Conditions in detention facilities

France

Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 30/11/20

Author

Forum Réfugiés – Cosi Visit Website

Police staff working in the CRA do not receive a specific training with regard to migration and asylum law. This lack of specific training is, however, compensated by the fact that NGOs are present quasi-permanently in administrative detention centres in order to provide legal information and assistance.

Article R.553-3 Ceseda, sets out the conditions of administrative detention. They must meet the following standards:

  1. A minimum usable surface of 10m² per detainee comprising bedrooms and spaces freely accessible during opening hours;
  2. Collective bedrooms (separation men / women) for a maximum of six persons;
  3. Sanitary facilities, including wash-hand basins, showers and toilets, freely accessible and of sufficient number, namely one sanitary block for 10 detainees;
  4. A telephone for fifty detainees freely accessible;
  5. Necessary facilities and premises for catering;
  6. Beyond forty persons detained, a recreational and leisure room distinct from the refectory, which is at least 50m², increased by 10m² for fifteen extra detainees;
  7. One or several rooms medically equipped, reserved for the medical team;
  8. Premises allowing access for visiting families and the consulate authorities;
  9. Premises reserved for lawyers;
  10. Premises allocated to the OFII, which among others organises voluntary return;
  11. Premises, furnished and equipped with a telephone allocated to the NGOs present in the centre;
  12. An open-air area; and
  13. A luggage room.

Centres in which families may be detained must provide specific rooms, including nursery equipment.[1] Men and women held in detention centres have separated living spaces (zones de vie). The set-up of the rooms varies from one detention centre to the other, ranging from 2 to 6 persons per room. Specific provisions have been adopted concerning Mayotte. The detention centre cannot exceed a 140 places capacity, will integrate unisex rooms, free-access sanitary facilities, an open-air area, one room medically equipped, reserved for the medical team and a free-access telephone for organisations intervening in the centre.[2]

Overall, the administrative detention conditions are deemed adequate in France but there are quite important variations between centres. Throughout 2016, several riots have broken out, including cases of arson, in a number of CRA such as Paris-Vincennes and Mesnil-Amelot.[3] In December 2017, a Paris-Vincennes unit was burned during a riot.[4] Hunger strikes were led in four CRA in January 2019.[5] Between 2017 and 2019, five migrants died in CRA[6] and several suicides attempts have been reported. In a  report on detention conditions in the context of immigration in France, published in March 2020, the European committee for the prevention of torture (CPT) noted several points: lack of specialised training for staff, no systematic health examination before admission, almost total absence of activities and little contact with staff, prison-like environment, almost no activities in most of the places visited, information notices on rights which often only exist in French, no consultation with a psychologist, but also good practice of wide access to outdoor courtyards.[7]

 

Conditions in CRA

 

Overall living conditions

The 2018 Detention report gives a specific description of the detention conditions in each CRA:

CRA

General conditions / specific elements

Sanitation and food

Collective spaces

Mainland France

Bordeaux

Completely renovated in 2011

 

Many asylum seekers are detained after being placed under a Dublin procedure.

2 showers and 2 toilets

3 nurses on site every day, 2 doctors part time

Canteen with 2 TVs

One TV room

20m² secured outdoor patio with table-soccer game, 2 benches and sport equipment, free access

Coquelles

The detention centre is the closest one to Calais. It has operated for 17 years and is dilapidated.

The detention centre is divided into 3 zones.

Many people are detained without perspective of deportation. In 2018, 148 foreigners have declared being minors but were not considered as such by the authorities.

 

3 to 4 showers per zone and 1 toilet per room

4 nurses and 2 doctors (1 or 2 nurses on site every day)

 

25 rooms (2 to 5 beds per room)

1 TV per zone

1 collective space and a phone box

Courtyard with benches, free day-time access

Hendaye

Temporarily closed in 2017, but re-opened in April 2018.

 

Security concerns arose from the lack of police presence within the detention centre.

 

Vulnerable persons were detained

2 nurses and 2 doctors

15 showers and 15 toilets

 

14 rooms composed of 2 beds each and 1 room for a couple

2 TV rooms, board games, a play room for children

2 courtyards with a table-soccer, tennis table,  basketball hoop, sport equipment, bench, cigarette-lighter

Lille-Lesquin

The detention centre has been open since 2006. Many asylum seekers under Dublin procedures were detained at the end of 2017, despite the decision of the Court of Cassation.

