France denies two Southern activists access to international meeting again

Once again, human right activists were unable to meet due to the closure of EU borders. One delegate from the Malian Organisation of Expelled people (Association Malienne des Expulsés – AME) and a delegate from the Central African Organisation of Removed people in Mali (Association des Refoulés d’Afrique Centrale au Mali – ARACEM) were refused visas by the French authorities [1] and were unable attend the international anti-racist meeting organised by ARCI, Boats 4 People, and the Migreurop network held from 30 June to 2 July 2012 in Cecina (Italy).

These decisions illustrate the arbitrariness of European consulates’ practices as much as the bureaucracy to which third country nationals are daily confronted.

In the case of the ARACEM representative, the consular authorities argued that “the motive and the conditions for the stay were not justification”, that he did have “sufficient means to sustain [himself] during his stay” in Italy, and that his “will to leave the territory...before the visa’s expiring date could not be established”. All of these arguments were false: our colleague had indeed indicated the reason for his journey, the travel costs were taken in charge by Migreurop, and he had booked a return ticket.

The entry of the AME representative was opposed because only “three pages [of his passport] were left.” He was advised to get another passport. However, French consulates have been aware since May that Mali does not issue passports to its nationals, but Economic Community of West African States (ECOWAS) passports instead. These do not permit the issuing of visas based on “a consulate’s decision”, as explained by the French BIM company to which visa management has been outsourced in Mali. Our colleague from the AME had a valid Malian passport but France refused to issue him a visa while BIM rejected his request on the ground that he is an “ECOWAS” passport holder.

Our organisations find such arbitrary practices involving third country citizens scandalous – in particular the actions by the French authorities. They are outraged at the consequences of the European policies which infringe on freedom of movement and so frequently result in preventing citizens from the North and South from meeting.

These two cases will be followed legally in order to pursue justice and obtain remedies for those who were denied visas. It is worth recalling that the “setting-aside” strategy is experienced by thousands of people every day. Under such conditions, it is no surprise that some people - out of necessity – resort to irregular means?

ARCI-Boats 4 People-Migreurop