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"I published these texts on Mediapart, like a logbook. To remember the past, which is forgotten and repeated."

Celine Aho-Nienne

Why you should not ask for political asylum in France

October 29, 2013

I worked 2 years as a protection officer. I was 25 years old and I decided the fate of asylum seekers from countries where I had never set foot: Sri Lanka, Tibet, China, Mongolia, Pakistan, India, Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Afghanistan…


The meager documentation made available by the Office was not enough for me to realize all the complexity, the magic, the tormented sky of each country. How can you imagine these distant exotic lands in front of your computer screen shamefully displaying a “google” search page? The Office didn't care. We all had a university degree, wrote a thesis on this or that country, 

completed internships abroad, sometimes even a foreign spouse. This is what our legitimacy was based on. We were young graduates and we had to be "officers", good little soldiers...


I had before me asylum seekers, men and women who had gone through life and experienced exile from their country for political or economic reasons. The Office wanted me to sort them. Those who came to France for the first reason could claim refugee status (10-year residence permit) or subsidiary protection (renewable 1-year residence permit). Those who were migrants 

economics had to be rejected. I had to, after selecting their written file, question them during a confidential interview.


I only had 2 hours to find out the “truth”. Like a doctor facing his patient, the disease had to be diagnosed: imaginary or real? Reason for leaving the country: political or economic? The scene might seem ridiculous: a young girl, whose only CV was her freshly obtained diploma, typing on her keyboard the answers of an elderly man with a worn smile. Would you trust a first-year medical student to screen you for cancer? The ticking of the clock indicated the countdown: you have 50 minutes left to prove to me that you are sick and that I can save you.


Depending on their level of French, the interpreters translated my questions more or less faithfully. I was torn with a thousand doubts. How to establish a dialogue of trust through a third party? How to judge the spontaneity of responses with non-simultaneous translation? More pragmatically, how could such a short question in French be so long in Tamil? 

My perplexity had not stopped growing since  the day when I had surprised the Tibetan interpreter in flagrante delicto. She would prompt interviewed asylum seekers with the correct answers when she was translating. How can you blame him, when to verify the nationality of the Tibetans, the Office asked me to make them say a few words in Chinese like “school” or “family book”?


When I went back to my office, I was working on the computer document. I was alone in front of my computer screen.

No one had read or signed the minutes. The asylum seeker had made a deposition of his story, without having checked its content.


I therefore had to propose a positive or negative decision, which would definitively change the destiny of the asylum seeker. The Office did not give me time for reflection or consultation with my colleagues. I had been hired on a fixed-term contract to “create numbers”. This time, the ticking of the clock applied to me, indicating the countdown: I had 60 minutes left to decide the fate of the 

asking for asylum. My colleagues assured me that with experience, I would acquire a gift essential to our profession: personal conviction.

This indescribable feeling felt when an asylum seeker lies.


This countdown had become an obsession. We always had to make more numbers. Processing an asylum application, which took an average of 18 months, was too long. The Office no longer took the time to summon asylum seekers to hear them. They were dismissed without maintenance. The sorting had become rough. Strangely, the Office relied entirely on my informed judgment for rejections. I was never summoned to discuss the case of a patient whom I had labeled "imaginary patient". Never.


Asylum seekers no longer had the right to make mistakes when filling out their administrative booklet. If their written account was made up of a few disjointed flanges, I had to reject their file for "summary and not very detailed remarks". 

If their story related yet another brawl between political opponents, I had to dismiss them for "stereotyped and impersonal remarks". I became a rejection machine and I tirelessly scoured the dictionary of synonyms looking for negative terms to justify the refusal: insufficiently explicit, incoherent, arguments without much conviction... I forgot that these words would arrive by post to a person who would read them with tears in his eyes.


Depending on the country, the granting of refugee status was more or less accessible. 

The Tibetans? Difficulty level 1/10. They articulated a few words in Chinese and placed town names on the map: political refugee. 

A female Tamil senior? Difficulty level: 2/10. Among colleagues, this was called "an isolated old woman in case of return to the country." 

