Gabon to deport illegal French residents

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The Gabonese government says it is ready to deport illegal French residents on its soil. It is a direct reaction to the forced deportation, last month, of two Gabonese nationals. The fate of the two deported students, who’s stories were told in the local media, created an uproar in the country.

from Pierre Eric Mbog Batassi our correspondent from Libreville

Gabonese authorities are finding it hard to calm their nerves since the ‘manu militari’ deportation of the two students, which violated bilateral agreements governing diplomatic relations between the two countries. The cities of Reims and Toulouse where the two students studied, defended the deportations by claiming university results for the two were unsatisfactory.

Responding to this affair, Wednesday, gabonese interior minister, Mr. André Mba Obame, confirmed the gabonese government’s intention to deport illegal french residents. “there are numerous french nationals living illegally in Gabon. These people will be deported if they do not produce legal resident permits” he said. According to the minister, between 5 and 10 per cent of the 10,000 french residents are illegal. He also said french nationals visiting without required entry visas would be returned.

The foreign ministry lauded the application of “reciprocity”. In a communiqué released last Monday by the foreign ministry, “the gabonese government calls attention to rules governing equality and mutual respect between the two countries and intends to reinforce reciprocity” it also adds that “the deportation of the gabonese, which outraged a high number of gabonese originally convinced of exceptional relations between Gabon and France, triggered very hard feelings compounding the 2006 humiliating deportations which flagrantly violated the established 2002 conventions, in particular article 5… this article demands a just and equal access to property, rights and interests from both parties towards their respective citizens. To ensure full legal protection of gabonese living in france in accordance with the said agreement (2002 convention, article 5)”.

The french government acted outside the confines of the law

The gabonese government also believes that the french government breached article 8 of the same law which obliges the contracting parties to keep each other informed should their decisions be outside the confines of the law, to enable those affected to consult their consulate for the protection of their private property”.

The two students were clearly not respected. The communiqué also said that this situation is aggravated by gabonese complaints of ill treatment from the french consulate in Libreville during visa applications.

One of the deported students in a television interview confirmed having been treated with little dignity by french police as well as french authorities in general. “ they woke me up at five in morning, handcuffed and took me away without giving me the permission to contact my lawyer, family or employer” in conclusion he added “they body searched me three times, although i had been in a prison cell for three days. It was humiliating, very humiliating”

“It is shocking to see how our people are considered in France. Here in Gabon, the french feel at home and live in peace” said a gabonese official Didier Bibang Tuesday. “but if the gabonese government reciprocates this would not be the case anymore”.

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