2 New Refugee Camps Aren’t Enough For The Thousands Seeking Safety In Paris

Refugees queue outside a refugees center in Paris, Friday Aug.5, 2016. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MICHEL EULER
Refugees queue outside a refugees center in Paris, Friday Aug.5, 2016. CREDIT: AP PHOTO/MICHEL EULER

Over the past year, French police have descended on makeshift refugee camps in Paris at least 26 times, evicting thousands of people living near metro stations in the capital. Over and over, French police have cleared out migrants and refugees, many of whom have fled to the European Union to escape political persecution or certain death from Eritrea, Somalia, and Afghanistan.

Now, the city of Paris, France is set to open the first of two short-term refugee camps in mid-October to accommodate hundreds of people who have otherwise been setting up unauthorized makeshift camps. The city has become a flashpoint reflective of the European Union migrant crisis, currently host to some 7,000 immigrants who have been unable to find permanent accommodation while they seek refugee status in the country.

Paris Mayor Anne Hildalgo announced Tuesday that the first camp would hold an “initial capacity of 400 and be solely for men travelling alone,” the Agence France-Presse reported. The capacity will then be expanded to a total of 600 beds by the end of the year, with bedrooms that serve four people at a time. Services like social care, legal aid, and psychological care would also be offered to the migrants and refugees, Hidalgo said, according to CNN.

“In the past two years, Paris has experienced an unprecedented flow of migrants. Every day, dozens of migrants arrive on our territory,” Hidalgo said. “However, makeshift camps continue to emerge in the public space. They are unhealthy and dangerous, and the migrants are living under shameful conditions. This has also become a source of disturbance for residents in the neighborhood.”

People seeking asylum or refugee status will be allowed to stay at the authorized camp from five to ten days, while they wait for a longer-term place in a refugee hostel, The Telegraph reported.

A second camp designated for migrant women and children is set to open by the end of the year, and will be located in the Ivry-sur-Seine in southeast Paris. That shelter will have a capacity of 350.

Hidalgo emphasized that the camps would be temporary, though she also said that the city would set up other emergency centers “if necessary.”

Hidalgo previously announced plans in May to build official refugee camps by the end of September. Tuesday’s announcement expanded on the capacity size and qualifications.

There has been fierce — sometimes hostile opposition — to refugees living in France. Last week, Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve called for the closure of “The Jungle,” another camp located in Calais that is currently holding anywhere between 7,000 and 10,000 migrants and refugees. On Monday, truckers, farmers, and local business owners blocked a major highway leading to Calais, calling on authorities to set a date to dismantle the swelling camp.

Last month in Paris, French riot police were caught on video mocking a refugee woman who wanted to get her belongings before her makeshift camp was dismantled. And in the latest sign of rising tensions between French residents and refugees, an empty migrant camp was set ablaze just south of the city just hours before Hidalgo gave her press conference.

“Whoever did this should be incredibly ashamed of themselves. If they think this is what our country’s value are about, they are wrong. It is despicable, deplorable, and criminal to act this way. I hope that we will find them and sanction them,” she said, responding to the camp that was set on fire.