On Thursday, July 11, three members of Génération Identitaire (GI) were summoned by the Criminal Court of Gap following an operation to raise awareness of the risks of illegal immigration. All three risk a heavy jail sentence.
In April 2018 Génération Identitaire started their Defend Europe Alps mission. This operation took place in three phases. First they closed the border to prevent illegal immigrants from entering France. Then they deployed mobile surveillance teams to monitor a larger area, and finally, they conducted investigations in order to understand where the illegal immigrants were coming in, who was smuggling them and how all this was organised.
Thanks to this operation, the movement showed public authorities that with the political will it is possible to regain control of a country’s borders. The government in fact, decided to increase the number of police officers at this crossing point in the wake of the GI action.
A hundred members of the movement had participated in this symbolic action, named either “Defend Europe” or “Stop Migrants Alps” and conducted in the mountains, on the Italian border. Two helicopters and a plane were mobilized for the operation. “If the state does not dismantle them, we will do it ourselves,” said the participants about the smuggling networks.
Génération Identitaire had wanted to highlight the illegal networks that operate on the border in order to encourage the French authorities, finally, to dismantle them. One of the most symbolic approaches was to either catch migrants to return them to Italy or to take them to the French police.
At the Criminal Court of Gap, of the three members of the movement summoned, only Clement Gandelin, the president, was present. “I would like to remain silent throughout this hearing, as this trial is nothing but political. As proof, we never, during our operation in the Alps, said that we took the place of the police,” he said.
The public prosecutor however did not keep silent: “Your goal was to say, ‘Look, we can do the job of the state. Borders can be monitored, investigations made to prove that smugglers are delinquents, apprehending migrants during marauding. We’ll do it.’ But by what right?” the public prosecutor, Raphael Balland, exclaimed during the indictment.
It appears that the magistrate also believes that he should send a firm message: he has demanded at least six months of imprisonment for the defendants, as well as a fine of 75 000 euros against Génération Identitaire.
Defense lawyer Pierre-Vincent Lambert pleaded for the acquittal of the three. According to him, there was neither “maneuver” nor “deception”. For him, the reasoning of the public prosecutor stems from the “fear of being reproached for having done nothing against Génération Identitaire”. Some months ago, the same prosecutor saw seven open-border activists sentenced, tried for facilitating the irregular entry of several migrants onto the territory.
In April 2018, the anti-immigration collective GI had symbolically blocked the Col de l’Echelle in the Alps to prevent illegal migrants from crossing the Franco-Italian border.
Under pressure from the far left, the Gap prosecutor opened an investigation to “verify” whether there had been “violence” or “racist remarks”. In the absence of evidence, the case was quickly dismissed.
But after the intervention of the government by means of a circular from the Directorate of Criminal Affairs and instructions from the Ministry of Justice, the prosecution suddenly resumed their proceedings against the movement by invoking improbable criminal transgressions.
Ten months after the events, three leaders of Génération Identitaire were placed in custody, including Anaïs Lignier, eight months pregnant, and Clement Gandelin, arrested at his workplace by no less than twenty gendarmes. A dozen activists were also questioned by law enforcement.
The Criminal Court of Gap now claim that they “exercised an activity under conditions likely to create in the mind of the public a confusion with a public service”. The political dimension of this relentlessness of the state appears obvious.
But the political climate in France has turned against these clandestine arrivals. Thus Interior Minister Christophe Castaner had admonished NGOs working in the Mediterranean to rescue migrants, calling them “accomplices” to smugglers in April this year. He even blamed “some” of these organisations for “real collusion” with traffickers. Castaner even admitted that “some NGOs were in contact with smugglers by phone,” calling on them to adopt “a responsible attitude”.
His remarks are therefore not without irony. In response, the GI movement’s Anaïs Lignier, had posted an honorary membership card of Génération Identitaire, addressed to Christophe Castaner, on Twitter. “Since Christophe Castaner confirms the positions of Génération Identitaire on the complicity of the NGOs with the mafias of smugglers, we’ll send him a ‘adherent of honor’ card. Welcome home,” she wrote.
Puisque @CCastaner rejoint les positions de Génération Identitaire sur la complicité des ONG avec les mafias de passeurs, nous lui adressons une carte "adhérent d'honneur". Bienvenue chez nous 😋 pic.twitter.com/IE1xc5t6Tj
— Anaïs Lignier (@AnaLignier) April 7, 2019
Several executives of the National Rally had also welcomed the remarks by Christophe Castaner at the time, including with Marine Le Pen. “These associations are driven by an ideology that is imigrationist, they barely hide,” she said on BFMTV.
The day after this honorary gift, Castaner showed no appreciation for the gesture. In a tweet, the Minister of the Interior clarified his thinking: “The fight against the far right is at the heart of my political commitment. I will not give in to the provocations of the ‘Identity generation’ which I condemn for their hateful ideology, repugnant exactions and repeated excesses “.
As reported by the Huff Post, the French government has stated, through the Secretary of State to the Minister of Health Christelle Dubos, the intention to “dissolve” GI.
The Secretary of State denounced “a hostage-taking of agents and public service” during a banner operation in Bobigny, adding that an appointment was already scheduled with the ministers of the Interior and Justice, Christophe Castaner and Nicole Belloubet, “to see how we could dissolve this group”.
Released after several hours by the police, 19 members of GI who had participated in the Bobigny action will be tried in November for “obstructing the freedom to work”. They risk three years in prison and a 45 000 euro fine.