Young Tamils? Difficulty level: 5/10. The context of ethnic conflict was delicate. The Office moved cautiously. 

The Armenians? Difficulty level: 10/10. The Office had recently classified Armenia as a safe country. 

The Bangladeshis? Level  difficulty 100/10. The agreements had to be approved by the Chief and the Grand Chief. 

Asylum seekers were not equal to each other. Their word was not valid.


The Office was grateful to its good little soldiers. Those who reached their figure were rewarded with a bonus or a new fixed-term contract. The new arrivals trembled. It was at this time that I applied to be transferred to the antenna of Basse Terre, in Guadeloupe. I changed continents, far from the great cold of Val de Fontenay, full of hope.

Haitian asylum seekers tormented my mind. The terrible earthquake had taken place a few months earlier. In the boxes corresponding to their marital status, children's writing traced the word "deceased" behind: father, mother, siblings, spouse, children. The word "deceased" was repeated as many times as there had been dead relatives. They told me that they didn't want to go back to "Haiti darling" because they had become orphans there. The turquoise sea shone in the reflection of the window and I was cold.


They invoked the earthquake and I told them that their asylum request did not correspond to the scope of the Geneva Convention. They weren't lying. They weren't trying to evade my questions. They had not learned any text by heart. They were desperately honest, as if humbly expecting to be rewarded by Heaven. However, telling the truth, their file would quickly be rejected, they would have little chance in the event of an appeal before the National Court of the Right of Asylum and their temporary residence permit would not be renewed. They would then become expelled. Did they understand this?


I realized that I wanted them to tell me stories, falling within legal criteria. I who, a few months earlier, begged the Bangladeshis to spare me their hastily bought political stories in a Paris alley. I had the truth, the death of their loved ones, the trauma linked to these places where each stone reminded them of the face of a loved one. And yet, they continued to call their country "honey Haiti".


Then, my mind bent under the weight of the ghosts' faces. The Office had not prepared me for this. Nothing had been planned for the nightmares of good little soldiers. 


Haiti was a bewitched land that fascinated me even in my nights. I could see this father modestly caressing the photos of his deceased children. I was worried about this mother who lived alone in a container near the port. I thought back to this young girl terrorized by voodoo spells, who had jumped the sea to pursue it as far as Guadeloupe. How could they be told that their suffering would never allow them to obtain the protection of France? That voodoo and other magical tales were not considered persecution? Imaginary or real, their illness was there. This time, I was powerless and my "innermost conviction" was no longer of any use to me.


Political asylum was just Russian roulette. I resigned.


Why the OFPRA doctrine should not be disclosed

February 7, 2018

I had turned the page on OFPRA when Clio Simon contacted me about his film project. I wasn't sure I could help her. I had already written what I had to say in an article “Why you should not ask for political asylum in France”. And then I hadn't been a good little soldier for more than five years. She reassured me: “It's not the precise facts that matter to me but the memories you have of them. » 

This sentence has not left me and I wrote him the following text:


I remember my first day at OFPRA. At the reception, the secretary hands me a badge and says to me: “Wear it immediately. You could be confused with the others, the asylum seekers”. I don't get it right away then I understand that it refers to my foreign facies.


The first interview I attend is that of an Armenian who claims to have been persecuted in Russia. My colleague proceeds to a real interrogation on the geography of the country. Since she can't answer any questions, he doesn't take the time to listen to her story. Her logic is implacable: if she lies about her geographical origin, why would he study her file? For him, it's obvious, flawless.

On the return trip in the RER, I pick up my badge. The wagon is full of asylum seekers. Now, nothing distinguishes me from them. My stomach knots. I start learning the stations of the RER A line by heart, lest my colleague raise doubts about my nationality. I don't know why, instead of visualizing myself in the place of the protection officer, I projected myself into the features of the asylum seeker.


