In Saint-Etienne, the Covid-19 complicates the voluntary reception of unaccompanied minors

Halfway between the first foothills of the Pilat massif and the city center of Saint-Etienne, in a residential area crossed by the cries of children from the neighboring nursery school, a house has changed the lives of dozens of teenagers from Africa: the Solidarity House. But the association it hosts is weakened by the effects of the coronavirus. The story begins in 2016, when Valentin Porte returned from Aix-en-Provence to Saint-Etienne to live in this family home about to be sold and to continue the activity of his association Transport People and Care (TPC), which delivers clothes, food and medicines to migrants in the Calais camp. “One day, the local branch of Secours Catholique asked me if I could accommodate a minor, he recounts. The house is big, I said Yes. » Other requests followed. And others ” Yes “.

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In 2018, the association – renamed TPC-Maison solidaire – requested accommodation approval from the Loire prefecture. “We were told that we were doing a wonderful job, and two weeks later… we were evacuated”, explains Valentin Porte. A movement of solidarity was immediately formed. In a few hours, a solution was found: 21 migrants were welcomed into families.

Since then, a network of 70 accommodation families has been created. They compensate for the legal vagueness that surrounds unaccompanied young people whose minority is not recognized and who are awaiting a decision from the children’s judge. During this period, no one is in fact required to host them. “The mayor refers to the prefecture, which refers to the department, which refers to 115 [le numéro d’urgence et d’accueil des personnes sans abri], which only accepts adults, laments Valentin Porte. However, more than 95% of the young people we host end up being recognized as minors before the judge. “

Transport impossible

The departments have the obligation to take care of unaccompanied minors. But it is possible for them to discharge them if they cast doubt on the minority of applicants. The latter then find themselves destitute. This is the case for Djibril and Lamine, two Guineans hosted by Amandine Letievant, a nurse from Saint-Etienne who, with her husband and her three children, welcomed a dozen minors in three years through the Solidarity House. “I realized that behind the word migrant, there were teenagers like mine, she comments. Djibril and Lamine stayed with us for two years. “ The first is now a turner-miller, the second in apprenticeship. The association has 150 volunteers. “There is a very lively associative network in Saint-Etienne, rejoices the volunteer. I am proud to live here. “

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