Unaccompanied child migrants set up camp in Paris, the capital of France, demanding that the authorities meet their permanent accommodation needs. 33 children under the age of 18 from countries including Ivory, Mali, Senegal and Afghanistan complained about staying on the streets, and since 28 May, they opened a tent in Bastille Square in Paris, together with the charity Utopia 56. The unaccompanied child migrants in question are young people who choose to go to court to prove that they are underage. Unaccompanied child migrants are demanding from the authorities to establish suitable accommodation institutions for minors and to benefit from social monitoring as an unaccompanied “child”. In addition to this request, Utopia 56 demands recognition and respect of the “presumption of childhood” for unaccompanied child migrants. After arriving in France, unaccompanied minor migrants are subject to an interview to determine whether they are of legal age. Accordingly, child immigrants who are judged to be underage cannot benefit from a shelter suitable for a child, as well as the social and educational rights of other children in the country.

“Prove you’re a kid”

Child immigrants who want to prove that they are underage can apply to the juvenile court. Child immigrants, whom the court rules as underage, are followed by the social service agency known as the Children’s Social Assistance Service (ASE), and they have the right to stay in child-friendly accommodation. On the other hand, until the court renders its decision, unaccompanied child migrants remain in legal uncertainty and cannot benefit from shelters for either minor or minor migrants, and they mostly live on the streets. Ali Soumaro must prove that he is a “child” in France, where he came to hope for a better life. Ali Soumaro, a 16-year-old unaccompanied child immigrant from Ivory, who hit the road with the hope of a better life, told AA that he had arrived in Mali, Algeria, Morocco, and then in Spain after a 3-day journey on a wooden boat, and finally to France.

Soumaro explained that when he came to France about 3 months ago, during his stay at a reception center for immigrants, official documents were requested from him and he was asked for an identity card, saying that “France does not recognize this document” despite submitting his birth certificate. Stating that they did not give him time to meet this demand, Soumaro stated that after staying at the center for a total of 1.5 weeks, he was put at the door on the grounds that “there are no children”. Soumaro stated that he will apply to the court to prove that he is a child, but it will take 3-4 months and he will stay on the street during this process.