BY Nduta Waweru, 2:52am July 06, 2018,

As President Macron claims to help Africa, underage African immigrants suffer in Paris

Photo: AFP / POOL / Ludovic MARIN

On his visit to Africa, France’s President Emmanuel Macron waxed lyrical about helping Africans and called for the rethinking of the migration crisis that has seen a number of people risk their lives to reach Europe.

In an interview with France 24, President Macron called for a change in France’s perception of Africa.

“The first thing is that France should have is a different view of Africa, that Africa is not viewed as a land of worry, immigration and terrorism, but a land of vitality, of culture,” he said.

However, a new report by the Human Rights Watch (HRW) indicates that unaccompanied African immigrants are suffering in France.

The report, “‘Like a Lottery’: Arbitrary Treatment of Unaccompanied Migrant Children in Paris”, states that the children, usually underage are classified as adults, thus they end up all alone in the streets of Paris.

With such a classification, the underage immigrants find themselves deprived of shelter and protection often afforded to children. The sleep in the streets, exposed to the elements and insecurity

According to the report, the officials determine the age of the children using their appearance first and then using arbitrary measures including giving testimonies that are either too detailed or imprecise.  They also look at whether the children are unaccompanied and whether they are working before they classify them as adults.

Children who are not dismissed on site are usually given a written statement, which they can use for review of their age.  In such cases, the judges order bone tests and other medical examinations to establish age- something that has been declared unreliable by medical practitioners across France.

The reviews take a long time, meaning that the children are unable to access emergency shelter or food when in need.

Moussa H., an Ivorian immigrant aged 15, had been awaiting a decision from the judge for six weeks.

“In the meantime, I don’t have food, a place to sleep, and I don’t go to school,” he said to HRW.

He was among the 49 immigrant children interviewed by the organisation, which also interviewed 35 other stakeholders including health officials, lawyers and immigration staff among others.

“Deeply flawed procedures mean that children may be arbitrarily turned away at the door of the evaluation office, denied protection after a short interview, or tied up in arduous court procedures and left in limbo for months,” said Bénédicte Jeannerod, France director at HRW.

The treatment of these kids by the French government has forced intervention by private individuals, who have not only opened their homes for them but also provided food, other services and activities such as organising football.

Such an intervention is deemed unnecessary since France has the financial and political capacity and obligation to provide care and protection to all children within French territory,  regardless of their migration status.

Last Edited by:Ismail Akwei Updated: July 6, 2018


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