After being deprived of its freedom, an 8 month-old baby was placed in a temporary family, with the mother and father being currently locked up in separate though neighbouring buildings, both threatened with deportation to Afghanistan and Iran, their respective countries of birth. Such is the result of the immigration policy of the French government.
In an article from the 12th of May 2017, the legal organisation CIMADE sketched the initial situation:
Having arrived in France in 2016, Mr. I and his wife Mrs. V have spent months in the Jungle of Calais, in the hope of reaching the United Kingdom, to ask for asylum. He is Afghan, she is Iranian. Their daughter, Yasmin, was born in the hospital of Calais, 8 months ago.
The 10th of May 2017, as he was taking his brother to the train station, Mr. I was arrested following an ID check. At the police station, he told the policemen about his family situation. The prefecture of the region Pas-de-Calais did not take it into account and decided to attempt to send him back to Afghanistan, without hesitating to separate him from his family. He was taken, alone, to the administrative retention centre (CRA) of Mesnil-Amelot (near Paris). This separation triggered a series of dramatic events.
When his wife and the baby visited him in the retention centre the following day, the situation quickly deteriorated as Mrs. V refused to leave the centre without her husband. In response to her protests, the administration took the child away from her and placed the mother in the same retention centre as the father, though in a different building.
That retention centre happens to have a family unit. Why all family members were forcefully dispersed instead of being placed in the family unit together remains unclear to this day.
Informed by the administration of the retention centre (CRA) of the dramatic turn of events, the prefecture of Pas-de-Calais stuck to its position: they decided not to release Mr. I. And, in the end, the prosecutor of Meaux ordered a placement of the baby to the Child Social Services (ASE)
To this day, almost a week following the initial arrest, the situation remains as such: the baby is still in a temporary family and both parents are still retained. Both have had their first hearings, during which the judges decided to keep the parents in the retention centre, rejecting their pleas for freedom. The prefecture of the Pas-de-Calais has refused to reunite the couple, which would require a simple transfer of Mr. I to the building where his wife is currently held.
Although some Women’s Centre volunteers are on the ground in Paris to follow the situation closely and to support the parents, the developments of this situation in the coming days is highly unpredictable.
UPDATE from the 23/05
Following the outrageous news of the family being torn apart, a French lawyer has stepped up to defend the family in court.
On the 18th of May, the mother was successfully freed from the retention centre, with a piece of paper saying she had the obligation of leaving the French territory.
While the father is still in the retention centre, and so probably for the coming 18 days, there is a trial today regarding the custody of the child. The “Juge des Enfants” (lit. trans. Judge for the Children) will be deciding whether the baby can be placed back in the custody of the family, or whether it will be staying with the social services.
As the reunification seems to be underway, the Women’s Centre has decided to support the family by helping the legal processes for the mother, for the child and for the father, and by finding accommodation for the mother, while she is waiting on decisions to be taken in court.
A fundraising is currently on-going, specifically to support this case. Please find it here. All funds will be used for the legal processes, for accommodation, food, transport and other logistical necessities of the parents and child.
UPDATE from the 02/06
Last week, the baby was safely returned to the mother, after a hearing in front of the Juge des Enfants. This relieving news was quickly followed by the mother and the child returning to their home in Calais. The family is almost back together.
The father, however, remains in the retention centre. He was initially sentenced to 28 days - a waiting period during which the French state usually asks the country of which the detainee is a national from, whether that state agrees to France sending them back. In the case of the father, this is Afghanistan.
Although France has, up until now, not sent Afghan nationals to Afghanistan, many French organisations working with refugees are now raising concerns as the authorities seem to be organising deportations. Whilst we are hoping that the recent atrocities that took place in Kabul have demonstrated to European authorities that Afghanistan is not a safe place to send refugees back to, the situation of the father so far remains in limbo, and we are unsure of what will happen at the end of his 28 days waiting period.
Not only would such a deportation be inhumane, both for him and for any other Afghan national facing the same threat, but it would also completely destroy this family, as the mother and the child are not Afghan nationals.
Several organisations have got together to start a petition urging the local and national French authorities to put an end to the possibility of the father being deported, and to reunite the family.
Please sign it and share it widely. It would make a significant difference for this family and, hopefully, for future deportations to Afghanistan from France.