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Migrants in Nantes. Screenshot from France3 reportage

French aid workers refuse to hand over list of people in emergency accommodation

Forty French aid associations called on the government to "give up" the measure requiring homeless shelters to send lists of refugees and asylum seekers to the authorities.

Published: July 7, 2019, 12:00 pm

    Within a few days, the managers of the centers will indeed have to “communicate monthly” to the French Office of Immigration and Integration (Ofii) the list of people hosted noting the surname, first name, date of birth, status, nationality, address of accommodation.

    This new measure, implemented by the Ministry of the Interior, aims to revive the “Collomb circular” of December 12, 2017, which aims to send “mobile teams” to collect information on the administrative situation of the persons accommodated in emergency shelters.

    In a letter sent to the Ministry of the Interior, the signatories, who bring together “almost all” actors in asylum housing and the fight against exclusion, “fear that this exchange of information is actually for the purpose of identifying foreigners in emergency accommodation in order to carry out checks and their expulsion or their removal from the territory.

    “In any case, the 115 may not be placed under the supervision of the Ministry of the Interior or the Ofii nor be in a position to exercise auxiliary police duties”, added the associations. On Friday they met with the Minister of Housing, Julien Denormandie. The 115 is their telephone number dialed for emergency reception regarding social integration.

    In addition, the associations recalled that this measure “would allow the Ministry of the Interior to have personal information about homeless people, without information or agreement on their part”. A “particularly dangerous” provision, which could push these people to flee the centers, they say.

    Meetings between the managers, departmental directorates of Ofii and prefectures will also be scheduled every month, to which associations are also “firmly opposed”.

    For governments, the idea is to know who is being hosted in these saturated centers and free up space for the homeless.

    According to one estimate from French daily Le Monde, some 11 000 asylum seekers and 8 000 refugees are being accommodated in these emergency facilities reachable at the emergency number 115.

    According to a report, foreigners in such centres have to be more and more restrained, and for longer periods of time, often without prospect of removal.

    Some 45 851 people were locked up in French administrative detention centers (CRA) in 2018. A figure that confirms the sad place that France has acquired in recent years as a European Union country that holds the most migrants in detention.

    This was the conclusion of the six associations that intervene in these places of confinement for foreigners in an illegal situation.

    In their report from 2018, these associations denounced a trivialization of the confinement of these people, who are there for extended periods of time. It is often until the legal retention period ends and then extended from there several times. Thus, in 2018, 2 000 people were locked up more than forty days in metropolitan CRAs before being released, an increase of 20 to 30 percent compared to 2016 and 2017.

    Above all, the removal rate is down compared to 2016: in 2017 and 2018, sonce only four out of ten people were moved out. Clearly, CRAs which are traditionally designed to retain migrants to either organise their return to the country of their origin or start their integration into the EU, have abandoned their original function.

    This is even worse in overseas centers, where the removal rate fell, between 2017 and 2018, from 59 to 45 percent. In metropolitan France, 40 percent of people were moved, including 17 percent to a country in the European Union.

    On the other hand, release rates have increased. In metropolitan France, 56.2 percent of those locked up were released, and 49.8 percent in French overseas territories. According to the associations, this confirmed “the misuse of detention by the prefectures”.

    This policy of intensification of confinement has generated degraded living conditions in these centers, noted the report. “In 2018, tensions increased: clashes and physical violence, towards the people themselves or towards other actors involved in CRAs; increased stress, pressure and feelings of injustice from those who are locked up; multiplication of desperate gestures, such as suicide attempts or self-harm,” the associations stated.

    In September 2018, a migrant killed himself in the center of Toulouse-Cornebarrieu (Haute-Garonne). His detention had been extended for 15 days.

    This observation is worrying, especially since, since 1 January 2019, the maximum legal retention period has been reduced from 45 to 90 days. “No French government had so far proposed such a period of deprivation of liberty to try to remove foreigners,” commented the associations.

    Finally, this report denounced the confinement of minors. In 2018, 1 429 children were held in detention: 114 families, including 208 children in mainland France, and 86.1 percent of them were under 13 years old. “Some 59 percent of these families were targeted for removal to a European country under the Dublin Regulation or the Schengen Border Code,” says the report.

    The associations called on the government to respect “the fundamental rights of people”.

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