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Villeurbanne, Lyon. Scene of the stabbing. Screenshot from YouTube

Deadly knife attack in Lyon revives immigration debate

One of the witnesses who overpowered the assailant in Lyon said that suspect was showing "his veins saying 'droga, droga'".

Published: September 4, 2019, 4:01 am

    Lyon

    With two names and three different birth dates, as well as ten years of wandering around in the four corners of Europe … the case of Sultan Marmed Niazi, an Afghan national and author of the deadly knife attack of Villeurbanne, on Saturday is particularly murky. Or not…

    While some hasten to reduce the problem to psychological and medical causes, the case revived the tense debate on the migration issue in France.

    After the Villeurbanne knife attack by Afghan national Sultan Marmed Niazi (33), which caused the death of a 19-year-old and wounded eight people, the political reactions sounded like a horrible repetition.

    Even though the suspect is Muslim, “nothing allows us to conclude radicalization”, the Lyon prosecutor said.

    As usual, his psychological profile was highlighted by several sources: he is “suffering from delirious episodes and paranoia […] or more of a psychological profile” which strangely often seems to be the case among asylum seekers.

    So the problem is framed as a psychiatric one as a result of the suspect’s many addictions. “He had used a lot of cannabis,” said the same prosecutor.

    But after the Afghan holding a residence permit in France killed one person and wounded eight others in Villeurbanne, the former prefect Michel Aubouin deplored the inefficiency of the French administration in the management and regulation of immigration in France.

    “He [the Afghan suspect] belongs to this fairly large group of people who have applied for asylum and who have been denied asylum. They did not get the refugee title. But since he stayed in Europe, he had to go to accommodation centers and he has been living in France for several years.

    “It is possible that we ended up giving him a temporary residence permit. It’s not exceptional, it’s even relatively common. That’s the way it works: people who have been denied asylum rights are not allowed to go back to their homes – for a number of reasons, not least because they can not be returned home – and they end up with a residence permit. And this, on the pretext that it is better that they are regularized rather than have nothing at all,” Aubouin explained.

    This Afghan migrant, who gave the authorities several identities and several ages, enjoyed the status of “subsidiary protection”, according to information from the AFP reported by Ouest-France. He arrived in France without a family in 2016, and the asylum seeker obtained this protection from the OFPRA (French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons) in May 2018.

    According to the Office, the latter is granted “to any person whose situation does not meet the definition of refugee status but for whom there are serious and proven grounds for believing that he would run a real risk in his country”, as the death penalty, torture or a “serious and individual threat to his life” because of “a situation of armed conflict”.

    This status allows the beneficiary to have a temporary residence permit for one year, which is renewable. As stated by the prosecutor in Lyon, the suspect’s card was due to expire next January.

    Cited by AFP, the director of the OFII (French Office for Immigration and Integration), explained that the suspect was housed in a center for asylum seekers, even if this situation was no longer allowed by his status.

    On Sunday, September 1, the prosecutor of Lyon gave details about the personality of the suspect, claiming that the latter had declared himself to be Muslim while in custody and claimed to have heard voices insulting God which gave him the order to kill.

    The psychiatric expert evoked “an invading psychotic state and a paranoid delusion including that of mysticism and religion”.

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