France: Spectacular growth of the informal migrant camp in Aubervilliers

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In just one month, the number of migrants living in the Aubervilliers camp in the Paris region has more than doubled, from 400 in mid-June to around 1,000 in mid-July. While arrivals are expected to continue over the coming weeks, NGOs denounce the failure of the French reception system.

In the Aubervilliers camp, the number of migrants has more than doubled in just one month. In mid-June, humanitarian groups estimated that around 400 people were living under the Stains Bridge along the Saint-Denis Canal north of Paris. In mid-July, the France Land of Asylum (FTDA) said it had some 1,000 migrants in the camp.

“And by August, there will be at least 1,500,” predicted FTDA director general Pierre Henry. “It’s still the same, we’ve been going around in circles for years,” he said.

“It’s the same infernal cycle that has lasted too long,” added Paul Alauzy of Médecins du Monde (MdM).

According to Julie Lavayssière, coordinator of the NGO Utopia 56 in Paris, “the camp has continued to grow since its creation in mid-May. Until then, the migrants who set up their tents under the Stains Bridge were systematically evicted by the police.

“Some of them then took refuge under the Landy bridge, a few meters away, where several Afghans were already present. Then when the number of people increased, they all came back under the Stains Bridge, ”Lavayssière said.

More and more refugees

What explains the increase from 400 to 1000 migrants in the Aubervilliers camp in such a short time? There are several reasons, according to NGOs.

First of all, there is a significant number of new arrivals: mainly Afghans arriving from Greece, but also Sudanese and Somalis coming directly from Italy.

The telephone service of the French Office for Immigration and Integration (Ofii), which delivers appointments for asylum seekers in the Paris region, operates at reduced capacity due to the coronavirus pandemic – the services of the Paris and Ile-de-France prefectures are only 25% of their pre-crisis capacity. As a result, many people cannot register and have been waiting for weeks or even months on the street for a date.

The associations also note an increase in the number of recognized refugees in the camps, estimating that they represent around 20% of the inhabitants of the Aubervilliers camp. “Many lost their jobs during the lockdown and as a result were left homeless because they couldn’t pay their rent,” Lavayssière said.

The camp also has many migrants whose asylum claims have been rejected and are awaiting appeal, and those who have received a deportation order due to the Dublin settlement.

“As long as we have people roaming Europe under the Dublin regulation, we will not solve the problem of people on the streets, many of whom are in this legal impasse,” said Henry, who has campaigned for reform of the city. Dublin. Regulation for years.

“Mass failure”

Henry believes that the reform and expansion of the camps was due to “massive failure.” “We must rethink the entire French reception system and make it worthy. The national reception system (ADN) is insufficient, ”he said.

Hundreds of migrants live in very precarious conditions on the streets of the Ile-de-France region. “We notice many people in great psychological distress, often linked to their living conditions in France,” said Paul Alauzy of MdM. Precariousness also causes tensions between migrants, he explained. MdM teams treat many injuries that occur after battles or attacks.

Two weeks ago (July 10), a Sudanese migrant even lost his life by drowning in the Saint-Denis canal. The cause of his fall is still unknown.

Henry said migrants were already living in urine and dirt on Boulevard de la Villette four years ago. “They were pushed back a few kilometers from Paris, towards the popular districts,” he noted.

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