France: Unaccompanied minors excluded and traumatised

France: Unaccompanied minors excluded and traumatised

Abuse and organised institutional rejection faced by minors on their arrival in France is exacerbating their distress, said MSF today in a new report, based on data from a centre it runs in Pantin, Paris.

At the centre, young foreign nationals are offered a comprehensive range of support services: nursing care, mental health support and social and legal assistance. 

87% of the young people interviewed by the MSF nursing team in Pantin said they had experienced violence, torture or abuse during their journeys.

Although laws and international conventions require France to ensure the protection of unaccompanied minors, in reality very little is done to provide them with shelter and appropriate care. The French administration imposes complex administrative procedures - a system that drives young people into a rootless and precarious existence, while exonerating the authorities of all responsibility.

The young people assisted at the centre are those who have been deemed insufficiently convincing during their minority assessment interviews and so not recognised as minors.

Many recognised as minors after court review

Of the 431 unaccompanied minors assisted at MSF's Pantin centre in 2018 who succeeded in filing an appeal before the courts for a review of their application for protection, 57.5% were recognised as minors and placed in the care of Child Protection Services.

Minority assessment interviews are often conducted hastily (in the case of 40% of the young people they lasted less than 30 minutes) and sometimes without the presence of an interpreter.

This means young people receive no assistance with accommodation, food, medical care or education, which would enable them to survive and also facilitate their integration into society.

In 2018, over half were sleeping rough at the time of their first visit to MSF's Pantin centre.

After challenging the initial decision in court, many young people succeed in being recognised as minors - a woeful reflection of the shortcomings of often arbitrary and cursory assessments conducted by the various départements.

Struggle for healthcare

34% of the young people seen by the psychologists at MSF’s Pantin centre suffer from psychotraumatic stress disorders that need immediate treatment to prevent them from becoming irreversible.

For young unaccompanied foreigners, securing access to health care is an uphill struggle. Neither minors nor adults, the care they receive is often both inadequate and sporadic. The administrative procedures that could enable them to benefit from social protection are onerous, even though France is required to ensure access to health care and protection for all minors residing on its territory.


Notes to editors:

The figures presented are derived from the assistance provided to 787 minors from when the programme first opened on December 5, 2017 to December 31, 2018.

The full report is available here: (FR only). An executive summary in EN is available below.

MSF in France

In December 2017 MSF opened a day centre in Pantin, Paris, to offer respite, medical care and administrative support to unaccompanied minors. From December 2017 to July 2019, 1259 young people were admitted.

In August 2018 MSF opened a shelter for unaccompanied minors with 36 beds. 128 young people have been hosted in this shelter.

In 2018 MSF developed “Accueillons”, in partnership with the association Utopia 56. "Accueillons" is a network of volunteer families that host young unaccompanied migrants during their appeals for reviews of decisions on their minority status.

MSF teams also run mobile clinics for migrants, asylum seekers and refugees in Paris and monitor the situation throughout the country, making regular visits to French border areas to document the situation and respond to emergencies, either with direct medical assistance or donations to other organisations active on the ground.


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