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Agreement to repatriate unaccompanied Romanian minors ratified

As the French government announced in the wake of president Sarkozy's controversial statements about Roma people and illegal camps in July 2010, presenting it as one of the key points in its plan to tackle the problem, the French Assemblée Nationale (the lower house of parliament) ratified the bilateral agreement for the return of unaccompanied Romanian minors to their home country on 7 October 2010 (see StatewatchJournal, vol. 20 no 2).

Hors de la Rue, an association that works to support unaccompanied minors in difficult situations, has been a longstanding critic of the agreement (see Statewatch News Online, September 2008) and released a statement on the ratification of this instrument which claims that it "betrays the rights of minors" by shifting the priority from protecting minors to managing migration flows. The association highlights that in spite of it being portrayed as "agreements for the protection of unaccompanied Romanian minors in France", the agreement does not offer any guarantee of additional protection, but rather, it is "an obstacle for the protection of children" because it suppresses the requirement for a prior social inquiry concerning a child's circumstances to enable a repatriation to be carried out and responsibility for the procedure is transferred from the minors' judge to the public prosecutor, in a text that is described as "arising from the wish to make expulsion procedures more automatic and less independent". The ratification is described as betraying the International Convention on the Rights of the Child and the French Constitution (some opposition MPs have seized the constitutional court with this matter) because:

"while the problem of unaccompanied minors requires a treatment in which the protection of a child must prevail over any other consideration, we feel that these agreements enshrine a purely administrative approach which risks harming some minors who are already in a dangerous situation".

On 27 August 2010, Hors de la Rue had issued a statement in which it described the effects that the government's rhetoric had had on Roma children, of which it estimated that there were 7,000 in France, whose "health, social and educational situation… has been a cause for concern for a long time". It argued that the stigmatisation and harrassment that followed Sarkozy's statements had "devastating" effects on the Roma minors that they dealt with in their centre in Montreuil: "fear, with important psychological effects, drives these unaccompanied minors to hide and, in some cases, to interrupt their reintegration process". On 31 August, on the day after ministers Hortefeux and Besson had raised the issue of Romanian minors in the context of the drive against illegal Roma and gens du voyage (traveller) camps, the association criticised the "exploitation of the dramatic situations of minors on French territory in the name of the fight against crime", dismissing the agreement as a way of "eluding the obligations connected to the protection fo children".

Sources

"De la protection de l'enfance à la gestion des flux migratoires", Hors de la Rue press statement, 7.10.10

"Accords Franco-Roumains : Le gouvernement s'apprête à bafouer les droits de l'enfant", Hors de la Rue press statement, 31.8.10
"Roms: derrière les effets d'annonce, les enfants …", Hors de la Rue press statement, 27.8.10,

Previous Statewatch coverage

France/Romania: Ratification of agreement to increase repatriations of unaccompanied minors underway
, Statewatch News Online, September 2008, analyses the text of agreement and includes links to the text of the Franco-Romanian agreement, a dossier by Hors de la Rue and the draft ratification law


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