France Studying Demands of Immigrants Holed Up at Basilica

PARIS, AUG. 29, 2002 ( The French government is willing to consider legal status on a case-by-case basis for illegal immigrants holed up at a basilica, but won’t legalize the group en masse.

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The historic Basilica of St. Denis in an area north of Paris has been occupied for more than a week by over 500 immigrants, the majority from Mali, Algeria and Turkish Kurdistan, who demand unconditional legalization.

During a similar takeover in August 1996 the government ordered the police to remove about 220 African immigrants from the Church of St. Bernard.

In the latest incident, the Ministry of the Interior has stated that it is only willing to study each immigrant’s case individually.

The occupation of St. Denis has the support of parish priest, Father Bernard Berger, backed by his bishop, Olivier de Berranger.

Attracted by the possibility of gaining legal residency, several hundred immigrants lined up Wednesday in front of the basilica to be included on lists compiled by the organizers of the shut-ins.

At a meeting with officials of the Ministry of the Interior, the organizers presented lists with a total of 1,200 names. The demonstrators estimated that there are about 25,000 illegal immigrants in the area.

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