France: Report on detention centres for 2014: Increased use of detention, including of children and EU nationals

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The fifth report on French detention centres, published jointly by the associations ASSFAM, Forum Réfugiés - Cosi, France terre d'asile, La Cimade and Ordre de Malta France, provides a wealth of official data, statistics and critical analysis concerning detention centres and places of detention for migrants on the French mainland and overseas territories for 2014. It features comprehensive in-depth statistical and descriptive information about each detention centre, including observations by people who have been working there to support migrants on critical issues and accounts by detainees.

For a few more expulsions…

The press statement issued by La Cimade for the report's launch highlights that an escalation is underway concerning detention, including unlawful expulsions and a repressive policy that is largely conducted at the expense of [people's] rights and in order to improve expulsion statistics. It ends with a concerned appeal about what is being done "for a few more expulsions":

"For a few more expulsions, lives are endangered. Like those of people who are so seriously ill that doctors consider their detention or expulsion impossible. Medical advice which the administration increasingly overlooks with the interior ministry's agreement. An administration which has gone so far as to invent a regime of "detention in hospital".

For a few more expulsions, families are destroyed, lives are broken. Like the ones of those two young adults who arrived in France when they were 13 years old and, as a result of a few lapses in their behaviour, have been destined to administrative banishment towards countries where they have not grown up, in which they have no contacts nor shelter."

The statement says the association has contacted the interior ministry at the time of each of these disgraceful situations, but it approves the totality of these practices, which are largely illegal.

La Cimade calls for an immediate end to all these unlawful practices and, in the long term, for the closure of detention centres. Another policy towards foreigners is possible. It must be implemented now, by amending the government's bill which is about to undergo a debate in the National Assembly [the lower house of parliament] in the next few days. As it is, this bill would worsen the denials of freedom and the violation of rights that La Cimade has observed."

Children and EU nationals

The authors note an increase in the use of detention resulting in nearly 49,537 people being denied their freedom (up from 45,377), and claim that this raises important questions about the usefulness of detention and the numerous rights violations it entails. The percentage of returns following detention in continental France was just below half (47.8%), whereas it was higher in French overseas territories (65.4%). Key issues include routine irregularities such as the detention of children, in spite of legal concerns including the prevalence of a child's best interest, and the detention of EU nationals, although the establishment of detention centres was specifically to deny third-country nationals found to be in breach of immigration legislation their freedom with a view to enacting "returns".

26,371 people were detained in centres and places of detention for migrants in continental France, an increase of 9% compared with 2013, whereas the figure for French overseas territories was 23,116, a 22% increase. The number of detained children rose from 3,608 in 2013 to 5,692 in 2014, a 16% increase in continental France (from 95 to 110) and a 59% increase in the overseas territory of Mayotte (from 3,512 to 5,582). The returns enacted following detention were mostly towards EU countries (55.1%). 4,117 such returns concerned third-country nationals who were mainly sent back to Italy from three departments (administrative regions): Alpes-Maritimes; Bouches-du-Rhône, mainly involving Tunisians; and Pas-de-Calais, mainly Afghans.

Detention of EU nationals

One of the report's most important findings is the increasing use of detention and returns to their home countries for EU nationals: there were 1,713 returns in 2014 to EU member states of their own nationals following detention, with Romanians the most affected national group. The overall number of EU citizens who were expelled is higher, as not all of them underwent prior detention. Interior ministry statistics from January 2015 cited in the report indicate that 3,332 EU nationals were expelled in 2014.

The overall figure for the detention of EU nationals in 2014 was 2,101, and the breakdown was as follows:

Romanians: 1,742
Bulgarians: 109
Lithuanians: 48
Poles: 44
Portuguese: 23
Spaniards: 22
Italians: 19
Dutch: 18
Croatians: 16
Latvians: 10
Others: 50
(p13 of the report).

Thus, a practice initially introduced to target third-country nationals was later extended to Romanians and Bulgarians, and is now being used to deal with citizens of several EU member states.


Centres et locaux de retention administrative, Rapport 2014, June 2015, by ASSFAM, Forum Réfugiés - Cosi, France terre d'asile, La Cimade and Ordre de Malta France

Press statement, Chaleur sur la rétention: le gouvernement fait tourner la machine à expulser à plein régime, 2 July 2015

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