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Video by Marina BERTSCH , Yuka ROYER

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-06-01

The French government suffered a setback on Saturday in a battle with Cimade, an NGO that offers legal advice to immigrants faced with deportation.

In France, foreigners held in detention centres have the right to legal advice and assistance as they face deportation to their home country. For the past 25 years, the Paris-based non-governmental organisation Cimade has been in charge of assisting foreigners in French detention centres.

Last month, the French government criticized what it called the "monopoly" of the group and established a contract with six associations, including Cimade, to provide advice.

But a French court ruled on Saturday in favour of the NGO after it contested the contracts.

The Secretary general of the Cimade, Laurent Giovannoni, welcomed the decision.

"The new measures that the government wanted to put in place would not give foreigners in retention real legal assistance," said Giovannoni. "That was the central issue, the heart of the problem."

The Cimade argued that under the new system illegal immigrants would not have had access to the same kind of legal assistance they've had up to now. The organisation feared that they might simply be "informed" of their legal rights rather than also getting legal assistance in contesting deportation.

On Sunday, France's immigration minister Eric Besson decided to extend the Cimade’s contract for another three months.

Date created : 2009-06-01