After the gilets noirs occupied the Panthéon on July 12, the undocumented migrants’ collective found themselves surrounded and even outright trampled on by the police. Some of those arrested were handed “compulsory orders to leave French territory”; fifteen of them were detained, awaiting their expulsion.
But that wasn’t the whole story. This young movement of sans-papiers, which arose in November 2018 with the demand for mass regularizations, had long remained in a media blind spot. Now it claimed a “victory.”
This was, firstly, a “legal victory.” The fifteen people who were detained were all freed, thanks to the aid of a pool of “anti-repression” lawyers who had been mobilized in advance of the action. One participant was called back before the courts for “public indecency.”
But this was, above all, a “political victory.” For years, it seemed that undocumented workers’ struggles had been rendered invisible, as public debate instead polarized around the refugee question — that is, the matter of who had the right to asylum and who had what Interior Minister Christophe Castaner called the “vocation” to get back on the plane home.