Is the news dark? Laurent*, 59, consumes a reasonable dose – “radio, more than television”. Once administrative and financial director at Emmaüs, this man of convictions has a taste for meetings. “Often, the unknown causes fear, but in action, we are less subject to anxiety,” observes the man who reduced his professional activity to give his time to the Dom’Asile association. Like the fifteen other volunteers from the Orsay (Essonne) branch, aware of receiving a lot through their commitment.
This Friday morning, the office has just opened in the old walls of a parish premises. Philippe* and Najib, sitting side by side, scrutinize the computer screen connected to the website of the Directorate General for Foreigners in France. “When did you submit your request?… Three weeks! You cannot hope to have an answer already. But we will get there,” encourages Philippe. Najib, an Iranian, fights step by step to build a better life in France than the one he fled.
In 2019, a year after leaving his management position in a large group to retire, Philippe signed up as a volunteer for the Ile-de-France association. Twice a week, he meets exiled people who have obtained refugee status, or whose asylum request has been refused. They are Sudanese, Eritreans, Afghans, Congolese… Everyone that Philippe accompanies through the twists and turns of online administration in order to help them access their social rights. His motivation? “I’m not the type to march in the streets to defend my ideas. By coming here, I have the satisfaction of not watching trains go by. I meet people in their daily lives. It’s a common place, but , by helping others, you help yourself.”
And it is not the considerable difficulties of the exiles knocking on the door of Dom’Asile which weigh on the morale of the volunteers, on the contrary. “I have a lot of gratitude towards them,” insists Laurent, “I remember the courage of a Tunisian, father of an autistic child, who took many steps with schools to have his child admitted. They are my admiration.”
In the morning, Brahim walks through the door, greets Brigitte, a volunteer and retired nurse, and sits down next to her at the mail counter. In Orsay, Dom’Asile provides a valuable postal address to nearly 700 people without stable accommodation. The young Mauritanian with perfect French, undocumented for five years in France, is one of them. He chose to take his part in distributing the mail, a time for exchange and respite from his difficult personal situation.