“There are many migrant women but they are invisible”

As thousands of exiles have arrived in recent days on the Italian island of Lampedusa, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited the site, alongside Council President Giorgia Meloni

“There are many migrant women but they are invisible”

As thousands of exiles have arrived in recent days on the Italian island of Lampedusa, European Commission President Ursula von der Leyen visited the site, alongside Council President Giorgia Meloni. She announced the establishment of an emergency plan and called on other European countries to welcome some of the migrants to support Italy.

Very involved in the field, where it accompanies and helps migrants upon their arrival in France, whether in Paris or Calais Grande-Synthe, the Utopia 56 association knows their profiles, their journeys and their problems well. Yann Manzi, its co-founder, agreed to answer questions from Le Point.

Le Point: What is the situation of migrants at the moment in Paris?

Yann Manzi: Their situation is dramatic, they are left on the street. Arrivals are a little higher than usual at the moment, whether in Paris or Grande-Synthe (59), as we also see at the European level.

Where are the people coming from?

Many come from West Africa, Mali, Senegal and the Ivory Coast... French-speaking countries and former colonies, French or European, because the exiles target countries whose language they already share, and where they possibly have family, or at least a community that can help them. There are also Afghans, Sudanese and Eritreans, who are fleeing war and death and continue to come to us or to other European countries.

But it must be remembered that the vast majority of the 200 million migrants in the world go into exile in a country neighboring theirs. The majority of migratory movements therefore take place close to the countries of departure, because most exiles do not have the means to go further. Some of the populations who would like to leave do not do so: in reality, very few people manage to reach Europe.

What is the profile of those who succeed?

We see a lot of men in the images broadcast by the media, but we, on the ground, also see a lot of women. They often do not have the same migratory route, some enter with student or tourist visas, and are less present on the boats. We call them the “invisibles” because we can’t see them. They do not fit into support systems or do not request them, and instead seek to blend in with the crowd to get by on their own or with their children.

In Calais and Grande-Synthe, the profiles differ a little: there are many families who come from Kurdistan, who are fleeing Syria, Turkey or Iraq and are trying to reach the United Kingdom. Afghans also go into exile with their families to escape the Taliban.

We are also faced with foreign minors who come alone from all these countries. We meet a lot of young people, some as young as 13, who come from Eritrea, Sudan, Afghanistan. On the other hand, there are no old people: the migration journey is far too complex for elderly populations. I would say the vast majority are between 12 and 40 years old.

What does their journey look like?

West African exiles, Sudanese and Eritreans, pass through the Mediterranean, part from Libya, and part from Morocco or Tunisia. The Afghans cross Eastern countries or Turkey, then try to come back to us. Many of them remain stranded in Turkey, following agreements with the European Union to discourage them from migrating. Many enter Europe from Italy, Greece or Spain. The entry doors chosen vary depending on the obstacles set up to prevent them from arriving.

More and more of them are arriving in total distress given the journey they have had. They are often people broken and traumatized by the journey, particularly in countries with which the European Union has concluded migration agreements to prevent them from coming. Many suffered violence.

Due to the closure of migration routes, difficulties in obtaining a visa, or submitting an administrative application for asylum from a country in conflict, migration requires more and more money from people who want to go into exile. . They have to go through mafia networks, and their journey becomes more and more dangerous. Third countries on their way benefit from their passage: in Libya, people are locked up and ransoms are demanded from their families back home to allow them to board a boat, while repression is a reality in Turkey and in Tunisia. Let's not forget that tens of thousands of people die on the roads.