In February 2020, Paul, a father from Côte d'Ivoire, first spoke with InfoMigrants about his chaotic situation in Paris where he was surviving without fixed accommodation with his then 4-year-old twin daughters. Contacted again by InfoMigrants a year and a half later, Paul reveals that his life has "clearly" improved. His daughters have been granted asylum, although he has not. They also went back to school. Here is his story.
When InfoMigrants first met Paul* at the start of 2020, he was distraught. He was looking for accommodation and awaiting a response from the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (Ofpra).
Paul and his 4-year-old twin daughters often had to take refuge in night buses when they could not find anywhere to stay and the girls did not go to school. Today, their situation has happily changed.
'I am so happy'
"My twin girls have been granted asylum. We received the answer from Ofpra last summer. I have their letters of confirmation with me the letters with me now. My two girls are officially refugees. I am so happy.
The girls' mother and I are 'parents of refugee children'. We didn't get asylum. But we have a receipt to prove that we are still in good standing thanks to the girls, and soon we should receive a 'private and family life' residence permit.
Ofpra can indeed, in some cases, protect minors but not their parents. "It can happen that within a family, minors have their own fears and are protected for this reason, even though their parents do not face any fears for themselves," Ofpra explained to InfoMigrants. An example of one such case is for a minor who would be forced into sexual mutilation such as excision if she returns to her country of origin.
Thanks to this, our life has improved a lot. I am allowed to work. I am a delivery driver for a private company. But I would like to move on. I was already doing this job in Côte d'Ivoire, I would like to train as a truck driver or to drive construction machinery.
At the moment, we are staying in a foyer in Nanterre [near Paris]. This is good. At least we don't have to think about sleeping in the street anymore.
We have applied for social housing, but it takes time. A social worker helped us to fill in the documents. But without the residence permit, it's a bit complicated. With the card, we will be able to move forward.
The twins are now in first grade. They are doing well. They are in a public school in Nanterre. They are very happy at the moment, blossoming, they meet friends at school. They are not sad to live in a hotel, they consider it like home, they are children! And they are starting to read.
We have had another baby too, a little girl, she is one year old. We haven't found a place in a day care center yet, so my wife is taking care of her for the moment, but she would like to work. Maybe as a cleaning lady to start with. She would like to take courses to learn to read and write French. Then she'll have more opportunities.
We filed another application for asylum for my little girl, who was born last year, but the application was rejected. She was born in France, so we will go to the town hall to see what we can do.
I feel so relieved today. The little ones are safe, they go to school, it's already a big step, it's one of the most important things for us.
We would like to move out to the provinces one day. Paris is very expensive.
We're going to find out about other cities in France because we don't know them yet. We will look at the cities where there is work and, with time, we will find one to live in.
We have done the hardest part.
I am happy to be in France, it's quiet. The most important thing here is access to health care. It's different from Africa. Health is well managed here. My daughters are in great shape but if they had a problem, it's reassuring for me that they would be able to access treatment in France. My wife's pregnancy went very well too, she was very well looked after at the Kremlin Bicêtre [hospital in the Paris region, editor's note].
I would like to say a word for the brothers and sisters who were in the same situation as me. When you arrive in France, you have to be courageous. You have to turn to all the associations and knock on every door. 'Discouragement is not Ivorian', as we say in our country. You have to believe in the incredible."
*His first name has been changed.