Threatened with expulsion, African students who have sought refuge in France to escape conflict speak of their plight

“My future, my life, everything is lost.” Shakib swallows his words and speaks without breathing. Sitting in the Maison des Camerounais de France, in the 18th arrondissement of Paris, this 23-year-old Algerian student says he arrived in France in early April, after fleeing the war in Ukraine.

He was studying navy in Odessa, a port city on the shores of the Black Sea, to become a deck officer, “dream”. “I had a permanent residence there, friends, I learned to speak the languagesays sadly. I left everything overnight, and just took my papers.”

It was six in the morning on February 24 when he learned that war had broken out. After a multi-day trip through Ukraine with a rented car, he arrived in Poland Then he went to Paris by bus. When he arrived in the French capital, he had in his pocket a temporary residence permit for a month. “It expires tomorrow. The county tells me to wait and they’ll call me, but nothing yet,” Before he switches to Russian, for example, he translates it into French: “My life is zero multiplied by zero.”

Since March 4, the European Union has granted six months of temporary protection to people who have fled Ukraine. Beneficiaries receive a benefit, and have the right to work, medical care, assistance with housing and the education of their children. But only Ukrainian citizens can get it.

Foreign refugees must prove that they are unable to return to their country of origin “In safe and sustainable conditions” Or to marry a Ukrainian to benefit from it. In France, the Ministry of the Interior has instructed the provinces to examine these cases individually,Which raises fears of unequal treatment from one department to another.”explains the French Coordination of Asylum (CFDA) In a press release.

Contacted by France 24, the Ministry of the Interior specifies: If a third-country national does not qualify for temporary protection, he has the right to return to his country of origin. However, in the European Union, other countries have chosen to adapt the established framework and welcome all persons fleeing Ukraine without distinction of nationality, such as Portugal and Spain.

For many students, the only solution to staying in France is to obtain a student visa. “I called the universities of Nice, Marseille and Le Havre to register, but they all told me they didn’t know what to do”, resume Shakib.

“My goal is not to stay in France forever, but to finish my studies. Why don’t they let me do that?”

Chakib, Algerian student

in franceinfo

“The problem is no longer with registration, because universities are very open and supportive. The problem is temporary protection, without which students cannot get a scholarship or Crous housing”explains to reverberation Director of the Exiled Students Union.

In addition to the uncertainty about their future, students have to deal with a daily routine. “When I left Ukraine, I took the bare minimum. My papers and some clothes and left the rest behind.”says Franklin, a Cameroonian student in electromechanics at the University of Kherson, a city in southern Ukraine. The young man arrived in Paris on March 22, and received a temporary residence permit that expired at the end of April. Since then, he has been waiting for a possible renewal of the document.

In the evening, he sleeps in Drancy (Seine-Saint-Denis), in a room found by an association. For the rest, food, transportation, Franklin continues: “I buy everything myself, I live on my savings from Ukraine.” acknowledge the existence of Low morale.

“Ukrainians have the right to everything, transportation, housing, health … There is nothing for non-Ukrainians.”

Franklin, a Cameroonian student

in franceinfo

Franklin contacted the Cameroonian embassy, ​​but claimed that he received no help. “If France will allow me to stay, I will be very happy, because having to leave the territory frightens me,” Slips.

Next to him, Sidon, 30, lives in a more complicated situation. A Moroccan architecture student, I left Kharkiv on February 28. During her long trip to France, her bag was stolen in Hungary. “I lost a lot of valuables, my papers, my university registration and my residence permit”, as you say. All that remains is his passport. “It is very complicated to take steps in France without these documents, my situation is very difficult”

While waiting for her situation to be resolved, Sidon is staying with associations in hotels or with volunteers, but she hopes to be able to find permanent accommodation soon. “I am excited to find a solution and continue my studies in France. I don’t want to go back to Morocco.”

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