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N°28 – Down and Out in Paris


South of France, 19th June
We “unaccompanied minors” suffer a lot here in France. I want to live in this country. I left Guinea with the dream of becoming a great plumber. That’s what I really want to do, but everything is difficult for us.

When I arrived in Paris in September, I followed the procedure. I went straight to an assessment centre, but they wouldn’t acknowledge me as a minor. They told me to go and see the judge to file an appeal. So I did as I was told, I went to the judge and handed in my papers. From that moment on, I started sleeping rough.

That’s the reality when you take your case to court; you can spend four, five or even six months on the street. They don’t call you. You suffer. You have nothing.

At the time, I was sleeping in Belleville park, in the north of Paris, with many other unaccompanied minors. There were over 400 of us in the same situation. One evening, in mid-October, the Utopia 56 charity (which helps exiles) sent us a message telling us that people were coming to offer us accommodation.

They were supposed to come at around 3am, so we stayed up, waiting. I don’t know why they wanted to come in the middle of the night. It was cold and raining; the damp made it even colder than usual. We waited like that until the authorities finally arrived at 6 o’clock in the early hours of the morning. We were then put on buses and taken to our accommodation.

I was housed at Porte de Clignancourt, on the outskirts of Paris, in a centre for adults.

After staying there for ten days, we were told to go to the Prefecture. Once we got there, the police told us to apply for asylum and gave us papers to sign. I called my lawyer, who advised me not to sign anything, because these were asylum applications for adults. He explained to me that it was a trap; as soon as I signed it, my application for minor status would no longer be valid.

So I told the police that I refused to sign. They took my name and those of the others, who also refused. Then the Prefecture told us that as we hadn’t signed, our accommodation in the centre would come to an end. So we called all the charities, who tried to find a solution, but weren’t able to do anything.

A few days later, on the 31st October, letters arrived saying that we had to leave our accommodation. We only had two days to leave. The Prefecture explained that these premises were for adults only, and that since we were minors, they couldn’t therefore house us. At the beginning of November, they kicked us out.

Over the next few days, we slept in front of the Town Hall. But the police soon came and sent us away, telling us we couldn’t stay there. So we left and moved 600 metres away, under one of the bridges over the Seine, the Pont Marie. But once again the police came and chased us away.

I didn’t know what to do, I felt disheartened. So I went back to Belleville park, where I’d spent my first nights in Paris. I stayed there for several weeks, until the New Year. Then in mid-January, a few young people and I were put up in a school thanks to the Midis du Mie charity (a charity that helps young exiles).

For the few weeks, things have been going a bit better; I’m no longer in Paris. And I won’t be going back there until mid-July for my court hearing to have my minority status legally recognised. I’m now living with a hostess in the South of France. Midis du Mies put me in touch with her.

If the charities weren’t here to help, I wouldn’t know what to do and I don’t know where I’d be today. They are the ones who help the minors here. I’d like the government to take a look at the situation of the minors who live and suffer in France. Because we’re powerless and we end up asking ourselves: what have we done wrong?


Fode*, a 15-year-old Guinean, arrived in Paris in September after crossing the Mediterranean. Now, like most unaccompanied minors, he finds himself in a legal limbo where the authorities won’t look after him, in conditions that are harsher than he could ever have imagined.

*Name has been changed

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