“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 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 Friday about a 3-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.
“It is an incident that should be condemned, and should lead to reflection,” said Henry. He warned against generalities, however, and acknowledged that airport police have made marked improvements in the handling of underage illegal migrants in recent years.
The girl was not identified because she is a minor. Her mother, speaking on Europe-1 radio, said her daughter “cried a lot” after the incident.
“She doesn’t stop talking about it,” said the mother, who was identified only by her first name Isabelle to protect her daughter’s identity.
“She asks each time ‘but why are they talking about me? Why did they do this to me?’”
Interior Ministry spokesman Pierre-Henry Brandet said police are still analyzing whether the passport is valid and confiscated it pending further investigation.