For two months, I observe the interviews of my colleagues. It is learning on the job, by imitation of practices. We are taught to ask objective questions: on geography, on the chronology of political events, on the names of personalities… This allows us to check the consistency of the asylum seeker's statements. But in the end, there is little interest in the veracity of the statements. What counts is the conviction with which he formulates his answers. To grant refugee status, one does not ask oneself: “Is this a true story? but "Was I convinced?" Did he convince me? My boss often repeats to me: "Trust your intimate conviction, this indescribable feeling felt when an asylum seeker lies".


Very quickly, I realize that I have little or no means of verifying the facts alleged by an asylum seeker. I don't have time to do documentary research to cross-check information. No, this is all too time consuming and time is precious.

I was hired to destock. I have to make two decisions a day. The renewal of my CDD is conditioned by the imperative to make "my figure". A rejection is very quick to write. It is a “copy and paste”: “The statements of the person concerned remained vague and stereotyped”. Unlike an agreement for which you have to write a constructed argument. Intimate conviction is better suited to rejection.

The Geneva Convention appears on each of our decisions. It allows us to believe that we demonstrate objectivity in the processing of asylum applications. Thanks to it, we are specialist technicians, agents of the State with discretionary power. It reassures us of our legitimacy in judging the lives of asylum seekers. In his name, I question men and women tried by exile from their country. I question them, myself, from the height of my twenty-five years and my administrative sufficiency. I sort them “objectively”. Those who come for political reasons can claim refugee status. Those who come for economic reasons must be rejected. There are the “good refugees” and the others.


Article 1 of the Geneva Convention states that "the term 'refugee' applies to any person who has a well-founded fear of being persecuted on account of his race, religion, nationality, membership of a certain social group or political opinions". 


I'm wondering. How can we measure the rationality of a fear? This may be rational for some and irrational for others. What is persecution? I receive asylum seekers sincerely convinced of being victims of voodoo spells, handicapped by physical and psychological trauma. However, France does not recognize black magic as constituting persecution within the meaning of the Geneva Convention. 


The second part of the refugee definition is very specific. A number of criteria are set out: race, religion, nationality, social group, political opinion. So many little boxes in which the lives of exiles must bend. A colleague used to say that a good refugee is a refugee who is already dead. 


At OFPRA, we hide behind the Geneva Convention by setting it up as a sacred legal text. However, it is not a legal text. It is the fruit of negotiations between states which imagined, invented, fantasized the image of the refugee in the context of the Cold War. The signatory countries have defined the refugee as being an individual persecuted by a totalitarian regime. They dismissed the question of economic violence, persecution linked to the sex or sexual orientation of the victims...


My colleagues do not deny my point of view. Sometimes they even share it, but they immediately hasten to close the breach that disturbs the comfort of their quiet routine. Do we not say: "You can wake someone who is sleeping but not someone who is pretending to

sleep ? » 


They prefer to believe that they have discretionary power. They follow the only road traced by the hierarchy, thinking that they have chosen it. In reality, their field of possibilities is reduced to the field of possibilities decided by OFPRA. But as long as these two elements merge, the mirage of discretionary power is made possible. To make this illusion last as long as possible, they avoid contradicting their hierarchy. They behave like good little soldiers, because deep down they know that they do not have the power to impose respect for their decision on their leader. Such is the guarantee of the duration of the mirage.


After a year, I have come to the conclusion that OFPRA is a huge collaborative legal fiction. There are imitated practices, shared automatisms, a common representation of the figure of the “good refugee”. This is the “doxa”: recognizing a refugee is based on the mode of evidence for all. The doctrine of the OFPRA forms the unconscious of professional training: an office of imaginary refugees.


I begin to become bitter when I realize that asylum seekers are not equal to each other.  The doctrine states that the degree of requirement to obtain political asylum varies according to the nationality of the applicant. On a sheet, I draw a graph with some data to demonstrate my thesis. I show it to my boss. He contemplates it in silence, without contradicting me, without reassuring me. I realize then that I am right.


It was at this time that I decided to go into exile at the OFPRA branch in Basse-Terre, Guadeloupe. It's the shock with Haiti: the orphans of the earthquake and their ghosts. Nothing is planned for the nightmares of good little soldiers. My intimate conviction is no longer of any use to me. I no longer want to participate in this fiction. I resign. 


