The recent killing of Lola, 12, in Paris has sent shockwaves through France.and reignited debate over deportation rules after the alleged killer was found to be under an OQTF order. We explain.
Lola, who lived in a block of flats in the 19th arrondissement with her family, was found dead in a plastic trunk dumped near her flat building on October 14 after she failed to return home from school that day.
She had been injured but police found that she died due to cardiorespiratory failure "with signs of asphyxiation and cervical compression".
A 24-year-old woman, named as Dahbia B., is in police custody on suspicion of her murder and rape as well as acts of torture. She is being held in Fresnes prison, south of Paris.
Lola’s father, the caretaker of the building who had access to the CCTV recordings of the entryway, retrieved footage of the woman with Lola shortly before the girl went missing.
It has emerged that her alleged killer is an Algerian immigrant who had been living in the same building, in a flat with her sister and was breaching the conditions of an order to leave France, named an OQTF.
What is an OQTF order?
The letters OQTF stand for ‘obligation de quitter le territoire français’ (obligation to leave French territory).
They are issued to people who no longer have the right to be in France, in the event of a refusal of a residence permit or of illegal residence in the country. It requires you to leave France by your own means within 30 days.
Some orders require you to leave sooner, and some recipients are taken into detention upon the order’s issue, especially if they have previous criminal records.
You can be issued with an OQTF if:
You entered France (or the Schengen area) illegally and do not have a residence permit
You entered France legally but you have overstayed your visa (or, if you are exempted from a visa, you have stayed more than three months after entering France)
Your request for a titre de séjour or your autorisation provisoire de séjour has not been renewed or has been withdrawn
Your residence permit has been withdrawn, refused or not renewed or you no longer have the right to stay in France
You have not applied for the renewal of your residence permit and have remained in France after its expiry
You are an asylum seeker and your application for protection has been definitively rejected
You represent a threat to public order and have resided in France for less than three months
You are working without a work permit and have been residing in France for less than three months
People can appeal the order.
An OQTF cannot be issued if:
You are a minor (but if your parents are subject to an OQTF, you can be removed with them)
You have been legally resident in France for more than 20 years
You have been residing legally in France for more than 10 years (unless you have held a student residence permit throughout this period)
You can prove by any means that you have been ordinarily resident in France since you were a child (but you must not have started to reside in France after your 14th birthday)
You have been married for at least three years to a French national (your life together must not have ceased since your marriage and your spouse must have retained French nationality)
You have been residing legally in France for more than 10 years and have been married for at least three years to a foreigner who has been living in France for no more than 13 years (you must not be a polygamist and you must not have stopped living together since your marriage),
You are the father or mother of a French minor child residing in France (you must not be polygamous and must have contributed to the maintenance and education of your child since birth or for at least two years),
You are receiving a pension for an accident at work or occupational disease from a French organisation, for a permanent disability
You usually reside in France and your state of health requires care in France which you could not access in your country of return
The BBC reports: “OQTF orders are notorious because only one in 10 is observed, and Algerians are among the nationalities considered most likely to abuse the system.”
Why is Dahbia B. under an OQTF order?
Originally from Algeria, Dahbia B. was stopped at a French airport on August 20 because her residence permit had run out.
She had entered France legally as a student six years ago, but in August was issued with an OQTF, and told to leave French territory within a month. She had no criminal record, so was not taken into detention.
More information on how OQTFs are issued and the precise rules on their meaning can be seen on the interior ministry website here (in French).
No motive has yet been identified for Lola’s killing, although one suggested reason could be that Dahbia B. had reportedly been in a confrontation with Lola’s mother.
The mother had refused to give Dahbia B. a pass to enter the block of flats, where she had lived with her sister.
It has also been reported that the alleged killer had suffered domestic abuse in recent years and may be experiencing psychiatric problems.
President Emmanuel Macron has received the murdered girl’s parents at the Elysée, and promised his full support. Yet, political opponents have said that the murder shows that immigration law is ineffective.
Marine Le Pen, far-right former presidential candidate and leader of the Rassemblement National party, said: “The suspect in this barbaric act should not have been in our country. What’s stopping you from finally ending this uncontrolled, clandestine immigration?" she said.
Similarly, far-right former candidate Eric Zemmour called the crime a “Francocide” (the killing of a French person), while Republican MP Eric Pauget said that “Lola lost her life because you didn’t expel this person”.
However, Prime Minister Élisabeth Borne called on critics to "show a little decency", to respect the parents' pain and Lola's memory, saying: "Let the police and judiciary do their job."
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin has also said that the political response has lacked decency.
Government spokesperson Olivier Véran has admitted that the laws “evidently need to work better” when it comes to OQTF orders.
On October 19, he said: "Not all people who receive an OQTF are necessarily placed in detention centres while awaiting expulsion. But we are working hard to ensure that expulsions can take place as soon as the orders are announced.”
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