Two refugee families resettled to France tell their experiences

Extract from Forum-Réfugiés-Cosis Newsletter no57, November 2012.

To read the interview in French, click here.

Interview with Mrs. Yassin Aden - Interview from November 2011, by Liesse Tardy (Forum Réfugiés-Cosi) with the help of Ibrahim Ali, Somali interpreter

Mrs. Yassin Aden is from Somalia. She fled her country in 2006 to seek shelter in Eritrea. She was resettled to France with her 3 children in November 2011.

Where did you live before coming to France? What were the conditions of your departure?

Before coming to France, I was living in a refugee camp in Eritrea. I have 3 children. The oldest is 12 years-old. The 2 youngest were born in the camp. I was told at the end of 2010 that a developed country will be asked to receive me. France has accepted. I was lucky. I suppose I was chosen because I am a single woman with 3 children. No one told me anything about my departure nor about France. A woman from IOM gave me a visa and took me to the airport.

How were you received in France? How did you feel when arriving?

I have been received in a centre in Paris at first. I was told that I would stay there for 2 days and then leave for Lyon. France was even better than I had imagined! At home, there were no train and very little cars. It is mainly daily life that is very different here. In Somalia I was living in a wooden house, all neighbours used to know each other. Here I live in a building with closed doors. I must watch my children all the time. They cannot play outside because it is dangerous here: there are many cars, the ground is in concrete...

Who helped you to settle in Lyon and how?

I have waited for 5 month in Forum Réfugiés-Cosi’s transit centre. At the beginning, Raphaëlle* explained everything: the procedures, how to get around the city, how to use all the appliances in my new home. We do not have all these things in Somalia, but I learned very quickly how to use them! Now Sophie* is helping me. She helped me to register my children in school and she came with us on the first day.

Do you have plans for the future?

I would like to build a future for my children here. I started French class last September. Afterwards, I will be able to handle administrative procedures by myself, to go to the doctor, etc. I would like to find a training to work in child-care, or in a sewing shop, or to become receptionist. With a job, I will be more able to raise my children. Soon my daughter will speak very good French; she will be able to help me!

*Names of Forum Réfugiés-Cosi case workers.

Interview with Mr. and Mrs. Yosaf - Interview from November 2011, by Sophie Hocquette (Forum Réfugiés-Cosi)

Mr. and Mrs. Yosaf are from Iraq. They arrived in France in October 2010 within the framework of the ad hoc resettlement operation for Assyrian-Chaldean Iraqis. They have 2 sons: one came with them at the age of 3; the youngest one was born in France.

Where did you live before coming to France? What were the conditions of your departure?

Mr. Yosaf: We are Christians. In Iraq, Christians have been persecuted by Muslims since 2005. I was an engineer in a big firm, but my team could no longer bear to have a Christian boss. I could often hear threatening remarks.

Mrs. Yosaf: In July 2010, terrorists came by our house. They were looking for my husband but he was not at home. They hit me with their weapons, in the face and in my legs. I had to be hospitalised. My leg is still not completely healed yet.

Mr. Yosaf: We took pictures of my wife’s injuries. We brought them to the consulate and we asked to be resettled to France. We then took refuge in a small village. We received a positive answer to our resettlement request and we left for France on October 28, 2010. The French consulate gave us these visas because we were threatened.

How were you received in France? How did you feel when arriving?

Mrs. Yosaf: We went to the Préfecture to apply for asylum, and to the Refugee House(1) in Lyon. We have been housed in hotels and centres, and we had to change places 3 times within 2.5 months. Eventually, we were housed in a centre for refugees in Miribel, where we have stayed for 9 months. Living conditions in hotels were very difficult. I was pregnant and we were living on the fourth floor without an elevator. It was very dirty, and the kitchen and bathrooms were very smelly.

Mr. Yosaf: We have been summoned by OFPRA(2) in April 2011, but it went very badly. The protection officer was translating at the same time as interviewing us. He was a Muslim and told us that all Iraqi Christians had lied to get their visas. I thought that the French government was respectful of refugees. We have waited for two and a half month to get our refugee status. It was very long.

Who helped you to settle in Lyon and how?

Mrs. Yosaf: We started French classes in February 2011 thanks to Alfa 3A(3). We both passed our DILF(4). We also received help to ask for the recognition of our diplomas. Michelle and Maud have helped us to find an apartment, and for the social benefits.

Mr. Yosaf: We moved in our new apartment in October 2011, one year after coming to France. Since we have arrived in Villeurbanne, Forum Réfugiés-Cosi is helping us. I had the opportunity to attend an intensive French class and I passed my DELF A1(5). I also received help to write my CV and look for a job. Since June 15, I work as an electrician. Mrs. Monin(6) helped my employer with the work contract.

Do you have plans for the future?

M. Yosaf: I wish to get my driving licence so I can work on construction sites and buy an apartment.

Mrs. Yosaf: We would like to have a third child. I wish for a daughter! But before that, I would like to find a childcare centre for Matthew [their second son – Editor’s Note] and take a training to get my DELF. I am an architect but I have to go back to school for two years at Masters level if I want to get the architect diploma in France.

(1) The “Refugee House” in Lyon supports asylum seekers during the procedure. It is managed by Forum Réfugiés-Cosi.

(2) French administration responsible for refugee determination status and protection.

(3) Forum réfugiés-Cosi’s partner in the framework of the integration programme “Accelair”. Click here to read more about the Accelair programme.

(4) French as a foreign language diploma, basic level.

(5) French as a foreign language diploma, first level (European levels).

(6) Mrs. Monin is responsible for refugees’ employment and vocational training at Forum Réfugiés-Cosi.

To learn more about resettlement in France click here.