Patrice, 17, is proud to present the apartment where he was placed, in the 19th arrondissement of Paris: “Here is the room of a Malian, there that of an Ivorian and here is my room. » The Cameroonian teenager, who (like all the other minors interviewed) decided not to reveal his identity, shows an orderly room with summary decoration. Placed on his clear desk, a burgundy pouch. Inside, a box of antidepressants. “The psychiatrist prescribed them to me. »

Anyone who follows carpentry training has gone through many stages before arriving in Paris. If he left Cameroon, it was for one person: his sick mother. “She was selling donuts in the street, she got intoxicated with the smoke,” relates this unaccompanied minor (UMA) who arrived in France in May 2022. In Douala, the economic capital, her father ran the household at arm’s length. “He died three years ago due to a stomach illness. » Patrice earned a little money to feed his mother and his twin brother: he carried customers’ bags in supermarkets for a handful of CFA francs. Insufficient remuneration which pushed him to cross the border without warning his family.

“My mother would never have agreed to me leaving,” confides Patrice. He had first imagined his life in Nigeria, where he stayed two days before walking towards Europe: Niger, Algeria then Libya. Sitting on his bed, the young man recounts his ordeal in Tripoli: he was made a slave and imprisoned there twice. “These things are too painful, I can’t tell them to my mother. It would kill her. » The day before, Patrice sent him more money: “My educator advises me to keep everything, but I don’t want to. It doesn’t matter if I don’t eat. » Of the precariousness he experiences in Paris, his mother will know nothing. “Here it’s worse than Libya. When you arrive in France, you think the nightmare ends, but no. »

Upon his arrival in the capital, Patrice is assessed by the Department, which refuses him support, considering that the young man is not a minor. Without resources, Patrice lives for several months in the Bois de Vincennes, the time to file an appeal before the children’s court. In October 2022, he was placed by child welfare (ASE). First in a hotel in Châtillon (Hauts-de-Seine), then in this apartment, in September 2023.

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A journey similar to that of a large majority of unaccompanied minors. While waiting for a hearing date for the recognition of their minority, and thus their support by the ASE, they suffer precariousness and sleep outside. “I was lying to my family because the truth was too harsh. I said that I was eating my fill and that I was sleeping in a bed,” remembers Thierno (first name changed), 17, now placed in an ASE des Yvelines home.