Following medical examinations demonstrating serious health issues, several other persons were released and their repatriation was suspended. 

A handicapped man was also released a few hours after his arrival due to the lack of appropriate support for handicapped persons.

 

Since the end of 2018, 3 rooms are dedicated to host people previously condemned for acts of terrorism.

Video conferencing for interviews with OFPRA is available. Several technical dysfunctions have nevertheless been denounced, as well as the stressful and intimidating character of the room. 

 

45 showers and toilets

3nurses, 5 doctors

 

42 rooms with 2 beds, 3 rooms with 4 beds

180m² hallway with a bench, a fountain and a phone box, giving access to the offices of the association and the OFII.

Courtyard with a table tennis and a playground, free access from 5 a.m to 23 p.m

Lyon-Saint Exupéry

The detention centre is located in a former low cost hotel and is opened since 1995.

 

In 2018, 118 asylum seekers placed under Dublin procedure were detained; 20 of them were sent to the state responsible for their application (mainly Italy) the day after their arrival through “special flights”, without having access to legal aid.

1 shower and 1 toilet per room

There are 4 nurses (3 full-time and 1 part-time) and 1 doctor but there is no permanent access to the medical unit

 

26 rooms with 4 beds and 2 confinement rooms

4 collective rooms with 4 tables tennis and sport equipment, free day-time access

2 outdoor courtyards (1 area for men area, 1 area for women/families) partly with grass, free day-time access

Marseille

Detention conditions are deteriorated by structural problems such as waters leakages (especially in common areas), and breaches in the air circulation system

Access to legal aid offered by the association is difficult due to long waiting lists. The number of asylum seekers under Dublin procedure detained increased by 60% in 2018 (106 persons) compared to 2017.

1 shower and 1 toilet per room

4 nurses, 3 doctors and 1 medical secretary

 

69 rooms with 2 beds per room

TV room, canteen and walking zone, free access during the day

Outdoor courtyard covered by wires, free access during the day

Mesnil-Amelot

The detention centre is divided into two facilities.

Many people detained have psychiatric issues.

Illegal practices led by the Prefecture have been denounced (e.g. deportation of people during asylum procedures, detention of people with family links in France etc.).

2 showers and 4 toilets per facility (20 people)

6 nurses, 5 doctors and 1 psychiatrist twice a week

 

120 rooms with two beds in each of the 2 buildings and 1 confinement room per facility

2 collective spaces of 16.5m² per building with 1 TV

One 80m² courtyard per building, free access

 

Playground for children

Metz-Queuleu

Following a terrorist attack in 2017 in Marseillle by a foreigner in irregular situation who should have been detained, the increase in the number of detainees resulted in the deterioration of living conditions in the center; causing tensions among the detainees and with the staff.

Several families were detained, in some cases for more than a week.

112 children detained in 2018, 65 were less than 6 years old

 

Vulnerable young women, mostly victims of human trafficking, were detained. 

4 showers and 4 toilets per building

3 nurses and 2 doctors consulting on demand

Difficult access to medical care, long and complicated procedures to get an appointment with the doctors provided by OFII.

 

7 buildings of 14 rooms (2 beds par room)

Canteen and TV room in each building

Large outdoor courtyard separated in two zones (men and women/families) with a playground for children and football and basketball fields

 

4 phone boxes

Nice

The capacity of the centre passed from 38 to 40 places in 2018 Renovations to renew the rooms and the showers are foreseen.

 

 

8 showers and 9 toilets (no doors are provided so that detainees are obliged to use sheets to preserve their privacy)

1 nurse every day and 1 doctor part-time 5 days a  week

 

Insufficient quantity of food, no halal food, which causes many tensions between the detainees and the police

5 rooms with 6 beds each; 2 rooms with 5 beds each

1 shared room with a TV, free access during the day

1 outdoor secured courtyard. Nothing in there. Ongoing works to put wires above.

Nîmes

Although the detention centre is a recent building, regular dysfunctions are being registered: detainees mostly suffer from high temperatures in the summer and cold temperatures in winter due to heating interruptions  

 

Interviews with OFPRA are conducted via videoconferencing.

 

Several vulnerable people without real perspectives of repatriation have been detained.

1 shower and 1 toilet per room

2 nurses every day and 3 doctors part-time 5 days a week

Detainees often complain about the lack of halal food, causing tensions and an important waste of food.

