That day, little Anaïs, just one year old, rises grumpy from her nap, both hands in her mouth. A tooth kept her alert all night. And her parents, with whom she shares her sleep, also suddenly. The little one then passes from her mother’s lap, Roza, who rocks her and kisses her hair, with the stretched palms of her father Qemal, who makes her laugh while tickling her belly. Arion, 14, gives him a toy, Ariola, 12, brings him a compote. Big success: the painful tooth is forgotten. And the little girl in a bodysuit, firmly on her two chubby legs, thinks only of strolling the bright eyes in the living room, from mother to brother and from father to sister. A brand new pride: Anaïs took her first steps on March 22, the day of her first birthday. And a few days after the announcement of the containment due to Covid-19.
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It was there, in this small living-dining room, that the R. family, huddled on the brown leatherette sofa in front of the television, learned about confinement. On March 14, Édouard Philippe announces the closure of schools. On March 16, Emmanuel Macron drives the point home by imposing compulsory confinement, without saying the word, from March 17 at noon. Dismay in the living room. “The children have started to cry”, recalls Roza. The confinement seizes the R. family in full flight. As all their integration efforts began to pay off. “The children had changed college in September and were starting to make friends, I had just signed for my first job in France, and my husband had started on a construction site”sums up the mother.
In the living room dining room of the HLM apartment in the Sanitas district of Tours, seated around the round table covered with an embroidered tablecloth, Roza, a fine worried figure, and Qemal, with rounder and jovial features, explain the situation. Three years ago, the R.s had to leave their lives in Tirana, Albania, following a “Complicated story”, parents don’t want to dwell on. Qemal then opted for France, where the family arrived in May 2017, first in Orléans (Loiret), then in Tours (Indre-et-Loire). Asylum, rarely granted to Albanians, is denied them.
A network of associations helps the family
Then began a long and solid companionship between the R. family and local associations, in particular Secours Catholique, Restos du Coeur and Emmaüs. “We knew the R.s when they were at the Joué-les-Tours Asylum Seekers Center, remembers Marie-Hélène, a volunteer at Secours Catholique. These are people we want to help because we immediately felt that they were going to make the necessary efforts to build their lives here. “ Children are educated, first in reception class, then in ordinary class, and adults learn French. Qemal becomes a companion to Emmaüs Touraine, which gives him access to a small nest egg, and to a status that promotes regularization.
In May 2017, shortly after the birth of Anaïs, the R.s obtained a residence permit “private life family life” which authorized them to work. Finally, the Emmaüs Cent pour Un, a Tours association, which pays the rent and gives a sum of 300 € monthly per household it accompanies, installs the R.s in an F4 south of Tours. Children change colleges and parents can start looking for work.
In early 2020, this patient work bore fruit. Qemal established himself as a self-employed entrepreneur and began painting and renovating on a construction site in February. Roza begins a three-month fixed-term contract in early March as a receptionist in a city center crèche, which may lead to a permanent contract. Anaïs is kept in a nursery near the apartment.
“Containment happened and everything stopped”
“Then the confinement arrived and everything stopped”says Qemal in a gesture of helplessness. The crèche, where Roza had started work for a week, is closed, the site is stopped, leaving the R.s in uncertainty about their income. “My husband will not be paid until the end of the work, but we don’t know when it will resume, and I don’t know if my contract ends or not”, says Roza on the phone in late March.
R., which does not affect the RSA, accessible only to refugees or non-EU foreigners who have already lived five years of residence in France, then find themselves in a very complicated situation. They first worry about their residence permit, which was in the process of being renewed. “Last year it cost us € 1,450, if it’s the same amount this year, I don’t know how we are going to pay”, explains Qemal. The Family Allowance Fund also threatens to suspend, for lack of a residence permit, the € 530 of family allowances, before reinstating them, following letters.
The R.s had already given up, in February, before confinement, the 300 € of savings paid to them by Cent pour Un, because, explains Qemal, “It has to benefit other families”. They also know that the moral contract which binds them to the association Cent Pour Un stipulates that from the moment they have work, they must assume the payment of the expenses of the apartment, then of the rent, that is to say 620 €, including electricity. This transfer, which must be accompanied by a request for housing allowance, was scheduled for April. And then you have to feed these two growing adolescents who no longer go to the school canteen, at low prices, and “Want to eat all the time”.
