The study, released on Wednesday, by rights charity Human Rights Watch showed that child protection authorities in the French capital are using flawed procedures to determine the age of vulnerable migrant children leaving many with no choice but to sleep on the streets.
The practices, which often lead to children being wrongly categorised as adults, mean that they are considered “ineligible for emergency shelter and other protection given to children”, the report, entitled “'Like a Lottery': Arbitrary Treatment of Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Paris” said.
The shocking revelations made by the study included the fact that children are often turned away by protection authorities “based on appearance alone” while others found themselves rejected after interviews “lasting as little as five minutes” which is against French regulations.
“These children have suffered through incredibly difficult and dangerous journeys, only to be deprived of the protection and care they need,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at Human Rights Watch.
“Deeply flawed procedures mean that children may be arbitrarily turned away at the door of the evaluation office, denied protection after a short interview, or tied up in arduous court procedures and left in limbo for months.”
In order to produce the report, the charity interviewed 49 unaccompanied children and took into account age assessments in an additional 35 cases.
On top of that, Human Rights Watch spoke with lawyers, health care providers, staff and volunteers of humanitarian agencies and informal associations, and government officials in France.
One of the problems, according to the report, is that young people are often denied interviews if they cannot provide identity papers and even those that have them may be rejected, with the authorities doubting their validity.
Imrane O., a 15-year-old from Cote d'Ivoire who received an interview said he was turned away on the grounds that his French was “too good”.
The examiner “said that I was answering her questions too well. Because I could answer her questions, I couldn’t be a minor. How is that? I did eight years of schooling, in French. Of course I could answer her questions.”
The news comes at a time when the number of unaccompanied migrant children arriving in Paris, as well as in France overall, is increasing.
In 2017, France’s child welfare system took more than 25,000 unaccompanied migrant children into care, representing an increase of 92 percent from the previous year.
In February 2018, when Human Rights Watch began this research, an estimated 400 unaccompanied children were sleeping rough in the French capital, according to estimates from lawyers and nongovernmental organizations.