On January 31st; partial closing of the CAOMI (Centers of Reception and Orientation for minors – see here, here, here and there). The testimonies which date back present a similar situation; a new announcement some days before, young people sorted between “recognised minors” and “recognised adults”, no access to independent legal support allowing them to challenge the decision they are subject to, people scattered everywhere, friends, relatives separated.
After Saint-Cast, in Brittany, an account regarding Monoblet, in Gard, on the other side of the France. One more episode in the struggle of non-welcoming.
*original text in French*
« On the closure of the CAOMI of Monoblet
29 of them arrived from the jungle of Calais to the center of the Amariniers close to Monoblet in the middle of a November night (see article in French here). Getting into the bus whose destination they did not know, they were promised a way to England and that they would not stay in Cevennes for more than five days…
Time passes, three months exactly. This is the time allotted by the prefecture to social workers to regularize the administrative situation of each person. Three months during which the hopes will have mixed with the disappointments, the anxieties will have punctuated the moments of joy.
In the end nothing surprising happened Most requests for family reunification were rejected; Only three positive responses to date have been granted; The youths “recognized” as adults1 were switched to a CAO for adults, the younths “recognized” as minors were transferred to the social welfare services for children Some would have preferred to attempt by themselves their dream than the unfeasible situation of being trapped in the inner workings of the administration. And so they left the centre to reach the North coast of France or other places offering more to their future.
So over the weeks, their will to reach England gradually diminished to that of seeking asylum in France. To be able to stay together, not leave those with whom they had formed a group bond. Then from one day to the next, they were told again that they had to leave, and for some, alone. This time they were told their destination three days before their departure, but most did not know what it was to leave in a car accompanied by social workers. Their questions remain unanswered, some of ours also…
Closing the facility and speedy transfer of Afghan youths
As of January 31st, the prefecture ordered the closure of the centre. The decision is announced one week in advance. The contracts for staff hired for this facility also ended on this date. With no renewals and no additional wage costs to pay, the business folded as fast as possible.
For minors this means a place in a home ordered by the Prosecutor in the child welfares centers. A small group left on the 30th January for N√Æmes. They will spend their first nights in a hotel usually made available by the 115. That night two of them slept in one bed. Other kids barely 16, speaking only a few words of French or English, are assigned places on their own near cities like Toulouse, Montpellier or in the Paris region. One of them was separated from his cousin with whom he made the whole journey from Afghanistan. He, deemed to be an adult, is assigned in to village about 50 kilometres away. Some are still waiting for their places and remain at the centre despite the closure already being demanded…
Their questions about their near future remain. Where will they go? Will they have access to the internet to communicate with their family? Will there be French language courses? Will they be able to take the training of their choice? How long will they stay there and that what will happen to most of them? All that will be found out later… The reception of unaccompanied foreign minors comes under the responsibility of the County Councils. These services are generally lacking resources and overloaded. In departments such as the Nord-Pas de Calais, the Ile of France or the Bouches du Rh√¥ne, the children are not all taken care of and must find a solution themselves to avoid sleeping on the street. That is the welcome they will find here. To recall Denko Sissoko, a youth from the Ivory Coast placed in one of these homes near Reims who was thrown out of a window in early January. Other youths in the centre then wrote a letter to the head of Department of the County Council describing the deplorable situation that they are facing (see, both in French, here and here).
Those considered adults will continue to be taken under the charge of a CAO for adults. They will either go the CAO center in Vigan or will be sent to apartments in Lasalle used for those seeking asylum. What opportunity will they have here to start integration into social life, knowing that there will be no training on offer on-site (in Lasalle in any case). The duration of their recepetion will be determined according to the progress of their application for asylum, and following the outcome they may be asked once again to leave? As in many departments in France, and despite the promises made by the Home Secretary that Dublin III Regulations will not apply to those leaving Calais, they may be removed to the first country in Europe where their fingerprints were taken as in Gard where the prefect initially applyied this measure. Their future in France may be short and still includes many uncertainties.
A standard of ‘protection’ for minors?
A few months ago we were talking about the dismantling of Calais as an operation to ‘protect’ minors. We were told that they could not stay there and continue to live in conditions considered to be inhumane. No, indeed they could not, or rather they could not. They did not leave by choice, but because they were removed and then placed in buses. And if security forces were not now in place to prevent their return, a new jungle would have been rebuilt already. And if the conditions were deplorable, who would take responsibility?
We therefore question the hypocrisy of the State on the one hand, and that too of the associations which managed these measures on its behalf and relayed its discourses. On the one side we implement or endorses a system generating violence, both physical and moral. On the other, we pretend to remedy it by announcements and security measures.
What were the ‘expanded responsibilities’ (see in French here) which would supposedly accompany the minors on their arrival at the centre in Monoblet, if not to insure a security role by filtering those entering? This protection has in our eyes materialized by the closed gate at the entrance of the centre2, a register noting those entering and exiting, and obedience to an authority which decide what it is possible to do or not in the centre. Many initiatives were discouraged3 by this and and this contributed to the isolation of the young people who were nevertheless requesting visits and outings.
We however did not see any counselling, no one to listen to their accounts, other than that which served administratively. Like this could the good will of social workers exceed the remit imposed by the administration? They objected to measures that cannot be anything but shocking? These young people remained waiting and in uncertainty for three months, to finally be separated then left alone, whereas they had grown used to being in a group in Calais. Arrived in haste, left in haste, an ideal situation of protection? And for those who are left and wander somewhere on the roads of Europe, how are they protected, who cares about them now? Who spoke of ‘expanded responsibilities’ ? A call to the prefecture signalling their departures is enough to clear their name of the problem?
The service provided by the State through its mandated service provider is limited to providing shelter, two meals a day, and putting individuals into the administrative framework planned for them. For the rest (French language courses, clothes, shoes, dictionaries…), the people of the surrounding villages had to take on the responsibility allowing some budget savings to be passed on.
We see once again that the weight of the institution has stifled the will to get by and many other possibilities to organize. No choice was left to the Afghan youth, other than to continue their journey alone. The only request the made was to stay together, at least in small groups, what has been done in this direction?
But the centre must now close, and the question of follow-up, accompaniment and the fate of the people is always there. An initiative to create a follow-up Committee is ongoing (see here, in French) and contacts were kept in an informal way. Continuing support outside the institutional or managerial frameworks and maintaining links that have been created are ways of breaking down separation, sorting and isolation, developing solidarity in the face of a system that crushes individuals
1 Since the dismantling of Calais, several interviews identified the age of individuals concerned, demonstrating the seriousness of the approach. The first was carried out in a hangar in Calais, in an interview of a few minutes, or the age was determined by a method of facial recognition. The second was made by officials from the Home Office in one day at the centre thanks to a series of questions. The third, much more elaborate, was directed by the services of the Department and consisted of an interview without a translator, the demand for written evidence from families, and bone testing. This method is used to determine the age of a person reliably to within about a year and a half…
2. This is not without reminding us of the current functioning in any place of deprivation of liberty and the tendency which increasingly links accompaniment and coercion The new Prahda (Asylum Seekers’ Hosting and Accommodation) scheme for the CAO public illustrates this perfectly by adding a mission of “preparing for the transfer of persons under the Dublin procedure and monitoring, where appropriate, persons under house arrest ”
3. For example, climbing excursions have been deprogrammed at the last moment. Outings in the city could not take place, for reasons of protection or safety. For these children who have crossed half of Europe alone or have tried every night to climb trucks on a highway, it would almost be a smile … ”
Egon Schiele : Four trees.