France: Hunger strikes in two migrant holding centers

January, 2019

Around 40 people in a holding center in Vincennes and 70 people in a center in Mesnil-Amelot, both in the Paris region, are on hunger strike. They allege police violence and a lack of access to adequate medical care; they say that their goal is to highlight the conditions in which they are being held.

“Even animals are treated better than us.” Since January 3rd, around 40 people in a holding center (Centre de retention – CRA) in Vincennes in the Paris region have been on hunger strike. That group were joined by about 70 migrants detained in another CRA in Mesnil-Amelot, not far from the main Paris airport Roissy Charles-de-Gaulle, in the north of the city.

The strikers have numerous grievances. Most of all they want to protest against the conditions in which they are being held within the centers. “We are being treated like prisoners, even though we only have problems with our documents,” complained one migrant who asked to be called Rachid (not his real name.) Rachid has been in Mesnil-Amelot since the beginning of 2019. He told InfoMigrants: “In prison they are treated better than us. Prison is a paradise compared to here.” The 22-year-old knows what he is talking about – he already spent some time behind bars before being sent to the CRA.

CRAs are places where migrants without the correct papers are held prior to being expelled. In 2017, there were 25 CRAs on French territory. According to the Cimade report, 47,000 people passed through a CRA in 2017.

Food is another source of complaint for the hunger strikers. Several people of Muslim faith claim that they are not offered halal food. Others refer to the food provided in the centers as “foul.”

And the complaints don’t stop there. The hunger strikers also claim that the security forces commit violence during the expulsion process. “You can be hit or shaken even if you don’t struggle. Even if you wanted to resist, it wouldn’t really be possible with a dozen police officers surrounding you,” Rachid said.

The lack of access to medical care can also pose problems. “There is no doctor present 24 hours a day. Access to medical care is extremely limited in CRAs,” an anonymous member of La Cimade told InfoMigrants.

Source: Info Migrants