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France detains 500 lone migrant children per year, NGO

A courthouse dedicated to handling immigration cases at Roissy/Charles De Gaulle airpôrt
A courthouse dedicated to handling immigration cases at Roissy/Charles De Gaulle airpôrt AFP

French authorities detain around 500 unaccompanied migrant children every year in transit zones at French borders, US-based NGO Human Rights Watch says.

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In a report published this week the group said the biggest transit zone is the capital's Paris Charles de Gaulle international airport

About 90 per cent of the undocumented children are held in a detention centre with a capacity for 160 people until their immigration status is resolved or they are deported.

The children are often fleeing war, Alice Farmer, who works with refugee minors for Human Rights Watch, told RFI.

"Any unaccompanied child who arrives in France should be admitted to the country and provided with shelter and care while their immigration claims are decided," the NGO's report says.

French laws allows for children who arrive in France without a parent or guardian can be held for up to 20 days in one of 52 transit zones and are judged not to have officially entered the country.

Human Rights Watch describes this as a "legal fiction" that "allows the French government to deny due process rights to children in transit zones that unaccompanied children in France enjoy" and claims that the practise is contrary to France’s international legal obligations.

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