“It takes more than hope”

AA / Paris / Ümit Dönmez

More than 200 of them live in misery and oblivion in the south of Paris. 200 foreign miners living in a makeshift camp under a bridge in Ivry-sur-Seine.

Without drinking water, without electricity, abandoned in the cold and rain, their hope is their only wealth.

These young people, aged between 14 and 19, all cherish the hope of a better life that they have come to seek thousands of kilometers from their countries, from their families, at the risk of their lives.

Originally from Cameroon, Senegal, Afghanistan, Bangladesh or Gambia, they had to leave their homeland to escape wars, violence and misery, and embark on a long migration in search of a better future.

However, the reality in France is quite different.

– Sami *: “We fled the war”

Questioned by the Anadolu Agency (AA), Sami explains that he has been in France for two months. After fleeing the war in Afghanistan and the Taliban takeover in his country, the 17-year-old has come a long way: Pakistan, Iran, Türkiye, Bulgaria, Serbia, Hungary, Austria, Switzerland and France.

More than a year of wandering, sometimes at the risk of life, to finally sleep under a bridge, with, only for material wealth, a tent provided by an association, clothes and a mobile phone.

The summer that lasted this year has come to an end. Autumn marks its grip as rain and cold settle in the French capital.

Sami does not want to complain and prefers to keep the hope and vitality of her youth to overcome difficulties and move towards this better life that she projects. However, he acknowledges it’s not that simple.

“The conditions are quite difficult, it is cold and at night it is even colder. We have no drinking water, nothing to eat. It is quite difficult,” admits the young man.

On appeal for the recognition of his minority, Sami has no status in France. Recognized as neither adult nor minor, he has no rights or state aid. He cannot study, work or seek accommodation.

– Lack of status for thousands of minors

Sami is one of the thousands of unaccompanied minors present on French territory, awaiting the recognition of their fundamental rights.

A member of the association supporting exile “Utopia 56”, interviewed by the Anadolu Agency (AA), denounces the attitude of the French state, which has chosen not to “recognize the minority of these adolescents with already traumatic the violence of welcoming is added ».

“We try to give them all possible support, but the state does not make it easy for us. There is a harassment policy in place. We are forced to regularly change the location of the camp to escape police harassment. These young exiles have no rights. No school, no work, no accommodation. It’s really serious, “he complains.

Last May, the association in support of exiles set up a camp in Place de la Bastille, in the heart of Paris, to warn about the fate of these thousands of unaccompanied minors.

“Among the young people accompanied by Utopia 56 in Paris, about 65% of them were finally recognized as minors in 2021 after having already spent several months on the street”, said the NGO, declaring that in the last year they have accompanied more than 500 young year.

“These young people can spend several months, sometimes a year or more, on the street, before their rights are recognized, or not,” explains the member of the association interviewed by AA.

“However, the jurisprudence of the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) and the United Nations Committee on the Rights of the Child have in fact established that if a person declares himself to be an isolated minor, he must be presumed to be so, at least as long as he French authorities can verify this “, he recalls, referring to a” flagrant violation by the French state of international law and human rights “.

– Sendou *: “I wanted to become a footballer”

Sendou, a 16-year-old Gambian arrived in Paris a month ago. He wants to become a footballer. He is confident in his qualities as a defensive midfielder.

He made a dangerous crossing of the Sahel, tormented by terrorism and violence between communities, then the Mediterranean, before arriving in Europe.

“We were more than sixty people on a rubber dinghy, to go from Morocco to Spain. There were women, children,” he says.

Asked by AA about what he intends to do in France, Sendou wants to be realistic.

“With the situation you see here, sleeping under a bridge, in the cold, without water, without anything to eat, I will have to put my dreams aside. I wanted to become a footballer,” he recalls.

However, without the recognition of his status as a minor, he feels obliged to look for a clandestine job.

“Construction, restoration, whatever. As long as I can get out of this misery, I will take what I find”, sums up the young man.

When asked about the immigration bill, announced Wednesday by Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin, Sendou is unaware of it.

As for the measures that would allow him to get the cards to work in a so-called “under pressure” sector, such as construction or catering, Sendou sees in it a glimmer of hope that would allow him to get out of poverty.

“It is difficult to come to a country where you do not know anyone; no family, no friends. I came here to see my minority status recognized which will probably be rejected, so such an alternative would be welcome, but we need more than hope. “, he said.

* People’s names have been changed

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