Twenty rights groups – including Amnesty International and Medicins du Monde – on Wednesday denounced France’s “punitive policy” towards migrants held in the country’s detention centers.
The groups claimed that two people had committed suicide in the migrant holding centers, also citing cases of hunger strikes, riots, and arson attempts.
“Men and women self-harm or attempt suicide in the administrative detention centers (CRAs),” the NGOs said in a letter to French Interior Minister Christophe Castaner.
Such acts are “the result of an unacceptable policy which leads to an extremely alarming situation,” while the government “trivializes the deprivation of liberty for foreigners,” said the groups, which include the French organization Cimade which works to help asylum seekers and refugees.
The “punitive policy” frequently means that people are locked with no prospect even of being sent back to their home country.
The NGOs’ letter says that there is no management of mental disorders in the camps, which only aggravates problems.
Those suffering such disorders are often locked up in separate rooms with no specialized help, it said.
The criticism by the rights groups followed an order by France’s highest administrative court last week that water points, showers, and toilets must be installed in a gymnasium housing hundreds of migrants in conditions NGOs described as a rights violation.
The Council of State gave regional authorities eight days to install “sufficient” resources and to provide some 700 migrants with information, in their own languages, about their rights, according to the order seen by AFP.
On Wednesday the 20 associations called on Castaner, to ban the confinement of children in detention, to protect the sick and to “put an end to the administration’s illegal practices.”
Castaner on Tuesday insisted that the confinement of children in these CRAs must remain an “exceptional” circumstance and only happen in specialized centers able to house whole families.
Earlier in June, Cimade and other groups published a report highlighting “a deterioration of rights” of foreigners held in the CRAs.
According to that document, last year saw a rise in the number of families with children being held, with 1,221 children on the French-administered Indian Ocean island of Mayotte and 208 more in mainland France.