Tidiane, 16, from Mali living in France

“I guess I was set free because of the war raging in Mali. I am still very scared to be sent back to Mali. I have no one left there “

Tidiane left his country in October 2012, after he escaped an attack on his house by rebels.  When he arrived in France, he tried to obtain protection from the authorities as a minor. However, France considered his birth certificate to be fake and submitted him to a bone exam that declared he was over eighteen. Arrested by the police on the exact same day that the French launched an intervention in North Mali, he spent five days in detention before being released by the administrative judge because of the war in his country.

Alone at sixteen
I arrived in France on the 28October 2012. I used to live in Gao with my family but our house was attacked by rebels in March 2012. As I was the youngest of my family, the rebels let me go to the bathroom, from where I escaped.

I walked to Bamako and I met a man in the street who offered to help me leave Mali. However, he did not ask for money in return. We then went to the airport together but he never told me where we were going. It was only when we landed that I realised we were in France. The man left me and took the fake passport with him but left me my birth certificate.

The search for help
I did not know what to do. I finally caught a train to Nantes where I was told that I could be supported by social services as a minor. I went to a police station to get more information but they called the prefecture. I was submitted to a bone exam that determined that I was legally adult. The policemen gave me an order to leave France immediately. However, I did not understand what to do with it and I did not lodge an appeal.

I caught another train and ended up in Poitiers where I was placed in a youth care institution, administered by child welfare services in mid-November.  In December, I was submitted to another bone exam. I was not told the results of the test but I was arrested at the youth home in the morning with five other people on 10January 2013.

I have been deeply shocked by the way I was arrested: the youth care institution was supposed to be a safe place. I had no idea I could be arrested that way. I was having breakfast when about 15 policemen came in with dogs. It was very scary. I thought they were coming for other guys who had committed minor offenses. I had never done anything wrong so I could not imagine I would be arrested.

I was also offended when they said I used a fake birth certificate.

During my detention, there was not much to do: I kept wandering between my bedroom and the dining room where the television is. I thought time passed very slowly and I was bored. I had a very hard time sleeping because I was very scared of what would happen to me: how long would I stay there? Would I be returned to Mali? What would happen to me there? I really wanted to know what was going to happen.

I was released by a court on 15January. I guess I was set free because of the war raging in Mali.   I was given no information after my release and I therefore do not know what will happen to me in the future. I am still very scared to be sent back to Mali. I have no one left there: my brother who was in the army was killed and I do not know what happened to my mother. My father died when my mother was pregnant with me.

Hoping for the best
After I was released, I went back to Poitiers where I am now being helped by an NGO with administrative matters. They are helping me with my asylum application. I do not have a stable home. I am very scared that I will be arrested again by the police. I feel like it can happen at any time and that I am not safe.

All I want is to go to school, to be trained so that I can work later. I also consider becoming a professional soccer player but I know that it is very difficult. I do not know what will happen to me. I am waiting for the results of my asylum application with a lot of anxiety.

1 year in France
Undocumented and unreturnable because of risk of inhuman and degrading treatment