Paris Refugee Crisis

The Paris Refugee Crisis is one of the least known refugee communities in Europe. Most people have heard of the Calais Jungle due to the huge and overwhelmingly negative coverage by European media however other places in France such as Paris and Dunkirk are not talked about on such a scale. And since the closure of the Calais Jungle in 2016 many people are under the false impression that there are no longer refugee camps in Europe. This could not be less true. As stated by the UNHCR, there are even more refugees and displaced people worldwide today than at the initial peak of the European Refugee Crisis in 2015.

Since the destruction of the Calais Jungle in October 2016 the 10,000 refugees who lived there were forcibly dispersed across France and nearby countries, thousands of whom made their way to Paris. The Paris Refugee Camps are unofficial settlements which at points are home to up to 4000 families, unaccompanied children, women and men living in tents and makeshift shacks with limited access to healthcare. Up to 20% of these people already have asylum in France but as there are very limited provisions for refugees at this point they are stuck living in the camps without financial or housing support. On the other hand, many of the refugees awaiting an asylum decision in France have had asylum claims rejected elsewhere in Europe and are therefore “Dublin”. This EU law, the Dublin Regulation, means lots of these people cannot access government help in France for up to 18 months, leaving them homeless with no social support and limited access to healthcare.

“No one leaves home unless home is the mouth of a shark” Warsan Shire, Home

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The government does not take responsibility for these street camps, only sometimes providing minimal sanitation facilities - portable toilets and outside taps which were never enough for the camp sizes – and only after significant pressure from NGOs and grassroots refugee support organisations. Because of this, the camps are unsanitary and exposed leaving refugees at risk of disease and vulnerable to violence from the public and the police – the after-effects of which we would see regularly in our clinic. The state also performs random evacuations of the camps which typically involves clearing the area by police force in the early hours of the morning, destroying all tents and living structures and sometimes temporarily housing refugees in sports halls and centres across France, sometimes not. As the camps have reappeared less and less due to the government finally providing longer term shelter for people these evacuations have become smaller operations but they still are performed regularly on any smaller camps that do settle. The housing given following evacuations would tend to last a few days before many people were told to leave and found themselves back on the street without any materials for shelter or the safety in numbers that the old camp provided.

Since 2021 state-run accommodation centres have finally been expanded providing shelter to most refugees in Paris however some refugees are still excluded and so forced to live in smaller, more vulnerable street camps and hidden squats. This means people who are not housed are now less visible for help to find them. For those housed in accommodation centres this shelter is temporary at best and could be withdrawn at any time.

This never-ending cycle of displacement achieves nothing but to cause even more mental and physical damage to the refugee population here and does not prevent new people from arriving, as to be a refugee is not a choice. No amount of hostility or aggression will stop people seeking safety as it cannot be worse than what they are running from.

Most of the support for refugees living in the Paris still comes from grassroots organisations and NGOs including food, clothing, medical aid and social and legal help. This is not only unfair but unnecessary. The state is obliged and able to provide this care but is choosing not to, as seen in many countries across the continent today — the hostile face of Europe.

Some of the other organisations in Paris:

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