I only have one thing in mind: to come back. Three months later, I landed on Grande Terre at the Retention Center  Administrative des Abymes. The CRA is a prison where undocumented migrants are locked up awaiting their deportation. This is now my new workplace. I am a legal advisor for Cimade, an association for the defense of migrants. Guadeloupe is the first French department to resume deportation of Haitians after the earthquake. A cholera epidemic is raging in Port au Prince. The Prefect doesn't really care. Haiti is just an island on a map for him. 


I must assert the rights of the detainees before the competent courts. Are they parents of French children? French themselves? What were their conditions of arrest? I have to hurry because the planes for Haiti and the boats for Dominica leave every day and no legal recourse is suspensive. 


I work for a whole year, without ever filing a dilatory asylum application with OFPRA. I realize that I had a hard time talking about it… It's just after Christmas. The police captain enters my office without knocking and with a smirk, she tells me: "I don't think you have much longer." I read the fax she hands me: "You have been summoned before the Public Service Ethics Commission for the incompatibility of your previous and current professional functions." The sentence is crude, without a polite formula. 


I arrive in Paris in a glass and steel building. A dozen senior officials scrutinize me. OFPRA's HRD presented its indictment in my absence. So I don't know what I'm being charged with. I spread out my certificates on the desk: letters from lawyers, association leaders, the pastor of Guadeloupe guaranteeing my moral integrity. Very quickly, I understand that they are not interested. The President says: 

“You know the OFPRA system perfectly, you worked there for two years. Today, you could provide illegals with tips. You could help them challenge the decisions of the administration. You might…”  I still don't get it. What are my crimes? Why does he use verbs conjugated in the conditional? Am I charged with hypothetical crimes? 

As I really do not understand, someone seated to the right of the President leans towards me: "What we are trying to make you understand is that your current professional duties pose a real concern given your past as protection officer. Guadeloupe is a small island. You understand ? » 


When you work in the public service, whether you are a civil servant or a contractor, the State has the right to look at your professional career for three years. He can oppose any other job you have. It's written nowhere on the employment contract. This is an unspoken rule. 


February 15, 2012 is the only date I remember exactly. The police captain brandishes a letter: “I have just received the decision. Take your clicks and your slaps. Leave immediately”. The sentence falls like a cleaver:“Ban on all contact with asylum seekers and OFPRA staff in Guadeloupe for a period of three years. » 


This sanction makes me understand that I should not have tried to understand the OFPRA doctrine. That doesn't concern good little soldiers.


Through the window of the plane taking me back to France, the island is no more than a floating point on the horizon. The clouds are closing in on my memories. The administration decided my fate, as I decided that of hundreds of asylum seekers.

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See what you don't want to see

April 16, 2019

Clio Simon won the Tënk prize for his film “Is it a true story telling? ». I hope that tomorrow everyone who has seen it will understand that the asylum application is a huge legal fiction.Jean-Louis Comolli, director, screenwriter and writer, addressed these few words to Clio Simon about his film “Is it a true story telling? » :


“Dear Clio, I saw your film which I (obviously) find very remarkable and astonishing. The soundtrack (which is there to hang on to) is very beautiful. The few shots where you show buildings, passageways, etc. are also very beautiful. I won't say anything more about the long beaches of black, which are self-sufficient and whose relevance, if we see each other one day, I would discuss. What to do with what you don't want or can't show? Movies, please! It's always a bit of frustrating the viewer. To re-teach him his infirmity at the heart of the illusory power of “seeing”. (...) »


This blind infirmity, I felt it when I lived through the events that happened to me. When Clio's film was shown, all of a sudden the facts made sense. Previously jumbled together in a desolate mess, the pieces of the puzzle miraculously came together. I could lose my memory one day, my story was written on a black screen.


It all started in October 2013. I wrote in one go, like a letter to a friend. Then I posted the ticket. It was my first article. It was entitled “Why you should not ask for political asylum in France. There were reactions, comments, encouragement. I answered an interview, that of Supplement of investigation on France 2 about the job of protection officer at the OFPRA. Then, I chose to turn the page to move forward.


