"Fraternity" Justifies Helping Illegal Immigrants, Court Rules

Illegal Immigrants

The Constitutional Court of France has ruled in favor of a farmer who was charged for helping dozens of migrants who had illegally entered the country, arguing that his actions are protected under the “principle of fraternity.”

The farmer, Cédric Herrou, is said to have helped about 250 people illegally enter France from Italy over the course of several years. He is an olive farmer who lives in the Roya Valley, which is between the two nations.

The area has become something of a haven for migrants (who often arrive in Italy from Middle Eastern and African nations) due to France tightening its border since 2015. Many residents, including Herrou, have been known to provide shelter and food to those sneaking illegally across the border when they arrive

Herrou has been arrested several times, including for being among the activists who occupied a defunct French National Railway Company station in October 2016. In that incident, the prosecutor called his actions "noble" and only asked for an eight-month suspended sentence.

In February of last year, however, he was charged 3,000 euros for other activities. He responded with a lawsuit challenging the ruling, which he claims amounts to a “criminalization of solidarity." He was also unapologetic for his actions, saying that he would continue to defy his nation's laws.

According to the decision of the Constitutional Court, the concept of fraternity―which, along with liberty and equality, are considered to be the guiding principles (and official motto) of the country―says that one should be allowed to help people under any circumstances, even if they are not legally permitted to be in the country.

This was an "immense victory," according to his legal team. One of his lawyers, Patrice Spinosi, said that one should not be punished for simply helping a foreigner.

This issue is sure to be controversial, however, since Herrou was arguably helping people to break the law. While he has become a folk hero―many applauded him when he arrived for the trial that lost him 3,000 euros―the fact is that many in France are upset about the growing number of illegal immigrants and the issues they cause.

Marine Le Pen, leader of the far-right anti-immigration National Front (now renamed the National Rally), was runner-up in last year's election, and the victorious Emmanuel Macron, though more open to immigration, has proved willing to try and stanch it.

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