Woman denied French citizenship for ‘refusing to shake official’s hand’

A woman was denied French nationality after refusing to shake hands with officials during the official citizenship ceremony, it has been reported this week.

Woman denied French citizenship for 'refusing to shake official's hand'
Photo: AFP

The Algerian woman was attending the official ceremony in Isere south east France after her successfully applying for citizenship via her marriage to a French national.

But she “expressly refused to shake hands with the secretary-general of the prefecture and another local official”, according to a case heard by France's highest court the Conseil d'Etat (State Council) that was published on the French government's justice website LegiFrance.

The woman claims her actions at the ceremony in Isère, eastern France in June 2016 were “motivated by her religious convictions”.

The then-prime minister Bernard Cazeneuve opposed the woman’s request for French nationality claiming “her act meant that she could not be considered as integrated into the French community”.

French nationality is not granted until the end of the reception ceremony, or cérémonie d’accueil dans la nationalité française, when a certificate is awarded to the newly-declared French citizen.

During the ceremony, the applicant must “demonstrate their respect of French values”, according to a report in Le Figaro.

“If a foreign citizen shows a lack of integration, the government can reject their request for French nationality, even the day of their French citizenship reception ceremony,” explained lawyer Fayçal Megherbi on the blog Juritravail.

The woman, whose husband is French, opposed the decision, but a legal ruling published on Wednesday 11th April stated that there had been no breach of her religious freedom.

The Conseil d'Etat ruled that the behavior of the woman “revealed a lack of assimilation”, all the more because it had been carried out “in a symbolic moment and place.”

France naturalised 120,000 people in the year 2016, which represented the fourth consecutive year that France has seen an increase in the number of nationalisations.

Around half of these 120,000 passports came via naturalisation, while some 21,000 came via marriage to a French person.

READ ALSO: France naturalises 120,000 new citizens (including hundreds of Brits)

France naturalizes 120,000 new French citizens (including hundreds of Brits)

The Council of State, on April 11, 2018, considered that the behavior of the interested party “revealed a lack of assimilation”, all the more because it had been carried out “in a place and at a symbolic moment” .

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Hollande finally sees sense if only for selfish reasons

The French president’s climb down on his plan to strip terrorists of French nationality and enshrine draconian police powers in the constitution was the right one, even if it was motivated by self-preservation, writes Ben McPartland.

Hollande finally sees sense if only for selfish reasons
Photo: AFP

“All that just for this!”

That was the recent front page headline in a French newspaper after President François Hollande and his government agreed to back down on planned labour reforms after weeks of debate.

The front page headlines in tomorrow’s main newspapers may well be similar after yet another climb down by Hollande, this time over his ill-judged plan to strip French-born terrorists of their nationality.

The president had taken politicians and rights groups by surprise when he announced, days after 130 people had been slaughtered in Paris, that he wanted to see French-born citizens stripped of their nationality and booted out of the country.

The reform was to be enshrined in the constitution along with the emergency powers that have seen police carry out thousands of raids, ban demonstrations and place hundreds under house arrest in the light of the November terror attacks.

But thankfully none of that will now happen after Hollande's U-turn, that comes after months of raucous debate, protests and political wrangling between the left and the right.

While the climb down is a relief, unfortunately Hollande’s motivation is more about trying to preserve the dying remains of his presidency rather than a realization he had been heading down the wrong path.

The Socialist president realized he didn’t have enough support to get the necessary backing of two fifths of lawmakers (senators and MPs) at a special Versailles Congress and so was left with no choice but to cave in.

An embarrassing defeat on the one theme where he has generally performed well on – responding to France’s two terror attacks – would have represented the nail in the coffin on his ever-decreasing chances of re-election in 2017.

Hollande will be criticized for yet another U-turn but his real mistake was pursuing the “cosmetic politics” in the first place. You have to wonder whether that too was for purely personal reasons.

Each time he has stepped into the role of France’s self-proclaimed war leader he has received a boost in opinion polls, which have repeatedly shown him to be France’s most unpopular president ever.

It seemed only a robust reaction to a terrorist attack and imposing a measure long supported by the far right gave him his best chance of winning over voters – many of whom have jumped ship to the far right.

Modelling himself as the president who was leading France to victory in a war declared by Isis terrorists might actually convince disenchanted voters to back him in 2017.

But what might have been the best for Hollande in post-terror attacks France clearly wouldn’t have been the best for a country where the Muslim population already feel marginalized and who would be forgiven for not championing the benefits of égalité and fraternité.

SEE ALSO: France has abandoned liberté, égalité and fraternité

France's own National Human Rights Commission (CNCDH) said the move was “radically opposed to all Republican values.”

“We know full well that this measure targets one group of the population, namely Muslims, and they will feel further stigmatized,” Patrick Baudouin, who is the honorary president of France's International Federation of Human Rights (FIDH) told The Local.

“A country should be able to handle its own nationals. What would become of the world if every country deported birth-right citizens considered undesirable? Should we imagine a landfill where they will all be put together?” said former Justice Minister Christiane Taubira, who resigned over the row.

What’s perhaps worse than the idea that the move may alienate a community France needs to have on board right now is that – and even supporters of the notion, including PM Manuel Valls agree on this – the reform would have proved utterly pointless in preventing further attacks.

The gunmen and suicide bombers who killed 130 in Paris proved they were willing to die on the spot and the threat of losing their French passports would not have dissuaded them from murdering innocent people.

On top of that, experts also argued the text of law would have been unworkable and would take years of costly court battles before someone is stripped of their citizenship and deported.

The plan to enshrine emergency powers in the constitution proved slightly more palatable to lawmakers of both sides, although UN experts, Amnesty International and European Right’s chiefs all lined up to blast France for “liberticide” (killing off freedoms).

While the population might have accepted a loss of certain freedoms as the price to pay for protection, the reality was that French police and intelligence services already had the powers they needed. And the risk again was that members of the Muslim population were being unfairly targeted and stigmatized.

In February the Collective Against Islamophobia in France (CCIF) says it has received 228 complaints since the emergency laws went into effect, including 57 related to house arrests.

In the end, the most damning indictment of Hollande’s push for the changes in the constitution is that it would probably have had Isis chiefs rubbing their hands in glee and waiting with open arms for new recruits from France.

Patrick Weil, France’s leading expert on the issue, was one of the most severe critics of the move and met with Hollande to try and convince him to drop it.

He simply said: “Hollande should be spending his energy trying to unite the country”.

After all the protests and debate it was clear that the president was doing exactly the opposite, but perhaps it's not too late before 2017.