In Toulouse, the habeas corpus and freedom rights for foreigners who are deported, are judged inside the retention center which is just besides the airport, the judge being brought to the retention center by a police van and some translations being made by the very policemen that hold the foreigners. There is absolutely no road sign that tells you where the retention center is. For hearing purposes, the meeting room of policemen is transformed for a couple of hours into a court. When the jugde leaves, the sign that says "Judge of Freedom and Detention of Toulouse" is taken off, and everything returns to its former state, until a new hearing is held. And this has been going on since june 2006.
At first, the lawyers refused to go and appealed all the decisions. But the Court of Appeal decided to do the same. So lawyers stopped defending their clients waiting for an hypothetical injunction by the Administrative Justice to decide if this was the right way to deliver justice.
Today, I decided that I could not stand this situation anymore, so I decided to defend a couple of clients, who are old and ill. Their son is married to a French lady and they have a newborn daughter. Two days ago the Police came to their house and took Grandpa and Grandma and put them in the retention center at the request of the Prefect who represents the French governement in our department (equivalent of state in US, province in Canada, etc...).
Although I sent a letter to the Judge saying that I would defend this old couple, I was not notified of the hearing. I learned that a hearing was gonna be held because the family and the social workers told me so.
So I went this morning to the retention center and asked to have a look at my clients file so that I could check if the procedure was legal, but the Police told me that only the Judge could give the authorization for that. I had to wait for the Judge... When the Judge arrived, I asked for a little time to look at my clients files, but he told me that as soon as all the interpreters would arrive, he would start the hearing no matter what.
A few minutes after that, all the interpreters were there. The Judge proceeded to explain what he was supposed to do and what were his limits (basically saying "I can do nothing for you, because I don't have to judge if the grounds for your deportation are solid"). The intepreters (one in Portuguese, one in Bangla and one in Arab) proceeded to explain all this in the same time to six people waiting to be judged... Babel could not have been worse.
Then the Judge called my files and asked me to plead for the three of them (I had another client) in a single pleading.
After I finished (after some 30m), he asked to the other foreigners if someone had something to add. Only three people added something. The rest (who could not speak French) remained silent.
The Judge then left to render his verdict and came back 30 minutes later saying to all of the people there that he had decided to put them into retention for 15 days more. Everyone signed to have the copy of their decision and it was over.
I've been to Hell today.