“France was a model for me. But where is the equality, the brotherhood? “Nissia Messaoui does not take off. Arriving from Odessa on March 3, the Algerian paramedic student has just received an “obligation to leave French territory” (OQTF) from the Yvelines prefecture. At 28, the young woman does not plan to return to her country of origin, against which she harbors frank resentment. “How do you want me to go back to a country that has done nothing for me? At the start of the war, when I called the embassy to ask for repatriation, they hung up on me. I prefer to go back to Ukraine rather than return to Algeria, ”she says.

That day, Nissia Messaoui was visiting Paris-8 University, where the collective Le Poing levé helps foreign students who have fled Ukraine to enroll at university, in order to increase their chances of staying. in France. For the moment, of the hundreds of applications filed, only a handful have been validated. “The universities are afraid of alienating the prefects, supposes Léo Valadim, member of the collective. And it is a financial cost for them. They have to pay for registrations out of their own pocket. »

The collective receives more and more students ordered to leave the territory. “The differential treatment of these people, who experience the same traumas of exile, separation and uncertainty of the future as those who have Ukrainian nationality, is unacceptable, was outraged in a press release, Tuesday, June 7, the French Coordination for the Right of Asylum, which brings together seventeen organizations including Secours Catholique, the League of Human Rights and Cimade. For many of them, a return to their country of origin would jeopardize the continuity of their university career or their professional life. »

“We lived through the same war”

The Council of the European Union (EU) had decided, at the beginning of March, to grant temporary protection – including a right of residence and access to the labor market – to Ukrainians fleeing the war. This decision provided that protection would also be granted to “third-country nationals (…) legally residing in Ukraine who are unable to return to their country or region of origin in safe and durable conditions”. “We demand the expansion of the categories benefiting from temporary protection and the end of discriminatory and unfair treatment based on nationality”, insists Mélanie Louis, of Cimade, who sees an increase in cases of refusal of temporary protection, sometimes accompanied by ‘OQTF.

Inza Toure, a 27-year-old Ivorian, was pursuing a master’s degree in international relations at the Dnipro Customs and Finance University. The young man took refuge in Chambéry, because he speaks French and has distant family in the department. On May 23, the prefect notified him of an OQTF. A decision that the person concerned will challenge before the administrative court, while he was also admitted to Sciences Po Grenoble for the 2022-2023 academic year. “I would like to return to Côte d’Ivoire with at least a diploma so that I can find work,” he argues.

Alaedine Ayad was following a doctorate in microelectronics and photovoltaics in kyiv. He is one of the handful of foreign students who have obtained registration at the University of La Sorbonne to follow a university degree there to return to higher education for exiled people. Despite this, this big guy fears receiving an OQTF.

“To return to Algeria is to lose everything. My training does not exist there, he justifies himself. Imagine, you go to school to become an electronics engineer and end up in a snack bar selling tacos and pizzas? He claims to have obtained an offer to join a photovoltaic research laboratory but, for lack of a work permit, he cannot accept it. This son of a nurse, whose maternal grandfather is buried in France after having served in the 1950s in the French army, is bitter. “Why aren’t we treated like Ukrainians?” We came together, we lived through the same war. »

Even if an OQTF has not systematically been taken against them, foreigners excluded from temporary protection find themselves “without right of residence, specifies Mélanie Louis. They are therefore in an irregular situation and can be arrested at any time. Asked by Le Monde, the Ministry of the Interior did not respond.

“I spent seven years in Ukraine, I built a life there”

For several days, the idea of ​​going back to Ukraine has been tormenting Hans and his girlfriend Rachel (the first names have been changed). These Congolese students, who arrived from Dnipro on March 12 and excluded from temporary protection, are disillusioned. “Here, we don’t live, we survive. Without work, without money, you have no future,” says Hans, 27. For the moment, they are accommodated, with other refugees from Ukraine, in a low-cost hotel in Blanc-Mesnil (Seine-Saint Denis). For the past three months, they have taken their courses online, given by their Ukrainian teachers. He has just completed his sixth year of medicine, she her marketing license. “What am I going to do in Congo?” I spent seven years in Ukraine, I built a life there. If I have to leave France, I will return to Ukraine. At least I won’t be illegal there,” Hans repeats. The couple now fears being expelled from the hotel where they are staying.

This is what happened to a 48-year-old Armenian woman and her 25-year-old daughter. “They were kicked out of their hotel on May 30,” says their lawyer Solenn Leprince, who is challenging the refusal to grant temporary protection before the Rouen administrative court. The woman and her daughter had lived in Ukraine since 2006, where they own an apartment and where the mother runs a cosmetics business. “They have no family in Armenia,” says their lawyer.

Me Leprince defends other Armenians who have been refused temporary protection by the Seine-Maritime prefecture. Among them, a woman and her son established in Ukraine since 1990 and holders of a permanent residence permit, or a couple settled in Ukraine for almost thirty years, where they own a cattle breeding and a cattle transport company, while their son is a doctor. As they fled the Zaporizhia region in the face of advancing Russian troops, they joined family in Normandy. Alas, they are now in an irregular situation.

In a similar situation, Jonathan B. clings to his football dreams. This Ivorian, former player of the Metalist 1925 club in Kharkiv, kills time by training three times a week at the Delaune stadium with the senior team of Saint-Denis US, in Seine-Saint-Denis. “I’m not asking for anything, just to be able to work. I can’t even afford a bus ticket,” he says. Every Sunday, he goes to mass and prays to find a club and a contract. To stay in France.