Geneva - Reports of “malfunctions” and “unacceptable violence” at the new administrative detention centre (CRA) in Lyon, France are deeply concerning to Euro-Med Monitor. The organisation condemns the dehumanising living conditions and climate of tension and violence that have been reported by elected officials and observers who visited the site.
French authorities established the new CRA last year at the Lyon-Saint Exupéry Airport. The facility, which cost 25 million euros, has a capacity for 140 people and currently hosts about 128 foreigners who have no legal status in the country (i.e. migrants, rejected asylum seekers, or former residents whose permits have been revoked). The detainees at CRA2 are mainly from the Maghreb countries or Eastern Europe.
The detention facility is rife with systematic problems that violate the basic dignity of its residents and pose a risk to their physical and mental health; even its prison-like structure—designed with concrete, grids, and significant restrictions—generates a hostile, tension-filled atmosphere of fear and violence. Existing prisoners are detained alongside young migrants, regardless of any potential risks. Police presence in the corridors is minimal, despite the presence of 200 border police agents at the centre, and detainees are reportedly allotted only half an hour for meals in the dining area and a single hour of interaction per day with NGOs to see to appeal procedures or medical visits. There is also only a very small court in each resident’s assigned block, without any other available leisure or recreational activities.
International human rights law, including the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights (ICCPR) and the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, requires that all persons deprived of their liberty be treated with humanity and respect for their inherent dignity. Furthermore, the European Convention on Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, to which France is a party, establishes the right to liberty and security, and prohibits torture and inhuman or degrading treatment.
The conditions described by elected officials and observers appear to violate these international human rights standards. Additionally, the European Union Return Directive sets out specific standards for the treatment of migrants in detention, including access to medical care, legal assistance, appropriate living conditions with respect for human dignity, as well as the right to physical and mental health. “The French detention facility’s appalling design and unliveable conditions along with the fact that newer facilities might be modelled after CRA2 indicate a deliberate goal of tormenting migrants as a measure of deterrence,” said Ramy Abdu, Chairman of Euro-Med Monitor.
“French authorities should refrain from the practice of entrapping young people in miserable conditions as an instrument of deterrence, to turn them into cautionary tales,” Abdu added. “Authorities should instead view them as humans whose basic rights to dignity and freedom must be upheld.”
Euro-Med Monitor calls on the French authorities to urgently address the issues of the Lyon CRA and ensure that the dignity and human rights of all detainees are fully respected. Euro-Med Monitor further urges the authorities to reconsider their plans to build new detention centres using the one in Lyon as a model, and instead prioritise the development of alternative non-custodial measures to ensure these individuals’ rights and safety, plus promote social inclusion.