Human Rights Watch (HRW) on Wednesday accused French authorities of forcefully deporting unaccompanied migrant children across the border to Italy without referring them to child protection services, in violation of national and international laws.
The New York-based watchdog claimed that law enforcement agencies around Nice in south of France, were fraudulently recording age and birth data of unaccompanied minors on official documents alluding they were adults and returning them to Italy without informing them about their right to seek asylum in France.
The allegations come amidst French NGOs referring a proposal on Monday to the UN Committee on Child Rights to launch an investigation against the state for violations of the rights of unaccompanied minors.
HRW interviewed six unaccompanied minors who returned from France to Italy, volunteers and staff of aid groups, and lawyers between November 2020 and April 2021, whose accounts confirmed the French police violated the procedural practice.
A July 2020 ruling by France’s highest court for administrative matters confirmed that people who request asylum should not be refused entry until their asylum applications can be considered.
If an individual is found to be "irregular" in the France and is refused entry or asylum, authorities must provide them with a written refusal. Minors who are refused entry should be given a guardian.
HRW said none of these practices were followed by the police, who were taking the children and adults found to have entered France irregularly, directing them to walk across to the Italian border post.
Aid groups working on the Italian side of the border said between 80 and 120 adults and children were returned from France each day between July and the end of October.