On 22 September, approximately 300 migrants and asylum-seekers living in encampments around Calais, believed to be mostly Afghans trying to reach the UK, were detained by police. Their makeshift homes were demolished by bulldozers. According to police statements, 140 adults were taken into police custody and transferred to migration detention centres; 132 minors were taken to special accommodation centres. At the end of the year it was reported that all of the adults had been released; many were believed to have returned to the destroyed camps in Calais. Most of those released were left without shelter as a result of the destruction. Some were later granted asylum and others had asylum claims pending at the end of the year. The rest remained in France without regular status, at constant risk of being forcibly returned to their countries of origin. Further police operations against smaller encampments around Calais took place between October and December.
Three Afghan nationals, one of them detained at Calais, were forcibly returned to Afghanistan in October.
Counter-terror and security
On 3 December, the European Court of Human Rights ruled in Daoudi v. France that deporting a man convicted of terrorism offences to Algeria would put him at risk of torture or other ill-treatment, and would be in violation of the European Convention on Human Rights.
Guantánamo Bay detainees
France granted residency to two Algerian nationals, Lakhdar Boumediene and Saber Lahmar, who had been detained at the US detention centre in Guantánamo Bay. Both men were cleared of all charges against them by a US judge in November 2008 but could not return to Algeria due to the risk of serious human rights violations. In May, Lakhdar Boumediene arrived in France and was joined by his wife and children. Saber Lahmar arrived in France in December.
Legal, constitutional or institutional developments
On 18 October, two new police databases to collect data on individuals believed to pose a threat to public order were authorized by the government. They replaced the controversial "EDVIGE" database introduced in July 2008, which included information on individual health and sexual orientation, and on minors. However, concerns remained about the extent of the personal information collected on individuals not accused of any crime, including on children as young as 13, and the vagueness of the criteria for inclusion, such as "may pose a threat to public security".
In September, the Minister of Justice presented to the Council of Ministers draft laws proposing to merge the National Ombudsperson, the Children's Ombudsperson, and the National Commission on Security Ethics (Commission Nationale de Déontologie de la Sécurité, CNDS), which is responsible for the independent oversight of law enforcement agencies, into the new Defender of Rights institution. There was concern that this could undermine the work of the CNDS and other bodies.
Amnesty International visits/reports
Amnesty International delegates visited France in January, April and October.France: An effective mandate for the Defender of Rights (1 January 2009)
Public outrage: Police officers above the law in France (2 April 2009)