On Monday, Eric Zemmour added a new conviction to an already well-filled criminal record. The far-right presidential candidate was fined 10,000 euros for incitement to hatred: he was prosecuted for having, in September 2020 on the CNews channel, described unaccompanied minor migrants as “thieves”, “murderers”, “rapists”. The former columnist announced to appeal, denouncing “an ideological and stupid condemnation”.
On BFMTV / RMC this Tuesday morning, Eric Zemmour persisted, declaring that he “absolutely did not” regret his remarks. On the set of RTL, the spokesperson for his neo-party Reconquête!, the defector LR Guillaume Peltier, abounded in proclaiming that “there is an overrepresentation of delinquency among unaccompanied minors” (from 5min10 on the video below). This statement can hardly be true..
A lack of statistics
The delinquency of unaccompanied foreign minors, also called “unaccompanied minors” (MNA) – when no adult is legally responsible for them on national territory – is the subject of recurring controversy.
However, as a parliamentary report by MPs Jean-François Eliaou (LREM) and Antoine Savignat (LR) points out, made public in March 2021, the subject of MNAs is difficult to quantify, the fault of “insufficient or sparse data to accurately judge the level and type of criminal acts committed by unaccompanied minors”.
In a note from September 2020 on the occasion of a hearing at the National Assembly, the National Observatory for Child Protection (ONPE) also called for caution, emphasizing “the absence of reliable statistics” on the subject. According to the institution, the strong media coverage of miscellaneous events involving unaccompanied minors “does not reflect the reality of the magnitude of a phenomenon”. “It turns out that most jurisdictions and educational services in France are in fact not or hardly ever confronted with this type of situation,” she adds.
10% of delinquents among unaccompanied minors
The parliamentary report of last March nevertheless puts forward several data and draws up an inventory. From its introduction, it evokes nearly 17,000 children declared as unaccompanied minors in 2019.
To return to Guillaume Peltier’s assertion, it is worth noting an estimate given in September 2020 by the Directorate of Judicial Protection of Youth (DPJJ), which reports to the Ministry of Justice: there were 2,000 to 3,000 offenders. among UAMs. In other words, approximately between 11 and 17% of all unaccompanied minors have committed acts of delinquency. A figure taken up by the RTL journalist Alba Ventura to contradict Guillaume Peltier, even if the rapporteurs note that this estimate “of around 10% cannot really be verified”.
According to the rapporteurs, the unaccompanied minors who commit acts of delinquency are mainly from the Maghreb. “The typical portrait is a North African, 16, 17 years old, totally out of touch with his country and his family, shattered by his migratory journey, polydrug addict, who is involved in subsistence delinquency, who steals within a gang not very well organized”, summarized for AFP the co-rapporteur Jean-François Eliaou. Hearing as part of the report, the Defender of Rights Claire Hédon had stressed that these unaccompanied minors “are often forced to commit offenses, because under the influence of networks or adults”.
More crime in Paris?
On RTL, the spokesperson for Reconquête! Guillaume Peltier mentioned several figures from the Paris region. He affirmed that “35% of burglaries and thefts with violence in Paris are committed by unaccompanied minors” and that “70% of minors who are referred to the public prosecutor’s office in the Paris region are unaccompanied minors”.
These numbers are about right.. Cited in the same parliamentary report mentioned above, data from the Paris public prosecutor’s office show 30% of burglaries and 32% of violent robberies in Paris committed by unaccompanied minors in 2020. The police headquarters was particularly concerned about a “rise in power in terms of burglaries, from 3 to 29% of unaccompanied minors in the total of those questioned between 2016 and 2020”. Regarding unaccompanied minors referred to the Paris public prosecutor’s office, in 2020 they represented 76.25% of the total number of minors referred. This percentage has also been increasing for several years. But the parliamentary report stresses that rural areas are “less concerned by the problem” of the delinquency of unaccompanied minors.
Adults who lie about their age?
Heard as part of the report, the former boss of police officers in the Paris metropolitan area, Valérie Martineau, also specified that it “is not an exaggeration to imagine that at least half of the unaccompanied minors who claim to be elderly 16 or 17 year olds in the Paris area are in fact at least 18 years old and lie about their age, as they do about their identity, to benefit from the leniency of juvenile justice”. She gave an estimate, “greatly underestimated”, “of at least 2,500 defendants for 2020” (it should be noted that there are more defendants than offenders, some perpetrators being arrested several times per year).