64 rooms with 2 beds each

1 room for people with disabilities

2 TV rooms and 2 rooms with a table-soccer game

1 fenced courtyard built in concrete with a tennis table

Palaiseau

The detention centre is close to the prison of Fleury-Mérogis.

 

Detainees complain about the lack of activities and about the stressing situation resulting from the lack of information on the duration of the detention.  

 

Several cases of personal belongings and identity documents having been lost have been reported.

 

1 shower and 1 toilet per room

1 nurse every day, 1 doctor 2 half-days a week

To protest against detention conditions, detainees have resorted to self injuries and hunger strikes.

20 rooms with 2 beds each and 1 confinement room

1 TV room and 1 collective room with a TV and a table-soccer game

1 outdoor courtyard

Paris-Vincennes

Many detainees in 2018 were seriously ill and under Dublin procedures.

10 showers and 10 toilets per building (3 buildings)

3 doctors, 8 nurses everyday

2 to 4 beds per room

1 collective room with a TV and 1 console

1 fenced courtyard with a tennis table and sporting equipment, free access

Perpignan

CRA only for men.  

3 showers and 3 toilets per building (5 buildings)

Nurses every day and 1 doctor 3 times a week

Tensions caused by the presence of detainees with drug addiction problems and having violent behaviours.

Detainees complained about the lack of halal food

 

22 rooms with 2 beds in each, 1 room with 4 beds

1 TV room

2 outdoor courtyards with a football field and a tennis table, free access from 7 a.m to 23 p.m.

Plaisir

The detention centre is located within the premises of the police station. Directions to the CRA are nowhere indicated.

Video conferencing for interviews with OFPRA is available, but since the hall is not sufficiently isolated, the lack of privacy has been  denounced by detainees.

Violence committed by the security as well as excessive use of isolation measures

Many detainees were seriously ill, i.e. suffering from physical handicap and/or psychiatric problems or drug addictions. Adequate treatment has not been provided to them in the centre. 

 

1 shower and 1 toilet per room

1 nurse every day and 1 doctor 2 half-day in the week

Detainees are obliged to stay in their rooms between midnight and 7 a.m.

Meals are often not compatible with religious believes

14 rooms with 2 beds per room

1 canteen with a TV and a table-soccer game

One 108m² fenced outdoor courtyard (also covered with wires).

Rennes

Number of detainees (1,179) increased by 10% in 2018 compared to 2017

 

Many people suffering from severe mental illnesses have been detained without taking into account their situation

16 showers and 18 toilets

1 nurse every day and 1 doctor 3 half-days a week

Collective hunger strike to protest against the conditions of expulsion.

26 rooms with 2 beds per room and 1 family room for 4 people.

2 confinement rooms (set up in 2014)

1 collective room with TV, sporting equipment and a table-soccer game

1 collective room per building with TV

1 fenced and opaque outdoor courtyard with a basketball field and greenery areas. Only day-time access.

Rouen-Oissel

The detention centre is located in the Londe-Rouvray forest, within the premises of the police station. No direct public transportation leads to the detention centre.

The building is old and affected by many dysfunctions, mainly in the men’s area where  there are regular water leakages (certain rooms are particularly moist), the heating is not functioning well in common areas and the rooms are humid

The right to an effective remedy is not respected for people coming from prisons (decision notified on Friday evening).

Excessive and unjustified use of isolation measures. Violence committed by the police have been frequently reported in those situations.

 

1 shower and 1 toilet per room

3 nurses and 1 doctor

72 places (53 for men and 19 for women)

14 rooms (8 rooms with 6 beds each, 2 rooms with 5 beds each, 3 rooms with 4 beds each and 1 room with 2 beds)

In the “men’s area” there are 1 table-soccer game, 1 table-tennis game and 2 rooms with TV

In the “women and family area” there is a 40 m² room for children with toys and a tennis-table game. There is also a TV room

In each area there is a small fenced outdoor courtyard

Sète

The detention centre is dilapidated.

Machines with coffee, cigarettes and snacks broken; inadequate heating system and air conditioning.

 

1 shower and 1 toilet per room

2 nurses 7/7 days and 1 doctor 2 days a week working part-time

Meals are subject to tensions and detainees complain that food is insufficient. No halal food.

Many people are detained even if affected by severe mental illnesses.

 

Self injuries and hunger strikes to protest are frequent.

 

12 rooms with 2 beds and 1 room for 4 people

1 collective room of 50 m² with TV and a table-soccer game

1 fenced, covered and opaque courtyard of 47m²

Strasbourg-Geispolsheim

CRA only for men.

