In the past 12 months, authorities have carried out more than 1,000 evictions from makeshift shelters across France, according to a new report. Aid groups warn that the evictions only worsen the situation for those whose homes are dismantled.
According to the report, 86% of evictions took place on the north coast of France, mainly in Calais and Grande-Synthe and surrounding areas, where the authorities dismantled “tent groups” almost daily. The report also identifies the north-east of Paris, where hundreds of migrants have set up illegal tent camps in recent years, as the main target of eviction, as well as the slums of the Grande Île-de-France, Nantes and Bordeaux. .
Aid groups say the evictions, which took place amid the COVID-19 pandemic, only worsen France’s inadequate housing problems.
InfoMigrants spoke with Orane Lamas, who heads Doctors of the World’s health program for people living in inadequate housing conditions.
InfoMigrants: According to the report, an average of 388 people are evicted every day from their makeshift home in mainland France. What do you think about this?
Orane Lamas: Taking into account the lockdown of COVID-19 and the extension of the winter truce [French authorities are not allowed to evict people during the coldest months of the year. The winter truce was extended until July 10 this year due to the pandemic, eds note], you would have thought we were going to see a significant decrease in evictions this year. But despite the COVID-19 crisis, evictions resumed when the state of emergency ended in July. In October, and despite the fact that the number of new COVID-19 infections was rising sharply, authorities stepped up evictions, which they usually do at this time of year. [ahead of the winter truce].
In the end, there isn’t much improvement over last year: 1,159 evictions were carried out between November 2018 and October 2019 compared to 1,079 in the past 12 months. It is not a big difference.
So we wonder why? Of course, an eviction takes place after being ordered by a court or a municipal decree in order to reclaim land that has been occupied, or is simply considered too dangerous for people to live on, but there is also a some degree of discrimination. here.
How are people affected by these evictions?
Orane Lamas: Apart from the trauma of being evicted, 84% of these evictions do not result in rehousing solutions offered to people. Evictions therefore do not solve anything. Quite the contrary.
Those evicted are left without a roof over their heads. They try to find a new place to set up camp and avoid getting caught [and thereby avoid getting evicted again]. They look for the hardest to find areas. Most of the time, these places are difficult to reach by car, and there is no access to running water or other essentials. Some of these places can even be dangerous, which is the case for the Saint-Denis camp [on the northeastern outskirts of Paris] which is located next to the highway. Thus, these people become more and more invisible and find themselves more and more distant from the city, its community and its services.
It also means that they have less access to health care and other services to which they are entitled. For help groups, it can sometimes be difficult to find these people. Expelling people means you disperse them. A person who lives in Seine-Saint-Denis, for example, could suddenly find himself on the other side of the Ile-de-France. In these cases, all the work that one help group could have done to help that person is lost, and another help group must start from scratch to help the person.
For children, an expulsion can mean that their education is interrupted: if they find themselves far from their place of residence, they risk not being able to go to school.
And, in 44% of cases, people’s property is destroyed or confiscated during an eviction. For some people, a tent or blanket is all they own. We don’t understand the point of these kinds of destruction… Ultimately, these evictions only make things worse for people.
How to avoid these situations?
Orane Lamas: We must help these people, already before they are expelled, so that they can get back on their feet. In 2018, the government instructed the country’s prefects to put in place strategies to eliminate slums in their regions. The idea was to act in a preventive manner and thus avoid the reconstruction of these slums.
But the problem is that the order is only focused on people who come from the European Union. People outside the European Union were not taken into account at all.
The question then becomes: how do you deal with a slum population made up of different nationalities? Will Moldovans or other non-European citizens be treated in the same way as, for example, Romanians?