DIJON: Human rights activists warn of “threats of expulsion of young people and foreign families”

“It’s amazing that we have to go to the streets to enforce children’s rights,” said Paul Garrigues on Tuesday July 5, calling on the services of the Côte-d’Or prefecture. Activists supporting migrants and asylum seekers presented four representative human dramas.

Procedures for the expulsion of foreign nationals in an irregular situation are regularly triggered by the services of the prefectures of the Côte-d’Or and validated by the general secretariat, to the great displeasure of association activists but also of the relatives of the persons concerned, some having been able to rebuild their lives or even start a family in France over the years.

This Tuesday, July 5, 2022, at the Maison des associations in Dijon, representatives of the League for Human Rights, SOS Refoulement, Cimade, the Peace Movement and Catholic Workers’ Action – associations of the collective support for asylum seekers and migrants in Côte-d’Or – highlighted emblematic situations seen as human tragedies.

Four representative situations facing the services of the prefecture

“Here are four emblematic situations of the problems that we encounter, not exceptional but rather representative situations”, explains Paul Garrigues, co-president of the Dijon section of the Human Rights League, taking the floor.

In one voice with activists from other associations, Paul Garrigues warns in particular of “threats of expulsion of young people and foreign families putting them in serious danger, ignoring children’s rights, in particular the right of children to live in safety and without being separated from their parents”.

Souleymane, Malian apprentice cook

Having left Mali at the age of 16, initially supported by the Côte-d’Or departmental council as an unaccompanied foreign minor (MNA), Souleymane Sacko is now 19 years old.

After being trained at the Dijon Métropole School of Trades, the young Malian became an apprentice cook in 2019 at the So Lunch restaurant in Dijon where he gave satisfaction to the point that his employers wrote at length to the prefecture to defend his file.

Once he became an adult, Souleymane Sacko found that the services of the Côte-d’Or prefecture questioned the validity of his identity documents.

“Is it better to have illegal young people or young people who work?” launches Paul Garrigues while Souleymane Sacko is now subject to an obligation to leave French territory (OQTF). The migrant support group having seized the court, the decision has not yet been executed but the apprentice cook has lost his job, his employers can no longer call on him, as well as his accommodation.

According to the activists, the services of the prefecture base the dispute not on the passport of the Malian but on the birth certificate which enabled the Malian authorities to establish the passport. A complaint for forgery was filed in Dijon but was not the subject of judicial treatment.

“It does not hold water to say that it is false when justice has not followed”, plague Paul Garrigues who underlines that, according to his employers, Souleymane Sacko has shown himself “voluntary, smiling, motivated, worthy trust”, this in a context where “many restaurants are looking for staff”.

Shalva, Persecuted Jeweler in Georgia

The Kirimlishvili-Kubulashvili family is made up of two parents born in 1983 and 1987 as well as three children born in 2009, 2010 and 2018. Little Ana, born in France, was educated this year at the Darcy nursery school and “her two brothers are good students who speak French well,” says Talmi Simeha.

According to the Cimade volunteer, Shalva, the father of the family, was “imprisoned and tortured in a prison” in Georgia for defying a local politician who wanted to take over his jewelry store. His wife Nino was also reportedly harassed by local police.

The family fled the country to seek asylum in France, which was not granted. Shalva now benefits from psychiatric care at the Chartreuse hospital center in Dijon for a post-traumatic syndrome.

Shalva had a jewelry and gold trading store. “He is ready for any job,” insists Talmi Simeha. His wife was a saleswoman: “she is ready to work in the cleaning sector”.

The psychiatric care led to the cancellation of a first OQTF following the rejection of the asylum application. Seizure, the administrative justice found wrong with the prefecture of the Côte-d’Or whose services “refused the right to stay in France to be treated”, deplores the volunteer of the Cimade.

As the activist relates, the doctors of the French Immigration Office (OFI) who followed the file of the father of the family on his arrival had given him a “sick foreigner card” pointing out the need for “care care, failing which the consequences could be exceptionally serious” while emphasizing that care was not adequate in Georgia.

