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France Expels More African Immigrants, Protesters March in Paris

August 28, 1996

PARIS (AP) _ The government expelled more illegal African immigrants Wednesday as 10,000 marchers protested the deportations, adding fuel to France’s bitter debate over immigration and unemployment.

Chanting ``Papers For All,″ demonstrators proclaimed their solidarity with the Africans hauled from a church where they had sought sanctuary for nearly two months. Some of the 220 Africans ousted from the St. Bernard Church on Friday led the procession.

Swaying to the rhythm of dozens of drummers, marchers shouted slogans seeking an end to expulsions of illegal immigrants and reopening negotiations with the government. The parade snarled traffic across northern Paris.

A few of the protesters clashed briefly with police outside the church, throwing bottles, rocks and pieces of wood at officers who blocked the road.

``We will employ all means to make ourselves heard,″ said Boubakar Diop, spokesman for the Africans who had been dragged out of the church. ``If it takes another occupation, we’ll do it.″

The government, meanwhile continued the expulsions.

A French military transport plane believed to be carrying 15 illegal immigrants left an air base at Evreux on Wednesday for Mali and Senegal. The immigrants were not among those ousted from the church last week.

A chartered jet was expected to depart Charles de Gaulle airport later in the day for Zaire and Tunisia carrying an undetermined number of illegal immigrants, according to a union that represents Air France employees.

An anti-racism group known as MRAP denounced the deportations as ``demagogic.″

Of the 220 hauled off from the church before dozens of reporters and television cameras, most have been released. Four were deported Saturday along with 53 other illegal African immigrants.

The plight of the Africans drew national attention, and highlighted tensions over immigration and unemployment. France’s jobless rate is 12.5 percent, and many blame clandestine workers for taking jobs from the French.

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