ile photo taken June 2020 of Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos.  Credit : Picture alliance
ile photo taken June 2020 of Moria camp on the Greek island of Lesbos. Credit : Picture alliance

Amadou Diallo received a scholarship for a prestigious French university. But the Guinean migrant, who arrived in the Greek island of Lesbos four years ago, has been trapped in Greece by an asylum process further delayed by the pandemic. A report in a leading French daily however has rekindled the young migrant’s hopes.

A newspaper article may just have changed Amadou Diallo’s fate. 

The 20-year-old Guinean migrant has been admitted to the prestigious Paris Institute of Political Studies (Sciences Po) university for the next academic year starting in September 2020. He has also won the Emile Boutmy scholarship, named after the founder of Sciences Po, for international students outside the European Union.

However, Diallo might not be able to actually attend his classes. His asylum application process has been delayed by the coronavirus pandemic and that could prevent him from traveling to France.

"I am blocked here in Greece, at the door of my dreams," Diallo told the leading French daily Le Monde in an article pubished July 10. The article sparked an immediate response on social media. 

Reacting on Twitter, Marlène Schiappa, France’s Minister Delegate for Citizenship, said the French interior and foreign ministries were working with Greek authorities to try to find a solution. “France is ready to welcome him," said Schiappa.

From the streets to shelter and an education

Diallo was a minor when arrived on the Greek island of Lesbos in October 2016. He says he fled his country where he felt persecuted. The teenager who is also an orphan managed to escape the dire conditions of the Moria camp in Lesbos, where thousands of migrants are crowded, by hiding on a ferry to the Greek capital.

In Athens, he survived a few days on the streets before sleeping in a homeless shelter. His hopeless situation began to change when he encountered The HOME Project, an Athens-based NGO that provides shelter and child protection services to unaccompanied refugee children. "Before, my concern was to cover my basic needs: to find food and a place to sleep. But once I was taken care of, I resumed a normal life and started to think about my future again," he told Le Monde.

A summer hotel job and his new-found NGO support enabled Diallo to enroll at the Lycée Franco-Hellénique Eugène Delacroix, a French international school in Athens. His interest in international relations led him to apply to Sciences Po, where he was admitted.

Online petition by fellow students

But the young man's future depends on an Athens Court of Appeal judgment and the interminable bureaucratic nightmares that confront too many asylum seekers. "After three years of proceedings and two rejected appeals, I am desperate," he told Le Monde after learning that a court hearing scheduled for July 8 had once again been postponed.

The new date was set for September, after the start of the new academic year at Sciences Po. A final decision meanwhile could take several additional months after the court hearing.

The newspaper article – and the reactions it has sparked, including among senior French officials – has rekindled Diallo’s hopes. The French embassy in Athens said it was "working towards a solution with the Greek government," according to a report by news agency AFP. Diallo’s lawyer, Anna-Maria Kountouri, told the AFP that, "Amadou could go to France with a pass issued by the French embassy in Athens or wait to obtain asylum in Greece and then travel with his passport. This second solution would obviously take longer," she noted.

An online petition launched by Sciences Po students asking the French government to ensure that Diallo can start his schooling has exceeded its goal of 35,000 signatories. “We wish that our future fellow student Amadou Diallo, who is scheduled to begin his undergraduate studies at Sciences Po Paris, is granted the necessary asylum for him to study in France,” said the petition, adding that, “this formidable display of Mr Diallo’s determination must be merited.”

Responding to the campaign the article has sparked in France, Diallo told AFP he was "very moved" by this wave of support.


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