Law in France


(Roger Sceats) #1

A powerful recent French film, ‘Welcome’, concerns ‘clandestins’ in the Calais area trying to migrate to England, in sharp contrast to the interests of most of the readers of this website. As someone who knows very little of the French legal system, I was struck not only by the way it portrayed the French police as aggressive to the point of intimidation and brutality - that perhaps can be shown anywhere - but that it was said to be a legal offence even to aid a refugee by offering accommodation. [The hero of the film grudgingly befriends a young Iraki who in desperation starts training in the local swimming baths to swim the Channel to his beloved in England, and provides a bed for the night once or twice.].



Does anyone know if there is such a law in France? As a lawyer my interests do not run so wide, although as a concerned person I was shocked by the casual illegality of the French authorities as painted in the film. But of course the summary deportations of the Roma last summer [like the French, citizens of the European Community] was striking too.


(Roger Sceats) #2

Ricky, that is a very interesting report but on my reading of it there was financial gain: the defence says he ‘did what he did to keep his business going’. I think there is a big difference - moral and legal - between employing an illegal immigrant and providing humanitarian assistance, and it is the attack on the latter that incenses me and persuades me it would be illegal as well! But I quite agree that no country has a monopoly on police brutality and the Tomlinson is not the only one which gives us great concern in the UK. Roger


(Ricky Myles) #3

Hi Roger: I think you are right that the French police certainly can’t be singled out when it comes to aggressive behaviour. The case of Ian Tomlinson being but one example of such in the UK. On the question of ‘aiding and abetting’ an illegal immigrant, whilst the UK and the Irish Republic did not sign up to the Schengen agreement, certain elements of Schengen became part of UK law via the EU. It is an offence in the UK to aid an illegal immigrant by offering accommodation. As luck would have it a case on this very topic was recently reported in our Scottish ‘local’ paper which a friend mails to us. Given that there would appear to have been no financial benefit and that it appears to be a first offence of its kind, I was quite surprised at the severity of the sentence.


(Roger Sceats) #4

Dear Guillaume

Thanks for your very interesting guidance. My own approach here would be to say that casual accommodation is not the same as unlawful entry or residence, and so outside the 'mischief' legislated against, and even more significantly, that European Convention rights would be triggered if the French courts did not take such an approach. I imagine - and hope - this may now one of the many thousands of causes waiting to be heard in Strasbourg?

Roger


(Guillaume Barlet-Batada) #5

Dear Roger,

I am afraid that this is no legal fiction and the Code of entry and residence of foreigners is a reality reinforced by recent laws (2006 and 2010). I have no expertise on this apect of French law (I am a lawyer specialised in French property, inheritance and tax matters) and can only refer you to the aforementioned code (art. L. 622-1 to L. 622-10). Article L.622-1: "Any person who, by direct or indirect assistance, facilitates or attempts to facilitate the unlawful entry, movement or residence of a foreigner in France will be punished by imprisonment for five years and a fine of 30 000 Euros.

Shall be punished with the same punishment the one who, whatever his nationality, commits the crime defined in the first paragraph of this article while he was on the territory of a State party to the Schengen Convention 19th June 1990 other than France.

Shall be punished with the same punishment the one that will ease or attempt to facilitate the unlawful entry, movement or residence of a foreigner on the territory of another State Party to the Convention signed in Schengen on 19th June 1990.

Shall be punished with the same punishment the one that will ease or attempt to facilitate the unlawful entry, movement or residence of a foreigner on the territory of a State party to the protocol against the smuggling of migrants by land, sea and air in addition to the UN Convention against transnational organized crime, signed in Palermo on 12th December 2000.

The provisions of the preceding paragraph are applicable in France at the date of publication in the Official Gazette of the French Republic of this protocol."

The other articles are equally interesting to read and I would be happy to provide a translation if you wish.

Kind regards,

Guillaume