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Migrant camp in front of Paris town hall draws attention to lack of housing

·2 min read

Hundreds of homeless migrants and their supporters pitched tents in front of Paris city hall on Thursday evening to demand concrete action over the lack of accommodation and the government's failure to help families in distress.

Around 300 people, mostly families from sub-Saharan Africa or minors, set up the 250 tents as the bells of the town hall were ringing at 8pm on Thursday.

"We are asking for them to be sheltered because for the last two or three weeks, we have not been able to cope," said Kerill Theurillat, a local leader of the Utopia56 association organising the operation.

"Our network of solidarity accommodation is completely saturated. We have alerted the Ile-de-France prefecture, but have had no response. We're hoping the town hall (PS) will support us."

"This policy of not welcoming exiled people is a choice," said Maël de Marcelus, also with Utopia56. "Everything is set up to discourage them, even if it goes against European values, their integration and human rights."

In a tweet, Utopia56 highlight the case of Marlene who cleans offices on the Champs-Elysées. She's been homeless, the association says, since arriving in France in 2016.

Among the other 300, 29-year-old Diabaté Bandiaba, from Cote d'Ivoire, was sharing a tent with her two-year-old daughter. She said she wanted to leave the cycle of looking for accommodation each day, just for just one night "before being put back outside".

Agnini Kouamé, father of a two-year-old girl born in France, said he was looking for a more long-term solution for a place to stay.

"Out on the streets, our child is always getting sick. We're here because we really have no choice," explained the 41-year-old who is also from Cote d'Ivoire.

A similar operation was organised on the City hall forecourt on 1 September last year.

And in March an operation was held in Paris's place de la Republique as part of a "night of solidarity".

In November, 2020, French police dismantled a huge camp near the Stade de France in the suburb of Saint-Denis, just north of Paris where more than 2,000 people, mostly migrants, had been living since August.

City Hall sent a letter on Wednesday to the regional prefecture drawing the state's attention to "the situation of asylum-seeking families without accommodation in Paris" adding that "a growing number [of cases] were being reported".

"To prevent this situation from continuing, and the risk of seeing large-scale encampments such as those that have existed in recent years in the north of Paris,we ask that the families be taken care of as soon as possible," wrote Ian Brossat, in charge of emergency accommodation at Paris City Hall.

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