Update from the streets of Paris

Here is an update on the situation in Paris from CamCRAG committee member Ed Sexton who is currently volunteering there.

Conditions in Paris for refugees are undoubtedly better than a month ago, when freezing overnight temperatures made sleeping on the street at best difficult, at worst life-threatening.

The feeling among associations working in the capital is that more refugees have arrived over the past few weeks, but not in large numbers. It is of course very difficult to gauge numbers in Paris, but the French associations SciencesPo Refugee Help and Utopia56 estimate there are about 2,000 refugees in the city, of which almost half are in the government ‘bubble’ centre. Some others have found temporary housing, with the hundreds remaining living under bridges and in doorways. In many cases the refugees on the streets have upcoming interviews for asylum in France, but the system is too overwhelmed to provide accommodation for all applicants. All associations expect numbers to increase over the coming weeks as the sea crossing from Libya to Italy becomes less dangerous.

The team behind Paris Refugee Ground Support have provided bedding and other essential aid to refugees throughout a difficult winter, and with the advent of spring are taking a well-earned break and handing their operations over to local associations and independent volunteers. There are numerous French associations operating in Paris, providing food, clothing, legal advice, French lessons and other services, but the services can be fragmented and refugees are often unaware of their existence. In an attempt to fill this information void, Solidarithé have just finished their first week of operations, serving refugees sleeping near Porte de la Chapelle with morning tea and coffee, and providing info packs with a map of the area and a list of where and when services are available. They hope to expand both the information offered and
areas covered over the coming weeks.

It is difficult for any association to advise refugees on whether they can get a place in the ‘bubble’, as if and how many refugees are accepted each day seems to be decided very much at the last minute and in an ad hoc fashion. There seems to be no ticketing system, which would at least allow refugees to know if they will be waiting a day or a week, and when refugees are sometimes invited in directly from the street it appears to be at random, with no attempt to assess potential vulnerabilities and chose accordingly. Despite these frustrations, Utopia56 continue to supply clothes and other aid to refugees in the camp and have outreach teams supporting those on the streets nearby. L’Auberge des Migrants, Refugee Community Kitchen and Care4Calais continue to support both Utopia and Solidarithé with supplies from their stores in Calais.

SciencesPo Refugee Help – www.refugeehelp.frwww.facebook.com/sciencesporefugeehelp
Solidarithé – www.facebook.com/solidarithe
BAAM – www.baamasso.org / www.facebook.com/baam.asso
France terre d’asile – www.france-terre-asile.org /
La Cuisine des Migrants – www.facebook.com/lacuisinedesmigrants
Solidarite migrant Wilson –
Utopia56 – www.utopia56.com / www.facebook.com/asso.utopia56