In September 2016, I received an email from Clio Simon: “After reading your article, I would very much like to meet you. During this first meeting, Clio talks to me about her desire to show those who work at the immigration counters, about my character, which she imagines as a circus tightrope walker, and about Stromboli, the eponymous film of the island-volcano. in Sicily.


When I get home, I write, this time thinking about the Clio project:  


“Believing that we have discretionary power allows us to place ourselves above strangers. There is us. There are them. The border that separates us is the possession of this power. The mirage is all the more vivid as we want to believe in this illusion. It is comforting for us to think that we embody the State and that we make important decisions. This reinforces our vision of being superior to foreigners. There are rules, procedures, guidelines. We don't ask questions, we don't think, we don't doubt. We apply, we imitate the practices of our colleagues, we adopt their scale of value judgment. We are one body. There is us. There are them. »


Months pass and I watch the Ñaña that Clio filmed during his trip to Chile. The powerful voice of Juanita Huenchumil denounces what she suffered. 


His testimony pushes me to write a more personal text. I submit it to Clio. She asks me why I don't mention the Ethics Commission: “  It would be a shame not to underline this type of immorality. »  


A few days later, she sends me this sentence: “Obedience little girls go to heaven. The others go where they want. »


I resume my story. Like asylum seekers, whose lines I judged to be impersonal, stereotyped and not very credible, I write down the chronology of events. The faces of each of them float in my mind. I search my memory and find Madame James's letter. She had slipped it into my hands just before her expulsion.


“I came here with one desire: to make my family's life easier and more comfortable. Instead of lifting me up, events drag me down. Today my life is over. My problems catch up with me and send me back to bad memories. I remember the cruelty of the people who hurt me and I feel hatred for it. 


What did I do ? Where am I? 


I think back to January 22, 2011, the day I could have lost my life. I feel anger, rage, hatred. My situation is like a deep wound. If it seems to heal over time, under the dry scabs, the wound remains open. This wound lives inside me like a tree rooted in my heart... Once the roots are out, it's hard to kill it. It can arise at any time from the earth. 


Sometimes I wish I had someone to confide in, someone who would understand how hurt I am. Right now I think and think back to how I lost my life leaving my family. 


My darling daughter, the one for whom I am the father and the mother, what have I done? What didn't I do? Why is my life falling apart? 


If only I could go home and take care of my baby, I would. I will leave behind this place full of sorrows and pains, even though I know these memories will be etched in me wherever I am. 


My God, please give me one more chance to shine, please. » 



These words describe the impasse in which some of our choices place us. I shared his dismay.

" What did I do ? What didn't I do? These questions never left me when the Ethics Commission forced me to leave Guadeloupe. 


I remember the golden landscape of the deep. The cursed fig trees formed a shady canopy above the road. The hill was capped with immaculate clouds. These landmarks surprised me every time, as if I would never find my way back.


I wrote twenty-one pages. I had no idea how difficult it is to write a life story. OFPRA requires asylum seekers to do so within ninety days, as if it were a simple administrative formality.


For the film, I shorten the text. It is called “Why the OFPRA doctrine should not be revealed. »


In July 2017, during the recording of the soundtrack at IRCAM, I was hooked on my notes. I read my sentences word for word. Clio insists that I put down my sheets. I hesitate. I'm afraid of making a mistake as if I were going to be judged on the veracity of my story. Fate was playing with me. I was in the shoes of the asylum seekers that I had interviewed years before.


On January 26, 2018, the film was screened at the Festival Hors pistes at the Center Pompidou.


Today, he won the Tënk prize at the International Emerging Documentary Festival.


I hope that tomorrow everyone who has seen it will understand that the asylum application is a huge legal fiction.


Jean-Louis Comolli remarks about “the long stretches of black” that punctuate the film: “What to do with what you don't want or can't show? »


And what to do with those we don't want to see and welcome?

