A French farmer who became a local hero for helping African migrants cross the border from Italy and providing them with shelter has been given a suspended €3,000 fine for aiding illegal arrivals.
Cédric Herrou’s trial in a court in Nice had become a focal point in the ongoing debate about refugees and migrants in France, and the French law against helping or sheltering them. The current Socialist government amended the law against assisting migrants, but it remains illegal to help them cross borders.
Herrou’s olive farm sits in a valley on the border with Italy, near a popular route for migrants trying to slip past border controls.
The organic farmer, 37, has been unapologetic about helping people travelling through Europe after the often perilous boat journey across the Mediterranean.
“If we have to break the law to help people, let’s do it,” he told supporters outside the court during his trial.
“Our role is to help people overcome danger, and the danger is this border,” he said, accusing French police of detaining thousands of minors and dumping them back across the border. He insisted he was acting on humanitarian grounds.
In October, Herrou led a group of activists who occupied a disused holiday village belonging to the SNCF state railway company and opened it up to a group of migrants. Police intervened after three days to evacuate the makeshift camp and arrested Herrou.
Herrou was convicted for helping migrants cross from Italy but he was acquitted of other charges of helping migrants in France, including sheltering them in the disused SNCF holiday village.
New book on the role of hope and uncertainty for African migrants
Understanding migration aspirations and practices in times of crisis
Nauja Kleist & Dorte Thorsen
Access to safe and legal migration has become one of the key axes of inequality today. While images of the good life circulate globally in the media and through social networks, the vast majority of people in Africa are excluded from legal long-distance migration, due to restrictive migration policies and border controls. This mobility paradox raises a number of questions in situations where mobile livelihood strategies constitute important ways of coping with uncertainty and precarious life circumstances and where migration is perceived as one of the few pathways to a better life. Such questions include: How do (aspiring) migrants respond to restrictive migration policies? How do they understand their life and their future? Where do they aspire to go and how? What are the new destinations when Europe is closing its doors? And, more theoretically, how can we understand the role of hope and uncertainty in their actual or desired migratory projects?
In the new book ‘Hope and Uncertainty in Contemporary African Migration’, these questions are at the center of analysis. The volume employs hope as an analytical prism through which to examine the mobility paradox in a range of case studies of primarily West African migration. The introduction, written by Nauja Kleist, senior researcher at DIIS, offers a discussion of hope theories and their relevance when analyzing migration in situations of crisis, deepening inequality, and delimited access to legal migration. The analysis of hope and uncertainty is further explored through nine cases, written by Heike Drotbohm, Ida Vammen, Jesper Bjarnesen, Stephen Lubkemann, Heidi Østbø Haugen, Maria Hernandez-Carretero, Sylvie Bredeloup, Hans Lucht and Nauja Kleist. Set within the African continent and beyond, the focus of the chapters range from migration aspirations prior to actual journeys, life in new or established destinations – ranging from neighboring countries to Europe, China and Argentina, to migrants stuck in transit zones and after deportation. The authors thereby examine the changing social imaginaries underpinning migration projects, and how migrants perceive and navigate impediments to their mobility, generate strategies to accumulate material and symbolic wealth, grasp new opportunities, but also highlight extended periods of waiting, and of suffering, shame and social death when migration projects fail and hope is postponed or lost.
‘Hope and Uncertainty in Contemporary African Migration’ is edited by Nauja Kleist, DIIS, and Dorte Thorsen, University of Sussex, and published by Routledge as part of the Studies in Anthropology series. The book is one of the outputs from the FKK-funded research program ‘New Geographies of Hope and Despair’. It is also available as e-book on amazon and itunes.