The concerns of non-Ukrainian foreigners who have fled to France

At the shelter for refugees from Ukraine in Paris, a handful of Africans took refuge in a corner of the waiting room. Sunday, March 13, after registration with the volunteers of the association France Terre d’Asile (FTDA), which manages the place in 18and district of the capital, they have lunch in silence before being taken by bus to a hotel in the Ile-de-France region. Like their Ukrainian peers, these Congolese, Ivorian and Nigerian students are exhausted and tormented. I will remember this birthday! † lance, sarcastic, Hans (the people quoted by their first name don’t want to give their name), arms folded. The student from Congo celebrated his 27th birthday on Saturday 12 March in a bus between Germany and France.

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He fled Dnipro (central Ukraine) the day after the Russian invasion. It was terrifying to be awakened by bombing and to leave behind what we had built, he trusts. But at least we’re alive. † Despite his apparently good character, Hans hardly hides his fear for the future. The young man was so close to the target. In three months he should have completed his medical degree and was considering specializing in orthopedic surgery. “My parents bled themselves for me. They paid $22,000 [environ 20 000 euros] for my six years of study. I would rather leave under the bombs in Ukraine than return to Congo.”he says bitterly. And adds: African students who survived the war may not survive a return home. This failure can be fatal. Hans, who speaks six languages, hopes to complete his studies in France. His girlfriend Rachel, 24, also Congolese, sees her professional future darkening as she completes her management studies. “Luck has eluded us”, she breathes.

“Everything Collapses”

Bundled up in a black parka, looking down at the floor, Rafal, 33, broods over his thoughts. A third-year finance student in Odessa, in the south of Ukraine, wanted to stay in the country until the end, despite the bombings. “not to lose what he had built” over the past three years. “This war comes as I began to fulfill my family’s aspirations. I had a job ahead of me. Everything collapses. I can’t imagine coming home like this and becoming a burden to my family.” he trusts. The young man nervously recalls the two civil wars he experienced in his country of origin, Côte d’Ivoire, in 2002 and then in 2010, delaying his education. “I risk starting over there. I just want to continue with my studies. †

A wish that seems difficult to achieve at the moment. The European Union has decided to grant immediate international protection to people fleeing the war in Ukraine, so that they can stay in Europe, work there, receive social protection and housing benefits. A very favorable framework, which also exempts them from applying for asylum. It applies to Ukrainians, foreign spouses of Ukrainians and refugees who stayed in the country before February 24.

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On the other hand, a government statement dated March 10 specifies that these are excluded from the protection “Third-country nationals who can return to their country of origin in safe and sustainable conditions”† The latter provision threatens to exclude many foreign students, many of whom are from the Maghreb and West Africa.

“Of the 3,000 arrivals, we welcomed several hundred foreign students who chose France because they speak the language, explains Delphine Rouilleault, CEO of FTDA. They have fled the war and yet they risk being excluded from temporary protection because they are ineligible. “We have concerns, in abundance Gérard Sadik, head of asylum at the association for the defense of refugees La Cimade. The understanding of safe and sustainable conditions is not clear. †

“Not allowed” at the French-Italian border

The government contract stipulates that the prefectures will examine individual situations during an interview. asked by The worldhowever, different prefects gave different interpretations of the text. “We are in the process of creating a procedure and building up our doctrinal elements, we explain to the Directorate General for Foreigners in France (DGEF). We are going to give some important guidelines to the prefectures. † In the specific case of students, “A review is in progress”specifies the DGEF.

Some 1,500 temporary protections were issued in France between 9 and 14 March, the vast majority of them to Ukrainians. When asked whether foreign nationals had been denied such protection, the DGEF stated that it had no feedback from the field and believed that“at this stage complicated cases are rather reconvened and invited to provide additional information” showing that they cannot return to their country of origin.

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However, Agence France Presse reported on Sunday March 13 the comments of the Prefecture of Alpes-Maritimes, according to which several Pakistani and Nigerian nationals with Ukrainian residence permits were ” not accepted “ on the French-Italian border. When asked about this, the state departments in the department specify that: “These EU third-country nationals who, as things stand, are unable to benefit from the temporary protection granted to Ukrainians have been handed over to the Italian authorities. The Prefecture of Alpes-Maritimes applies the national instructions »

If they do not enjoy temporary protection, non-Ukrainians who are in France may be able to apply for asylum or residence permits in France. This is also what Ukrainians who were not living in their country when the war broke out will be able to solve, especially those who find themselves in an illegal situation in France, the number of whom is unknown, or even those who had been granted their asylum. According to the latest report from the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons, about 2,600 Ukrainians have received protection in France in 2020.

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