11 April 2014

Human Rights Watch (HRW) has urged France to stop detaining children in transit zones at the borders and to grant them adequate protection. The new HRW research reveals that as many as 500 unaccompanied children are detained each year in transit zones at French ports and airports on the ground that they are not on French territory.  While unaccompanied children cannot normally be detained in France, under French law, those arriving at an airport or seaport can be held in one of these transit zones for up to 20 days. Human Rights Watch highlights that such practice has not changed despite the 2009 French Court of Cassation decision holding that “a child held at the Roissy Charles de Gaulle airport transit zone is de facto on French territory,” eliminating any legal justification to this policy. As a consequence, children in a transit zone do not enjoy the level of protection that they are entitled to, their claim will be subject to expedited procedures, and they will often go through an age assessment without the assistance of a guardian. Children’s rights are compromised by both the short timeframe allocated for them to prepare their claim and the lack of legal assistance during the asylum procedure. These shortcomings put children at risk of expedited deportation.

Human Rights Watch highlights that such practices are contrary to France’s obligations under international law, according to which states shall take into account the child’s best interest as a primary consideration before taking any decision which may affect them. “There’s no reason why unaccompanied migrant children in the transit zones should be subject to a different legal regime than other children on French territory,” said Alice Farmer, children’s rights researcher at Human Rights Watch.

This new research updates the 2009 “Lost in Transit” report.

This article originally appeared in the ECRE Weekly Bulletin of 11 April 2014
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