France: Students march against nationalists

28th February 1997 at 00:00
Thousands of lyc#233;e and university students demonstrated in Paris last week against the extreme right Front National and against a parliamentary Bill to tighten up restrictions against foreigners which has provoked mass protest in France.

Earlier this month, 59 film directors, including Arnaud Desplechin, Sandrine Veysset, Bernard Tavernier and Patrice Ch#233;reau, were the first to launch a public appeal for a campaign of disobedience against measures in the immigration Bill initiated by minister of the interior Jean-Louis Debr#233;.These measures included requiring French people to declare to the authorities the arrival and departure of foreign nationals staying with them.

After the film-makers and 155 writers - among them R#233;gis Debray, Andr#233; Glucksmann, Bernard-Henri L#233;vy and Marie-Claire Mend#232;s-France - joined the campaign, a nationwide movement took off with public appeals and petitions from actors, scientists, artists, lawyers, architects, doctors, journalists, teachers, students and unions.

The newspaper Lib#233;ration published pages of signatories daily - 10, 000 appeared in the first three days - and numerous associations and individuals started compiling petitions against the Debr#233; law.

Faced with the outcry the government has withdrawn the requirement to declare foreign visitors from the Bill, which was up for its second reading this week in the National Assembly.

Protests, however, went ahead in several French towns last Saturday, notably in Paris where an estimated 100,000 demonstrated against the general anti-foreigner climate and the perception that the Front National is leading government policy.

Meanwhile on the previous Thursday, united behind the Committee "Nous, #233;tudiants, d#233;clarons..." about 3, 000 lyc#233;e and university students demonstrated in the Place de la Sorbonne in the Latin quarter of Paris against the Debr#233; law and the Front National, which was holding a meeting a few streets away.

This month, the Front National won a municipal by-election at Vitrolles, a dormitory town near Marseilles, the first time it has succeeded in a straight fight against only one other candidate.

Vitrolles is the fourth town to come under the control of the extreme-right party.

* France's first Breton-language lyc#233;e is to open in Carbaix-Plouguer, Finistre. The school will start with 150 pupils from 1998, a roll expected to double in a decade.

The opening will represent a landmark for Diwan, the movement that for 20 years has campaigned for education in Breton and used to run clandestine classes in the language when the education ministry refused to support regional language teaching.

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