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In short, the end of March is difficult. To help, Secours Catholique gives a check for 50 € and Restos du Coeur a package with food and hygiene products. Qemal thanks as much as he can, by becoming a volunteer, two to three times a week, on behalf of the Touraine association La Table de Jeanne-Marie, which, during this period of confinement, asks him to send food to people vulnerable. Roza composes as it can meals that calm the stomachs. And go to washable diapers for Anaïs.
Fortunately, at the end of March, good news: the R. family noted that the crèche, where Roza had just signed his employment contract just before confinement, paid him his salary, that is almost € 1,000. Fortunately, the R.s realize that they are not eligible for the various aids put in place for the most deprived by the government. The exceptional assistance announced on April 13 by Emmanuel Macron (read the benchmarks) does not concern them because they do not receive the RSA or SSA or housing benefits. And the bonus of € 1,500 paid to the self-employed cannot be paid to Qemal because it created its microenterprise after the 1er February. But what does the aid matter, as long as the fridge is no longer empty: “I was able to go shopping at Carrefour”, welcomes Roza.
“It’s a little difficult for children”,
Once the material worries a little lifted, the confined life can resume its course. With its ups and downs. “It’s a little difficult for children”, slides Roza. The education of the two older children in particular is a constant subject of concern for the mother. After a moment of hesitation, the two college students receive daily lessons and homework on the ENT, the digital workspace of national education. Not easy when the tired family computer does not allow connection most of the time. Arion and Ariola are doing as best they can with their parents’ cell phones. Which limits the possibilities. “I cannot help them, there is the language barrier and then it is not the same way of learning as in Albania”, regrets Roza.
But in the R. family, we respect confinement to the letter. Only Qemal goes out to do the shopping or to go to his volunteer activities. The rest of the family allows themselves little more than a parking lot around the building, from time to time to stretch Anaïs who knows very well how to get his coat to indicate his impatience. Roza is already monitoring the attendance of its two grown-ups in normal times. So in these times of confinement, “I don’t let them out”, assures the mother, who fears the solicitations of the local drug dealers.
The two teenagers drag their boredom in front of the screens, under the watchful eye of Roza, who is wary of video games. Arion quickly gave up practicing sports in the apartment. Ariola enjoys the tutorials on make-up and hairstyling when she can get hold of her mother’s cell phone. She also enjoys watching Elite, a television series in which three working class teens meet in a very elitist private school.
The family, used to a life without too many outings due to lack of money, spends a lot of time together. We play with Anaïs, we make board games, we answer together the questions asked by the host of the TV game Slam. But, sometimes, all the same, the confinement in the F4 becomes unbreathable. If in March, Roza estimated that the containment was going well, in April, she conceded a fed up, especially when the family learned that it was extended until May 11. “We get mad at things that are not worth it, an extra spoon of sugar, something badly put away”, she says smiling.
In the R. family, the question of returning to work for adults and school for children is therefore not disputed: it will be as soon as possible. “Children need to go to school and we have to go to work. we’re just waiting to know when. “ On the dining room table, a small vase houses two rosebuds that Qemal brought back to his wife. “When it opens, he bet, pointing to an orange-pink flower, I hope we can get out. “
Measures for the most fragile
Accommodation. More than 10,800 additional hotel spaces, in addition to the 157,000 accommodation spaces already funded by the state, are now being mobilized for the homeless during the coronavirus epidemic. In addition, 95 sites with 3,500 spaces are dedicated to the accommodation of homeless people who are ill with Covid-19 but do not require hospitalization.
Food aid. The government released on April 23 an envelope of 39 million to support associations carrying out meals and finance “Food emergency checks” 105 € per household in the troubled areas.
Financial assistance. The exceptional aid to the most deprived announced on April 13 by Emmanuel Macron will be paid on May 15. It will reach € 150 per household, plus a bonus of € 100 per child for recipients of RSA and ASS. For families receiving housing assistance, it will amount to € 100 per child. The student aid announced the same day on April 13 remains to be specified.