French President praises local efforts to combat terrorism
Fight against terrorism – Speech by M. François Hollande, President of the Republic, at the meeting of mayors of France (excerpts)
Paris, 18 November 2015
Mayors’ role in fight against terrorism
I want the full force of the state to be put at the service of our fellow citizens’ security, but I also want to be able to count on your support and that of the 3,900 municipal police officers in France. I want to pay tribute to the role they play, which complements that of the National Police and gendarmerie. I know they too are exposed to risk: I haven’t forgotten the death of Clarissa Jean-Philippe, the young municipal policewoman cravenly shot dead in Montrouge on 8 January. So the government intends to help you protect our fellow citizens better, but also protect our municipal police officers better, by funding their equipment and providing weapons taken from the National Police’s stocks to those mayors who so wish. Local security contracts will also be strengthened through additional resources so that we can act in the same spirit and with equal force.
I attach great importance to the participation of France’s mayors in the action we’re going to embark on, particularly in the context of the state of emergency. I’m thinking, for example, of the ban on the movement of people and vehicles in given places; only the mayors can give us these specifications. I’m also thinking of the protection of public or private buildings which could be potential targets for terrorists; there too, we need your support. This is why the Interior Minister has asked the préfets [high-ranking civil servants who represent the state at the level of the department or region] to organize meetings with the mayors in every department to inform them clearly of the state of the terrorist threat, the presence of dangerous individuals and the security measures the state may take.
I also know that the mayors and their teams, in some towns and cities, are also involved in measures being implemented in priority safety zones; there again, we’ll be able to act to combat trafficking more in certain districts, with the appropriate resources.
You’re also involved in the anti-radicalization follow-up and prevention units which the state has created in each department. This is an essential mission, and sadly we can see its relevance today: to prevent young French people from becoming a danger to themselves, but above all to the country where they’ve grown up and to which they belong. Every day, ladies and gentlemen mayors, you fight to ensure our differences don’t become rifts and separations. Through terror, through its slaughter, Daesh [ISIL] wants to spread the poison of suspicion, stigmatization and division.
Let’s not give in to the temptation to withdraw into ourselves. Let’s not give in either to fear, excesses or upping the ante. Our social cohesion is the best response, and our national union is the expression of it. We must be implacable against all forms of hatred. No xenophobic, anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim act must be tolerated, and if some individuals express support for terrorism in certain places, in voluntary organizations, in de facto groupings, the bill presented this morning at the Council of Ministers’ meeting provides for those organizations to be dismantled. They will be immediately.
I also appeal for your vigilance, because you, the mayors of France, know your territory, your people better than anyone. Mr President, you’ve expressed a position of principle, and it does you credit: namely, even under these circumstances, to talk about the refugees.
Some people have sought to establish a link between the influx of refugees from the Middle East and the terrorist threat. The truth is that this link exists, because the inhabitants of the areas of Iraq and Syria who are fleeing are tortured by the very people who are attacking us today; the vast majority of those refugees are heading for Germany, northern Europe and the United Kingdom. France, as it alone is empowered to do, has agreed to take its share of solidarity with those refugees and with Europe. Thirty thousand will be taken in over the next two years.
I wanted this policy to be conducted in close cooperation with the mayors. On 12 September, the Interior Minister brought together those who wanted to commit themselves to taking people in. Let me point out that many of you rose to the occasion, and this very day some of you are taking in migrants who have come from Calais. I’d like to express my gratitude to you here. To help you, the government will put in place a support mechanism for those communes which have created accommodation spaces.
However, our duty of humanity towards the refugees goes hand in hand with the duty to protect the French people. I’m aware of the concerns, sometimes stirred up by some people, which the tragic events of recent days may have aroused. So there too, France must respond. It stands alongside the countries where the refugees are, and I’m thinking in particular of Turkey, Jordan and Lebanon. It must also check before people return to European territory – and especially to French territory – that there’s no risk to our country. So we’ll have to carry out the necessary checks before accepting refugees onto our soil. That’s what we’ve done, and it’s what we’ll continue to do.
Likewise, the reform concerning the right of asylum enables us to turn down or withdraw refugee status from anyone whose presence in France would be a threat. That’s how we’ll ensure the safety of French people through increased border controls, while remaining true to our values. (…)./.