01 March 2016
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Press release from La Cimade (8 March 2016), unofficial translation by Statewatch
Four voluntary fires were started in the last few days in the Mesnil-Amelot administrative detention centre (CRA, Centre de rétention administrative). Of the three which occurred in the no. 2 CRA, the most violent one spread out on Saturday afternoon, leading to injuries to at least four people; two fire engines and a helicopter were used to put it out. The two other fires occurred in the night between Sunday and Monday. In the no. 3 CRA, the fire started on Sunday evening.
The Mesnil-Amelot CRA is an administrative invention through which two centres are grouped within the same enclosure, with a delocalised court in an adjoining building. It is the largest CRA in France, which is strategically placed at the end of the runways of Roissy airport. All the violence of the detention and expulsion policy enacted by the State towards foreigners crystallises there.
Following the first fire, the women detained in the no. 2 CRA were transferred to the Paris - Cité CRA, some men were moved to the no. 3 CRA or the one in Palaiseau, while others whom the administration does not think it will manage to expel were released. Around 60 men who are still in detention are now grouped in the two buildings which are still open and accessible, including the one in the section for women and families, where the heating doesn't work properly.
Two people suspected of having been responsible for starting the first fire on Saturday were taken to hospital. Both of them have been placed in garde a vue [custody] to appear before a court in relation to the damage caused.
The authorities have deemed it useful to deny all the detainees their right to receive visits, since Saturday. Thus, they are more isolated than ever, at the same time as they have just been through a traumatising experience which adds to the anxiety-generating nature of the denial of freedom they are subjected to. Furthermore, they do not have access to their personal effects which are in the buildings where the fires broke out, including those of the few people who were released.
There have regularly been fires in CRAs following the desperate acts by people who are detained there.  However, they are the first victims of this institutionalised violence. The Cimade demands the immediate release of all the people who are still detained in the Mesnil-Amelot CRA.
The securitarian obsession which drives the policy enacted by the government towards foreigners must cease. It only produces violence and desperation. There is a need for another logic to arise involving the closing of the sites of detention: detention centres and other sites of administrative detention.
Press contact: Rafael Flichman: 01 44 18 72 62 | 06 42 15 77 14 | rafael.flichman [at] lacimade.org
The original press release (in French) is available at: 'Incendies en rétention : la violence de l'enfermement doit cesser', La Cimade, 8 March 2016
ADDITIONAL NOTE: A follow-up report notes that the two accused started the fire out of distress and a possible attempt to commit suicide, and received definite sentences of six months and a year, respectively. It is available at: 'Incendies au CRA du Mesnil-Amelot : au delà de la colère, le désespoir', La Cimade, 11 March 2016
 Fires have broken out, notably in the Vincennes CRA in June 2008 (the centre was entirely ravaged by the flames and was then re-built), in Nantes in July 2008, in the former Mesnil-Amelot CRA no. 1 in August 2008, in Toulouse in February 2009, in Bordeaux in March 2009 and again in May 2013, in Bobigny in September 2010, in Marseille in March 2011, in Palaiseau in March 2012, in Metz in February 2016.
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