In France, the health crisis has exacerbated the educational exclusion of young foreign adults. For many, this period has made it impossible to go through all the administrative procedures necessary for their regularisation. This situation receives very little attention and the French educational community and civil society are working hard to highlight this administrative gap that compromises the right to education of so many migrant youth.
Arriving in France as minors, many young migrants find themselves in a situation of irregularity when they turn 18. The pandemic has frozen most administrative procedures, which not only results in migrants not being able to finish their education, but also increased levels of anxiety and uncertainty because of the fear they may be involuntarily removed from the country. In an article published in the French journal Liberation, a group of national education personnel and civil society organisations near Paris (Seine-Saint-Denis) pleaded for an acceleration of regularisations to allow these young people to continue their schooling and training.
This is illustrated by the story of Fadil, 18 years old, detained since June in the administrative detention centre of Paris-Vincennes. Arriving at the age of 15 at the end of 2016, he was in his first year of an apprenticeship as a landscape gardener when he was placed in detention. ‘During the confinement’, he explains, ‘I tried to make progress on my regularisation file, but it was very complicated to contact the Bobigny prefecture.’ (Testimony taken from the article in Le Parisien Mobilisation contre l'expulsion de Fadil, lycéen sans-papiers de Montreuil dated 10 June 2020.)
Isolated in hotels or on the street, cut off from the few social ties they had through their training, these young people are living in the fear of receiving an order to leave France, and of not being able to apply for regularisation and the request for an extension linked to their schooling within the allotted time.
Issues in applying for regularisation
For more than a year now, appointments for asylum permits can only be made online. Access to a telephone or a computer as well as the internet is becoming essential, making the process difficult for the most disadvantaged. As a result, procedures are extremely slow, as the asylum office is not subject to a time limit for granting residence permits.
The educational and civil society community therefore demand that all young adults should be able to obtain an appointment for their regularisation before the start of the school year in September, to continue their studies, obtain their diploma and their apprenticeship contract.
Moreover, we would like to point out that international, European, and national law grants them the right to education even beyond their childhood.
What about the right to education for young adults?
There is a misconception that the state has obligations in terms of education only towards minors. And yet, even in cases of illegality on the French territory, adults also have the right to continue their schooling. Recalled by a circular of 2002, and enshrined in the law of 2 November 1945, the enrolment in a school of a pupil of foreign nationality, whatever his or her age, may not be made subject to the presentation of a residence permit. Moreover, equal access to education, vocational training and culture is enshrined in the Preamble to the Constitution of 27 October 1946, which is incorporated into the current Constitution.
For young adults undergoing apprenticeship, obtaining their diploma becomes impossible if they are not regularised. Apprenticeship contracts are accompanied by an employment contract requiring a valid residence permit. Young migrants who have reached the age of majority are generally at the end of their schooling and cannot finish their final months of training because they cannot sign an apprenticeship contract, even when they have found an employer.
Access to schooling is a guarantee of stability and a better future, which is essential for their well-being and future economic security: This right must be protected. Adolescents should not be forced to abruptly end their training because the asylum office did not receive their application in time. Beyond the emergency situation, school must once again become a place of protection for all undocumented students and a place where they can be momentarily freed from the hardships they may have endured.
Laure Fletcher, who will soon be graduating with a master's degree in international cooperation in education and training from Paris Descartes University, is working at RTE and Solidarité Laïque as an intern on questions of the right to education in the context of migration. She has been involved in several civil society projects on migrant’s education, including in Paris with unaccompanied minors and in a refugee camp in Athens as an educator in an informal kindergarten.
A secondary education History and Geography teacher by profession, Carole Coupez has been the National Delegate for Global Citizenship Education since 2003 and since 2018 the deputy director of Solidarité Laïque, a civil society organisations’ collective committed to solidarity actions by education, fight against exclusions and support for civil society around the world (unions, popular education associations, public sector/ social solidarity economy actors…). She represents the organisation in several national and European spaces for Global Education and Right to Education issues.