Conditions in detention facilities

France

Country Report: Conditions in detention facilities Last updated: 08/04/22

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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. 744-6 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 differences 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 2020, these situations persisted and were accentuated by the health crisis of COVID 19 during which detention was even more perceived as unfair.[7]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.[8] There is limited information available as to whether these issues have been addressed as of the end of 2021.

 

Conditions in CRA

Overall living conditions

The previous versions of this country report (up until the 2020 Update) provided a detailed overview on the overall living conditions in the different CRA based on the annual Detention report prepared by several NGOs.

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.[9] 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).[10] 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.[11]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.[12] In practice, however, nothing has changed since 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 by CGLPL.[13]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.

In 2019, 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.[14] In practice, however, the issues remained unanswered.

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.[15] Recent figures are not available but similar issues continue to be reported.

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,[16] 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. 744-6 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]  See e.g. Infomigrants, ‘Centres de rétention en France : la colère d’étrangers sans perspective d’avenir’, 13 August 2020, available in French at : https://bit.ly/2NIFztS.

[8] 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.

[9] Ibid.

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

[11] 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.

[12]  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.

[13]  Ibid.

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

[15] Ibid.

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