During the month of December 2020, I had the opportunity to accompany MP Bruno Salmon to the Administrative Retention Center of Saint-Jacques-de-la-Lande, located near Rennes, in order to photograph the conditions in which people are detained there. Deputies and senators have the possibility to visit places of deprivation of liberty, without prior notice, in order to observe the conditions of detention of the detained persons.
Here is an excerot of Cimade's 2020 report on administrative detention centers and facilities
"From mid-March to early summer 2020, while the number of CRAs in operation and places used was revised downwards, the administration continued to pronounce placement measures even though sanitary measures were notoriously insufficient. In these places, characterized by promiscuity, with detention periods of up to 90 days, serious shortcomings, out of step with the precautions taken at the national level, were observed: absence or insufficiency of masks, hydro-alcohol gel and other measures allowing for the respect of barrier gestures.
In this context of high risk of contamination, people with pathologies that could lead to severe forms of COVID-19 were nevertheless locked up. Others, suffering from psychiatric pathologies, suffered the same fate while the detention was even more anxiety-provoking than usual. Self-harm and suicide attempts were common. Throughout the year, thousands of people were deprived of their liberty while the possibilities of removing them were reduced to zero. As detention is legally subordinated to the existence of reasonable prospects of removal, it became abusive in this context of closed borders.
The year 2020 was also marked by a sharp increase in the number of placements in detention of persons who were released from prison, representing more than one in four (26.5 percent). Already observed in 2019, this trend has become more pronounced and reflects the use of detention for purposes other than removal from French territory. Thus, during the first confinement, while the number of placements was reduced and judicial judges decided on many releases, people who had completed their sentences in prison reached up to 70 percent of the population in detention. The Minister of the Interior stated that he accepted this paradox, telling the Senate Law Commission that he did not wish to "close the CRAs, because 80 percent of the people currently detained are people leaving prison. If we closed the centers, these people would be released [...] which would not be acceptable. However, these people had served their sentences and detention became unfounded as soon as their removal was impossible.
Finally, the health crisis accelerated the use of video-auditing for judgments. In the rush of the confinement, this recourse was made outside any clear legal framework. The hearings were sometimes held in premises that did not belong to the Ministry of Justice and within the ARCs. Some were conducted exclusively by telephone. In general, these means raise questions about the conditions in which detainees tried to assert their rights. Their exchanges with the judges are not without difficulty, while the lawyers are forced to choose to be physically present with the judges or the detainees.
Ultimately, the management of the health crisis in the CRAs has been the source of numerous abuses of detention and repeated violations of the fundamental rights of the individuals concerned."