43,746 persons were detained in 2012 in France for the purpose of return. The five NGOs seeking to ensure respect for detainee’s fundamental rights in the 25 French administrative detention centres for third country nationals have published a joint report this week which denounces an abusive use of detention for several categories of people such as persons who cannot be returned, persons whose return decision has been considered illegal, persons not presenting a risk of absconding, asylum seekers, persons in a regular situation in the Schengen area, and sick and vulnerable people. As a presidential candidate, François Hollande had promised administrative detention of third country nationals would “become an exception, not a banal instrument of the procedure”.
Since a legislative change in 2011, judicial review of a detention order can only take place after five days of administrative detention. In 2012, 60% of the persons who were returned were expelled before the legality of their detention was reviewed by the “judge of freedom and detention”. The five NGOs call for the re-establishment of judicial review earlier in the detention process; for a reduction in the maximum duration of administrative detention (currently 45 days) and for the establishment of an effective remedy against all expulsion measures in France mainland as well as in overseas territories.
In 2012, France was condemned three times by the European Court of Human Rights in relation to the violation of fundamental rights of persons in administrative detention. France was condemned for its systematic detention of families in Popov v. France, for the lack of suspensive remedy for asylum seekers in IM v. France, and for persons detained overseas in De Souza Ribeiro v. France.
According to the organisations, the only notable achievement in 2012 is the dramatic decrease of the number of families placed in administrative detention in France mainland. This practice has however continued massively in Mayotte.
The five organisations working in the French administrative detention centres for third country nationals are ASSFAM, Forum réfugiés-Cosi, France terre d’asile, La Cimade and Ordre de Malte France.