Thais Moreira and Yashika Bageerathi: faces of democracies’ new witch-hunt


From the perspective of the State, young asylum seekers and young undocumented residents are the same. They are not supposed to be `here’. They are not supposed to speak up, and certainly not for themselves. Under no circumstances are they to succeed. Unkempt citizens of the unwashed criminal classes, they are to stay in the shadows … as shadows. This week, , in France, and Yashika Bageerathi, in England, are the faces of democracies’ new witch-hunt, and they reveal that a specter haunts Europe.

Thais Moreira is a 20-year-old student who came to France, from Brazil, in June 2009. She came with her mother. Since her arrival, Moreira has been a model student, resident, everything. She has fully integrated herself into her neighborhood, school, and new country. In mid February, she went to the local police station for `regularization.’ According to French law, if one has been in the country for five years and has completed three years of schooling, one can apply for residence papers. Some bureaucrat decided that Moreira had only arrived in France in 2010. And so, on March 7, she received the dreaded OQTF, or Obligation de quitter le territoire français. The letter gave her 30 days to leave the country.

Yashika Bageerathi is 19 years old. With her mother, younger sister and brother, a 16-year-old Bageerathi arrived in England in 2012, fleeing physical violence from a family member in Mauritius. Last week, Yashika Bageerathi was informed that, since she was now of majority, her case had been separated from that of the family, and her application for asylum was denied. She was to report to Yarl’s Wood. She was sent to the airport where, apparently, British Airways refused to give her passage. This seemed like a reprieve … until the State responded to the young woman’s appeal to not be separated from her family. The Home Department’s replied, “Fine, the whole family’s denied asylum, and you’re all going back to Mauritius.” That’s where the situation sits now.

In both Thais Moreira’s and Yashika Bageerathi’s cases, students and staff mobilized and organized. They have protested, marched, organized Twitter campaigns (check out #FightforYashika), organized petitions, and more. They have raised a mighty ruckus. And they are asking questions, especially about “the yawning gap between official rhetoric against immigrants “who do not fit” and the violent reality of expulsion and deportation.”

From the Dreamers in the United States to Thais Moreira in France to Yashika Bageerathi (and before her, Lorin Sulaiman) in England, young people, students all, are protesting the witch-hunt that is immigration policy. And it’s not just those students who are asylum seekers or undocumented residents. It’s their friends as well, the students they study, play, and live with. They confront State viciousness with hope and creativity. They oppose State callousness with love. Who’s the teacher and who’s the student now? Stop the democracies’ witch-hunt. Empty the immigration prisons. Stop the deportations … now!


(Photo Credit:

Expose the attacks on the undocumented and on women in France

While in the United States, attempts to hurt, reduce and constrain women’s bodies are multiplying (as the recent bill in Virginia to impose vaginal sonogram on women who seek an abortion demonstrates), two recent developments in France show that the politics of constraint and control of the body and in particular of women’s bodies are also expanding in Europe.

In France, undocumented immigrants, “les sans-papiers” have access to health care, through “l’aide medicale d’Etat” or AME (State Medical Aid), if they have been in France for at least 3 months. While this seems to be better than many other places in the western world, some barriers that have been erected to divide and control immigrants and residents.

For example, it used to be that in order to register, people could go to any regular center of the national health coverage “les caisses d’assurance maladie,” and there were many of them. Recently, new rules have been introduced. Since the end of 2011, in Paris only two centers have been processing applications to be registered in AME. After two months, the Observatory of Foreigners’ Right to Health, ODSE, has reported a series of problems. These include long waiting lines, starting in the middle of the night, summary selection of applications, loss of applications, mounting administrative red tape. All these difficulties contribute to delaying indispensable coverage and access to health care for people who are already among the most vulnerable.

Another recent development directly affects women’s health and well being. In 2001, a bill was passed that gave women’s reproductive rights a great boost. The new law includes provisions for anonymous access to contraceptive and abortion services for minors and without parental consent. It also provides for an ambitious sexual education program, lately the distribution of money to enforce this law has been problematic. Recent reports have shown the importance of sexual education through school as well as free and easy access to centers where women and men can access information on the various questions related to sexuality.

The law itself is beyond repeal, but that does not mean it is safe from dilution. Although officially budgeted for the 2012 fiscal year and voted by the parliament, apparently, 500 000 Euros slotted sex ed programs has disappeared. The Sarkozy administration must have misplaced it!

So how are these two issues related? Both are about creating barriers for some women to access services that allow full social participation and meaningful exercise of their rights. They are about relegating to the back seat some selected populations who are excluded through constraining policies on their bodies, which are, thus, made invisible in body politics of the nation. The reshaping of existing social advances concerning reproductive rights, health care for all, has become the priority of neoliberal governments. It follows the pattern that has already been developed for emerging countries, cutting public services. It is important to identify policies that follow this pattern. It is important to expose them in order to lessen the impact of the US neoliberal transformation anywhere it is being exported.

(Photo Credit: Femmes En Lutte 93)