French baker on hunger strike to protest deportation of his apprentice

·2-min read

Stéphane Ravacley, a baker in the town of Besançon in eastern France, has been on hunger strike since 3 January to protest the planned deportation of his young Guinean apprentice. A petition has been launched and city hall mayor has asked Interior ministry to cancel his deportation.

The petition launched by Stéphane Ravacley sounds like a cry from the heart. "Help us save our super apprentice baker from being evicted from the territory! ", one reads under the photo of a smiling boy leaning against a work surface. In a week, the text collected more than 130,000 signatures.

Despite the constant temptations found in his "Huche à Pain" bakery in the town of Besançon, Ravacley says he has not eaten since midnight on Sunday and will continue in order to fight for his employee.

"My doctor tells me I'm in a fragile state, but I don't care. I know I'm right," the 50-year-old said, adding that he has a history of blood circulation problems in his lungs.

Ravacley has spent more than a year training his apprentice Laye Fodé Traoré -- "a good kid" -- whom he took on as a teenager in September 2019 after he had arrived in France as an unaccompanied minor.

But having recently turned 18, the young Guinean has been informed he faces being sent back to his homeland in West Africa.

The mayor of Besançon, Anne Vignot, has written to Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin asking for clemency, saying in her letter that "the desire to expel this future baker is incomprehensible".

His appeal against the deportation order will be heard on 26 January at a justice court in Besançon.

In 2019, France deported around 24,000 people. Around 140,000 people were given refugee status, including 5,000 from Guinea, while 113,000 foreigners gained French nationality, according to figures from the French interior ministry.