Teenage Haitian refugee and rape victim faces deportation in France
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Watlove Carrie, 17, has survived disaster and sexual abuse on the earthquake-devastated streets of Haitian capital Port-au-Prince. But she’s now stuck in a waiting area at Orly airport for trying to cross into France with a passport that wasn’t hers.
On Monday, Watlove Carrie tried her luck to escape the suffering of Port-au-Prince’s ruined streets. She took a plane for France to join her parents. Two days after her arrival, she has not left the waiting area.
Getting a French visa proved to be near-impossible for Haitians, so Watlove made do and "borrowed" a passport. But that didn’t work for French immigration officials, who arrested the minor at Orly airport, just near Paris, when her aircraft landed.
Her story is sadly ordinary. Until the earthquake, Watlove lived a quiet life with her younger brother and grandmother in the Haitian capital. Her parents, politically persecuted during ex-president Jean-Bertrand Aristide’s rule, had fled their country for France in 1999.
Late afternoon on Jan. 12, the house of Watlove's grandmother collapsed like a house of cards; nothing remained but rubble. The old woman did not survive. Like a million other Haitians, Watlove and her brother Nelson found themselves on the street.
"They slept outside, under sheets. These last few days, it rained and they were wet to the bone,” their father Jean-Wimzon Carrie told France24.com.
But it turned out that the worst threats facing Watlove were not the appalling living conditions, but the men on the streets. Last month the girl was repeatedly sexually assaulted.
“I'm not there, her mum is not there, who can protect her? No-one!" said her father in anguish. “We had to get her here at any cost”.
Nelson, comparatively in less danger than his sister for the moment, stayed behind. His parents have begun proceedings to try and bring him to France.
Birth certificate not enough for immigration official
Since her arrival on Monday, Watlove has been sleeping behind the bars of Orly airport’s holding area. She filed a demand for asylum on Tuesday evening, which gives her some respite – she can’t be sent back to Haiti until the France's immigration ministry has studied the application.
"Watlove should have the right to enter [French] territory, especially since her parents can shelter her,” said Sylvain Saligari, the lawyer for Betty and Jean-Wimzon Carrie. "She’s a young minor, isolated and threatened in her country of origin. She’s clearly a vulnerable person," he said.
But there is no evidence that Betty and Jean-Wimzon are really Watlove's parents, says an official designated by French authorities to care for the girl. Her birth certificate wasn’t sufficient to convince the authorities. Instead, they detained Watlove’s mother for 24 hours as she, unlike her husband, is not a French citizen.
On Thursday, a court in the Parisian suburb town of Créteil will decide Watlove’s fate. If released, she must still prove that Betty and Jean-Wimzon are her parents, or else she will be placed in a children's home.
If she does manage to enter France, the teenager may be protected by a decree published by French Immigration Minister Eric Besson a day after the earthquake. He ordered the "immediate suspension of all deportation proceedings… of undocumented Haitian nationals in the national territory”.