Pupils at a Jewish school in central France – including some Americans – are being cared for by social services after managers at the school were taken into police custody on suspicion of serious mistreatment.
The 42 pupils from the school in Bussières (Seine-et-Marne) are aged between 12-18, and mainly of American and Israeli nationality, with no parents living in France.
The accusations against the school management are serious.
They include keeping the children "in abusive conditions, locking them in, confiscating identity documents, poor living conditions, acts of ill-treatment, lack of access to education and care, and without the possibility of returning to their families,” said the public prosecutor in Meaux.
The children are now under the care of social services (l'aide sociale à l'enfance, ASE), department authorities confirmed. After five days, they will either be returned to their parents abroad, or the ASE will seek court authority to continue to provide care.
The prosecutor confirmed that the children are “minors of American and Israeli nationality who do not speak French”.
The children are now staying in an ASE boarding school, and the Red Cross is providing them with educational supervision, meals, and helping with the “management of daily life”, the prosecutor said.
The operation has also ensured the identification, protection and medical examination of the minors, who will have the opportunity to discuss their experiences with psychologists and in the presence of a rabbi.
The managers of the school were taken into police custody on January 31, 2022, after a police probe into alleged abusive behaviour.
Investigations into the school began on July 12, 2021, after sectarian abuse authority la Mission interministérielle de vigilance et de lutte contre les dérives sectaires (Miviludes) sounded the alarm about the potential “worrying” operation of the establishment.
In July, an American minor managed to escape from the school and was given refuge in the US Embassy. Several other escapes were reported in November and December 2021.
The case is currently centring on allegations of "kidnapping in an organised gang", "aggravated violence", "deprivation of care and food" and "aggravated abuse of weakness.”
An inquiry by police research department la Section de recherches de Paris reportedly found evidence of these accusations, and also discovered that the school’s building had been subject to a public closure notice by the Bussières mairie, due to its poor state of repair.
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