The new Defender of Rights institution started operations. Investigations into allegations of torture or other ill-treatment, including deaths in custody, remained inadequate. Roma continued to be forcibly evicted. A law banning the wearing of any form of clothing concealing one’s face in public came into force. Many asylum-seekers were left homeless and destitute.
In June, the new Defender of Rights was appointed, replacing the Ombudsperson, the National Commission on Ethics in Security, the Equal Opportunities and Anti-Discrimination Commission and the Defender of Children. Concerns remained that the institution would find it difficult to maintain the required levels of expertise and independence for the different roles.
On 1 June, a new law on pre-charge detention entered into force. It allowed detainees to be assisted by a lawyer at any time during their detention and during questioning, and required that detainees be informed of their right to remain silent. However, the prosecutor could postpone the presence of a lawyer for up to 12 hours for “compelling reasons”; detainees’ meetings with their lawyer continued to be limited to 30 minutes; and the special regime of pre-trial detention for suspects of terrorism or organized crime, under which access to a lawyer can be postponed for up to 72 hours, remained in place.Top of page
The Criminal Code continued to lack a definition of torture in line with the UN Convention against Torture. There was a lack of prompt, independent, impartial and effective investigations into allegations of ill-treatment by law enforcement officials.
There continued to be little progress in investigations into deaths in police custody, and concerns about the independence of those investigations remained.
Acts of discrimination against people belonging to ethnic and religious minorities continued to be documented by human rights organizations.
Discrimination against Roma continued. Camps and makeshift homes inhabited by Roma continued to be dismantled in alleged forced evictions. In June, the European Committee of Social Rights found that the evictions of Roma camps in mid-2010 “took place against a background of ethnic discrimination, involving the stigmatisation of Roma, and constraint, in the form of the threat of immediate expulsion from France”, and that the expulsions of Roma to Romania and Bulgaria in 2010 were discriminatory.
In June, the Parliament rejected a proposal to legalize same-sex marriage.
A law banning the wearing of any form of clothing concealing one’s face in public came into force on 11 April. On 22 September, two women were fined by an Administrative Tribunal, as allowed for in the legislation.
Throughout 2011, several political and legislative initiatives were put forward with the aim of enforcing the principle of secularism. On 2 March, the Minister of Education stated that parents accompanying children on school outings should not wear religious symbols. The same prohibition was also applied to adult students enrolled in vocational training.Top of page
New legislation further restricted the rights of asylum-seekers and migrants. In June, the Parliament adopted a law on migration increasing the maximum duration of detention for irregular migrants pending expulsion from 32 to 45 days. In addition, if a group of 10 or more irregular migrants or asylum-seekers were intercepted near the French border, they would be kept in a “holding area” for up to 26 days. Their applications to enter the rest of France to apply for asylum would be examined; if these were considered “manifestly unfounded” they would be returned to their country of origin. They would have only 48 hours to challenge the decision, which could prevent them from lodging an asylum application.
Around two thirds of the asylum-seekers in France did not have access to reception centres for asylum-seekers, contrary to their rights under national and EU Law. Consequently, many asylum-seekers were homeless and destitute. They were not allowed to work while their application was first being processed, and in the majority of cases they were refused permission to work during the appeal process.
In August, the Minister of the Interior stated that, if reached, the objective of expelling 30,000 irregular migrants would be the “best result historically recorded in France”. In October, he announced that he would reach that objective.
In April, the Management Board of the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) added Albania and Kosovo to the list of “safe” countries of origin for asylum-seekers. Claims submitted by asylum-seekers from “safe” countries were examined under an accelerated procedure and they could be forcibly returned before their appeal had been examined. In November, the Minister of the Interior announced that the budget for asylum would be reduced and the list of “safe” countries of origin would be extended. He claimed that the French asylum system was “in danger” because it was used by economic migrants to enter and remain in France. In December, the Management Board of OFPRA added Armenia, Bangladesh, Montenegro and Moldova to the list of “safe” countries.Top of page