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Tuesday, 23 February 2010

Najlae Lhimer, a family violence victim falls foul of French immigration laws

Najlae Lhimer is back in Morocco.

She has been there since last weekend after French authorities deported her because she was in this country illegally.

But the story of the 19-year-old isn't a just case of illegal immigration.

Instead it's surely an example of a law being zealously enforced without any respect to the rights of the individual and one which, as far as women's rights groups are concerned, makes a mockery of the government's policy to raise awareness of the issue of domestic and family violence.

Najlae first came to France at the age of 14, leaving Morocco to escape being forced into an arranged marriage.

She moved in with her brother in the town of Château-Renard in the centre of the country.

But as it turned out, life with him was far from easy to say the least.

He was reportedly a man with a reputation for being authoritarian, and one who didn't like to see his sister emancipated.

So much so that when he "found a cigarette butt" in her room last week, he hit her, to such an extent that she was unable to go to work for eight days.

Najlae decided to file a complaint against her brother.

But as Stéphanie Revillard, a friend who encouraged Najlae to go to the local police explained, rather than being seen as the victim, the 19-year-old found herself being questioned about her status here in France as she didn't have the required identity papers.

"In spite of the fact that she was injured, in spite of the fact that she was there to file a complaint against her brother and she was in fact the victim, she was detained," said Revillard.

And that detention quickly led to her deportation as the police contacted the local préfecture, an "expulsion order" was signed and Najlae put on a 'plane bound for Morocco.

Once there, she was taken into custody once again, this time for having "illegally fled her country" five years ago.

She has since been released and is currently being looked after by the local branch of le Réseau éducation sans frontières, RESF.

Women's rights groups in France have been quick to react to Najlae's plight and criticised the speed with which she found herself sent back to Morocco.

"The deportation of Najlae, a young woman who was in distress, is abominable," said Dominique Tripet from the Orléans branch of Droits des Femmes.

"It's an example of the increasing rapidity with which the (French) government violates human rights and republican values."

Speaking to the national daily Libération by 'phone on Monday, Najlae described what life had been like since she returned to a country she hasn't seen since she was 14 and where she apparently doesn't know anyone.

"After remaining 24 hours in jail, some members of RESF came to collect me," she said.

"I don't understand how or why I'm here," she added.

"I am lost ... "

A demonstration in support of Najlae is planned in the streets of Château-Renard for March 6.

According to France 3 television, Najlae's brother still hasn't been questioned by police.


Comnios said...

It is a sad thing that she got beaten, but let's keep in ming that she is FIRST an illegal immigrant.

Now, France would welcome her gladly if she make the proper request to be legal.

It is enough to always demonize countries vs illegals.

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