Access to detention facilities



Forum Réfugiés - Cosi

Five NGOs are present quasi-permanently (5 to 6 days a week) in the centres as a result of their mission of information for foreigners and assistance in exercising their rights (see section on Legal Assistance). The following NGOs have access to CRAs:

  1. Lot 1 (Bordeaux, Nantes, Rennes, Toulouse, Hendaye): La Cimade;

  2. Lot 2 (Lille 1 and 2, Metz, Geispolsheim): Ordre de Malte;

  3. Lot 3 (Lyon, Marseille and Nice): Forum réfugiés-Cosi;

  4. Lot 4 (Nîmes, Perpignan and Sète): Forum réfugiés-Cosi;

  5. Lot 5 (Overseas): La Cimade

  6. Lot 6 (Le Mesnil-Amelot 1, 2 and 3): La Cimade;

  7. Lot 7 (Palaiseau, Plaisir, Coquelles and Rouen-Oissel): France Terre d’Asile;

  8. Lot 8 (Bobigny and Paris): Assfam.

Some accredited NGOs can have access to all CRAs. A Decree, adopted in June 2014,1 regulates the access of NGOs to CRAs. The list of accredited NGOs whose representatives (national and local) are able to access the administrative detention places will be valid for 5 years. The exhaustive list of accessible rooms and facilities is described; this excludes the police offices, the registry, the video surveillance room, the kitchen, the technical premises. A maximum of 5 persons can make a visit within 24 hours. The time of the visits should not hinder the proper functioning of the centre, preferably during the day and the week. The head of the centre will be informed of the visit 24 hours in advance and can report the visit by giving reasons and for a limited period.

In addition, some people enjoy free access to the CRAs:

  • The Council of Europe Commissioner for Human;

  • The members of the European Committee for the Prevention of Torture;

  • The French and European Members of Parliament;

  • The General Controller of places of freedom deprivation;

  • The Prefects;

  • Public prosecutors; and

  • JLDs.

Some others have more limited access: consulate staff; lawyers; families of persons held.2 Only families (or friends) are subject to restricted hours. In Marseille, however, the frequent lack of police staff in the detention centre leads the police to decide to focus on surveillance rather than providing the opportunity for the visits to take place. Family visits are therefore sometimes simply cancelled for the morning. Since the reform of the law on asylum, representatives from UNHCR have access to the administrative detention centres in France under the same conditions as for waiting zones, meaning they have to get an individual agreement whose validity is of 3 months renewable. They are authorised to conduct confidential interviews with detainees who have applied to asylum in France.3

The reform of immigration law of March 2016 has instituted access for journalists to administrative detention centres.4 This access must be authorized by the Prefect.5 In case of denial of access, the decision has to be motivated.6 Their presence must be compatible with detainees’ dignity, security measures and the functioning of administrative detention centres.7 The detainees can refuse to appear on photographs or to be mentioned in articles. The journalists have to preserve the anonymity of the detained children under any circumstances. This condition does not apply to adults giving their authorisation for their identity to be revealed.8 The reform has also established the rule that journalists following Members of Parliament visiting detention centres cannot be denied access to these centres. The same limitations regarding the anonymity apply in this case.9

Finally, in cases where alternatives to detention are implemented (persons under house arrest), the key question of the exercise of rights of these persons is still to be dealt with. In fact, persons put under house arrest have neither access to information and free administrative and legal assistance by a specialised association, nor formalised social support and free health care.

  • 1. Décret du 24 juin 2014 modifiant les articles R.553-14-4 à R.553-14-8 du Ceseda complété par une note d’information du 28 octobre 2014 du ministre de l’intérieur relative aux modalités d’accès des associations humanitaires aux lieux de rétention.
  • 2. Ministry of Interior, Persons having access to centres and locations of administrative detention, available in French at:
  • 3. Article R.556-11 Ceseda.
  • 4. Article L.553-7 Ceseda as amended by Law n. 2016-274 of 7 March 2016.
  • 5. Article R.553-19 Ceseda as amended by Decree n. 2016-1457 of 28 October 2016.
  • 6. Article R.553-20 Ceseda as amended by Decree n.2016-1457 of 28 October 2016.
  • 7. Article L.553-7 Ceseda as amended by Law n. 2016-274 of 7 March 2016.
  • 8. Ibid.
  • 9. Articles R.553-15, R.553-16 and R.553-17 Ceseda, as amended by Decree n. 2016-1457 of 28 October 2016.

About AIDA

The Asylum Information Database (AIDA) is a database managed by the European Council on Refugees and Exiles (ECRE), containing information on asylum procedures, reception conditions, detenti