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Racial profiling and anti-poor byelaws: the French Human Rights League successfully challenges an anti-begging byelaw

An anti-chiffonnage (literally anti-"rag-and-bone activities") byelaw was adopted on 21 October 2011 by a French municipality, Nogent-sur-Marne in the southeast of Paris. It replaced a previous byelaw that had been adopted on 5 October 2011 prohibiting "scavenging" in public bins (fine of 38 Euros). [1] The anti-chiffonnage byelaw was suspended by the Administrative Court of Melun on 22 November 2011 after the Human Rights League launched a successful simplified appeal procedure: this leads to the temporary suspension of a decision, until a more in-depth investigation and decision is made by the Tribunal. [2]

Anti-begging byelaws have been adopted by different municipalities in the past few months in France. Human rights associations have denounced the resulting stigmatisation of certain social classes and minority groups. In Paris, the Police Prefecture has prohibited begging on the Champs Elysées Avenue, in a byelaw dated 16 July 2011 applicable until 6 January 2012, following a request by the Ministry of Interior, Claude Guéant. In a speech in September 2011, Guéant identified Romanian "delinquency" as a priority issue since it allegedly represented 10% of the cases brought before the Parisian courts. [3]

In early August, the mayor of La Madeleine (north of France, close to Lille), Sébastien Leprêtre, prohibited any gathering of people "in a prolonged and abusive manner", as well as sitting and lying on the main streets, between 1st August and 1st October 2011. A second byelaw had been issued prohibiting scavenging activities, with the byelaw being translated into Romanian and Bulgarian: it was argued that "no one shall ignore the law." [4] The legality of both byelaws was challenged before the Administrative Court of Lille after the Human Rights League lodged a complaint on 31 August 2011. [5] In Marseille, on 17 October 2011 (which is the International Day of Fights Against Poverty), an anti-begging byelaw has been adopted by the municipality. [6]

These byelaws are adopted regularly by some local authorities, especially during the summer when many tourists are visiting. They bear a striking resemblance to a byelaw that London's Westminster Council tried, and failed, to pass in the summer of 2011 (see http://www.statewatch.org/news/2011/apr/02uk-westminster-homeless.htm).
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[1] Nogent prend un arrêté anti-glanage dans les poubelles

[2] Nogent-sur-Marne: morne plaine pour les pauvres!

[3] Les imprécisions de Claude Guéant sur la délinquance roumaine; Claud Guéant s'attaque à la délinquance roumaine

[4] La Madeleine: L'arrêté anti-mendicité divise la population

[5] La Madeleine: Arrêtés anti-menidicité inapplicables pour la LDH

[6] Arrêtés anti-mendicité à Marseille: des manifestants sous les fenêtres du maire


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