“France does not belong to the French!”
Hundreds of African immigrants shut down a French airport terminal on Sunday and demanded to meet with the country’s prime minister.
Videos posted to social media show the roughly 500 immigrants chanting in Terminal 2 of the Charles de Gaulle Airport as dozens of police officers in riot gear stand guard.
“France does not belong to the French!” an activist can be heard shouting into a loudspeaker. “Everyone has a right to be here!”
The protest was organized by La Chapelle Debout, a French organization that demands equal rights for immigrants, including those who arrive in the country illegally. The group calls itself the Black Vests, a play on the name of the months-long Yellow Vests movement against tax reforms.
In a statement Sunday, La Chapelle Debout called on Prime Minister Edouard Philippe and the head of Air France to meet with the group to negotiate an end to immigrant deportations, which it called “racist.” The group demanded the government give them papers to stay in the country and the national airline “stop any financial, material, logistical or political participation in deportations.”
#Update: Just in – All of these undocumented immigrants are from African decent, and are demanding that prime minister Édouard Philippe, will give all of them permanent legal status and papers to stay in #France. And saying we will not leave Charles de Gaulle Airport in #Paris. pic.twitter.com/lWLonHL6ww
— Sotiri Dimpinoudis ❁ (@sotiridi) May 19, 2019
Later Sunday, an Air France delegation met with the group, the activists announced.
A member of the group told local newspaper Le Parisien that more protests were planned.
“We have targeted Air France, and other actions will follow,” he said.
France, like much of Europe, has struggled to accommodate a mass influx of immigrants, most of them Muslims from the Middle East and Africa. As in the United States, which faces a more modest immigration crisis on its southern border, the trend has triggered backlash against immigration and fueled the rise of right-wing political movements.