Responding to Increasing Health and Social Needs of Unprotected Unaccompanied Minors in Paris in the Context of COVID-19: A Mixed Methods Case Study
Lara Gautier, Stéphanie Nguengang Wakap, Florian Verrier, Érica da Silva Miranda, Victoria Négré, Jalel Hamza, Juan-Diego Poveda & Magali Bouchon (2022)
Journal of Immigrant & Refugee Studies
Unaccompanied minors (UMs) are children under the age of 18 who settle in a foreign country without a legal representative. In France, many UMs are left unprotected from child welfare services because assessment systems evaluate that they are not minors. In Paris, the non-governmental organization Médecins du Monde (MdM) offers unprotected UMs medical, psychological, and social care. In March 2020, the lockdown policy to contain COVID-19 constrained MdM to adapt its care provision model. This case study sought to answer the following question: how did volunteers and employees of MdM respond to the social and health needs of unprotected UMs during the spring 2020 lockdown in Paris? We analyzed a cohort of 58 UMs for eight weeks of lockdown using secondary quantitative data. We further explored the UMs’ needs and the experience of phone consultations, through 15 interviews with MdM’s program volunteers and employees. Time series showed a steady increase in UMs’ needs. The program’s adapted care provision likely contributed to reducing UMs’ feeling of isolation. It also had several negative consequences for unprotected UMs, volunteers, employees, and Médecins du Monde’s institution. This study highlights the role of non-governmental organizations in providing a particularly vulnerable migrant population – unprotected UMs – care and support, despite operational challenges in crisis times.