Accepted Papers:

"How serious is it?" Managing heavy diseases in a French immigration detention center  


Nicolas Fischer (Centre d'étude du droit et des institutions pénales)

Paper Short Abstract:

Drawing on fieldwork carried out in a French immigration detention center, this contribution will analyze the management in those places of cases of so-called “serious illnesses”, which detection may eventually enable immigrants to avoid deportation and gain a residence permit.

Paper long abstract:

This contribution will draw on fieldwork carried out in a French immigration detention center where deported immigrants await their forced removal, to analyse the detection and management of cases of so-called "serious illnesses" in those places. These cases indeed create a tension between police repression and medical protection: on the one hand, detained immigrants are detained bodies, managed by police officers whose main concern is to keep them into constant physical control until they are actually sent back to their country of origin. On the other hand, these same immigrants may ask to be examined by a physician from the Public Health Service, in order to obtain protection from deportation: they may notably be granted a residence permit if they prove to be infected with a disease requiring frequent care, and which may not receive appropriate treatment in their country of origin.

The body is then both a object of control, and evidence for the granting of rights, depending on the "expert frame" (eg, a policing or a medical and legal one) that is used to assess and qualify it.

The contribution will then first describe the ordinary control of bodies inside detention centers, before drawing more precisely on the performing of medical expertise in such places: "serious" diseases first have to be detected through a cooperation between the center's medical team, and Human Rights lawyers also operating inside; sufficient medical evidence of the "seriousness" of the infection also has to be provided to obtain the immigrants' legalization.

Panel P001
Bodies of evidence, experts, and intimacy in the anthropology of security (EASA Anthropology of Security Network)