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"The law of France must be respected"

In the past few weeks, the prefecture of Gironde has proved very keen on chasing irregular migrants, sometimes with no respect for the legal procedures and judicial decisions made. This has been denounced by the magistrates' trade union.

Patrick Stefanini is the prefect in Gironde (the South West region of France). He was originally appointed in 2005 as the head of the inter-ministerial committee of immigration control, and given the task of reworking French immigration policy. The Minister of Interior who appointed him at the time was Nicolas Sarkozy, the current President of the French Republic. Mr Stefanini contributed a lot to the now well-known concepts of "chosen versus unchosen immigration", and the creation of a Ministry of Immigration. In 2008, he became the Secretary General of the Ministry of Immigration, as recalled in the volume Cette France-là, vol.2.

On 29th July 2011 Gothra Bhupinder Singh, an Indian citizen living in Italy, was arrested in Bordeaux (the capital of the Gironde district), while he was buying a train ticket to Italy. He was arrested on the basis of a deportation order apparently issued against him. However, he was put in custody, contrary to the European Court of Justice (ECJ) decision of 28th April 2011 which ruled that depriving someone of liberty on the sole ground of him/her being irregular was illegal. The "judge of the freedoms" (Juge des Libertés) therefore decided he should be released. Nevetherless, upon exiting the tribunal, it was decided by the administration of the prefecture that Mr. Singh should be detained again. On the 1st August 2011, he was deported to Italy by plane.

The prefecture declared this mistake was the result of "a very exceptional dysfunctioning". Still, the prefecture appealed against the decision of the Juge des Libertés to release Mr Singh (a decision which anyway had not been respected by the prefecture). Bizarrely, the appeal was lodged after Mr Singh had been removed to Italy. Mr Singh's lawyer had lodged a complaint for "arbitrary confinement".

On 9 August, 2011, two Sudanese nationals were arrested in Bordeaux train station and put in custody for being irregular. Their case has been referred to the Juge des Libertés in the hope that their detention order will be canceleed. However, before the judge could actually visit the two detainees, they were removed back to the Italian border.

Translated by Marie Martin, French original available posted 22nd August 2011 at Section du Toulon de la LDH.

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