Emmaus International

A migrant of Malian origin, Anzoumane Sissoko campaigns to ensure the views of undocumented migrants are considered when decisions which affect them are made. He is the spokesperson for the Undocumented Migrants Collective in Paris (France) and a member of the International Steering Committee on Undocumented Migrants.

Describe the journey which has led you here today.

I’m one of seven brothers. Following several droughts in Mali, we decided that one of us had to go to France to help the family. I arrived in France 22 years ago, when the immigration debate was in full swing. I lived without documents for 13 and a half years and during that time I was arrested, placed in administrative detention and imprisoned several times, and numerous attempts were made to deport me… Then I joined the Undocumented Migrants Collective and was appointed spokesperson in 2004.

Which rights do you defend on behalf of migrants?

First and foremost, I defend the freedom of movement and establishment. If those rights were protected, deaths and human trafficking would be avoided and security forces would be able to concentrate on the real problems at hand. But above all else, I campaign to ensure migrants’ voices are heard, and to guarantee they participate in the debates on decisions which affect them. Today, associations, political parties, unions and NGOs are the groups who express views on those issues. Migrants themselves are not consulted. With the collective, we lobby the authorities, namely at national level, to ensure migrants can obtain the visas necessary to participate in international fora, and describe the reality of immigration as they know it first-hand.

Why must migrants’ voices be heard?

In the courts, a migrant’s word carries more weight when it is the lawyer alone who pleads his case. But when major decisions affecting migrants are taken, they cannot express their views directly. The use of intermediaries creates many misunderstandings and disputes, and means a migrant’s situation can be manipulated to serve the interests of a third party. Migrants themselves are those best placed to describe the reality of their day-to-day existence.

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