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10 November 2020 – France

The Outside of the Vincennes CRA in 2019, (Infomigrants,
The Outside of the Vincennes CRA in 2019, (Infomigrants, "En Région Parisienne, un Centre de Rétention Transformé en CRA COVID," 23 September 2020,

Shortly after the onset of the pandemic, France temporarily closed several immigration detention centres (centres de rétention administrative or CRA) (see 16 July and 12 May France updates on this platform). However, the Conseil d’Etat rejected a request to completely shutter CRA’s on 27 March 2020 (see 6 April France update on this platform). Some of these facilities have been repurposed to hold only detainees who have tested positive for COVID-19. Since mid-July, one of the buildings at the Vincennes CRA has been used in this manner, accommodating 17 COVID-postive detainees. More recently, officials announced that the Plaisir CRA would also be repurposed to only hold migrants awaiting expulsion who have tested positive for COVID-19. Some 10 places will be available and each detainee will have their own cell.

According to the Association de Service Social Familial Migrants (ASSFAM), the government’s choice to transform the Plaisir CRA, the smallest CRA in the Paris region, to supplant the Vincennes CRA, is a calculated measure to “free up space to be able to keep more people in detention.” According to a report by La Cimade, 4,575 people were detained in the Vincennes CRA in 2019, making it the largest detention centre in France. In 2019, 53,273 people were detained in France’s CRA’s, an increase of 23 percent compared to 2018.

On 14 September, Libération reported that detainees are given the option whether to be tested for COVID-19. If they test positive, they are placed in isolation; if negative, they potentially face rapid deportation, within the 72 hour timeframe requested by airlines. La Cimade reported that due to this, “detainees continue to refuse COVID-19 testing, as they have become aware that a negative test result could lead to their deportation.” La Cimade also reported that at the Mesnil-Amelot CRA, more than a quarter of the 60 detainees refused to be tested for the virus on 31 August 2020. While the Mesnil-Amelot CRA has resumed its activities, its capacity remains reduced by half, according to the national health protocol. According to La Cimade, those who refuse a COVID-19 test are being threatened with prosecution for obstructing justice. In early September, a Tunisian national detained at the Rennes CRA was sentenced to prison for two months after refusing to take a COVID-19 test.

Due to a recent surge in COVID-19 cases, the government announced a second national lockdown on 30 October 2020. On 6 November, La Cimade reported that the authorities had been increasing the number of people detained in CRA’s. The occupancy rate in CRA’s went from 50 percent early in the epidemic to 90 percent in the Bordeaux CRA on the first weekend of the second national lockdown. Prior to the second national lockdown, on 10 July, and following the dismantling of the migrant camps in Calais, 20 people were detained at the Coquelles CRA. Nonetheless, their detention at the Coquelles CRA meant that the occupancy rate went up to 62 percent. This is above the maximum 50 percent occupancy rate for CRA’s, according to guidance established by authorities in response to the pandemic. France’s National Sanitary Protocol says that CRA’s should remain under 50 percent capacity to avoid the spread of the virus.