83 detainees were transferred from LRA.

Since 2018, the number of detainees placed under Dublin procedure increased.

 

Good medical assistance provided, including external consultation by specialised doctors.

 

Self injuries and hunger strikes have been registered however.

 

 

Toulouse-Cornebarrieu

The detention centre was built in 2006. The buildings are dilapidated. This includes problems with the heating, isolation and breaks in the walls, as well as dirty facilities and showers with no hot water.

The center is almost always full

1 shower and 1 toilet per room

1 doctor working part time 7/7 days part-time and2nurses present 7/7days

Several cases of important  psychological distress have been reported, leading in some cases to suicide attempts

5 areas (3 for men, 1 for women and 1 for families)

61 rooms of 12m² (up to 20m² for family rooms)

1 TV room

One 200m² fenced and covered outdoor courtyard per area, free access 24/24h

Overseas

Guadeloupe

Poor detention conditions  and particularly poor medical follow-up

Rooms often infested by insects.

5 showers and 3 toilets

Poor medical support as no doctors are present in the centre. 1 nurse working part-time during the week and 1 nurse during the week-end.

8 areas: 6 for men and 3 for women.  Rooms of 12m² with 4 beds each.

Canteen with TV, Outdoor courtyard, completely fenced

Guyane

Poor medical follow-up even though detention conditions have improved.

 

Tensions between detainees and security staff

7 showers and 6 toilets

1 nurse 6/7 days in the morning until 3 pm.

1 doctor 3/7 days

In practice, the doctor intervenes mostly on request and can only be reached by phone when absent.

Hunger strikes have been organised in October 2018 to protest against the insufficiency of the food. A suicide attempt was registered in October.

 

Men’s area: 5 rooms with 5 beds each

Women’s area: 4 rooms with 3 beds each

2 completely fenced outdoor courtyards closed during the night

Mayotte

A new detention centre was opened in Mayotte in September 2015, to replace the old centre whose conditions have been criticised on several occasions.

The centre has been recently renovated and the detention conditions are significantly improved.

Access to the rights very difficult (only 13% of detainees have seen NGO in 2018)

15 toilets plus 2 for disabled people

15 showers plus for 2 disabled people

1 doctor on site every afternoon 5/7 days and three nurses on site every day from 8 am to 6 pm

26 shared rooms (16 for individuals and 10 for families)

1 canteen

1 outdoor courtyard for all with a playground for children, free access

Réunion

 This centre is closed for renovation.

 

 

 

Separate places are provided for families in the 10 centres which are duly authorised. Access to education is not foreseen in France in CRA since children are not supposed to stay there. However, the prohibition of administrative detention for children is only applicable to unaccompanied children; children with their families can be detained for 90 days without access to education.

Access to open-air areas depends on the facilities. Facilities built after 2006, such as in Marseille, have become prison-like. In the majority of the centres, no activity is provided. As demonstrated in the above table, depending on the CRA, there may be a TV room (sometimes out of order or only broadcasting programmes in French), a few board games, a table football or even several ping pong tables but this is still insufficient, especially taken into consideration the length of detention which can amount to 90 days.[8] Lack of activity and boredom are the day to day reality for persons held in these centres. The detainees can in principle keep their mobile phones if they do not include camera equipment. Most people are therefore not authorised to keep their phones and the police refuses to authorise them even if the detainees offer to break the camera tool. Detainees may have access to reading material, depending on the centre but computers are never made available. Finally, detainees can have contact with relatives during restricted visit hours, however a number of detention centres are located in remote areas or accessible with difficulty (no or limited public transportation).

Health care and special needs in detention

There is no specific mechanism to identify vulnerable persons or persons with special reception needs while in detention.

Sanitary and social support is provided by medical and nursing staff. Their availability varies from one centre to the other (from 2 days to 7 days a week). The care is given by doctors and nurses who belong to an independent hospital staff. They are grouped in medical administrative detention centres (UMCRA).[9] In principle, each person placed in administrative detention is seen by the nurse upon arrival. The person is seen by the doctor upon request or on the request of the nurses, in principle within 2 days of arrival. The threshold to determine that a health status is incompatible with administrative detention seems to vary a lot depending on the doctors and the detention centres. In case of high-risk pregnancy, doctors of the UMCRA may provide a certificate stating the incompatibility of the health of the person with placement in administrative detention – but this is not automatic and this recommendation is not always followed by the Prefect.

