Around thirty minor refugees have been left in the dark regarding their future by French and British authorities. The refugees, mostly aged between 15-17 years old, mainly from Sudan and Syria, have been transferred from the “Jungle” at Calais to a reception center in Chateauroux les Alpes. They are isolated in a non-residential area, where the forest is closer to them than the neighboring city. They have no money, winter clothes nor anything of value and for the past two months they have been anxiously waiting for the official decision: are they eligible to reunite with their families and friends in the UK?
Last Friday, the Home Office in the UK, responsible for transferring the unaccompanied minors registered in the Calais refugee camp, announced the cease of taking in more minor refugees, leaving around 1,000 children from reuniting with their families and friends in the UK. The group of minor refugees located at Chateauroux les Alpes were not officially informed about this decision and have been left in the dark about their future by the French and British authorities.
Ahmed, 16 years old from Dara, Syria, is very concerned, suffers from constant panic attacks and is contemplating going back to Syria. He says: “They have contacted my cousin in the UK, I conducted the interview, is it possible that they won’t accept me? What do you think? It is very cold and snows most of the time, we can’t leave the center- not that we are not allowed to, but there is really nowhere to go but the forest, I don’t know when is it going to end, I want to know, because if I do not get accepted in the UK, I want to go back to Syria and die there”. Ahmed left his family in Syria last year, with his best friend and cousin, they walked through Europe and stayed at Calais refugee camp, his friend managed to be transferred to the UK last July, he adds: “I want to join my cousin in the UK. He is my only friend and family in Europe”.
Hussein, 17 years old, from Aleppo, Syria shares a similar opinion; he explains: “I have been calling a lawyer I knew in Calais refugee camp to ask her if it is true, but she won’t pick up the phone, I had my interview and I am really worried now that all the waiting went in vain.” Hussein left his family in Syria two years ago, and stayed in Libya for a year because he was terrified of dying on the boats, then decided to take the risk, hoping to start a future in the UK and support his family financially. He explains: “I want to go to university and work at the same time, I like math and chemistry. Yes, there is food and a roof above our heads here, not like in Calais camp where I was for six months, but for some reason I feel imprisoned, and I do not want to stay in France”.
Refugees are not welcome in France
The immigration and refugee crises is one of the most discussed topics by French presidential candidates in different parties. Marine Le Pen, the leader of the French far-right National Front party has recently called for an end to free education in France for children of undocumented immigrants. Whereas Francois Fillon, the republican candidate, has promised to restrict the number of immigrants coming to France to a minimum and talked about restricting family visas. Moreover, the regional council in Provence-Alpes-Côte d’Azur (Paca) recently voted for a motion that aims to obtain all legal means to block the establishments what they called “mini jungles of Calais” and only accepting 1000 refugee by the end of 2016”.
Walid, 16 years old from Darfur, Sudan explains: “People in France confuse the few refugees that make problems with the rest of us, I don’t want to make trouble, I don’t want to steal jobs or anything, I just want to go to the UK. I feel very strange here and I don’t know if I prefer it here or in Calais, although it is warmer and we have food, but it feels like they want us far from human contact and I just want you to know that most of us are good people, just looking for a decent future away from war”.
Nooh, 16 years old, from Darfur, Sudan. Nooh explained that the situation in Darfur is extremely tough. His mother saved money so he can try his chances in Europe, he described his one year of travel to and in Europe as a “horror film”. Like his friends, Nooh underwent the interview and is very worried about his future. He glanced at the window, and told me he wants to be a boat captain. When I asked him to elaborate, he said: “when I was on that boat, people around me drowned and died, I saw them, I still remember their faces, their calls, there were babies, children and women, I couldn’t help them. I want to be a boat captain so I can stop people dying on the boats”.
Photos by Reem Abd Ulhamid
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Reem Abd Ulhamid is a Palestinian freelance journalist based between France and Palestine, specialized in writing feature stories in English and Arabic. She is interested in writing stories that reflect peoples’ realities in combating oppression and injustice and has a Master’s degree in Global Communications from the American University of Paris and a Bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Birzeit University.