Associations take over the building of central Paris to house immigrants. “We rest a bit before we return to the life of homelessness”

In the center of the capital, Paris, local associations took over an abandoned building last Monday, with the aim of transforming it into a place that welcomes migrants who are tired of the life of homelessness in the informal settlements. The place now houses 80 immigrants, a sense of comfort prevails among them, but some question the continuity of the place, for fear that the authorities will evict them.

Since last Monday, April 18, Jibril has left his tent and is sleeping for the first time since arriving in France under one roof last month. The 24-year-old Nigerian has only just seen a life of homelessness in the squatter camps north of Paris, but his daily routine has begun to change since local associations took over an abandoned building in the center of the capital.

Gabriel was present from day one that activists, from various associations, notably “La Chapelle Dubeaux”, entered an abandoned building, formerly the headquarters of an American company, for at least three years with the aim of to transform a place. welcoming immigrants to Paris, especially with the problems they face.You face them when they complete their administrative procedures and find accommodation in the overcrowded city. Activists also hope to establish a project at this location that will send messages against racism and demand the state to regulate the situation of those who do not have residence documents.

In the middle of the capital, Paris, between several shops, restaurants and Parisian buildings with Ottoman architecture, asylum seeker Gabriel spends his nights in the five-storey building with about 80 other migrants, mainly from Sudan, Eritrea, Somalia, Mauritania and Mali.

The ground floor, which overlooks a small backyard, has been designated as a common meeting place. To the right, a small hall turned into a place to store food and basic items such as blankets and cleaning supplies, and across from it was a small kitchenette, while the other floors were designated as bedrooms. The walls were filled with papers to organize the daily work in the building, such as cleaning and arrangement, in addition to information on the dates of the passage of volunteer doctors from the Médecins du Monde organization.

While residents feel comfortable getting rid of the homeless life on the street, some are skeptical about the continuity of the place.

“You can focus on nothing if you live on the street.”

Gabriel arrived in France about a month ago, after crossing the Mediterranean Sea on a shaky wooden boat from Libya. The tall young man says in a low voice: “Fortunately, the SOS Mediterranean ship ‘Ocean Viking’ saved us from sinking.” taken to Italy. From there, the young man decided to continue his journey, as he had spent six years in Chad, where he learned the French language. “I started my university studies at the Faculty of Law, but the circumstances were not suitable for me to stay there. , so I went to Libya in the hope of reaching Europe. “

Young Jibril on the ground floor of the building taken over by associations. Photo: immigrantnews

As he sits on a small plastic chair, his face changes and begins to lighten as he finishes remembering what he went through before finally reaching Paris and finding a place in the new construction, “I spent a month under the La Chapelle- “bridge spent and slept in. a tent, the police constantly came and kicked us out, sometimes they came At one o’clock in the morning, life is very difficult on the street.”

Between his shy smile and his faint voice, perfectly in tune with the peace of the place, he repeats the same sentence: “You can focus on nothing if you live on the street. You only think about where you are going to sleep, what you are going to eat That’s it. ” The young man is currently waiting for the official date to complete the asylum procedure, “they gave me the material aid card, but so far I have not received any money.” “.

Ready to go back to the homeless life

Behind the twenty-one young man, Abira and Gus, sit next to the glass facade of the building overlooking a restaurant serving Asian food, and unlike Gabriel, the young Ethiopian, Abira, is not entirely convinced that they will can not stay. long in this building, “I do not feel really settled, it’s definitely good that we’re here, but we’re sleeping on the floor, there are no beds and we do not know when the police are going to kick us out.”

The 33-year-old, who has arrived in France since 2019, applied for asylum and received a second rejection decision from the Court of Appeal two months ago. “Sleeping in the street is an essential part of the culture of this city, but we will rest a bit here before we return to street life,” he continues, sarcastically in his red jacket. He and his Eritrean friend Gus laugh .

Young Ethiopian Abira has been living in France for three years.  Photo: immigrantnews
Young Ethiopian Abira has been living in France for three years. Photo: immigrantnews

Although the administrative situation of the young man in his thirties, Jos, is much better than that of Abera, he suffers from the same issue. “The OFPRA office approved my asylum application two months ago, but the government authorities did not provide me with any housing solution. “They told me there were no places in the shelters.”

At the same time, the two young men add: “We are ready for the police to come, and we are ready to go back to the life of displacement in the camps.”

“Limited places”

In front of the entrance of the building, on top of a canvas that reads: “Migrants’ lives deserve justice,” an activist from the association talks to a young Malian and apologizes for the lack of available spaces inside. The activist in La Chapelle Dubeau says with regret: “Space is limited, no We can welcome everyone.” Activists are eager to run the place and stay calm.

The young man adds: “Our work is sometimes difficult and sensitive, but if we open the doors, the number will quickly double. We want to receive these people with dignity.”

This is not the first time that associations have taken over public buildings or squares to expose state policies and the lack of housing for immigrants in the capital, Paris, with new and sustainable host solutions.

The associations are benefiting from the current election period, and are counting on the police not to evict them. One of the activists says, “The police came more than once, but they treated us well and did not ask us to leave. not. But next Sunday, April 24, the second round of elections ends, so the question remains whether the authorities will decide to evacuate the place by force.

While the activists are talking to the MigrantNews team, a young Eritrean man comes to ask for help. He has been leading a homeless life on the streets of Paris for a year and a half, but like a young Malian man he has disappointed went out and went back to sleep in the La Chapelle camps.

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