Factcheck: Do foreigners in France really risk deportation for holding pro-Palestine views?

Genevieve Mansfield
Genevieve Mansfield - [email protected]
Factcheck: Do foreigners in France really risk deportation for holding pro-Palestine views?
A man stands on a pedestal wearing a shirt reading "Palestine will live" during a 2021 demonstration in France (Photo by GEOFFROY VAN DER HASSELT / AFP)

American social media influencers and magazines have implied that foreigners in France risk penalties or even deportation for voicing support for Palestine.


On Thursday, American influencer, Amanda Rollins - known as 'Americanfille' on TikTok - shared a video explaining to her followers why she could not make any public statements regarding her personal feelings related to the situation in Israel and Palestine.

She said that: "The vibes are so off in France . . that they have come out and said that if they find a foreigner at a protest, it is immediate deportation".


@americanfille Replying to @Jessica Christie ♬ original sound - Amanda Rollins

As of Wednesday, French media reported that at least 4,500 people have died - and many more have been injured - in the Hamas attack on Israeli civilians and Israel's subsequent bombing of Gaza.

The American political magazine, Jacobin, also ran an article with the headline: "Emmanuel Macron’s Government Has Banned Solidarity With Palestine".

Rollins - who previously went viral with a post explaining how, in Europe, people put butter on sandwiches, did not explain who exactly had said that any foreigner at a protest would be deportation, but the implication is that it was a government source.


Following Hamas' attack on Israel on October 7th, the country banned pro-Palestinian protests, citing security concerns.

French President Emmanuel Macron defended the bans, saying: "I think there was a period of decency -- there had been a terrorist attack, it wasn't good," in an exchange with students in the street witnessed by AFP.

"I see people who want to demonstrate peacefully but there are hyper-radical elements who are going to burn the Israeli flag and defend Hamas," Macron added.


The ban remained in place for weeks, until an authorised demo in Paris on Sunday, October 22nd, which was attended by around 15,000 people.

Some pro-Palestine protests had previously gone ahead without authorisation, and there have been arrests at those. 


So can foreigners truly be "instantly deported" if found at a protest, especially an unauthorised one?

Certainly no-one in government or any other position of authority has said this, so we're not sure what Rollins is referring to in her video.

There have, however, been calls for the expulsion of radicalised foreigners, namely from the country's interior minister, Gérald Darmanin, who claims to have a list of 200 radicalised foreigners he wants to expel from the country. The interior minister was generally referring to people who are fiché S - on a terror watchlist - because of extremist views or because they have regularly taken part in violent protests.

Foreigners can be expelled from the country, in certain circumstances, if they have committed a crime.

Darmanin told Le Monde that: "the perpetrators of anti-Semitic acts who are not of French nationality and whatever [their] status will have their residency permits immediately withdrawn."


As of Saturday, Darmanin said that "two or three people" have been expelled from France - Le Monde reported that one case concerned a person who had been arrested after driving around a synagogue in Cannes with a tear gas canister in the trunk, while the other concerned a man in Paris who had behaved in a suspicious manner in front of a school-synagogue. Le Monde reported that the man made a reference to bombs and said “Allah akbar!” before being arrested.

Darmanin also on Thursday tweeted that "a foreign individual making anti-Semitic threats was arrested on October 7th. Following my instructions, he was expelled from the national territory today."

In her video, Rollins, who added that she is requesting French nationality, said: "I can't say a peep about it. I cannot risk deportation."

The TikToker also referenced the case of the French footballer  "Kareema Benzina" whom a French Senator has called to be stripped of his citizenship after right-wing politicians alleged that he has connections to the group the Muslim Brotherhood. Karim Benzema has announced that he will take legal action against the politicians concerned.

READ MORE: Explained: The French footballer's legal battle with right-wing politicians

According to experts, even if the accusations are confirmed, it would be extremely unlikely - if not impossible - for the 35-year-old to be stripped of his French nationality. Born in Lyon and boasting more than 100 caps for the French national team, Benzema is a French national with parents of Algerian descent.


What about the right to protest?

When it comes to the right to protest, France recognises this as a 'fundamental freedom' in the Declaration of the Rights of Man and Citizens. As for freedom of speech, France considers any "incitement to hatred, violence or discrimination to treat certain people badly because of their origin, religion, gender or sexual orientation" as a criminal offence.

According to French government website, Vie-Publique, demonstrations and protests must, however, be declared "to prevent public order disturbances."

Taking part in an 'undeclared protest' can lead to possible penalties, like a fine for failing to leave after calls from police to disperse, but attending an undeclared demonstration is not in itself a criminal offense.

French penal code states that the maximum penalty for organising an undeclared (or banned) demonstration is six months in prison and a fine of up to €7,500 fine. 

Would attending a protest put your residency permit or citizenship application at risk?

Rollins says that she cannot say anything because she is going through the process to apply for French citizenship.

So would attending a protest put your citizenship application - or visa or residency permit - at risk?

It is important to note the difference between the terms 'expulsion' and 'deportation' in French law. Deportation is usually connected to an OQTF order - an Obligation de quitter le territoire français, which means 'an obligation to leave France'.

This can be served on any foreigner who is in French territory and has either committed a serious crime or has committed an immigration offence such as overstaying a visa.


According to the Interior Minister, 120,000 of these were served in 2020.

This is not the same as expulsion - foreigners expelled from France must leave the country immediately, those served with an OQTF are given a deadline to leave - usually within 30 days of receiving the notice.

READ MORE: OQTF - What is the 'notice to quit France' and can you appeal against it?

Expulsion, on the other hand, is reserved for people who are living in France illegally and who represent some sort of threat to the French state - it's usually used for terror suspects.

Criminal convictions can result in your application to renew your residency card being turned down, but this is uaually only the case if you have been convicted for a serious crime. You need to have been convicted of an offence in court, not merely arrested, for this to apply.

READ ALSO: What offences can lose you the right to live in France?

Between October 2020 and June 2021 8,031 carte de séjour renewals were refused on the grounds of criminality - of these 27 percent were for the most serious types of offence including assault, attempted murder, organised fraud and making threats to a public official, 5.9 percent were for driving offences - the official data does not specify the type of offence - 6.3 percent were following a domestic violence conviction and 7 percent were around offences of begging or soliciting.

As for your citizenship request, you you will have to prove that you have not been convicted of a crime in France, by providing your extrait de casier judiciaire

Depending on your criteria for citizenship, you may also need to demonstrate a clean record going back a maximum of 10 years (both in France and any countries you have lived in). 

READ MORE: Reader question: Will a criminal record stop you getting French citizenship?

Being turned down for citizenship does not mean that you cannot continue to live in France. 


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