Detention of vulnerable applicants


Country Report: Detention of vulnerable applicants Last updated: 30/11/20


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Detention of unaccompanied children

In theory, unaccompanied children cannot be returned and therefore cannot be detained as a consequence. Nevertheless, it is important to stress that in 2016, the five NGOs working in administrative detention centres met 182 detained persons who declared themselves to be children, down from 280 in 2015. These were young persons whose age had been disputed by the authorities and had been considered as adults, as a result of a medical examination for instance.[1] 49% of these young persons were released after a judicial decision in 2015.[2]

Similarly, in 2018, 6 NGOs reported that the detention of children continued to increase as 1,429 children were detained, of which 1,221 (85%) in Mayotte, where the authorities unlawfully “attach” children to unrelated adults. In mainland France, 208 children in 114 families were detained for an average period of two days, of which 51 in Metz, 42 in Mesnil-Amelot and 10 in Toulouse.[3] In the first 10 months of 2019, 236 children have been detained. In May 2019, detainees at the administrative detention centre in Rennes who opposed the forced return of an 18-year-old Moroccan national in the middle of the night set a fire in the facility and climbed onto the rooftops to protest the operation.[4]

 As regards waiting zones, unaccompanied children, generally speaking, are often maintained in waiting zones in inadequate conditions. The Ombudsman urged in 2017 for a better consideration of their interests, in particular by: consolidating training of agents working in waiting zones; informing children about their situation and rights; providing them more space to speak and to be heard; establishing separate spaces for children in the waiting zone; and informing the Prosecutor (Procureur de la République) of all unaccompanied children in these locations.[5]


Detention of families with children


There has been a steady increase in detained families with children from 2013 to 2018. Most families were detained in Mesnil-Amelot (37% of the total number of children detained in 2018) and Metz (45%).[6] It seems that the majority of the families detained were subjected to a house arrest order.[7]

Figures are higher overseas. In Mayotte, 1,221 children were detained in 2018, compared to 2,493 in 2017 and 4,285 in 2016.[8] Children are often detained with adults who are not their parents. After the Administrative Court of Mamoudzou had approved this practice, the Council of State condemned the Prefect of Mayotte twice, reminding him that it is compulsory to verify the parenthood link between a child and the adult he or she is linked to.[9]

On 12 July 2016, the ECtHR condemned France on five occasions for detaining children. In these decisions, the Court recalled that the detention of minors must be used as a last resort.[10]


Detention of victims of trafficking


Another issue is raised in relation to victims of human trafficking. Detention places are not meant to guarantee protection and the police officers hearing third-country nationals in these centres mainly focus on their administrative status. Potential asylum-seeking victims of trafficking do not feel safe and confident to submit an asylum claim, or to express their fear and their situation. They encounter difficulties to trust police officers unable to protect them against their traffickers.


[1]  Assfam et al., 2016 Detention report.

[2]  Ibid.

[3] ASSFAM-groupe SOS Solidarités, Forum réfugiés-Cosi, France terre d’asile, La Cimade, Ordre de Malte France, et Solidarité Mayotte, Centre et locaux de rétention administrative, Rapport 2018, May 2019, available in French at:

[4] FRA, Migration: Key Fundamental rights concerns, available at:, 4.

[5]  Omdbudsman, Decision No 2017-144, 26 June 2017, available in French at:

[6] Assfam et al., 2017 Detention report, June 2018, 15.

[7]  Assfam et al., 2016 Detention report.

[8] La Cimade, ‘Mettre fin à l’enfermement des enfants en rétention’, 11 July 2017, available in French at:

[9] Council of State, Orders of 5 October 2014 and 9 January 2015. See Assfam et al., 2014 Detention report, 30 June 2015.

[10] ECtHR, A.B. v. France, Application No 11593/12, R.M. and M.M. v. France, Application No 33201/11, A.M. v. France, Application No 24587/12, R.K. v. France, Application No 68264/14 and R.C. v. France, Application No 76491/14, Judgments of 12 July 2016.


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