Even if Shalva manages to plead her case, the threat of an OQTF hangs over the rest of the family. The League of Human Rights refutes the arguments of the prefecture while the case is now being heard on appeal by the administrative justice in Lyon. Paul Garrigues reports that a petition has received “615 signatures” and asks “to respect the life of the family” in order to “not send the family back to where they were mistreated”.

A call for a rally this Thursday, July 7 at 5 p.m. in front of the Darcy nursery school is launched by a group of activists, teachers and parents of students.

Fouzia, Algerian who has rebuilt a family

Present illegally in France for nine years, Fouzia is Algerian. She left the father of three of her children and lives in the Dijon metropolitan area, having rebuilt a family for three years with a Turkish national who has been living legally in France for eleven years. Together, they had a child, now eight months old, born in France.

“I criticize the prefect for not seeing the human side of the case of a mother who wants to protect her children,” says Fouzia, very moved. A boy has just passed the college certificate, another will enter 4th grade while a 7-year-old girl, also born in France, will enter CE1.

The services of the Côte-d’Or prefecture deemed the school certificates of the three children to be false and decided on an OQTF concerning Fouzia and the children attending school. Only the eight-month-old baby would be allowed to stay in France with his father. “That’s horrible, I can’t find the words,” laments the mother.

“The prefecture has all the legal possibilities to regularize in application of a circular of 2012”, explains Paul Garrigues, the criterion for granting a residence permit consisting of five years of presence in France accompanied by three years of schooling for a child. “The little one only knows France, the baby has his father who takes care of him in France”.

France is a signatory to the international convention on the rights of children, which assigns the right to live with the family,” insists the LDH activist.

Hovannes and Lusine, Armenians who fled Ukraine

The fourth situation representative of the files accompanied by associations supporting asylum seekers concerns an Armenian family who arrived in France after having fled the war in Ukraine.

Having left Armenia in 2000 because threatened by a gang of delinquents, a couple, Hovannes and Lusine, now in their sixties, with two daughters, one of whom is of Ukrainian nationality, lived and worked with permanent residence near Mariupol, where the couple had family, when Russian Federation troops invaded Ukraine.

Human rights activists blame the French administrations for “the restrictive conditions” under the temporary protection directive – activated to take care of people displaced in European Union countries from Ukraine – in reserving it only for Ukrainian nationals.

The request for dialogue addressed to the prefecture of Côte-d’Or

The “hyphen” that Paul Garrigues points out between these four situations is what he describes as “dependent treatment” on the part of the services of the prefecture of the Côte-d’Or. And to denounce “the absence of any dialogue”. Even if the Cimade was received by the prefect, “we cannot manage to discuss the concrete situations of the people”.

“Some cases were able to move forward when there was a lot of mobilization”, notes Paul Garrigues in reference to the residence permit obtained by the Albanian family of little Rizart, educated at the Colombière school.

However, the human rights activist regrets this kind of situation: “it’s amazing that you have to go to the streets to enforce the rights of children”.

Jean-Christophe Tardivon

The support group for asylum seekers and migrants

ACAT Dijon / Action Catholique Ouvrière / AFRANE Bourgogne/ AGIRabcd 21/ AIDES Bourgogne Franche Comté/Friends of the Peasant Confederation/ Amnesty International Dijon / APF France Handicap/ ATTAC21 / ATMF Dijon / CFDT 21 / CGT 21 / Club Unesco Dijon / CCFD-Terre Solidarity / CNT 21 / Collective of the international host school Le Castel / Peasant Confederation / Trade Union Confederation of Families / Self-managed space of Tanneries / Euphorbia in Illabakan / FCPE / FSU 21 / LVN personalists and citizens / Human Rights League / Maison Phare / MAN / Peace Movement / MRAP / Pastoral Care of Migrants / RESF 21 / SAF / SNES FSU / SOS Refoulement / SOS Racism / Solidarity / Afghan Solidarity / South social health / UJFP / UNEF / Tends la Main

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