A small group of people based in Dept 06 (Alpes-Maritime) are hoping to be directly involved in children’s lives who are here as unaccompanied refugee minors. We are looking to promote this group, and through sharing details of the Parrainage process help establish a network of support groups through France.
There are many children in the care of the French authorities, either kids newly arrived in France; or others here for some time. In the 06 area there are approximately 300 unaccompanied minors, who are from various countries including Albania, Pakistan, Bangladesh, Turkey, Afghanistan, various African Countries. Some may have arrived via Italy and many are intercepted en route to Paris or the UK.
Many children have travelled far to arrive in France © Shutterstock
They may have escaped appalling circumstances, and are motivated to travel across war zones, mountains, and oceans. Often victims of trafficking, imprisonment, brutality and criminal gangs, they have risked their lives to arrive in France.
Now in France they are housed and fed but their futures are far from clear and the day to day living is not easy. The hopes that they have fostered are at odds with reality of the conditions and welcome that they actually receive. The children that are identified are taken into the care of the authorities and housed in various facilities, hostels and hotels, and these locations are often kept secret. The facilities may offer limited schooling. Each child must apply for identification papers and once they have these they will begin the immigration process where their future and status is considered by the authorities. This process may take many months, or years, and all the while the children are aware that when they reach 18 they will be released from care onto the streets as an illegal immigrant and therefore unable to work in any legal capacity.
A family meal at the Jardins with a visiting refugee child
On the downside, there are people who identify themselves as being minors and it’s difficult to establish their age as none have paperwork or ID papers. This does mean that there is a possibility of the child refugee process can be abused by people who are not refugees or under the age of 18 and clearly it’s the authority’s role to identify these imposters. There is also political uncertainty and a right-wing backlash that can mean that the locations and plan for the children to be kept a closely guarded secret for their own security.
The French authorities in this area have in the last few weeks confirmed that they are welcoming fostering and care arrangements.
To be a ‘parrain’ there is a vetting process and you are required to set out your qualities and why you want to be considered. The role can involve simply helping and being interested in a child’s life, taking them out occasionally, and just being there for them; through to being a full time foster parent.
The primary focus is to assist the children in their current circumstances and adapt into their new life, which may include helping them with schooling, sporting activities, simply being there for them and to help with paper work. It’s not to judge why they are here, and this scrutiny is the role of the authorities. It should be appreciated that not all will qualify to stay in France and experience can be an emotional roller-coaster as children can be moved on suddenly.
Whilst we are establishing a Group in Dept 06 (Alpes-Maritime), we would like to encourage similar groups through France where any refugee children are in care. My suggestion is that anyone interested in doing this should contact the local Chef de “service Enfance, jeunesse, parentalite” in their area and request details of any Parrainage scheme for refugees. The scheme can either be to allow access and support or full fostering. The child will remain in the Legal Guardianship of the authorities. For many authorities this is new and they may be unsure how to share details but we hope more information will be available soon. Good luck!