Press release - 674(2010)

Rights of migrants in France: Commissioner Hammarberg calls on the authorities to comply fully with European standards

Strasbourg, 21.09.2010 – “Improvements need to be made to uphold migrants’ rights in France”, said the Council of Europe’s Commissioner for Human Rights, Thomas Hammarberg, today as he published a letter sent to the French Minister for Immigration, Integration, National Identity and Development Solidarity, Eric Besson. “There is a need for reform not only as far as the reception of migrants and asylum are concerned, but also with particular regard to detention and returns”.

The letter comes following the visit made on 19 May to Calais and the surrounding area, when the Commissioner met migrants, civil society representatives and the local authorities. He also had talks with Mr Besson.

Efforts have been made to open up accommodation centres to all asylum seekers. However, in practice, asylum seekers continue to be housed in shameful and insecure conditions. “There is a tendency to process asylum requests more and more quickly whereas they need time and careful analysis. The proposal to resort to “accelerated” procedures in an ever-growing number of cases is worrying.”

The Commissioner points out the negative consequences of determining specific numbers of foreigners to be deported. This entails a danger of abuse and a deterioration of relations between the law enforcement agencies and people who could be considered foreigners. The Commissioner finds it a matter of particular regret that these numbers are constantly rising.

Commissioner Hammarberg reminds France of its human rights commitments and also focuses on certain aspects of the immigration, integration and nationality bill shortly to be debated in the French National Assembly. “Many of the proposed changes are a step backwards. For example, the authority given to Préfets to prohibit a migrant from entering the Schengen area for a period of three years could raise questions of compliance with the European Convention on Human Rights.”

The bill also provides for a reduction in judicial supervision when a foreigner is detained, and therefore the extent and frequency of such supervision could suffer as a result. More generally, detention is resorted to all too frequently. The Commissioner calls on France to find alternatives to this deprivation of freedom, especially for families with children.

Lastly, he welcomes France’s commitment to helping certain European countries which are suffering from excessive migration pressure. In this connection, Commissioner Hammarberg reminds the French authorities of the need to suspend sending asylum seekers to Greece until the Greek national asylum system becomes fully operational and in line with European standards.

Reply of Minister Besson

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