Activists demand that Air France stops carrying out deportations on its flights (translation of a communique issued by the activists occupying the agency). On January 30th the Air France agency at invalides in Paris has been occupied by more than 20 sans papiers, members of the unions SUD aerien and ALTER (the French pilots union) the action group "droits devant!!" and members of a homeless collective.
This occupation is a response to the violent deaths of Mr Barrentes and Mr Getu Hagos, two sans papiers who where to be deported on Air France flights and who died during these deportations. At least 11 more such fatalities have occurred during the last couple of years in Belgium, the United Kingdom, Austria, Switzerland, and in France.
These tragic deaths highlight the barbaric methods that are used by police officers during the deportations of foreigners, who have either been refused entry into the European territory, are subject to expulsions after a conviction for a crime or have been arrested for being within the territory without the required papers. These deaths first of all shred light on the responsibility of the minister of interior affairs who in order to "come up with figures" by all means provokes violent behavior that is unworthy of any democracy.
They also highlight the unacceptable collaboration of Air France in these practices which collide with its status of a company serving the "national interest".
We are occupying this Air France agency in order to demand:
- That the direction of Air France immediately ceases to carry out all upcoming deportations on its flights as it did in 1998 on the flights to Bamako.
- A real and profound inquiry into these deaths which are not "natural" so that the persons reasonable can be judged and punished. The suspension of the three involved police officers risks to become, as usual, a measure without any consequences.
- The regularization of all sans papiers as this is the single act that can make an end to these tragedies
Pressrelease/Presseaussendung of/von National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns (NCADC)/GB
France: Two deportation deaths in one month
By Liz Fekete, Institute of Race Relations
The French Interior Ministry has announced that it intends to increase the rate of deportations, which have fallen in recent years. But, in the last month, two attempted deportations from France have ended in loss of life.
Ricardo Barrientos * Undocumented Argentinean national
* Aged 54
* Died 30 December 2002, France
* Official cause of death: cardiac arrest
Case details: On 30 December 2002, at Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport, Ricardo Barrientos, an undocumented Argentinean national, was taken on board an aircraft bound for Buenos Aires by two officers from the French border police. He was placed in the rear section of the craft with his hands cuffed behind his back. According to the police, the deportation was carried out in accordance with normal procedures. When the Argentinian resisted deportation, the deportation officers forced his upper body onto his legs and his head between his knees, at the same time as restraining his arms. On discovering that Mr Barrientos had fainted, medical emergency personnel were called. Later, police issued a statement claiming that Barrientos" death was due to a cardiac arrest and natural causes.
However, the National Association for Assistance to Foreigners at the Borders claims that eye-witness accounts contradict the police"s version of events. Refugee support groups say that death was due to the unnatural position in which they deportee was forced. Amnesty International (AI) says that "existing expert advice on postural asphyxia has proved that handcuffing a person behind their back can restrict their ability to breathe, while any weight applied to the back in this position - such as pressure applied by a police officer - can increase breathing difficulty further".
Action taken: An inquiry by the public prosecutor of Bobigny is ongoing. AI has called for its results to be made public and demanded a full and impartial investigation into the circumstances of Ricardo Barrientos" death.
Mariame Getu Hagos * Undocumented Ethiopian national
* Aged 25
* Died 18 January 2003, France
* No official cause of death yet given.
Case details: On 16 January, Mariame Getu Hagos died after being taken ill on board an aircraft awaiting departure to Johannesburg from Roissy-Charles de Gaulle airport. According to reports, Mariame Getu Hagos, an Ethiopian, had arrived in France five days earlier from South Africa, and was placed in the waiting area at Roissy. After his application for asylum was rejected, the authorities sought to deport him to Johannesburg. However, he refused to board the plane, saying that he was ill. The doctor who examined him on two occasions claimed that he was feigning illness and malingering. But, after his death, a doctor attached to the emergency medical services said that the Somalian"s condition should have been taken more seriously.
Deemed fit to leave, another attempt was made to force the Somalian to board the flight. Mariame Getu Hagos was accompanied onto the aircraft by three frontier (PAF) police officers, placed at the rear of the aircraft. He was handcuffed and his feet shackled. According to the interior ministry, before take-off the Ethiopian, whose handcuffs had been removed, again made efforts to resist deportation and was restrained by the "customary techniques". The police are alleged to have bent him over his seat, his hands on his shoulder blades, his torso pinned against his knees. According to flight crew members, a half hour after boarding, Mariame Getu Hagos was inanimate and inert. He was then removed from his seat and attempts were made to resuscitate him. He was taken, in a coma, to hospital, where he died two days later. An interior ministry spokesperson has since acknowledged that "the immobilising techniques employed by the police escort may have contributed to the asphyxiation and the death of this man".
Action taken: An investigation by the public prosecutor of Bobigny has been opened. Three police officers have been suspended, pending the results of this investigation. Amnesty International has called for a full and impartial investigation into the causes of Mariame Getu Hagos" death.