In 2020, there were nearly 80 million1 refugees and displaced people. A record. And that figure includes an increasing number of young people. To alleviate the distress of minors arriving in France alone, Fondation de France and its donor-advised funds are swinging into action.
In France, the second country in Europe for asylum seekers2, unaccompanied minors (UM) represent the bulk of first-time arrivals. Aged 14 to 17, most of them from Sub-Saharan Africa (48%), North Africa (22%) and Far Eastern Asia (17%), around 40,000 young people3 are cared for by Aide Sociale à l’Enfance (Youth Social Welfare). However, many of those who await a positive outcome or those who have been definitely turned away have very few options. Claire Broussal, in charge of the Helping Vulnerable Children, their Family and Young People Experiencing Difficulty Program explains: “Few philanthropy players are active on the ground with isolated minors, and yet the needs are huge. It should be noted that Youth Social Welfare is not involved in caring for these young people, who have few options. They risk ending up on the streets and not being able to call the emergency helpline because they are minors. It is therefore vital that they live in decent conditions, learn to speak French for better integration and also get help with the paperwork that will help them secure their status. This assistance comes mostly from small nonprofits and citizens’ initiatives who want to provide practical answers in emergency situations and turn to Fondation de France for their support.”
Food, accommodation and healthcare
In Paris and throughout France, many citizens step up and shelter these young people by offering them a bed, food and toiletries, for free. Fondation de France assists these nonprofits to meet basic needs, which they cope with by themselves. That is for example the case of Midis du Mie, a Parisian collective with around 20 volunteers who, on a daily basis, distribute food, clothes and toiletries for about 40 minors. They also find accommodation solutions with private individuals, in collective accommodation or in a hotel.
There is a similar scheme in Bordeaux, where Fondation de France supports nonprofit Hébergeurs Solidaires, to offer relief to the families that welcome a total of 25 minors. The funds allocated are used to buy travel tickets, clothes, healthcare and cover the costs associated with certain administrative procedures.
Addressing these emergency needs is vital, but so is repairing the damage caused to young migrants by chaotic and sometimes traumatic journeys. Fully aware that mental health is a factor in social inclusion, many nonprofits on the ground include psychological support. AGECSA, (Grenoble Health Centers Management), a nonprofit particularly active on this issue, is supported by donor-advised fund Jeanne Wolff and offers psychological care, collectively or individually, to more than 150 vulnerable minors who have been identified as needing therapy during health checks. Care is provided by clinicians (doctors, nurses, social workers) specially trained in the problems associated with exile.
Helping to build a future for oneself
In addition to all these activities, the other strategic activity for Fondation de France and its donor-advised funds is to promote social integration for young people by way of French lessons, schooling, or access to a training program. This is what nonprofit 3 AMIE has achieved in 2017, by creating a new organization that welcomes dozens of young migrants deprived of education, to teach them French and ensure continuity in their schooling. To that end, it offers 25 hours of lessons per week (in French, mathematics, history, civic education, science, IT, etc.) with regular school hours and structure, homework and social interaction. The results are very encouraging. Thanks to a partnership with the French National Education, most young people can then join the standard high school curriculum or enroll in a degree course.
Engaging in social and cultural activities also forms part of the integration process. A nonprofit based in Dunkerque, Fragile les Bulles (Fragile Bubbles) operates by creating interactions between lone minors and artists and citizens, thanks to the creative workshops it has set up for migrants. Young people from the former Grand-Synthe camp have been introduced to stage craft and fine arts, and improved their French, thanks to local organizations and the collaboration of artists and volunteers. Events and meetings around the work produced are a regular occurrence, and help young migrants play an active part in local culture.
All these initiatives enable minors to be treated decently and to build a life for themselves. However, it is also important that the programs last beyond their 18th birthday, to avoid this great work from being undone. Breton nonprofit CAJMA pays particular attention to that important period when minors become adults. In a venture involving several nonprofits, a community apartment has been converted to provide housing for six young adults, previously assisted by CAJMA. First steps towards independence are the object of specific support. Young adults have the opportunity to learn to manage a budget, deal with administrative issues and at the same time, continue with their journey of accessing the labor market. This highly useful initial boost is meant to reinforce young people’s social integration. Of the 120 minors supported over the past three years by CAJMA, more than half of them are now fending for themselves.
1. 2020 data from the ONY for Refugees Agency.
2. Source: OFPRA, 2019.
3. 2019 data from the French Assembly of Departments.
FIND OUT MORE