Two Chadian minors living in the streets of Paris (archives) | Photo: Mehdi Chebil for InfoMigrants
Two Chadian minors living in the streets of Paris (archives) | Photo: Mehdi Chebil for InfoMigrants

As of July, France Terre d’Asile will be in charge of evaluating the age of unaccompanied migrant minors in Paris. The association is taking over the role from the Red Cross, which has managed the evaluation system for six years.

France Terre d'Asile (FTDA) will replace the Red Cross in the evaluation procedure to determine the age of young asylum seekers as of June 30, 2022.

So far the Red Cross has managed the DEMIE, an evaluation unit responsible for officially recognizing unaccompanied minors, and FTDA managed the sheltering of young people during their evaluation. "In the new call for projects, we wanted the same administrator for both activities," said Dominique Versini, deputy mayor of Paris, responsible for the reception of refugees and the protection of children, in an interview with InfoMigrants.

The new program, named the Reception for Unaccompanied Minors (AMNA) of Paris, reportedly allows for the evaluation of 150 young people per week. The structure will be open from Monday to Saturday, from 9am to 6pm at FTDW's new headquarters located in the 12th arrondissement of Paris.

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"It's truly in the spirit of the new project that a lot of aspects are changing," said the Director General of FTDA Delphine Rouilleaut in an interview with InfoMigrants. In particular, there would be "reinforced means for sheltering the minors in order to better support them."

Among the new features is an assessment of health needs upon the arrival of the young people: each youth evaluated at the AMNA of Paris will be welcomed by a social worker who will explain the evaluation process to them. A check-up of the young person will take place and after "one to four days of rest," he or she will be evaluated.

The sheltering of young people during the evaluation will take place in hotels, as has been the case until now, but Rouilleaut noted that these will be "sites exclusively dedicated to the care of young people, with supervision by social workers and no other types of public in the establishment." In addition, a mentor will be appointed to each teenager to accompany him or her during the process.

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To allow for broader support, the team will be expanded from the 27 employees at DEMIE to 38 employees at the AMNA, including evaluators and nurses. "(t)he AMNA will have a medical team that includes a nurse, a psychologist and a doctor," said Rouilleaut.

The measure is necessary because young people often arrive in France in a state of physical and psychological distress after weeks and even months of travel.

'Dedicate more time to each young person'

On the evaluation itself, FTDA is calling for a new approach as well. "We have our own evaluation grids and we educate our evaluators on all the geopolitical issues of the young people so that they can understand them." The evaluation of minors for FTDA is not new -- the organization is doing it in other departments of France as well. "We have recognized skills in this sector," said Rouilleaut.

Paris Deputy Mayor Versini specified that the decision of the recognition of young migrants as unaccompanied minors will be based on the evaluation, "but also from a social note written by the mentor based on the time spent in the shelter."

"We will try to dedicate more time to each young person and we will also ensure that the decision is supported with details. In no case will we be using physical criteria to make the decision," says Rouilleaut, while underling that in the long run, it is not the association that recognizes the minority status of young people but the department. 

Hasty interviews

The Red Cross has often been accused by migrant aid groups of carrying out hasty evaluation interviews.

Many young foreigners interviewed by InfoMigrants said they felt the evaluators didn't listen to them. They found themselves penalized as DEMIE believed their migration stories suggested an autonomy difficult to reconcile with their stated age, they said.

According to the town hall of Paris, DEMIE receives between 7,500 and 8,000 young people each year and 34% of them are recognized as minors at the end of the evaluation. For those who are not recognized as minors, it is possible to take legal action. The association Utopia 56 said that around 65% of the young people it had accompanied in Paris were finally acknowledged as minors in 2021, following an appeal.

The Reception for Unaccompanied Minors of Paris (open as of June 30, 2022) is available Monday to Saturday, 9am to 6pm, at 15 boulevard Carnot 75012 Paris.


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