Hundreds of people were evicted from tents in central Paris by police using excessive force attacking migrants, media and protestors causing investigations, complaints and political condemnation. French NGOs have initiated proceedings to litigate illegal detention and human rights violations at the French border with Italy before the Administrative Tribunals of Nice and Marseille. The National Court of Asylum (CNDA) has issued two decisions reducing the access to protection for Afghan asylum seekers amid ongoing violence in Afghanistan.

 In the night of 23 September French police announced and carried out the eviction of around 500 people of mainly Afghan descent in a makeshift tented camp established the same day at Place de la République in central Paris. The operation was carried out with the use of excessive force including attacks with teargas, shock grenades and truncheons against migrants, journalists and protestors. The French Human Rights Defender (Défenseur des droits) ensuring human rights and freedom under the French constitution as well as the General Inspectorate of the National Police (Inspection générale de la Police nationale – IGPN) have launched investigations with Council of Europe Commissioner for Human Rights, Dunja Mijatović confirming that she is following them closely. The conduct by police has been widely condemned by NGOs and politicians including Paris mayor, Anne Hidalgo and Interior minister, Gérald Darmanin confirming a rapid conclusion of investigations by IGNP and describing photos and video material as shocking. Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) that were present in Place de la République on the evening of Monday 23 November have launched a complaint against the Prefect of Police of Paris Didier Lallement for violence and damage to the property of organisations and migrants.

The incident occurs amid intense debate over a new global security bill filed on 20 October  by a group of MPs from the presidential party extending the authority of police to film and share interventions and conduct surveillance of public spaces. While, at the same time the highly controversial: “article 24 proposes to prohibit the public from disseminating “the image of the face or any other element of identification of an official of the national police or of a soldier of the national gendarmerie when acting within the framework of ‘a police operation’ and when this dissemination is made ‘with the aim of harming his physical or mental integrity’. Numerous political actors including First Secretary of the French Socialist Party, Olivier Faure, General secretary of the French Democratic Confederation of Labour (CFDT), Laurent Berger, MP for La France Insoumise (LFI), Éric Coquerel and MEP representing Europe Ecology (EELV), Yannick Jadot have raised severe critique of the security bill following the violent crackdown on journalists, migrants, and protestors by police. The bill was adopted on 23 November by the National Assembly and will be examined by the Senate in January 2021.

 In 2017 the French Council of State refused to sanction controversial practices of the French border police (Police aux frontières, PAF) including deprivation of liberty without any legal basis, interference with the right to seek asylum, and violation of the rights of children. However, following the refusal by French authorities to grant access to lawyers and medical assistance to asylum seekers held in detention at the French border with Italy, a group of French NGOs on 18 and 21 November initiated proceedings to litigate alleged illegal detention and human rights violations before Administrative Tribunals of Nice and Marseille.

Since 2018 the French National Court of Asylum (CNDA) has granted near-systematic protection to Afghan asylum seekers based on the general level of indiscriminate violence in the capital of Kabul. However, in two decisions rejecting appeals from Afghan asylum seekers published on 19 November, the CNDA concludes that is no longer at a level leaving civilians who return under serious threat to their life and person. These decisions pave the way for increased deportations at a time of widespread terror and violence in the capital of Kabul and across the country. An attack in the heavily fortified Green Zone in Kabul on 21 November killed at least eight civilians and wounded dozens and over the last six months, the Taliban has carried out 53 suicide attacks and 1,250 bombings killing 1,210 civilians and wounding 2,500. In its recent country of origin report on the Security situation in Afghanistan published on 28 September, the European Asylum Support Office (EASO) states: “The security situation in Afghanistan remained volatile during the reference period (1 March 2019 – 30 June 2020), while the conflict continued to be described as one of the deadliest in the world for civilians” and adds: “several sources reported a spike in violence during the first six months of 2020, with an increase in the number of civilian casualties, particularly in the northern and north-eastern regions”. At the opening session of the 2020 Afghanistan Conference “Peace, Prosperity and Self-Reliance”, EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy/Vice-President of the European Commission, Josep Borrell said: With intra-Afghan peace negotiations having started, but terrible violence still causing great suffering for the Afghan people…”.

According to the Asylum Information Database (AIDA) managed by ECRE, Afghans have been the first nationality of applicants in France since 2018 and recent Eurostat statistics indicate that a total of 17,615 applications for international protection of Afghan nationals were pending as of the end of October 2020. The new CNDA ruling is thus likely to impact their situation in the future.

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Photo: by ECRE

This article appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin. You can subscribe to the Weekly Bulletin here.