French Catalans offer separatists help and refuge

France's Pyrenees-Orientales area was for centuries a part of Catalonia, only becoming French in the latter half of the 17th century.

French Catalans offer separatists help and refuge

World Bulletin / News Desk

As Spain moves to impose direct rule on Catalonia, independence-minded Catalans across the border in southern France are readying to help their separatist neighbours continue the fight.

On Wednesday evening, independence sympathisers packed a hall in Perpignan -- a city with deep Catalan roots situated 30 kilometres (19 miles) from the border -- to discuss how to assist the "southern Catalans", as they call residents of the Spanish region.

"It's bad what's going on the other side of the border. We have to show solidarity. We're one and the same people," Laura Py, 28, who attended the gathering of about 150 people, told AFP.

Many of the Spanish Republicans that fled to the region during the long dictatorship of General Francisco Franco were Catalan.

On Wednesday, associations from across the French Catalan heartland came together to organise support for those they see as victims of a new Spanish crackdown.

Opening the meeting in the local Catalan cultural centre, the head of the French wing of Catalan pro-independence group ANC, Herve Pi, condemned the detention of two high-profile separatist leaders.

ANC chief Jordi Sanchez and Jordi Cuixart, the head of Omnium Cultural, were detained last week on sedition charges, triggering mass demonstrations in Barcelona.

In Perpignan, around 500 people held a protest outside the Spanish consulate over their jailing.

"This repression will continue," Pi told Wednesday's gathering in Catalan, with the separatist flag -- yellow and red with a star -- hanging on a wall at his back.

Listing the various ways in which the "northern Catalans" could show solidarity, he urged them to defend the separatists' cause with their friends, neighbours, MPs and in the French media.

Pi also announced the launch of a "resistance fund" to help Catalan "political prisoners" and their families. 

Pierre Manzanares of Omnium Cultural -- a French group which is separate from that across the border -- said the money raised would also go towards Catalan associations that have had their accounts blocked by the Spanish government.

Güncelleme Tarihi: 26 Ekim 2017, 14:43