Police violence, a commonplace daily life in Administrative Detention Centers

June 20, 2020 

On the occasion of World Refugee Day, I wish to bear witness to the invisible, underhanded and trivialized violence in Administrative Detention Centers. Police violence is not only made up of blows and injuries. They insinuate themselves into words, into everyday details, into repetitive and deliberately reiterated actions.


After resigning from OFPRA, I returned three months later to Guadeloupe, where I was a legal assistant at the Administrative Retention Center (CRA) in Les Abymes. It's a funny name for a place where undocumented migrants are locked up before their deportation. From the gate surrounding the prison building, the blue I see is no longer that of the sea, but that of the police uniforms.


My office is a tiny glass jar whose temperature approaches 40°. The police refuse to give me the remote control of the air conditioning, on the pretext that they bought the batteries which are inside the object. I write a report to my hierarchy. I would never have believed that my first plea was for the right to air conditioning. After a month, when the object is finally given to me, it is empty. The police took care to remove their batteries. 


To leave my office, I have to ask the police to open the gate. My freedom of movement is subject to their authorization. One morning, a policeman at the airport refuses to let me in. I get angry. He launched to the attention of his colleagues: "Poul pa ka sang douvain kòk". It is not the woman who gives orders. And they burst out laughing.


After this episode, a policewoman comes by from time to time to chat, as if this macho insolence had brought us closer. His friendly demeanor is considered suspicious by his colleagues. She came to tell me that she wouldn't speak to me again. She's waiting for her transfer, she wouldn't want to compromise her.


Guadeloupe is the first French department to resume the expulsion of undocumented Haitians after the earthquake. A cholera epidemic is raging in Port au Prince. The Prefect doesn't really care. For him, Haiti is just an island on a map and each Haitian expelled: one more number.


Haitians follow one another behind the bars of the CRA and their stories are violently absurd.


Mr. T. was arrested for having grilled a STOP sign. The Prefecture justifies its decision in these terms: "The non-respect of the Highway Code shows that the person concerned does not respect the values of the French Republic and his unwillingness to want to integrate into French society". Mr. T. is driven back to Haiti a few hours later.

Mr. L. is incredulous. With his hands damaged by sugar cane, he rubs his face as if to wake up from a bad dream.

“I have worked for more than ten years at the sugar factory. A month ago, I used all my savings to buy a plane ticket to Port-au-Prince. This morning, the police check me on the road, just like that, by chance. Now I'm here and I'm being told I'm going to be kicked out? I can't leave like this. I'm naked as a beggar…” 


In his passport, I find a one-way ticket Pointe-à-Pitre/Port-au Prince. Suddenly, a policeman enters my office to urgently retrieve Mr. L's identity document. I give it to him. Then, realizing that the travel document is still inside, I rush behind him. 


In the clerk's office, the major looks surprised: “A plane ticket? The passport was empty. She repeats this sentence in an amused tone, like a magician who has just pulled off a sleight of hand. I reply: “It is in your interest that I share this information with you. I thought it would be more economical for you, for Mr. L. to leave with the plane ticket he bought, than to take a new one to deport him today. »           _cc781905-5cde- 3194-bb3b-136bad5cf58d_


“We're finishing the formalities and I'll examine his situation afterwards,” the major told me, escorting me out.


In the corridor, flanked by two policemen, Mr. L. throws me a feverish look. I nod my head to reassure him. While I'm on the phone with a lawyer, who confirms the irregularity of the deportation procedure, I hear the police chanting: "Miami beach baby". I rush to the door. The van is starting. Monsieur L. gives me a wave of farewell. His nightmare is becoming reality. He returns home empty-handed, naked, ashamed and humiliated, while the police rejoice in their future stopover in Florida on their return from Haiti.


The major approaches me. His purple lips part in a grin: “It's not my fault, it was my colleagues who took him on board. I retort: "And who gives the orders here?" She doesn't get up, she turns on her heels and her posterior dances away. 


