Are the conditions in the immigration detention center in Mayotte in violation of article 3 of the Convention ?

European Court of Human Rights News, 2011-12-10
samedi 10 décembre 2011

"Dans le centre de rétention administrative de Pamandzi les conditions sont semblables à celles du centre de Pagani" [en Grèce] que la cour européenne des droits de l’homme a jugées dans les termes suivants.

  • "Les conditions de détention au centre de Pagani, notamment en ce qui concerne l’hébergement, l’hygiène et l’infrastructure étaient si graves qu’elles portaient atteinte au sens même de la dignité humaine. Par conséquent, elles s’analysaient, en elles-mêmes et sans prendre en considération la durée de la détention, en un traitement dégradant contraire à l’article 3".
    CourEDH, 5 avril 2011, n° 8687/08, affaire Rahimi c. Grèce

Mayotte (Maore) is one of the 4 main islands of the Comoros. Mayotte is still administrated by France despite several UN General Assembly resolutions calling since 1976 for “France withdrawal” (A/RES/31/4, A/RES/37/65, A/RES/49/18). On January 18th 1995, the French police started requiring all citizens of the other islands of the Comoros to obtain a visa to visit Mayotte. The same year, a clandestine facility is opened in Pamandzi to detain migrants awaiting deportation.

On January 19th 2004, article 1 of the executive order DOMA0300056A “legalized” the clandestine facility as the immigration detention center of Pamandzi (Centre de Retention Administratif). Today, the conditions of detention in this center are still by exception not regulated by the French code of migration and asylum.

On April 14th 2008, the French National Commission of the Ethic of Security (CNDS) released a report on his visit of the center (2007-135, 2007-136). It found 3 large immigration cells, 4 showers, 6 restrooms and a police custody cell. The chief of the center admitted to detain up to 220 migrants including children despite an “unofficial maximum capacity” of 60. Migrants were locked into cells and forced to sit, eat and sleep on the floor due to the absence of furniture. There was no access to health care and to legal assistance. On November 20th 2008, the Commissioner for Human Rights Hammarberg “urged that the living conditions of foreigners held in Mayotte be improved immediately” (CommDH(2008)34 VII-11).

On December 17th 2008, Amnesty International stated in a press release that the “conditions in the center amount to inhuman and degrading treatment“. It published a video of the center taken on October 22nd 2008 (see video below). At that date, 41 children and 161 adults were detained in the center.

On July 26th 2010, the French OPCAT NPM (Controleur des lieux de privation de liberte) published his report on its visit of May 2009. It described the 3 immigration cells : one of 60m2 for men , a second of 77m2 for women and children (including babies) and a third of 35m2 as a waiting cell for everyone. The cells were overcrowded, unfurnished, dirty and fetid. The showers had no hot water. The lunch and dinner consisted of a plate of rice with meat. There was no yard for outdoor exercise and access to public phone was restricted. The detention in this center could last up to 5 days. The French NPM concluded that the conditions of detention were “appalling“. On April 2011, the documentary “Controversy islands” [video] of Australian TV SBS highlighted the situation of migrants detained in Mayotte. In November 2011, Mr. Delage, a police union leader found the conditions in the center “inhumane“.

The conditions in the center are in violation with CPT standards (CPT/Inf/E (2002) 1) that states that the immigration detention center should “provide accommodation which is adequately-furnished, clean and in a good state of repair, and which offers sufficient living space for the numbers involved“. (..) “As regards regime activities, they should include outdoor exercise(..)” (p54).

On April 5th 2011, the 1st section of the ECHR ruled in judgment Rahimi v. Greece (8687/08) that the conditions of detention in the immigration center of Pagani were “so serious they violated the very meaning of human dignity“. The 7 Judges added that these conditions “irrespective of the length of the detention” of the applicant, amounted to “degrading treatment in breach of article 3“. The conditions in the center of Pamandzi, similar to the ones of Pagani (see video below) amount also to a violation of article 3 of the Convention.

Since April 2009, the publicly funded Christian organization CIMADE is granted permanent access to the center of Pamandzi to provide legal assistance. More than 30,000 migrants have been detained since then. But according to Ms. Ballestrero (CIMADE Mayotte chapter), her organization didn’t advise any detained migrants to obtain compensation for the violation of article 3 of the Convention.