Following the dismantling of the large unofficial refugee camps in Calais France, known as the Jungle, last year (documented by Magnum’s Jerome Sessini), hundreds of undocumented and unaccompanied minors have shown up on the streets of Paris. With the local Parisian authorities legally bound to take care of the underage migrants, the city created its first refugee camp in Porte de la Chappelle, Paris North, in late 2016. Referred to as “La Boule,” the structure can house a maximum of 400 asylum seekers for five to ten days as they wait to be transferred to dedicated temporary housing in France. Once admitted, refugees, including unaccompanied minors, are given a place to sleep and have access to food, medical care, and legal services. La Boule sends a daily minimum of 250 asylum seekers to housing elsewhere in France.
The reasons these youngsters have for coming to France are often vague. An article published by Le Monde states that many of them have painful backgrounds, say they are orphans or have no contact with family, but states: “Most of the time, they were actually sent here by their parents. Even if they do not always admit it, their goal is often to be taken care of until they reach their majority, be able to study and then get a residence permit in order to bring their family over under the family reunification program. If a teenager enters France before turning 16, he or she also has more chances of being granted French nationality.”
In January 2017 Gueorgui Pinkhassov went to the area of Paris where undocumented and unaccompanied minors from Congo, Sudan or Guinea have been living, and met four of them. He returned in March 2017 and photographed inside the camp. His images capture the youths in shadows, existing on the fringes of a society they are not an official member of.
This story is part of The France Project: perspectives on the social, political and cultural landscape of contemporary France. In this ongoing project, initiated in 2016, Magnum photographers explore the background to issues influencing debate in the country in the run-up to the election. See more stories from this project here.