Monsieur P. looks like a ghost with his gray clothes. On the fourth day of his confinement, he hands me an invoice receipt: two thousand euros paid in cash to his lawyer. “I went into debt to pay this amount. My lawyer hasn't contacted me yet. I thought she was coming… I learned that my expulsion is scheduled for tomorrow…” I dial Master D's number. No one answers. I insist. She picks up after the third call. I say to him: “Hello, I am with your client Mr. P. held at the center of

retention… "


Suddenly, a police escort burst into my office: “Change of program: immediate boarding! »

A policeman firmly grabs Mr. P. by the shoulders. This brutal contact surprises the detainee who, in a movement of recoil, falls from his chair. The policeman immediately jumps on him. His knee crashes into the back of Mr. P. who reaches for the telephone handset. The policeman drives his knee deeper. Mr. P. struggles, shouts, howls. He releases his silences, his frustrations and his anger in trance rattles. Convulsions agitate his body. His breathing becomes increasingly jerky. In the escort, only one policeman observes the scene. The others hide their faces in the collar of their jackets. At the end of the line, Master D. spits in a hysterical voice: "What's going on? 

What do we do to my client? I stutter: “He is going to be expelled…” 


Mr. P. handcuffed is dragged to the ground by his feet. Her cheek bathed in tears erases the fingerprints of the police. He mutters incomprehensible sentences. The police pick him up and throw him inside the van like a bag thrown in the garbage. 

Drawn on the filthy floor, I see a scar: that of his forced journey from my office to the exit. 


In the evening, on the television news, Master D. is indignant at the expulsion of his client, smiling. She fails to tell the journalist that she has never set foot in the CRA. 


Having seized the defender of rights, an investigation by the general inspectorate of the police is opened. A month later, experts come to the CRA to train the police in immobilization techniques. Gathered in the room next to my office, they devote themselves to practical exercises. Some play the role of undocumented migrants, others that of the police. I hear them having fun like children.


Mr. and Mrs. N. are locked up in separate cells, he in the wing reserved for men, she in that for women. When they find themselves in my office, their wrinkled hands cling to each other. At over sixty, they never imagined molding in this decrepit prison. They have always led their lives honestly. “We worked for the L family. It's a big respectable family. My wife took care of their children and the kitchen. I coordinated the work in the fields. We just took our

retirement. » 


The L. family urgently sent me all the necessary documents: payslips, invoices, rent receipts and letters of recommendation praising the dedication of their former employees. The Administrative Tribunal sets a hearing the next day at 8:30 a.m. I reassure the couple. The speed of the summons is a good sign. Confident, they separate their bound hands throughout the interview et 

return to their respective cells. 


The following morning, when I had just arrived, Madame N. threw herself on me, terrified: “They took him. They took him in his sleep! I close the door to my office behind us. “The police woke my husband around six o'clock to leave for the airport. I heard them through the grate. My husband told them it was a mistake. It couldn't be him, because he had to go to court at eight-thirty. 

Then in a frightened voice, he called me. I rushed. I saw him through the bars. The police forcefully dragged him to the van. In front of the entrance, he lost his glasses. How will he do? He sees nothing without his glasses…”


A policeman knocks on the door. He informs me coldly that Mr. N. was deported to Haiti on the first flight of the day. He adds :

“You know that no appeal is suspensive. He gestures to Madame N. to get ready for the hearing. This straightens the bust with dignity and readjusts the folds of her flowery dress. A gleam of determination erases his wrinkles: “I will bear witness to what I have seen. »


Unsurprisingly, the Administrative Court cancels the expulsion of Mr. and Mrs. N. in Haiti. 


Madame N. therefore returns home, to her little hut on rue Bois Riant, free but alone.


These true stories show that police violence is not only made up of blows and injuries. They insinuate themselves into words, into everyday details, into repetitive and deliberately reiterated acts. 


It is this invisible, underhanded and trivialized violence that must be fought, because it does not generate spectacular images, it does not make the front pages of the newspapers, it does not mobilize the crowds. However, we must feel the same indignation against him. 


This indignation must lead to the closure of the Administrative Retention Centers, which are, as the name of the Guadeloupe CRA indicates,an abyss: “a place, a space which has no assignable limits”.



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