Undocumented athlete Oumar Dembélé was deported last Friday to Mali “A death sentence” in his words.
Despite a strong mobilization, Oumar Dembélé, 19, was expelled to Mali on Friday. This athlete licensed to the Nancy Athletics club is described as a model of integration by his relatives, who denounce an unfair decision.
“Oumar your place is here “, “Omar we miss you”: slogans, but above all a cry from the heart, launched by about thirty people in front of the gate of the Metz detention center. A last attempt which unfortunately did not change the course of things.
On Friday March 11, at 8:30 am, Oumar Dembélé left the detention center, where he had been detained for two months, to take the first flight to Paris in the direction of Bamako. The convoy passed right in front of his relatives, helpless. “As long as it hasn’t happened, we still have a little hope, but seeing him leave in front of us is complicated.“, explains Nicolas Morot, the coach of Oumar, on the verge of tears.
“Honestly, I’m devastated, it’s very hard. But I think it’s much harder for him than for us.“, adds her physiotherapist, Soraya Marquer.
An invested athlete
Since the beginning of his detention on January 14, 2022, these two members of the club Nancy Athletics Metropolis went to visit Oumar almost every day. The 19-year-old was a much-loved athlete at his club where he had been dismissed since 2019.
Twice qualified for the French shot put championships, he also trained the youngest members of his club on a voluntary basis. He lived in Nancy and was studying to obtain a professional baccalaureate sanitation facilities.
An exemplary career, and a model of integration for Nicolas Morot, who denounces a deeply unjust expulsion. “He built a life here, with friends, a school and professional life, a community life. For us, it is revolting because it was useful to our society. He was a volunteer like you don’t often find in the world of associations. There are people born in France who do much less. I find it hard to understand this decision“, says Nicolas Morot.
A strong mobilization of support
A feeling shared by certain political figures, such as the senator of Meurthe-et-Moselle Olivier Jacquin, but also by many citizens of Nancy. On January 14, 2022, 200 people had demonstrated to ask the prefecture of Meurthe-et-Moselle to cancel the expulsion order.
35,700 people have also signed a petition to this effect. Orphan, Oumar Dembélé arrived in France at the age of 16 with identity papers that the prefecture of Meurthe-et-Moselle deemed non-compliant. Obtaining a certificate of authenticity, on March 4, issued by the Embassy of Mali has not changed the situation. “I find it revolting that he is deported now when we have confirmation that his papers are true, that he is the person he says he is. He’s a benevolent person and I don’t understand why we try to keep him away like that.“, explains Soraya Marquer.
Like many unaccompanied minors, Oumar was taken into care by the French State, and educated until he reached majority. An integration process called into question as soon as it obtains its majority. Chaynesse Khirouni, president of the Departmental Council of Meurthe-et-Moselle, denounces an absurd system. “We expel regardless of the integration of young people. It turns out that he was a young adult who was accompanied by the services of the child protection department. He was under young adult contract, and had defined integration objectives with our services. And today it all comes to naught.”
Deported to a country at war
While France welcomes thousands of Ukrainian refugees fleeing the bombardments, Oumar Dembélé, is sent back to Mali, a country at war since 2012, recalls Soraya Marquer who fears for the safety of the young athlete.
Because on the spot, the anti-French feeling has never been so strong. “His attachment to France will be very badly received in Mali. Sending him back there is like a death sentence for him.“Since last year, the ruling junta has multiplied hostile messages towards France. Many tricolor flags were burned during demonstrations. And despite the announcement of the departure of the French armed forces from Operation Barkhane, the diplomatic situation remains very complicated.