French town unites to assist migrants

The Serbian family with some of their supporters in Sarlat

Fifty friends have joined forces to support a migrant family from Serbia threatened with expulsion from France. 

They helped organise a civil baptism for the family’s youngest child at the mairie in Sarlat, Dordogne, with maire Jean-Jacques de Peretti, who is also backing the family.

Irfan Zaïri is from a mixed Romani-Ashkali ethnic minority family, with Serb nationality, and his wife Xhemile Latifi-Zaïri is Albanian, also with Serb nationality.

They came to France three years ago with their sons Lian, five, and Ledion, three. Omer, 20 months, was born in France.

Mr Zaïri, a builder, and his wife, a nursing auxiliary, were fleeing violent aggression.

Ifran Zaïri with Jean-Jacques de Peretti

Mr Zaïri was constantly threatened with violence and said: “I decided we had to leave the country. My wife’s brother is a policeman and he could have killed me and got rid of the evidence.” Marie-Laure Guiradel first made contact with the family and said: “I was told about their arrival by a friend who knew I was willing to help migrant families.

“I made a cake and went to introduce myself.

“I quickly realised they had no financial support and were not allowed to work. I asked another couple to join in, but we needed more help.

“Now we are a big group and as well as giving them money, we also take them to official appointments and teach them French.”

The family’s first application for asylum was rejected.

Patrick Sardant from Udasti, which helps migrants with their paperwork, said they had a good case but were ill-advised when they arrived.

Mr Zaïri has been given an expulsion order, though it has not been implemented yet.

Mr Sardant said: “Having a group like this is a huge help. I have never seen one as big.”

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