have been destroyed in the last few days and those who refuse to board the police buses are being rounded up and chased in the streets. In this context, it makes no difference if one is forced back onto the street or if the police are sent to the university. In either case, it’s a sentence to police violence which follows four months of contempt and political manipulation.

The political maneuvering which ensnared us has meant that the state now has a list of 146 refugees, migrants, and sans-papiers who participated for a number of months in an illegal occupation. At this moment, as the racist politics of the French state are radicalising (the voting in of the recent Asylum and Immigration Law, police evacuations of the remaining Parisien camps in the last few days, and daily raids at Jaurès, la Villette, la Chappelle, etc), this list puts the migrants of Paris-8 at great risk.

Every level of the state has collaborated here, from Gérard Collomb and the ministries, to the prefecture and including the manipulation by the administration at the university. Stretching from the top to the bottom of the state, there has been a single racist spine acting against the migrants of Paris-8 University.

The short video below was produced by some of those occupying Paris-8 and posted to the Ici la voix des réfugiés YouTube channel. 

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Filed under: france, immigration-and-asylum