France detains child at airport after passport error

Six-year-old held for three days until freed on judge's order because Paris airport officials thought her ID was fake.

    French interior ministry says it took the detention step as precaution against child trafficking [WikiCommons]
    French interior ministry says it took the detention step as precaution against child trafficking [WikiCommons]

    A judge in France has ordered the release of a six-year-old French girl after she was detained at an airport and held for three days on suspicion she had a fake passport.

    The girl was detained a week ago at Charles de Gaulle Airport after arriving from Cameroon, the girl's family lawyer Sidonie Leoue said on Saturday.

    The girl was travelling as an unaccompanied minor carrying all necessary documents, and her mother was waiting at the Paris airport to greet her, Leoue said.


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    Authorities insist that police were just doing their jobs to protect children from trafficking.

    However, the case has caused indignation in France amid sensitive debate over police treatment of waves of undocumented migrants coming to Europe in recent months.

    Verifying the identity of a child, establishing with certainty the link between the (child) and the person traveling with them or waiting for them at the airport, is about protecting the child against trafficking, kidnapping

    Pierre-Henry Brandet, Interior Ministry spokesman

    Police thought the girl's passport photo did not resemble her and suspected a fake, according to Leoue and the French interior ministry.

    The Paris-born girl was held in a special police day care for three days before she appeared before a judge, who asked the girl to identify her mother, seated across the courtroom, the lawyer said.

    The girl also was shown photos of a teacher and classmates from a school she had attended in France, and was asked to identify them, which she did.

    "The judge said it was all a mistake" and ordered the girl's release, Leoue said.

    "It's inadmissible that minors are held there like this, especially for a reason such as this."

    Pierre-Henry Brandet, interior ministry spokesman, said police are still analysing whether the passport is valid and confiscated it pending further investigation.

    "Verifying the identity of a child, establishing with certainty the link between the [child] and the person traveling with them or waiting for them at the airport, is about protecting the child against trafficking, kidnapping," he said. 

    He said minors are held in a special nursery at the airport run by Red Cross staff "to make their stay as calm as possible".

    However, amid anger over the girl's case, he said the ministry issued guidance on Friday urging border police to handle such cases very quickly to avoid delays.

    Pierre Henry, head of migrants' rights group France Terre d'Asile, said the case and another reported in French media on Friday about a three-year-old girl from Ivory Coast who was also detained at the airport, were "abhorrent" and reflected the "state of thinking" and suspicion surrounding migrants.

    SOURCE: AP


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