Officials in Paris say police held a 6-year-old French girl for three days on suspicion that she had a fake passport until being released into her mother’s custody last week.
The girl was detained last Saturday at the Charles de Gaulle Airport near Paris after arriving from Cameroon, lawyer, Sidonie Leoue said.
She was traveling as an unaccompanied minor carrying all necessary documents, and her mother was waiting at the airport to greet her, Ms. Leoue said.
Officials say police thought the girl’s passport photo did not resemble her and suspected a fake. She was held in a special police center for children for three days before she appeared before a judge, who asked the girl to identify her mother, seated across the courtroom.
“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, an interior ministry spokesman, said police were still analyzing whether the passport was 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,” Brandet said.
The girl has not been identified because of her age. Her mother told a radio station her daughter “cried a lot” after the incident.
“She doesn’t stop talking about it,” the mother, identified only as Isabelle said. “She asks each time: ‘But why are they talking about me? Why did they do this to me?’”
Officials assert that police were just doing their jobs to protect children from trafficking.
French citizens however, have responded angrily to the incident catalyzing debate over police treatment of undocumented immigrants traveling to Europe.