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Before exile, people had a name.

After their exile, they are defined by their administrative situation:

asylum seekers, undocumented migrants, refugees.

Sometimes their name comes from the political field:

the wave of migrants, illegal immigration, the influx of refugees.

Rarely, the word "stranger" is used in the singular.

As if "foreigners" in the plural were a separate entity.

To define them, we differentiate them.

There are them. There is us.

There are Ukrainian refugees. There are the others.

These others, who live in the "Calais jungle". 

Who lives in a jungle? Animals and savages.

There are the civilized.   There are the savages.

There are them. There is us.

Before exile, people had

a name, a passion, a love that defined them.

These are the men and women* that I want to tell you about.

The passengers :

by exile.


* The identity and photographs of the people have been changed.

"The naked migrant is the one who has lost everything, even his name."
Edouard Glissant

I am neither a migrant nor an exile

I am a traveler

I flee neither war nor poverty 

I am a nomad

I am neither a foreigner nor undocumented

I came for the adventure

I didn't choose where I was born

Let me choose where I go

Where I live

Where I am

And be free


Djamel is French. He was arrested by the police in Perpignan. As he did not have his papers, he was sent to the Detention Center. Djamel lights a cigarette, with disconcerting phlegm. "I'm used to injustice," he tells me. "I just hope that when they release me, the family lunch will not be over," he adds, still calm.


In his youth, Manuel climbed Machu Picchu.

He defines himself as a nomad. Always on the move, he finds the confinement in the detention center very difficult. To change his mind, I offer him a drink. "A large glass of cold Coke, please" he replies spontaneously.

I tell him: "In my office, I only have a kettle. I can offer you tea or herbal tea..."

"Like at my grandmother's!" he tells me, giving me a wink.


Seck is a cook on a tourist liner. He would have liked to work in fashion in Senegal. "Do you know the SAPE, the Society of Ambianceurs and Elegant People?" he asks me. It's true that Seck looks like a dandy. His charisma and elegance contrast with the prison universe of the Retention Center. 

"I would draw new uniforms for the police, something more feminine and more chic" he adds, scribbling a drawing on his Obligation to Leave the Territory.


Farid has deep scars running down his arms. Like every day, I receive it in my office. That afternoon, my air is gloomy, the administrative machine had hit me with a  violent KO

Philosopher, Farid consoles me: "It doesn't matter if you fall. The important thing is to know how to get up again."


Madi's twin sister wanted to be a singer. Then there was the war. Madi tells me her story with a passion for life. "Before she died, I promised her to make her dream come true." She closes her eyes, her hands rhythmically hitting the surface of my desk. She sings.


Joseph Napoléon has a name that predestines him for a brilliant future. Student at the University of Port-au-Prince,

he created a student journal. His evenings he spends reading the great authors of Negritude. When I interview him, I am struck by his eloquence.

In my head, I tell myself that I should keep in touch with him, in case he becomes President of Haiti.


In the small waiting room in Basse-Terre, Madame Marcelin seems worried. Ever since she saw me, she can't sit still. Blowing on my hot coffee, I offer him a cup. A reassured smile appears on his face: "Ah, you speak French! Seeing you arrive, I was scared... I don't know how to speak Chinese..."

"Me neither" I tell him in a playful tone.


Mrs. Morovian threw a going away party to thank her loved ones. They financed his trip and that of his sick daughter. In Armenia, there is no treatment for the child's disease.

"I know that I don't have the right to apply for asylum for medical reasons. But, I couldn't get a visa. My child is three years old, she is as beautiful as a sunflower. What would have could I do anything else?" she confides in me with tears in her eyes. 


Mr. Hakobyan has a passion: model making. Since he arrived in France, he has undertaken to make the Eiffel Tower out of matchsticks. A local newspaper came to photograph him next to his work of art. In the photo, his wife and three children look at him with admiration. That was the goal of his model: to put stars back in the eyes of those he loves, as if to be forgiven for having forced them into exile.


"Ma Dou" is how the children of a large family, owner of a sugar factory, nicknamed Madame Neuvoir. "Grandma Dou" is what the grandchildren call her.

"My sweet" is what her husband calls her. For more than fifty years, Madame and Monsieur Neuvoir have been inseparable. Today, Madame Neuvoir returns alone to her little hut on rue Bois Riant.

Mr. Neuvoir was deported to Haiti the same morning. 


Michel calls himself Mickaël in France.

He thinks it fits better with his dream of being a DJ. In Haiti, he mixed in nightclubs. "I organized des sound systemin private homes, at parties or in the street. You know, we dance everywhere at home!” he throws at me.

Listening to it, I forget Haiti the bruised island and discover Haiti theambient!


"Tell the police not to send me back to the country,

my mother is a real jewish mother. Too bad for an Arab like me!" jokes Khalil. Under the brown curls that flood his face, two laughing eyes light up. "This morning, the police arrested me while I was with a gazelle! What a lack of good manners on their part!” he continues.

His verve and his humor allowed him to convince the judge to release him. When he comes back to my office to tell me the news, he lifts me in his arms with joy. "The judge couldn't resist my charm" he laughs.  


Clovis lives in Switzerland with his partner. Together, they work in events.

The police sent him to the Detention Center to check if his statements were true.

Although he presented his papers, his driver's license, all the proof of his regularity on the territory, his skin color designates him as a suspect. In my office, he shows me the photo of his lover. "I hope that one day we can get married and that marriage will put an end to all these aberrations..." he breathes.


Alan is a child, a kid, a Gavroche. How did the police not see it? While waiting for the result of the bone test, which aims to prove his minority, Alan would like a ball to play football in the concrete courtyard surrounded by barbed wire at the Detention Center. "In the life of my mother, I am the future Cristiano Ronaldo" he attests to me.


This morning, I brought croissants to the Detention Center. Momo warns me that the baker ripped me off. The croissants he sold me are not good croissants. I burst out laughing: "I didn't buy them. I made them!" Embarrassed, he apologizes. "In life, I'm an artisan baker and pastry chef... Next time, I'll bring you some fresh buttered ones."

He won't get the chance. Momo is deported the next day to Morocco.

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