The General Controller of Places of Detention (CGLPL) issued an opinion in December 2018, urging for a revision of the UMCRA framework and an expansion of their capacity.[10] Moreover, in a report published after an unannounced visit to an administrative detention centre in Lyon, the Controller General of places of deprivation of liberty highlighted a number of shortcomings in the detention conditions. These include insufficient information on the house rules, no systematic medical checks upon admission, and limited access to a psychiatrist.[11] In practice, however, nothing has changed in 2019.

The practical problems observed regarding access to healthcare relate to a lack of consideration for psychological or psychiatric problems of the detainees, which was highlighted recently by CGLPL.[12] Dozens of suicide attempts are reported each year in these centres. In some detention centres, the lack of continuing presence of medical units leads police officers to assess the needs of patients, as is the case for example in Guadeloupe. In Bordeaux, in only one occasion a detainee has been released for medical reasons whereas many of them suffer from physical or psychological pathologies.

More than 20 civil society organisations sent an open letter to the Minister of the Interior, raising concerns about the increasing number of suicides, hunger strikes and self-harm in immigration detention centres; the increase in the occupancy rate of the centres; and the difficulties in accessing care, especially psychiatric care.[13]

The lack of medical confidentiality is another concern. Out of 13 CRA visited by the CGLPL in 2017 and 2018, more than half presented concerns about compliance with the principle of confidentiality.[14]

The six NGOs working in detention centres have also identified an important issue regarding victims of human trafficking. In some cases, these victims have been properly orientated and supported by the medical unit and the police, in Lille for example. The aforementioned NGOs have nevertheless pointed out that victims of trafficking were mostly not provided with specific support. Their number in detention centres is increasing, namely in Coquelles, Metz or Sète

 

Conditions in waiting zones

 

Conditions in waiting zones differ considerably from one area to another.

Roissy is the most structured and organised waiting zone in France,[15] insofar it provides adapted infrastructure and concentrates all relevant actors in the same place. These include: the French Red Cross (Croix rouge française) which provides humanitarian assistance and counselling; Anafé, which provides legal information and assistance by phone and through a physical presence three days a week; OFPRA conducts interviews with asylum seekers; and as of 2017 the JLD, stationed in an Annex of the TGI of Bobigny in a building adjacent to the waiting zone. Neither the Red Cross nor OFPRA are physically present in other waiting zones in the country.

Conditions are reported as more problematic in other waiting zones: NGOs have not the capacity to regularly access them and people detained can thus establish contact only by phone in order to obtain legal aid. Waiting zones are also usually very small and the police is not trained accordingly.

 


[1]  Article R.553-3 Ceseda.

[2]   Ibid.

[3]  See Assfam, Forum réfugiés – Cosi, France terre d’asile and La Cimade, Incendies en rétention : illustrations de la violence de l’enfermement, 13 July 2016, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2jU9qPm.

[4]  Le Parisien, ‘Bois de Vincennes : une unité du centre de rétention part en fumée après une évasion’, 5 December 2017, available in French at: http://bit.ly/2FGK27V.

[5] Libération, ‘Mouvements de grève de la faim dans quatre centres de rétention administrative’, 18 January 2019, available in French at: https://bit.ly/2ImNNVr.

[6] La Cimade, Rétention : mort d’une personne par pendaison, 30 December 2019, available in French at : https://bit.ly/3arLPwb.

[7] Council of Europe, CPT, Rapport au Gouvernementde la République française relatif à la visite effectuée en Francepar le Comité européen pour la prévention de la torture et des peines ou traitements inhumains ou dégradants (CPT) du 23 au 30 novembre2018, 24 March 2020, available in French at : https://bit.ly/39rfnJw.

[8]  Ibid.

[9] Ministry of Interior, The Centres of Administrative Detention, available in French at: http://bit.ly/1dM8BkC.

[10] CGLPL, Avis du 17 décembre 2018 relatif à la prise en charge sanitaire des personnes étrangères au sein des centres de rétention administrative, available in French at: https://bit.ly/2TiP5Bm.

[11] Controller General of places of deprivation of liberty, Rapport de la troisième visite du centre de rétention administrative de Lyon Saint-Exupéry, available in French at : https://bit.ly/3cIFbE1.

[12]  Ibid.

[13] The open letter is available in French at: https://bit.ly/2W32Dps.

[14]  Ibid.

[15]  Anafé, Aux frontières des vulnérabilités, February 2018, 35.

 

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation