top of page
Image de [2Ni]

Illustration   by Hippolyte, 2022


During his interview at the French Protection Office

of Refugees and Stateless Persons, the asylum seeker exposes

the reasons why he left his country.

He pitches from question to question. 

“Answer! the officer throws at him when his mind wanders. 

He has no time for reflection. 

“Specify the date and the place” the officer tells him

when his words capsize.

He must not hesitate.

“Be spontaneous” the officer slams him 

when his story resembles a thousand others.

He must not recite a text. 


These three injunctions (response, precision, spontaneity),

which result from the objectives of the OFPRA interview,

sum up the difficult exercise of maintenance

for the asylum seeker. 


Assessed on his oral statements, he must correspond to the figure of the “good refugee”, deliver an intimate story and circumvent the myth of the “liar refugee”

to convey the intimate conviction of the officer.



Illustration by Hippolyte, for SOS Méditerranée, 2020

Hippolyte's testimony


In 2020, I found myself as a reporter on board the Ocean Viking, the rescue ship of SOS Méditerranée succeeding the Aquarius. A reporter must bear witness to a situation, and to bear witness one must understand, and to understand one must go and see.

It's as simple as that. If we don't see, if we don't understand, then we don't know.

What I saw then totally overwhelmed me in its magnitude. Its magnitude of intertwined distress and beauty. In two months, we have rescued more than 800 people in distress at sea. People from all walks of life, men, women, minors, children and babies. Lots of babies.

They came from 34 countries, for journeys of sometimes more than 3 years between their country of origin and the moment when we collected them. No story was similar. They all had their own story. Over 800 different stories that each deserved one thing: consideration and respite.

All these stories had common points, they had all passed through Libya, had all experienced hell and torture there, and did not know what awaited them in Europe. Otherwise the hope of a better life. Finally. Respite. We don't go through all this for no reason. It's not human. They just wanted a little better life.

In the first rescue I was involved in, the stricken boat was full of babies. It was unusual, but in distress there are no set rules. We adapt to survive or we perish.

I found myself having to take care of all the babies, placing them on the rescue boat, reassuring them, calming them down. The first of a few months took place in my arms, lulled by this rocking sea and far from his own, which had remained for a time on the ship in distress.

We fitted the other children with life jackets, they were all screaming or terrified. There was no need for words to understand where they came from.

The baby on my arm started to cry too, and the only thing I could do at that moment was put my finger in his mouth, to reassure him, to hold on.

As anyone would at this time.

It was a real moment of beauty.

The migrants advance, then they become survivors on board, before disembarking again in the unknown. On the ship, many were asking me what they should do next, what awaited them. I had no answer to give them, other than to hope that other people would take care of them, guide them, reach out to them.

Here again, once in Europe, the journey of migrants is often unimaginable, inconceivable for the common people. 

There, often, the distress returns.

Again, you have to go see it to understand.

Or listen and read people who can testify.

Céline Aho Nienne has seen all this, she has understood it and she testifies.

It is as just as it is essential.

And the different headings that punctuate the manual are so many outstretched hands, light in the night of the journey of migrants and clarification of our ignorance.

We do not measure the path that these people have traveled, we do not measure the complexity of their stories, we do not measure the constantly renewed complexity to hinder their walk towards life, we do not measure the absence of respite that they have.

We can only take the measure of those who try to bring a little humanity and beauty into all of this.




Capture d’écran 2022-09-11 à 22.00.47.png

Illustration by Hippolyte, for Heidi News, 2021

Preface by Cedric Herrou

To confess your wounds is to live them again. 

Who would want to relive their wounds?Person. 

Admit them in front of another so different.Relive them in front of him. 

Why not invent?

Reinvent yourself, facing this other whose life is so different?

To speak of oneself as of another who does not exist.

When the words come out, a hand coming from the den, from the belly, strangles me from the inside. She presses so hard, like a sponge, that my tears flow inside.

My body is drowning in itself. It's raining in my body as it's crying in my head. 

Sometimes I don't feel anything anymore.

The words come out in all directions, story anachronistic.

Master neither of my memory nor of my words, only my evils remain masters of me. 

How many are hiding from themselves what they have been through?

We find ourselves here because we walked in opposite directions.

We are there, one in front of the other, to talk about the life of one,

without even suspecting that of the other.  

Sweep the dust hiding the past like that of a forgotten piece of furniture in an attic.

Dust it off as one would dust an object,

matter dead but yet very existing.

Facing the other, the object should sometimes smile, sometimes cry,

to the goodwill and expectations of the other. 

The other is neither a psychologist, nor a nurse, nor even a specialist in post-traumatic disorder.

He knows my country through the glasses of the net.

Google is the limit of its empathy.  

The other always has the last word,

the last word as if it were du last passer. 

Before me, he saw it. After me he will see more.

It is up to me, object, to become subject.

Make the other can taste the bitter tears that drown my body.

Cedric Herrou


Poster of the movie "Libre" by Michel Toesca, 2018

bottom of page