RESF: The journey of these young people, a real fight!

The central issue for them remains the non-delivery of papers. That prevents them from continuing their training or work once they reach the age of 18. Even with the formal guarantee of a work contract.

After having identified tens and tens of Unaccompanied Minors (MNA), enrolled in vocational trainings, in fields in deficit of labor in France, who see their apprenticeship contract terminated on their 18th birthday, the Réseau Education Sans Frontière ( RESF 54) mobilizes them. Thus is born the collective ACTION LES JEUNES 54! In a few weeks, more than 120 youth residing in Meurthe-et-Moselle, joined in. On June 15, they will meet the prefect. The goal? "To humanize the perception of the Prefecture about their cause," says RESF 54, which has worked hard to obtain this meeting. Perhaps a national model to show the best of MNA and to raise their voice peacefully?

Why this collective and how to be part of it? How can you help others and help yourself? Answers as well as an analysis on the general condition of these minors and young people, in an exclusive interview for Pro IDE, given by the associations RESF, A Toit pour les Migrants, Ligue pour les Droits de l'Homme, in Meurthe-et -Moselle.

Pro IDE - Why this collective? What can it change for the better?

We, volunteers and activists of various forms, members of different and multiple associations and collectives, make every effort to support undocumented migrants, young and old, isolated people and families. We support their needs in administrative aid, education, accommodation, food, etc. But we undertake, also, strong activism and political struggle. The ultimate objective: To ensure that everyone, citizen of this world, can have their identity unequivocally restored. We consider that there is a deep motivation for everyone to be in France… and to stay there.

The idea of this youth collective is to add a dimension to our struggles, that of the power to act of those first concerned. Through support, the idea is that YOUNG PEOPLE ACT FOR THEMSELVES, that they mobilize for their own cause. Not only individually, but also collectively.

We see at least two virtues for them:

  1. feeling less alone, less isolated, less abandoned, by meeting peers, by sharing their joys and sorrows, their passions, their distress, their desires, their doubts ...
  2. feeling stronger, more confident in their own future, here in France in particular; but also gain self-confidence and believe they can lead themselves through the struggles (with support if necessary).
“You see, people are afraid of the immigrants, and the state is afraid that this fear will turn against it. So, it shows the greatest firmness toward the foreigners, hoping to reassure the voters”.

Pro IDE- Why should youth with no resident permit join in?

 To take up the two virtues above: to get out of their isolation and be stronger together.

And, although it may seem utopian, keep in mind that the ultimate goal of all our dynamics is to obtain documents for them.

Pro IDE- Does this collective have an official name? How can the young people of Meurthe-et-Moselle participate? How can they contact it?

This collective is called ACTION LES JEUNES 54! To participate, all you have to do is contact one of the young founders, who will first take care of adding the newcomer to the list of young people of. To get a contact, send an SMS to 07 77 34 79. 83

Pro IDE - Each of these young people arrived years ago in France alone, as unaccompanied child (MNA). Now that they are over 18, what is their situation in Nancy, and beyond, across France? What do the numbers tell us? 

It is often incredible to listen to the stories of these young people arrived in Nancy. Why Nancy? It oscillates between chance, a vague acquaintance, a rush ... Let's say that in general, nothing predestined them to live in this city. Imagine: minors in the middle of nowhere, in a city on the other side of the world (from where they started, a few months or years ago).

While regarding education, many are accepted into public schools, but not all. Depending on the professional sectors, often the public does not accept them. So, the private sector remains the only possible way of education, but the CD refuses any financial support! Fortunately, popular generosity makes it possible to alleviate the need for money in such circumstances.

And then, to top it off, when they report themselves to the authorities, the first reaction is to question their minority, and their legitimacy in being here. This is the start of a course full of obstacles: bone tests, controls, discrimination ...

For some of them, the results of these tests (which are the subject of numerous recriminations, so much their reliability is doubtful), do not attest their minority. Other procedures then open up to them, complex and long.  

