Freedom News

France: Campaign against new migrant detention centres ramps up

Despite noises about welcoming refugees from Ukraine in recent months, France is joining Britain in expanding the prisons-for-migrants system as part of its own ongoing “hostile environment” efforts.

The Macron government is planning to open a number of new Administrative Retention Centers (CRAs) including a 64-place facility in Mesnil-Amelot, just outside Charles de Gaulle Airport, north-east of Paris. The sites are similar to Immigration Removal Centres in Britain, holding people who the government is aiming to deport, and like in Britain they have been highly controversial, with many reports of mistreatment and poor conditions. 

Campaigners have called for a grassroots mobilisation against the expansion, with a major gathering due to take place at the Paris Labour Exchange due on June 2nd to kickstart mobilisations. On the Mesnil-Amelot expansion, campaigners said:

These detention centres are at the crossroads of the logics of deprivation of liberty and expulsion. Indeed, they are thought of as the antechamber of expulsion, but are above all spaces of confinement and sorting, of people with “good” or “bad” papers. Since the Asylum and Immigration Law of 2018, the maximum duration of detention has been doubled to 90 days, or three months, in particularly horrible conditions, so that the prefectures have more time to try to deport them before release. The State therefore locks up more people, for longer and to carry out this racist policy, the government needs new places of confinement.

The prevailing political context suggests a deterioration of the situation (in detention centres), particularly for people without residence permits and their relatives. This mobilisation against the Menil-Amelot extension is part of a history of struggles against borders, and against detention centres, which were legalised in 1991. It is therefore a concrete collective struggle against the rise of fascism, for the rights of undocumented people and against the loss of our individual freedoms.

Several collectives, associations and individuals have been thinking about this mobilisation for a few months and we hope that it can be as broad as possible. This assembly is being thought of as a meeting place in order to coordinate us, to share our ideas and our initiatives. It will not be a question of being in agreement on everything, nor necessarily of organising a unitary action, but rather of creating a space of mobilisation within which several forms of struggle can coexist and coordinate.

The existing Mesnil-Amelot CRA is the largest in France with a capacity of 240. Through 2020, nearly 2,000 people were detained there with 40% being expelled. It is also the only CRA with a dedicated building for women and families, and very young children are regularly locked up there with their parents. The 64 extra cells will be a few minutes away by car, just opposite the runway of Roissy airport.

Elsewhere in France two new detention centres are under construction in Bordeaux and in Olivet (near Orléans), while expansions will be carried out at facilities in Coquelles (Calais) and Lesquin (Lille). A new CRA also opened in Lyon in January. Under Macron the number of places in metropolitan CRAs increased from 1,490 in 2017 to 1,946 at the end of June 2021, a 30% increase in five years – the government’s goal is to reach 2,200 places by December 2025.

The above was adapted from an article at Paris Luttes.

The June 2nd meeting will take place from 6.30pm in the in the Varlin annex of the Paris Labour Exchange, at 85 rue charlot.

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