Activists decry plans to revoke citizenship in France

Plan to strip dual citizens of French nationality after serving sentences for terrorism feared to open door to racism.

Paris attacks
On November 13, attacks in Paris killed 130 people with the violence later claimed by the ISIL group [Matt Dunham/AP Photo]

Measures proposed to strip dual citizens of French nationality convicted of terrorism are likely to fuel racism and could open the door to discriminatory practices, activists and human rights groups have said.

On Wednesday at a news conference, French Prime Minister Manual Valls unveiled an amendment to the constitution that would in effect force dual citizens who had served sentences for crime relating to terror out of the country following their imprisonment.

According to Le Monde, some 3.3 million people have dual citizenship in France.

“These measures won’t prevent people from being attacked, but they will make us second class citizens,” said Yasser Louati, spokesman for the Collective Against Islamophobia (CCIF) in France, in an interview with Al Jazeera on Thursday.

“The last time France wanted to revoke citizenship, it was to persecute the Jews … Valls is sending us back to the Vichy era which saw close collaboration with the Nazis.”

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Currently, only naturalised citizens can be stripped of French citizenship.

‘A fundamental problem’

“When a terrorist wants to kill and die, this won’t prevent him from doing so. When have you ever seen a terrorist worry about losing his citizenship?” added Louati, who – like thousands of others in the European country – is a citizen of both France and Tunisia.

“The fact you create two kinds of citizens – those who could lose their citizenship, and those that can’t. That’s where the problem lies.”

A constitutional amendment requires a three-fifths majority of the Congress of both houses, or a referendum vote.

Some politicians have already raised doubts over the measure.

Jacques Toubon, a right-wing politician said on French radio that “it clearly means that there will be two classes of nationality and two classes of citizenship, that’s why I say it raises fundamental questions.”

Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who is on the left, recently labelled it “a fundamental problem in terms of national rights by birthplace”, in an interview with an Algerian radio station.

During that interview, she said the measure had been dropped from the agenda, but yesterday, Prime Minister Valls overturned her comments in the press briefing as he declared the proposal, explaining that “the threat [to France’s security] has never been higher”.

President Francois Hollande first proposed the punitive measure on November 16, three days after attacks in Paris killed 130 people.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right National Front that recently failed to win a single region in recent elections, welcomed the proposed amendment, saying on Twitter that it was an effect of her party’s popularity.

‘Second-class citizens’

Amending the constitution to incorporate nationality-stripping measures “creates a second-class citizen”, Kahina Rabahi, a Paris-based graduate in International Relations and Economics, told Al Jazeera.

“It shows that even if you are born here, you grow up here, you are not considered properly French because your parents come from another country.

“If you are dual citizen, you are doubly punished. Six months ago, we didn’t think this would be possible. We don’t know what will be possible from 2017. With measures such as these, the door to far right policies is opened.”

Rabahi added that the measure targets those who are not white, as most dual-nationality citizens in France are from Arab and African countries.

“It enhances the narrative that if you are Black or Arab, you are not as French as someone who is white,” said the 24-year-old, who is a dual citizen of France and Algeria.

Q&A: Muslim minorities are first victims of terror

“We have been attacked here in France twice this year, and yet no one from the intelligence agency has been fired or resigned, the head of our security services hasn’t resigned. They could not care less about security.

“Somehow it’s the Muslim community that is responsible for it all. We see that under the state of emergency, everyone is targeted with the same brush of suspicion.”

France will remain in a state of emergency – which was extended from the usual 12 days to three months – until the end of February.

Under emergency law, some 2,700 homes have been searched without warrants, which have resulted in only two criminal investigations for terrorism related offences, according to Amnesty International.

“There is significant risk that emergency measures, in the long term, would continue to be used against particular groups and associations, especially Muslim individuals and groups,” the rights group said in a report on Tuesday.

Since mid-November, more than than 20 mosques and many Muslim associations have been searched and around 10 mosques have been shut down.

Follow Anealla Safdar on Twitter: @anealla

Source: Al Jazeera