Oumar arrived in France when he was 16 years old and started studying catering. But as soon as he turned 18, his apprenticeship was abruptly terminated and he was ordered to leave France. This is his story.
"My name is Oumar*, I'm from Guinea and I’m 18 years old. I came to France in August, 2017, after having crossed through Algeria, Morocco and Spain.
When I arrived, I was immediately taken in by the city of Agen [in southern France, Eds. note] because I was only 16 years old. I was quickly recognized as a minor and was put up in a home for youths.
When the 2017 school year started, I took up classes at a vocational high school. In June, 2018, I did an internship at a restaurant as part of my studies, and I realized I wanted to specialize in cooking. My boss also wanted to keep me on because he said I was a good person to have in the restaurant and that I was very motivated.
He agreed to take me on as part of my block-release training and so we signed a two-year apprenticeship contract that would end up in me earning a CAP diploma [certificate of professional competence, Eds. note]. I alternated between taking classes and working in the restaurant.
Everything was going really well, my boss was happy with me and I adjusted really well. I was happy to have found what I wanted to do. I imagined starting my career in this restaurant. My boss also wanted me to continue working for him after I’d finished my studies.
But on my 18th birthday, on April 16, 2019, my life changed completely. Everything fell apart.
Because I’m no longer a minor, I can’t be supported by the [regional] department anymore. And so I wanted to apply for a residence permit.
After going for an interview and leaving my fingerprints at the prefecture I was given a receipt that was valid for three months. Because the prefecture didn’t get back to me about my application, the receipt was renewed once. In the meantime, I continued with my CAP training.
But at the end of July I was summoned by the prefecture. They told me that my birth certificate didn't conform to the rules. They also asked me why I had told authorities in Spain that I was an adult when I had arrived there.
And so I told them that, at the time, I didn’t want to stay in Spain, and that I wanted to go to France because I spoke the language. I thought it would be easier for me to go to France if I told Spanish authorities that I was an 'adult.' But they didn't want to hear any of that and were convinced that I had lied about my age when I came to France.
Ordered to leave
After the interview, I received an OQTF (obligation to leave French territory) and an IRTF (a ban on returning to France) – despite my work documents and recommendation letters from my employer, my school and even my French teacher.
They terminated my apprenticeship contract with my boss and my school, and I was no longer able to stay at the youth residence home. Since then, I've been staying with a friend but I don't make any money any more so it's very difficult. From one day to the next, I lost everything. It's really hard, I've never experienced a nightmare like this.
I spend my days trying to fix the situation. The school told me they were going to send a letter to the municipality and the prefecture.
I don't know what to do. I can't go back to Guinea, there's no future for me there. If I'm arrested in the street, I could be sent to an administrative detention centre (CRA) and then be sent back to my country.
I'm scared, but I can't stay locked inside all day.
I don't understand why they treat me like this. I'm a hard-working person, I want to learn a trade, I’ve never done anything wrong, I’ve always behaved in the right way and still they consider me a delinquent. I’m an honest man, I’m not a bad person."
*the name has been changed