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Fire at Paris detention centre sparks heated debate

Latest update : 2008-06-24

As controversy mounts in the wake of Saturday's arson attack at a detention centre for illegal immigrants near Paris, eight detainees who had been transferred to another centre have since been set free. (Report: France 2)

Fourteen non-EU nationals without visas or work permits escaped from a Paris immigrant detention centre after a fire that was deliberately set, police said Monday, revising earlier figures of 50 detainees.

Following a fresh roll-call, police said of the 249 people held at the Vincennes centre at the time the fire broke out on Saturday, only 14 were missing and believed to have escaped.

The detainees at France's biggest clandestine immigrant processing centre were transferred overnight to other centres in the French cities of Lille, Nimes, Palaiseau and Oissel.

The police said the fire -- which destroyed the centre's two buildings -- had not caused any "serious injuries."

Eighteen detainees were lightly injured and taken to hospital, and all were expected to be released on Monday, police said.

Since mid-December, the site has been the focus of rising tension and protest with the French authorities having stepped up markedly over the past year the numbers of illegal immigrants it deports.

Hunger strikes, fires, refusals to lock down for the night and scuffles with police have all cropped up at the Vincennes centre.

On Saturday, a Tunisian died late afternoon at the centre, with Green Party lawmaker Noel Mamere calling Sunday for a parliamentary inquiry to be opened into conditions at the site.
  

Date created : 2008-06-24