I went for a little manifest yesterday because I am more than a little peed off with the French government this week.
We returned from holiday to discover that the mother of one of La Fille's classmates has been threatened with expulsion from France at the end of the month. She has done nothing wrong but her "carte de séjour" (permission to stay) is not being renewed. The letter informing her that she has until the end of the month to leave the country came as something of a shock as she has lived and worked legally in France for ten years.
It counts for nothing, it seems, that she has her own fashion business on which she stumps up the required taxes and charges and a small shop on which she pays rent, or that she speaks French or that her daughter who she is bringing up alone was born in France, has never lived anywhere else than France and started at a French school last September.
I am not quite sure what more this now anxious and terrified poor woman has to do to fulfil the requirements of "integration" into French society and neither is she. I suspect there is actually nothing she can do because it's not personal but political. Last year the French government expelled a record 29,796 "illegal immigrants". Brice Hortefeux the then immigration minister declared he was "very proud" of this. For 2009 the target is 26,000: this young mum is a number, nothing more. And because she is not what they call a "clandestine" but has been in France legally, worked legally, paid her taxes, schooled her child she is on the administration's books and consequently easy to find and shove on a plane back to a country she no longer calls home and that was never home to her child. And this in France, which never fails to remind the world that it is the cradle of human rights.
But this is France and nothing is ever quite as simple as it seems. Off I went to manifest. My friends and fellow journalists and I stood on the corner of the street with our banner waiting to join the march at the appropriate moment. We let half a dozen groups go by, we let the teachers go by, we let a small lorry blasting out the Italian anti-fascist song Bella Ciao go by then, because we had waited an hour and the banner was heavy, we decided to join the fray...and promptly broke the unwritten rules of street marching etiquette. So much for solidarity. All I can say is if you are ever tempted to join a French march, make sure you ask permission first. "You can't march here," said one placard waver sniffily. "Go somewhere else. You're pushing in."
Bloody hell. Would you credit it. Pushing in...hmmm, I'll remember that next time I see a French queue.