Marseille (France), Sep 22 (EFE).- Every night, eight young people take turns cooking in the occupied house where they survive in Marseille. They find it difficult to talk about what they have left behind, a grueling journey to Europe. “This is not freedom either,” says one of them to EFE on the eve of Pope Francis’s arrival in the French city.
“If you’re lucky, the rescue teams save you, you’re okay, you survive,” resignedly recounts Étienne (a fictitious name), a 17-year-old from Guinea Conakry.
As an unaccompanied minor, he is waiting for French authorities to recognize his minority status so that he can legalize his situation.
It’s a complicated process that can take months once the procedures begin, especially if it becomes a legal matter after an initial unsuccessful evaluation by the authorities.
Many have to survive on the streets in the meantime, with only the support of humanitarian organizations and volunteers who provide them with food, water, clothing, and medical assistance.
Étienne crossed Mali, Algeria, and then Tunisia.
The latter, surpassed Libya as the main departure point this year, he took a boat to cross the Mediterranean, the world’s most dangerous migration route that has already claimed over two thousand lives this year. He recalls the hunger and thirst of the journey.
“You get on a small boat, and suddenly you’re navigating using phones, GPS (…) There are shipwrecks everywhere,” he describes.
It was last April, and he was fortunate because, after two days, they were found by the Italian coastguards, and he was able to disembark. The journey to France was also arduous, but he saw a place to settle in Marseille.
“It doesn’t go as I had planned, but in any case, that’s part of life,” reasons this young man.
“Now what I want is to have a spot in vocational schools to learn a trade,” he adds, though his “dream” is to become a doctor.
“The Mediterranean is the toughest. You don’t know what to expect.”
Marcel (a fictitious name), also 17 years old, is from Ivory Coast and comes to dinner after walking an hour and a half from school. The police sometimes conduct checks, and he didn’t want to risk taking the bus.
“I left my country because life there is difficult; bad political governance (…) We’re poor, school isn’t free, everything is expensive. These conditions force us to come,” he says.
He spent a month and a half on the road to reach Libya, which he remembers as a “perilous” place with “mafias” and “human trafficking.” And about the Mediterranean, he hardly has any words: “terrible, the toughest of all, you don’t know what to expect.”
Marcel, who spent three days at sea with about 120 people without food or water, is also waiting to be recognized as a minor to regularize his status and stay in Europe.
“I want to stay in Marseille; the people are good,” says this Ivorian, but he wishes for less difficulties from the French authorities. “We’re not here to create problems,” he emphasizes.
Organizations like Doctors Without Borders (MSF) help him and his fellow migrants. They lament that the Bouches-du-Rhône department (where Marseille is located) is “incapable” of taking care of the young people who arrive seeking the “protection of childhood” that France recognizes as part of their rights. Similar situations occur in other places, such as the Paris region.
“It’s quite catastrophic,” says Patrizia Giangrande, MSF’s medical coordinator in Marseille, in an interview with EFE. She recalls that these individuals have been “victims of extreme violence and torture,” especially in Libya, along their journey.
But even on the Franco-Italian border, they report assaults and threats of detention.
“European governments can host migrants because, during the Ukrainian crisis, there was a massive flow of refugees, and they were able to host nearly 8 million people. That shows that the reception capacity is there; it’s just a matter of putting it into practice,” opines Giangrande.
Regarding the Pope’s visit to Marseille, which he will use to denounce Europe’s passivity in the face of the drama unfolding on its southern border, MSF hopes his message of “solidarity” reaches the international community and governments. EFE