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War in Ukraine: after the welcome and the relief, the uncertainty of the refugees


After crossing Europe by bus, train and car to flee the war, a family of refugees, although relieved to have arrived in Alès on March 15, is worried about their future situation.

The story of Anna, mother of Katarina and Mark, and her parents, Grigorij and Nadezhda, is similar to that of millions of other refugees: a normal life in Vassylkiv, on the outskirts of kyiv, destroyed by bombings and a reality too difficult to conceive.

War at their doorstep, fear and tears, cellars to hide in, farewell to Alexander, husband and father, who remained on the quay in kyiv. Then the flight across Europe, in overcrowded trains, nights spent in stations… And, finally, the welcome in France and the security of a country at peace.

“And after ?”

They left kyiv on March 5 and entered France on the 15th. .

While they wait for the validation of their displaced status and the associated rights that will be granted to them, the seven of them live in the small apartment, with two children aged 13 and 4, who cannot yet go to school.

“For now, we are waiting, we don’t know more”, says Anna. Since they filed their case on Thursday, March 17, and they registered at the town hall of Alès, communication from the authorities concerned has remained meager.

What are the steps to follow ?

The Red Cross takes care of what is called the first reception. Endowed with a departmental competence, it will carry out diagnoses, propose medical screenings and direct people towards other types of procedures.

The first essential step is to obtain a temporary residence permit (APS): it is a temporary permit of six months, renewable for a maximum of three years.

This title makes it possible to establish a certain number of procedures, such as the issuance of a Vitale card for medical coverage or the allowance for housing assistance (APL).

They will go to fight when their husbands, fathers or brothers fall

In this family there is talk of the liberation of kyiv, because for them no other scenario is acceptable. “Ukraine will not surrender, asks Volodymyr, while they nod without hesitation. It’s always been that way in our history.”

Anna explains that Ukrainian women also choose to return to their country to take up arms: “They will go to fight when their husbands, fathers or brothers fall.” Nevertheless, the question of the uncertain future arises, because the Ukrainians do not have the right of asylum, but a status of displaced persons. “We want to go home”, Anna continues.

“Our people are hardworking”

But in the event of a protracted war or the impossibility for civilians to return to their towns of origin, what will become of them? Kharkiv, Kherson or Irpin, it is necessary to make the observation of the destroyed cities.

“Our people are hardworking; we don’t want to twiddle our thumbs,” says Volodymyr, who himself worked for the city of Ales for several years. Anna, for her part, is good at sewing. She took her daughter’s artistic gymnastics bodysuit with her, which she created herself, but not just for souvenirs, she says: “It can be worth the money if needed.”

But how to enter the labor market when the language barrier is a brake on hiring? Anna is well aware of the problem, which will not be easy to solve. In the evening with her daughter, they repeat French words. “Katarina is more talented than me. She wants to learn foreign languages.”

Russian propaganda

But what is certain for these refugees is that“With Russia, there will be no going back. We were counting on the Russian people and we still hope that they will wake up.”

Yet Volodymyr testifies to the effectiveness of Russian propaganda, when cousins ​​living in Russia refuse to believe there is a war in Ukraine, crying out “fake news”. “It is the elites who play, but the people who suffer”, saddens Anna, freshly taken refuge in Alès.

Jean Rampon, sub-prefect of Alès: “Children in care”

How many refugees are registered in the city of Alès?

I don’t have a figure per municipality, only an estimate from the department. We are told about 300 people, but this is an approximate count.

What about the housing issue?

In the event of a large flow, as is the case in the municipality of Aimargues, there is the possibility of creating collective reception when there are not yet individual solutions decided. This does not mean that we do not have possibilities, but that we must install people in the right conditions. Nor is it a question of putting refugees ahead of national rights holders who are already waiting on the waiting lists for social housing in the department.

Regarding the language barrier, how will the schooling of refugee children take place?

First of all, it must be remembered that school is compulsory for all children in France up to the age of 16. A special education system is in place to take care of them. They are integrated into allophone classes, specialized in welcoming young children who do not speak the French language.

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