Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Assistance to migrants : the trial of a gesture of humanity – the Liberation

on Wednesday noon, on the courthouse square in Nice, Cédric Herrou pass arm in arm, hug in hug and micro micro. the “It’s going to talk about the top of the steps, it will avoid to repeat it,” ad, Nathalie, press attaché improvised that tries to protect the activist, expected the court to come to the assistance of migrants. the “A semblance of organization, it will change”, smiles Cedric Herrou climbing the stairs. His black beret and round glasses always placed on the head, he speaks in front of journalists and his many supporters : “It is a mix between fear and excitement. I’ll finally be able to explain why I have taken so many responsibilities.”

The French riviera’s 37-year-old appeared before the court of Nice “for the first time,” he insists. The justice accuses him of having facilitated the entry into the national territory, the circulation and the illegal presence of 200 foreign nationals lacking a residence permit. He is also charged with having opened a camp illegal with 57 migrants in a building of the SNCF, to Tende in October. He faces five years in prison and 30,000 euros fine.

When it is not in the hands of the justice, Herrou is a farmer in the valley of the Roya, a mountainous area located between Italy and France, which saw the arrival in their villages of migrants who attempt to reach the north of Europe and who find themselves stuck.

on a Daily basis, he delivers with his van, its eggs, its oil and pulp of olive. But, since march, mostly as migrant that he is carrying. And the farmer is not satisfied with “help the cross-border families and children.” On the field contiguous to his isolated house of Breil-sur-Roya, at the end of a stone path, it houses, feeds and cares for migrants. the “Several hundred” of Eritreans and Sudanese have stayed in two caravans and four tents raised in his garden.

read also Migrants : the valley because of disobedience,

“Don’t be an accomplice”

at the bar, Cedric Herrou ensures to be aware of the illegality of its acts. the “I picked up little girls who have spent twelve times the border. There have been four deaths on the highway. My inaction and my silence, I would make them complicit, I don’t want to be”, he said in the face of the prosecutor of Nice, Jean-Michel Priest, who had supported, at a previous trial at the end of November, that this kind of work “is to deny that a border exists, and that a country’s voting laws. This Wednesday, in anticipation of a possible debate, the prosecutor loose : “It is a trial which is a political forum. We are in something that comes out of the role of the judiciary.”

But the debate did not wait for the hearing. At the end of December, more than 4 000 users of Nice-Matin , elected Cedric Herrou “the French riviera of the year”. A name that has attracted the ire of the chairman of the department of the Alpes-Maritimes, Eric Ciotti. In a forum of a half-page article published in the local daily newspaper on 30 December, the elected LR denounces a “false generosity”, a “organized network”, and an attitude that “has no other purpose than to provoke and challenge the authority of the State” : “His action is an insult to police officers, gendarmes, customs officials, and military personnel”, he says. Of remarks that were deemed intolerable by Herrou : “In the valley, it welcomes more children than in the services of his department [which is responsible for 210 unaccompanied minors, ed]. It does its job and we complained.”

This “job,” Cedric Herrou is not the only exercise in the valley. Citizens, affected by these men, women and children who are fleeing difficult conditions in their countries are mobilized. the “in The beginning, there were only a handful to be on deck to help. Today, we are more numerous : the village of Saorge has 300 inhabitants, and thirty of migrants is housed”,, explains René Dahon, the association Roya citizen. the “a Lot of people, sir-all-the-world, are complicit actions by donations of money, blankets, food. People host in the Roya and elsewhere”, lists Herrou before the court. Also, at the end of November, it was the turn of Pierre-Alain Mannoni, professor at Nice-Sophia-Antipolis and a researcher at the CNRS, to appear before the same court for using the stay and circulation on the national territory of persons in an irregular situation. He had moved three Erythréennes from the Roya to drop them in a station to the west of the Alpes-Maritimes. The trip had been shorter than expected, the trio and Pierre-Alain has been arrested at the toll station of la Turbie on the A8. The prosecution had requested “a severe warning” six-month suspended prison sentence.

“Don’t be ashamed”

In April, three other French riviera will also be heard by the criminal court of Nice. In the meantime, migrants “always come toquer at the door” Herrou. the “I put myself in the illegality to safeguard the rights of the child. History is written every day, and it is our duty to stand up when things go wrong. I don’t want to be ashamed of in twenty years. If I do continue, I will continue.”

on Wednesday evening, the prosecutor has requested eight-month suspended prison sentence, a test with limited use of his driving licence during his working hours and confiscation of his van. the “Cedric Herrou has the will to present themselves in front of the whole world as a martyr justice of a cause before the public opinion”, said the prosecutor. The decision will be made on February 10. This night, Herrou will host three more migrants.

read also Migrants : the “crime of solidarity” are there yet ?


January 2016 Rob Lawrie, a former british soldier, is found to have transported an afghan girl of the “jungle” of Calais to the United Kingdom. Initially prosecuted for “help the movement”, is convicted of “endangering the lives of others” and bails out of 1 000 euros fine suspended.

December 2015 Claire Marsol, an activist, 72-year-old, is sentenced to 1 500 euro fine for having assisted two Eritreans to travel to Nice train station.

July 2015 An activist collective assistance to undocumented migrants is being prosecuted for using illegal stay, on the grounds that it would actually perform household chores as a counterbalance to the Armenian family that he was hosting. The prosecutor abandons the prosecution. The man is acquitted.

Adele Sifaut


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