Néanmoins, une fois reconnus mineurs (pour ceux qui le sont), les jeunes sont pris en charge par le Conseil Départemental (CD) qui est autorité de tutelle pour les mineurs reconnus. On peut regretter que les conditions de vie de ces jeunes, même pris en charge par le CD soient parfois peu acceptables. Certains, bien lotis, sont hébergés « en famille citoyenne » (genre de « familles d’accueil »), tandis que d’autres sont soit en foyer encadrés par des travailleurs sociaux en sous-effectifs, soit à l’hôtel, dans des disastrous conditions, without the possibility of cooking or doing their school homework, etc.

While regarding education, many are accepted into public schools, but not all. Depending on the professional sectors, often the public does not accept them. So, the private sector remains the only possible way of education, but the CD refuses any financial support! Fortunately, popular generosity makes it possible to alleviate the need for money in such circumstances.

This collective is called ACTION LES JEUNES 54! To participate, all you have to do is contact one of the young founders, who will first take care of adding the newcomer to the list of young people of. To get a contact, send an SMS to 07 77 34 79. 83
Prova

One of the leaders of RESF 54, Johan Chanal, and some of the members of the group ACTION LES JEUNES 54! during one of their meetings. Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle, March 2021. Photo credit Pro IDE

Sur la photo en-dessus: Une affiche lors d’une action de sensibilisation au sujet des migrants, organisée par de nombreuses associations, à Nancy, Meurthe-et-Moselle, place Stanislas. Avril 2021. Crédit photo PRO Ide.

The central issue for them remains the non-delivery of papers. That prevents them from continuing their training or work once they reach the age of 18. Even with the formal guarantee of a work contract. As for CD protection, even if it sometimes lasts a few weeks or months for some young people (up to the age of 21), it ceases sometimes on the very day of their majority. Then, many young people are put on the streets, with a plastic bag, some clothes for all luggage.

Pro IDE-What is the perception of French public opinion about them?

Public opinion is forged from the media's kind of coverage on immigration, from their images that come and go on TV screens and computers: hordes of migrants, wandering in slums, very quickly assimilated to delinquents! It doesn't make you want other than protecting yourself from these ghostly characters. Some thoughtless souls like to make us believe they are here to cannibalize us. It’s not surprising that fear is gaining space among many compatriots.

However, we see it every day: citizen mobilization is real strong. There are many outbursts of solidarity, in rural areas as well as in towns. Initiatives of all kinds show that, for many French, solidarity is the alpha and omega of their “savoir- vivre”, and that freedom, equality and fraternity are values that matter to all those who set foot on the French ground.

Pro IDE-How do you explain the harshness of the Prefectures towards these youth, the day they become 18 years old, even when they demonstrate high levels of insertion and integration? Many of them have also been able to find jog contracts in highly stressed sectors which suffer from the absence of workers in France.

 We believe that the Prefectures are only applying the instructions received from the top of the state. Namely: no regularization! There is a certain consensus (scientific and political, political in the noble sense of the term, not in the political sense) that this posture is due only to the fear of public opinion. You see, people are afraid of the immigrants, and the state is afraid that this fear will turn against it. So, it shows the greatest firmness toward the foreigners, hoping to reassure the voters.

Result of this policy: It’s true. As you say, many of these youth have demonstrated high levels of integration, have job promises, but, still, they have not obtained the legal documents. They are forced to live in illegality, in doubt, waiting to be finally free as citizens of the world

Pro IDE-Quelle est la stratégie des associations de lutte pour les droits des migrants (RESF, A TOIT POUR LES MIGRANTS, LDH) pour l’avenir ? 

Depending on the associations, we are acting and fighting in different areas: solidarity (housing assistance, help with administrative procedures, support for schooling); public opinion (dismantling received ideas, promoting the idea of a more united society); politics (mobilizing public actors, civil society, elected officials, citizens).

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This article is produced as part of the “Migration, Youth and Internet” project. It is written by Elda Spaho Bleta, volunteer of the local group Oxfam in Nancy, who paid close attention to the information given. The sources of the information are cited, and when personal advice is given, it is the sole responsibility of the editor. If, despite her attention, an error had slipped into the document, please report it to her by writing to [email protected] This article is published with the funds of the French Development Agency, Grand Est Solidarités et Coopérations pour le Développement (GESCOD), and with the support of Oxfam France. The content of the articles does not engage the structures previously named.

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