Paris: families living on the streets sleep in front of the Prefecture

After a month of alerts to the services of the Paris City Hall and the Ile-de-France Prefecture remained unanswered, 107 exiled families living on the streets settled on Monday August 31 on the forecourt of the City Hall to put an end to this unworthy situation. The objective: to obtain permanent accommodation for all of them.

Since 2015, the public authorities have shown their inability to provide a dignified welcome for exiled people arriving in Paris, in defiance of their legal obligations. Among these people are many families and single women whose time spent on the streets is constantly increasing before they are offered care.

Every evening since 2017, the association Utopia 56 has been trying as best it can to make up for these state and municipal shortcomings via a network of solidarity-based shelters. This network is made up of about 250 people living in the Ile-de-France region who take in single women, families and couples living on the streets.

Since the beginning of the year 2020, 667 families have asked our association for accommodation, i.e. 1642 people, including 185 children under three years old.

On July 29 2020, the eviction from the camps in Aubervilliers took place. The same evening, 15 families asked our association again. Due to the lack of places available in the common law system, this number has continued to rise, reaching 145 families in the last two weeks of August, i.e. 361 people, including 147 children, 56 of whom were under three years old. Utopia 56 sent nearly 30 e-mails to the institutions in charge of protecting these families, without any solution being proposed to them.

The only response to the emergency was security and police: harassment, gassing, destruction of equipment. Every night the police forces were deployed to dislodge the families living in tents and push them out of Paris with a deliberate political will to make their situation invisible. The message is therefore clear: move the problem rather than solve it.

As a result, the families, couples and single women followed by Utopia 56 settled in the square in front of the City Hall to demand dignified, sustainable and unconditional housing solutions. The passage to the street can no longer be an inevitable step in the access to asylum application and care in France.

The increase in the number of places in accommodation facilities and an overhaul of the reception of new arrivals is essential for these situations do not last in time.

Paris: as soon as it is set up, a family camp is dismantled and taken care of in the City Hall.

More than 200 people, single women and families, settled on Monday evening on the square in front of the City Hall, in the heart of Paris, demanding better care. A few hours later, after the prefecture tried to evacuate the square by “force”, the Paris City Hall opened a room to accommodate the migrants.

On Monday, August 31, shortly before midnight, 218 people set up their tents in the heart of the capital, on the square in front of the City Hall. Accompanied by the association Utopia 56, 107 families – mostly from Somalia, Côte d’Ivoire and Afghanistan – hope to draw the attention of the public authorities to their situation and obtain assistance.

“The aim of this symbolic action is to stop pretending that these people don’t exist,” Mael de Marcellus, Parisian coordinator of Utopia 56, told InfoMigrants Mael de Marcellus, “The authorities want to make them invisible by preventing them from settling on the sidewalks of Paris and its region. Many lived in tents in Aubervilliers but were regularly chased away by the police, and they must be given dignified and unconditional shelter,” the activist continued.

Among this group of migrants are many isolated women, one person in a wheelchair, eight children under the age of three and even an infant as young as two weeks old. According to Utopia 56, 50% are newcomers, while the rest are in the process of obtaining a residence permit or refugee status.

“Call for help”

“Being here is a call for help,” Rolande, an Ivorian woman who arrived in Paris three months ago, told AFP. “I’m tired of the street. For a woman, it’s very dangerous. People fall on you, we are easy targets. If they don’t help us, if they don’t allow us to work, we’re going to stay in this cycle,” continues this 36-year-old asylum seeker.

Since the beginning of August, the association for migrants’ aid has sent no less than 25 emails to the Paris City Hall, all of which have gone unanswered. With this punchy action, the City “can no longer close its eyes”, says Maël de Macellus.

But the installation of a camp in the very chic 1st arrondissement of Paris is not to the taste of the prefecture, which, on Tuesday morning, proceeded to a dismantling operation. “There is no question of letting tents on the public highway,” she told AFP. “The police tried to remove the migrants from their makeshift housing by force. They wanted to remove the tents without offering to relocate them,” said the Utopia member present on the spot.

“Inaction of the State”

“After long negotiations” between the prefecture, the Paris City Hall and the association, the families were finally taken care of in a room in the City Hall. “On this unacceptable situation, we are in fact paying for the State’s inaction,” Ian Brossat, deputy mayor of Paris in charge of emergency accommodation and refugee protection, told AFP. “The City is aware of the situation of these families and we have called on the State services to find a solution, especially since most of these people are asylum seekers and should therefore be able to benefit from some kind of care,” he added.

While Utopia 56 is pleased with this temporary solution taken by the Paris City Hall, it remains wary and is waiting “to see the proposals of political actors”. According to Ian Brossat, “half of the families have been referred to hotels and accommodation facilities. The other half is still warm in the City Hall”, he said early this afternoon on Twitter.

Nevertheless, the association has been calling for many months for a “global overhaul of the first welcome”. “As long as people will not be taken care of on their arrival in France, the passage to the street will remain an obligatory stage”, deplores, fatalistic, Maël de Macellus.

Refugees related groups in France
Some squats in France:
Groups (collectives, social centres, squats) in France:
Events in France:

Utopia 56
Leslie Carretero, InfoMigrants