If a representative of the state engages in behavior that seems inappropriate, what is the role of the citizen witnessing it? To keep your mouth shut and let things happen or to speak your disagreement loud and clear? Sunday, March 20, in a TGV connecting Barcelona to Paris, a passenger made a choice: while a French customs officer was making cross-border remarks to young Ukrainian refugees, he intervened and said clearly what he thought. Shed light on a response that was steadfast, calm, and exemplary.
It happened on board TGV 9708, car 11, reports the Parisian† Among the passengers are five Ukrainian minors placed by air traffic controllers at Barcelona station. Their parents were installed in car 18.
At the station of Perpignan, customs officers are going to check these five young people. However, the words, gestures and tone used for this mission deeply moved and upset some witnesses, including one man who insisted on addressing the officials to pronounce their conviction. “across borders”†
Part of the scene was filmed. Watch and above all listen:
Shocked by what he saw and heard, the passenger in particular said this:
“You are not obliged to make cross-border comments, sir (…) You are a civil servant, you must express yourself correctly.”
Response from the official in question:
“You are a citizen, stay where you are as a citizen (…) Where do I start? You have nothing to say to me.”
The Ministry of Public Accounts (in particular in charge of customs) has decided to open an internal investigation, Parisian †
“Customs is an exemplary administration and we will not let any individual case spoil it.”
Acting as a citizen also means knowing how to intervene when the situation calls for it.