In November, several organisations that are part of the Association Nationale d’Assistance aux Frontières pour les Étrangers (Anafé) petitioned the administrative courts of Nice and Marseille to rule on the right of access of associations to places of deprivation of liberty of the border police (‘Police Aux Frontières’ or ‘PAF’) at Menton pont Saint-Louis and of Montgenèvre. As of this writing, the cases were still pending but it is expected that the Nice administrative tribunal will pronounce itself first. The petition was filed after the groups were repeatedly denied access to these facilities.
Anafé has for many years denounced France’s practice of detaining people at the Franco-Italian border. According to the group, dozens of people are locked in modular buildings adjacent to the PAF posts in Menton and Montgenèvre for several hours and sometimes, for the whole night, in poor material conditions. No blankets are provided to detainees; there is no possibility to lie down; there is little or no food or water; and the conditions are reportedly unhygienic and overcrowded.
In 2017, however, the Conseil d’Etat, which had been pressured to prohibit this practice, said that these detentions could be justified as long as the duration of deprivation of liberty did not exceed a so-called “reasonable” duration of less than four hours. Yet, Anafé has observed detention measures lasting more than four hours and in poor conditions. In addition, Anafé argues that given that this type of deprivation of liberty falls outside any legal framework, it escapes judicial control. Since the end of 2019, several elected officials have been refused access to these premises on the grounds that the premises are not actually for the deprivation of liberty but rather to shelter exiled people. In September and October 2020, representatives from Anafé and Doctors of the World traveled to the PAF premises in Menton and Montgenèvre in order to provide legal and medical assistance to people being “sheltered” there. However, access was denied by the administration. In consequence, legal actions have been presented requesting the courts to sanction these practices aimed at preventing organisations protecting the rights and health of exiled persons from providing them assistance during their detention at the PAF premises.
On 8 October 2020, an Ivorian national, said she had been deprived of liberty for more than 14 hours with her two children aged 3 and 5 at the PAF facility in Menton. She added that she had been held with 17 other people in a small space, without any respect of sanitary protection protocols, without receiving any food and that the condition of the centre’s sanitary facilities were deplorable.
In 2019, a Nigerian national of 17 years old, told Anafé that he had been held more than 10 hours, from 27 to 28 May 2019, at the PAF facilities in Menton. 10 adults were being held at the same time as him, in appalling conditions with unusable toilets. According to him, he stated that he was a minor and that he wanted to seek asylum in France, but the authorities did not take this into account.
- Anafé, “Refus d’Assistance Médicale et Juridique aux Personnes Exilées Enfermées à la Frontière Franco-Italienne: Les Tribunaux Administratifs Saisis [Alerte Presse Inter-associative], 25 November 2020, http://www.anafe.org/spip.php?article582
- Anafé Logo, (Anafe.org, Travail personnel, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://bit.ly/2JuBEij)