The online newspaper Liberation.fr has published footage of the inside of a detention centre on the French island of Mayotte. Detainees sleep on the floor. Hygiene conditions are unspeakable. While Mayotte is an "overseas collective" of France, asylum rights don't apply to this territory. Read more and see the video...
According to the site the footage was filmed in Pamandzi immigration detention centre in October this year. "Each year, 16,000 people are expelled from Mayotte. At Pamandzi detention centre, there are only 60 places. Today, 202 people are packed into the building." The images show men crammed behind bars, barely enough space to lie down for women and children, and the kitchen full of rubbish and rotting food.
But the situation is nothing new. A report by French NGO Cimade, which is authorised to inspect detention centres, gave this critique after a visit in November 2007: "No kind of bedding or products for washing are handed out to detainees. There's no area for families or children (no baby changing facilities, no cots, no games). (...) For eating, there are no plates or cutlery; they eat with their hands, gathered around five iron trays."
The document also reports that mass arrests of undocumented people started in October 2005, when Nicolas Sarkozy was interior minister. Over 16,000 people were sent back over the border in 2007. The island's population totals 186,000.
Published on Libération.fr.
"This exception to the rule (…) is a disgrace to the Republic"
Pierre Henry is director general of France Terre d'Asile, an association that deals with the rights of asylum seekers.We know that the centre in Mayotte is a place devoid of rights, or at least an area where rules are 'differentiated' [an immigration law passed in July 2004 placed Mayotte under exceptional circumstances]. The problem is, there's nobody fighting against the authority of the prefect, which usually returns stowaways to the border without even giving them chance to ask for asylum. Unlike in France, [where, if you are issued with an eviction order, you can appeal it, which would then postpone the eviction until a final decision was made], in Mayotte, being sent back to the border gives you no chance to appeal. If a stowaway does manage to officially seek asylum, the case is done by video link with OFPRA [the French office of the protection of refugees and asylum seekers]. They're also, theoretically, allowed to appeal OFPRA's decision, but in practice it never happens because they'd have to be flown to France to be judged, and that's too expensive.
It's true that the situation in Mayotte is particular. There's a flood of asylum seekers coming in from the neighbouring Comorian islands and so the immigration situation is sensitive. But this infringement of regular French law is a disgrace to the Republic."