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Twice an Orphan - Barmy Bureaucracy or Welfare of the Child? You Judge.

Jul 5, 2008
Last weekend here in France an 11-year-old boy, Joris, found himself effectively orphaned for the second time. He was taken into care after his father, 34-year-old Aboubakar Coulibaly, was deported back to his native Côte d'Ivoire.

Coulibaly had been granted sole custody of Joris back in March 2006 after the child's mother committed suicide.

In spite of looking after his son for a year under the supervision of the local authorities in the west-central department of Maine-et-Loire and the agreement of a family judge, Coulibaly only had a temporary residence and work permit.

In addition he had a criminal record, thus in the eyes of the law disqualifying him from being allowed to remain permanently in France. Coulibaly had not only spent time in prison but had also been served deportation papers back in 2005.

Indeed the judge who made the decision to send him back last weekend maintained that Coubilay had only recognised paternity (apparently against the wishes of Joris's late mother) and sought custody of his child as a means to remain in this country.

French law states that a foreigner cannot be deported if he or she has lived regularly in France for 10 years or more and has custody of a French child.

Joris, like his late mother, has French nationality.

But supporters of Coulibaly say that he had served his time for a string of minor infractions, paid his debt so-to-speak to society and for the past couple of years had been a model citizen.

He was in regular employment, described by work colleagues and neighbors alike as diligent and courteous and most importantly looked after his son, according to campaigners from the movement Réseau éducation sans frontières (RESF).

They maintain that not only is the deportation and resulting separation of sole parent and child illegal, it's also immoral. The order had been served before Coulibaly had been granted custody of his child, they say, and hadn't been re-evaluated since the circumstances had changed.

For them this latest move flies in the face of the 2006 decision taken by a family judge, which had been made in the best interests of the child.

But French authorities see the case from quite a different angle.

Coulibaly had a string of convictions, they say - not all of them for minor infractions as maintained by his supporters. And over a period of time he had spent a total of three years behind bars.

He was not only in violation of a previous deportation order but according to Louis Franc, the general secretary of the préfecture of Maine-et-Loire, had also been the object of an investigation following accusations of sex with a minor. That's a claim of which Coulibaly's defence lawyers have reportedly never heard.

"What sort of future would he (Coulibaly) be able to guarantee an 11-year-old?" Franc asks and insists the deportation and the decision to take Joris into care were made in the best interests of the child.

So both sides tussling over the future of a child - and both maintaining that they only have his best interests at heart.

For the moment Joris is with a foster family and his father is back in Côte d'Ivoire.

Is it bureaucracy gone made or administration looking after the welfare of a child?
About the Author
Johnny Summerton is a Paris-based broadcaster, writer and journalist specializing in politics, sport and travel. For more on what's making the headlines here in France, log on to his site at http://www.persiflagefrance.com
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