It’s a first. On Friday March 3, the Paris Administrative Court of Appeal canceled a €100,000 grant granted in 2019 by the city of Paris to the NGO SOS Méditerranée, created in 2015 to charter boats to rescue migrants in distress. at sea. The court was seized by a taxpayer, described as a “Zemmourist militant”on Twitter by Ian BrossatDeputy Mayor of Paris, who felt that the town hall had failed in its duty of public service neutrality by supporting this association.
In the first instance, on September 12, the administrative court recalled that a local authority has the right to support an international organization as long as it is of a humanitarian nature and does not infringe France’s international commitments. .
But, in its judgment of March 3, the Court of Appeal notes that “the leaders of the association have also publicly criticized and declared that they want to thwart by their action the policies defined and implemented by the European Union and Member States in matters of immigration and asylum”. The magistrates consider that “the Paris Council must be regarded as having intended to take sides and interfere in matters relating to the foreign policy of France” and cancel the subsidy.
Rescue at sea, a legal obligation
“We are extremely surprised because this decision contradicts that of the first instance but also a previous decision concerning a subsidy from the Aquitaine regional council to SOS Méditerranée, reacts Ian Brossat, deputy to the Paris City Hall. We are going to seize the Council of State and we have good hope that it will give us reason. Other courts in Saint-Nazaire or Montpellier have also ruled that subsidies to the NGO are legal.
“So far, all the decisions have been favorable to us, summarizes Fabienne Lassalle, deputy director of SOS Méditerranée. I remind you that we have a purely humanitarian action, which comes under a moral but also legal obligation to provide assistance to people in danger at sea, guaranteed by international conventions which have been ratified by both the European Union and France. Since 2014 more than 20,000 people have lost their lives in the Mediterranean. »
With a budget of 10 million euros, the association does not see its functioning threatened by this cancellation. But, while SOS Méditerranée receives 90% private donations and 10% public subsidies, “there is clearly a desire from the far right to harass us and discourage local authorities from subsidizing us”, adds Fabienne Lassalle.
In 2018, around twenty members of Generation Identity violently invaded the headquarters of the NGO in Marseille. Since then, the organization, to which the “taxpayer” at the origin of the Parisian complaint seems linked, has been dissolved by the government and the participants in the intrusion condemned.