September 22nd, 2009, the destruction of the “Afghan Jungle” in Calais. The police are racial profiling between people who look older and those looking underage. The first are sent to detention centres, the second to open centres this time round, most will leave the following day.
July 2nd, 2014, the evacuation of the camp that gave rise to the occupation by the Exiles of the place arranged for the distribution of meals near the centre of Calais and to three squats. Racial profiling to choose between presumed majors and alleged minors, the minors are taken to centres requisitioned for the occasion. The first group would return to Calais the same evening.
February 29th to March 16th, 2016, the destruction of the southern part of the Calais shantytown. There is no provision made for minors. The majority double back into the northern part of the shantytown, now threatened with destruction, others go with the adults to the container camp or to the Reception and Orientation centres, neither scheme are equipped to receive them. 129 minors identified by the associations simply disappear.
In view of the destruction of the northern part of the slum, the government assures that the necessary will be done for isolated minors , without giving details.
Understandably, since in the absence of protective measures taken in Calais – which is a violation of the law on the scale of a thousand abandoned children-the dual question is posed of choosing from between 10 000 people those considered minor and the effective recognition of their minority in the department to which they will be sent.
The first question is who will be directed towards the buses , going towards the shelters for minors during the eviction? In the scheme of 10,000 will be evacuated in 10 days, there is no time for a process to evaluate minority, so there will be a sorting, between which one looks like a minor and which one looks like a major. So minors will be considered major and vice versa, so put in the wrong bus to the wrong places, and then have to try to assert their real ages later on. Brothers and sisters will probably be separated, not to mention more distant relations or groups of friends .
But beyond that, it is, in the absence of action taken by the department of Pas-de-Calais, with the department where the person will be sent to determine whether he is a minor or not, and to decide the measures which impose, as recalled by the circular of 29th January 2016: “It is for the regional councils to organize the social assessment of minority and human presenting themselves as isolated minors and beyond, to evaluate the situation of danger in which the minor is likely to be . ”
Practices of departments vary, more or less open, more or less suspicious. And by what means concretely does a single person have, not speaking the language, to assert his rights against the administration and to challenge decisions about whether they may be harming him ?
But the attitude of the French authorities goes beyond the denial of rights. The practice of the Rhône department, extended to the entire national territory by the circular of 29th January 2016, the prosecution, sometimes accompanied by a financial compensation claim for reimbursement of the Childhood Social Assistance , against people who claim to be minor, when it is finally decided that they are major ( “When the check appears to establish the existence of an offense, Prefects are asked to seize the Public Prosecutor on the basis of Article 40 of the code of criminal procedure. Indeed, the documentary verification is likely to reveal false testimony, but it can especially be helpful to objectify the involvement of the person holding them, as the author or the victim of illegal immigrant smuggling and possible trafficking in human beings. “- circular of 29 January 2016).
We see a proliferation of situations of people who filed for protection under the Social Assistance for Children and are sentenced for fraud with prison sentences, and sometimes tens of millions of euros in damages to Social Welfare Aid, sometimes with banishment from the territory and then deportation on leaving prison.
It is therefore right that between the chaos of the destruction of a shantytown, the size of a small city and the chaos of non reception in France, the Rights Defender is concerned once again about the end fate of individuals, especially of minors:
On September 28th, the Defender for Children, which is attached to the Defender of Rights, met his British counterpart and visited a reception centre in Kent, where minors are welcomed including those having crossed the border from Calais. She says: “The Defender for Children noted with interest that the best interests of the child are taken into consideration at every stage like this :” and the first positive point she cites: “Doubts about age benefit systematically the minor “.
Les Thénardier, illustration by Gustave Brion for Les Misérables by Victor Hugo.