Protecting minors, controlling migrants :
the emotional and moral issues involved
in hearings of unaccompanied immigrant minors by freedom and detention judges in France
Unaccompanied immigrant minors arrested on French borders are today detained in airport waiting zones, then brought before a freedom and detention judge who rules on whether they are to be maintained in detention or released. Combining observations of hearings and interviews with actors implicated in them, this research study focuses on the emotional and moral order in which these proceedings unfold ; namely the tension between two conflicting images of minors : as vulnerable and in need of protection ; as illegal migrants who should be sanctioned. Hearing deliberations are characterized by an emphasis on compassion where the general understanding is that these young defendants should be shown consideration. However, the study also shows how the values and moral assessments deriving from this empathic approach operate in practice : under some circumstances, an apparently repressive measure may be taken because it protects minors.