CHILDHOOD – The bill aimed at improving the lot of minors entrusted to Social Assistance for Children (ASE) arrives this Tuesday, July 6 before the National Assembly. Among the subjects that were debated in committee, the accommodation and the status of unaccompanied minors (unaccompanied minors), foreign children and isolated on French territory, often considered to be forgotten by child protection.
“We are going to include in law the ban on the placement of children in hotels”, promised last January Adrien Taquet, Secretary of State in charge of children and families, on France 3, during a debate broadcast after an investigation by “Exhibits” on the failures of Social Assistance to Children (ASE). The report in question, entitled “Children in care, the sacrificed of the Republic”, then drew up a devastating observation of the dysfunctions of social assistance to children. Among which, the placement of minors alone in the hotel, for days, weeks or even months.
“Placing children in makeshift hotels is a common practice and does not date from yesterday, deplores to the HuffPost Léo Mathey, from the Repairs associative network, which brings together former children in care. The departments resort to it for lack of creation of suitable reception structures and sufficient number of foster families. ” But will the law ultimately change the situation? Doubt is allowed.
Between 7,500 and 10,500 minors
According to a report from the General Inspectorate of Social Affairs (Igas) dating from January 2021, between 7,500 and 10,500 minors would be concerned, 95% being unaccompanied foreign minors, known as “unaccompanied minors” (MNA). This report was initiated by Adrien Taquet after the murder, in December 2019, of a 17-year-old teenager entrusted to the ASE, by a 15-year-old, both placed in a hotel in Suresnes (Hauts-de-Seine ).
“We are on a gap of 3,000 children when it comes to quantifying the extent of hotel placements … annoys Léo Mathey. Beyond the number, these are often children who are called – wrongly – ‘unbreakable children’, who are supposedly not suited to the system. ” In its report, the Igas speaks of “complex cases”, of “children in great difficulty or with multiple difficulties entrusted to the ASE, for some presenting strong behavioral disorders which result in ‘acting out’. . ”
Placed in a hotel in an emergency, these minors find themselves left to their own devices, in unsanitary and unsecured establishments. “These are sinister hotels, which no longer have their approval to be categorized as ‘tourism and leisure’ and which can be recycled into social hotels”, develops Agathe Nadimi, president of the association “Les Midis du Mie”, a solidarity collective which helps unaccompanied minors in Paris. “These are not Accor hotels, they are unsanitary hotels where children are confronted with humidity, cockroaches, traces on the sheets, cold … It’s a quasi-humanitarian situation”, abounds Léo Mathey.
And almost without supervision. “When a child is placed in a hotel, his only referent is the ASE educator, who manages 40, 50 or even 60 children’s files at the same time,” he emphasizes. Ideally, the child sees it every two weeks. But the interval can be up to two or three months. ”
As with everything related to child protection, the situation differs according to the departments. “In the 93 or other departments, the kids do not see anyone, supports Agathe Nadimi. They are put in a hotel and after 6 months, they still don’t know who their referent is, they haven’t seen anyone. ”
“The text does not prohibit hotel placement”
The minister’s entourage had specified in January in The world that the ban on hotel accommodation would only suffer from “very strict exceptions”; The brief period during which the age of unaccompanied foreign minors is being assessed was mentioned in particular. However, in the bill, exceptions will be allowed “to respond to emergency situations or ensure the shelter of minors”. A formulation which, for the opposition, lacks precision. In committee, the deputies restricted this possibility to a period of two months, once the minors are taken care of by the ASE.
“Instead of banning it, the government gives a legal basis to hotel placement, regrets Léo Mathey. Who will come and check that the duration is respected? Will children be informed of their rights and possible remedies if the two months are not respected? And then two months, that’s enough to decompensate and blow a hose. ”
For Agathe Nadimi, of the “Les Midi du Mie” collective, this two-month period does not make any sense. “It means that we care about long-term neglect, we can say that it’s better than nothing, she admits. But for these children who are very fragile, bad meetings or enrollment by networks, it can be played out in one night, two days or four days! ”
Nothing is specified in the text as to the nature of the hotels or the accommodation conditions. “No listing of hotels is requested by the departments. And these are private places, which therefore cannot be subject to controls ”, insists Léo Mathey.
In an opinion on the bill, the Defender of Rights considers that “recourse to these structures remains possible for emergency reception or“ shelters ”for minors. That may not solve this problem. ” What the associations are asking for are shelter arrangements such as homes “with educational support and real close monitoring of young people”, recalls Agathe Nadimi, from the “Les Midis du Mie” collective.
The registration of unaccompanied minors
Another provision of the bill is likely to animate the debates, concerning unaccompanied foreign minors: the compulsory recourse for the departments to the national file AEM (“support to the evaluation of the minority”), which lists these young people in order in particular to more easily identify those who have filed protection requests in several departments.
A measure that goes against the “presumption of minority” defended by associations. According to Unicef, this biometric file could facilitate the expulsion of the young foreigners concerned even before they have been able to appeal in the event of a provisional refusal of care.
In her opinion, the Defender of Rights expresses her “deep concerns about the provisions contained in this article, which tend more to deal with migration control than a real improvement in the protection of unaccompanied minors.” “We consider foreigners other than as children to be protected,” concludes Agathe Nadimi. Already, the fact that there are mechanisms for evaluating the minority of foreign minors, that says it all. It’s not protection, it’s discouragement. ”
In committee, several deputies were indignant at this filing, which would be “an attack on the principle of universality of children’s rights and non-discrimination, as laid down by the National Convention on the Rights of the Child.”
“This article deals with migratory flows, in no way the protection of unaccompanied minors”, denounced the former LREM deputy Guillaume Chiche, who notably tabled an amendment for the “removal of the possibility of performing bone tests to determine whether a no one is a minor or an adult. ”
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