A brief look at human rights violations: (part 9) France
A brief look at human rights violations: (part...
Although France claims setting an example in promoting fundamental freedoms is its battle, reports and statistics from international organizations and news agencies indicate that some drastic human rights violations have been occurred during last 2 months. (late Dec. to February 2019)
According to news, police have used riot guns during the "yellow vest" protests which have reportedly injured dozens of people. French police are equipped with so-called defence ball launchers (LBDs) that shoot 40-millimetre (1.6-inch) rubber and foam rounds that are used in riot-control operations. Often called Flash Balls after the name of one producer of such weapons, they are designed to not penetrate the skin while still packing enough power to stop individuals from advancing. such "less lethal" weapons have been blamed for several serious injuries in recent years, including protesters who have lost an eye after being hit by the rounds in the head.
Use of the weapons has infuriated many anti-government protesters who accuse the police of unnecessary violence that has exacerbated tensions since the demonstrations began in November 2018. Police and government officials have defended the use of LBDs while refusing to say how many people may have been injured by the weapons, which officers are not supposed to aim at a person's head.
The Secretary General of the Council of Europe, Thorbjørn Jagland, condemned in the strongest possible terms the threats and attacks against journalists at demonstrations, noting that working conditions for the press have been steadily deteriorating over recent weeks. “Any attack on journalists who are simply doing their jobs is an attack on democracy. Freedom to speak and to demonstrate should on no account become an excuse for such an outpouring of violence and hatred”.
Also according to Reuters, French lawmakers have backed a bill banning protesters from hiding their faces during demonstrations. By forbidding protesters from hiding their faces, the legislation aims to make it easier to use facial recognition technology to snare rioters. Anyone who masks their face could face a year in prison and a 15,000 euro fine. Critics say it will be impossible to enforce. Opponents of the “anti-casseurs” (anti-hooligan) bill accused the government of impinging on civil liberties. “We’re not restricting freedoms, we’re ensuring that freedoms can be guaranteed,” said Aurore Berger, a spokeswoman for Macron’s La Republique En Marche party.
According to news , around 250 unaccompanied minors are camped out in freezing temperatures on the northern coast of France. Living on the streets without proper access to food, they have reportedly endured regular attacks by police. The United Nations defines an unaccompanied minor as someone under the age of 18 "who has been separated from both parents and other relatives and is not being cared for by an adult."
Penniless and with no income the children are totally reliant on various aid organizations, headed by Help Refugees. Help Refugees provides the group with tents, blankets, clothing, firewood and three meals a day, all crucial as the temperature hovers around freezing.
The Hauts-de-France regional government is legally obliged to provide emergency housing for unaccompanied minors in Calais, but according to the Refugee Youth Service (RYS), an organization working under the Help Refugees umbrella, facilities are full, and there is a lack of political will to provide more beds.
In 2018, the RYS filed 580 requests to house unaccompanied minors in Calais but 270 of these were rejected by Calais local authorities. In one case on October 12, 12 unaccompanied minors were denied emergency accommodation, including one child with disabilities.
These precarious day-to-day living conditions are far from the only threat the children face; they are terrified of the French police . And with good reason, according to Help Refugees, which recorded 244 human rights abuses against migrants, including unaccompanied minors, in Calais and Dunkirk in 2018. Their records detail police subjecting migrants to a "tirade" of physical and psychological abuse. This includes the "almost daily" demolition of migrants' tents and seizure of vital possessions, including bedding, clothing and cooking equipment, violent and seemingly random beating of migrants, attacks by police dogs, spraying of migrants with chemical agents and bleach, and detainment for days on end.
Aid organizations are also concerned about mafia groups operating in Dunkirk that sexually exploit and traffick defenseless unaccompanied minors. "Their environment leaves children devoid of basic rights such as access to sanitation, health care, freedom from abuse, or dignity," says Hayley Willis, assistant manager for the RYS in northern France.
According to Human Rights Watch, child protection authorities in Paris continue to use flawed age assessment procedures for unaccompanied migrant children, excluding many from care they need and are entitled to, leaving hundreds homeless.