Baker saved from deportation from France grateful to boss

An apprentice baker from Guinea was nearly deported after legally becoming an adult, but was given citizenship after his boss went on a 10-day hunger strike

23 January 2021
Baker Stéphane Ravaclay runs a boulangerie in Besançon where Laye Fodé Traoré has worked for 18 months
By Brian McCulloch

Last week, The Connexion reported the position of an apprentice baker from Guinea who was saved from deportation when his boss went on hunger strike.

French baker stops hunger strike as trainee given papers

We asked the apprentice, Layé Fodé Traoré, for an interview but he declined as he was too busy with his job and television media appearances. 

However, he spoke to French media on his first day back at the bakery after becoming a naturalised French citizen. Below, we outline what he and his boss said upon his return to work.

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When Mr Traoré turned 18 recently he was threatened with expulsion from France. His boss, baker Stéphane Ravacley, decided to protest and so went on a hunger strike. 

Mr Ravacley, of La Huche à Pain bakery in Besançon, lost eight kilos and was briefly hospitalised during his ten day hunger strike, during which he only drank broth.

As well as the strike, he organised a petition to demand that his apprentice was allowed to stay in France which was signed by 242,000 people.

“This morning I simply want to say thank you [to Mr Ravacley] for all he has done for me,” Mr Traoré said upon his return to work on January 19. He started as an apprentice in the bakery in September 2019.

“He put his health on the line for me and I am very appreciative of that,” he said. 

“When I think of that I cannot sleep or shut my eyes. The only thing I can do in return is to do good work for him.”

He was then interrupted by Mr Ravacley who said: “And pass your exams, and have a good life.”

Mr Traoré said he had not met anyone who had done as much for him as his boss, but was again interrupted by Mr Ravacley who said: “You must always do something for someone. This time it was me, afterwards it will be you doing something for someone and so, there, that is the way it works.”

The local préfecture summoned both men to an audience on January 15 to say that Mr Traoré would become a naturalised French citizen.

He came to France as a 16 year old from Italy, after following an overland migrants route through Mali and the Sahara desert to Libya and then crossed the Mediterranean in an inflatable boat.

From Italy he was sent to France as an unaccompanied minor as part of a plan to ease the pressure of illegal immigration in Italy.

Mr Ravacley who was looking for an apprentice took him on and found him a quick learner.

“To suddenly deport him because he turned 18 makes absolutely no sense at all,” he said.

He said he was surprised and grateful for the attention in the media and on the internet.

“I did not imagine it would take off like it did,” he said.

“We are just a small bakery and to be able to turn the tables like we did, is surprising.”

Mr Traoré also thanked the people who had signed the petition and written letters on his behalf: “We all won this together,” he said.

Mr Ravacley said it was not his role to point out the absurdity of the situation where minors are welcomed into France and then threatened with deportation when they are 18.

“There are others who should have done something and have not so it was up to us, and we have made people think, which is great.”

He said he would continue to fight for a change to the law or a decree which would allow youngsters to stay in France and obtain qualifications.

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