In 2010, the French preventive mechanism under OPCAT (general controller of the detention facilities) published reports on its visits of the detention facilities in the airports of Bordeaux, Paris-Charles de Gaulle and Strasbourg in 2009. They revealed an administrative practice of the French border police to temporarily detain some passengers arriving on flights from outside the Schengen area, prior to decisions on their entry into France.

 The passengers are arrested at the passport control in the terminals but also at preliminary passport checks in the gangways (CommDH(2006)2 §193). These preliminary passport checks seems unlawful as there are not “prescribed by law”.

The passengers are then detained incommunicado in cramped police cells inside the terminals (CPT/Inf (2001)100 §50, CPT/Inf (2003) 40 §22, CPT/Inf (2007)44 §27) or locked in the terminals (CommDH(2006)2 §194, HRW Lost in Transit p16). They are not informed of the reasons of their arrest and of their right to have their consulate notified of their detention (art.36 Vienna Convention on Consular Relations). They are not allowed the assistance of a lawyer (CPT/Inf (2003) 40 §39). The border police don’t record the reasons and the time of these detentions and the ethnicity of the passengers detained. It was alleged that some passengers were locked in a terminal for up to 10 days (CPT/Inf (2003) 40 §40).

On June 25th 1996, the ECHR ruled in judgment Amuur v. France (19776/92) that the detention for 20 days of four asylum seekers in the terminal of the airport Paris-Orly, was not “prescribed by law” (§53) and a violation of article 5-1 of the Convention. On September 25th 1998, the Committee of Ministers found in its resolution DH (98) 307 that the law 92-625 of July 6th 1992 as a general measure, will prevent further violation of article 5-1. But this law  only allows the detention of the arriving passengers once they are notified of a refusal of entry into France (articles L-221-1 of the code of migration and asylum).

Therefore, the detention of arriving passengers prior to a decision on entry into France, is not “prescribed by any law” (NGO ANAFE Note June 2010 p3) and a violation of article 5-1 of the Convention. The absence of information on the reason of the detention is a violation of article 5-2. The lack of detention record, of lawyer assistance and access to a consular officer forbid the passenger to challenge the lawfulness of his detention in violation of article 5-4 and to enforce his right to compensation in violation of article 5-5 of the Convention.

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