Graffiti on a wall in Paris
By Aaron Lakoff
It’s a Tuesday evening in Paris, and in the predominantly immigrant neighbourhood of Belleville, people from all corners of the world are crowding into the metro station. Tension is high tonight; for many, this ride home could be their last in France.
Outside the turnstiles of the metro, a small group of people have gathered to call out warnings to those entering the station. “Attention sans-papiers! There are police in the metro!” Down on the platform, a unit of French police officers are doing a random check of people’s immigration documents. Those who are in the country illegally can be swept up right away, put in detention, and then eventually deported. These immigration sweeps in public places have become a common occurrence in France over the last year, and for many undocumented migrants in French President Nicolas Sarkozy’s republic, the country is no longer seen as the terre d’accueil, or “land of welcome” it has so long promoted itself to be.