Anger over Algerian's deportation

October 4, 1996

Students and staff at Nanterre University near Paris are up in arms over the deportation of a postgraduate Algerian law student.

There has been no news of Rabah Bellil since he was picked up by police and apparently flown back to Algeria on September 18 in spite of the university's confirmation that he is a bona fide student.

Nanterre vice president Denis Abecassis said: "I went to the detention centre but was told I could not see him. We told the authorities that he was a genuine student and sent the education ministry all of his marks, to show he studied assiduously."

The education ministry has refused to comment on Bellil's deportation, but is believed to be examining the case. A government circular allows the prefectoral authorities to decide whether a foreigner is a genuine student without referring to the university.

Bellil's expulsion order initially came in 1994 when he was half-way through a repeat year. The university immediately appealed for him to be allowed to finish the year, which he did successfully, obtaining a master's in law.

Since October 1995 he has been studying for a post-master's research diploma but each appeal for the original deportation order to be reversed was turned down.

Last January, Bellil was elected as a student representative to the university's governing body. His union, UNEF, is leading the campaign for his return.

Local UNEF leader Sylvain Magnon said: "We are really concerned. We have had no news of him, nor has his girlfriend. We don't want to call his parents in Algeria yet because if he has not turned up there and is still being detained somewhere in France, they would worry."

Bellil is the first foreign student from Nanterre to be expelled in this way, but a number are known to have been deported in the Paris region under France's tough new immigration laws.

"Their situation is terrible. They can no longer fail and repeat a year or even change subject. Their fundamental right to study is being eroded," said Mr Magnon.

"We have to try to maintain what leverage we have with the prefecture, because we regularly get cases where they ask us if a person is a genuine student and we send them proof," explained Professor Abecassis. "We are particularly concerned when the students facing deportation are Algerian and could be at risk from the FIS (Islamic Salvation Front) or other groups.

"To keep that line open, I cannot say that what is happening is scandalous. It is difficult for us to negotiate a student's permit and denounce the prefecture's decision. But there is without any doubt a strong feeling of injustice among students and staff and a major movement of opposition is emerging."

The Conference of University Presidents says the universities should be the ones to decide whether someone is a bona fide student.

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