PARIS. FAMILIES CAMP BY THE BASIN DE LA VILLETTE.
Last night, several families and unaccompanied women spent the night next to the La Villette basin. In most cases these are families our association has been supporting for weeks, if not months. They ring 115 (the number for Samu social) everyday, but are never offered any solution.
Updated on the 28th of May: on Thursday morning the camp was evicted and its inhabitants were put in accommodation. Once again, this operation has led the public authorities and management groups to display their hypocrisy. Despite us having been alerting all the appropriate authorities about the situation of most of these families for the last two months, all it took was 30 hours of visibility for them to finally be granted accommodation. But this hasn’t stopped officials of the Paris city government, the prefecture of the Ile-de-France region and France Terre d’Asile from congratulating themselves on their ‘joint operation’.
Everyday, we alert the city council about their situations but nothing ever happens. Despite promises of an extended winter truce and of more accommodation spaces being opened up, families taken on by 115 have continued to be put back on the streets, and the overall number of people on the streets has increased.
During this period, the only accommodation solutions available to the families we support have been those to come out of grassroots solidarity initiatives. Vacant business premises or free parish rooms have allowed some to have shelter for the night.
The effects of this hostile policy are, unfortunately, commonplace, but over this exceptional period they have only been exacerbated.
Indeed no one will have been able to ignore, over the course of this unprecedented health crisis, the vast gulf between the narrative of solidarity spun by the public authorities and the absence of action taken to help the most disadvantaged.
This lockdown has highlighted France’s societal fracture. Whilst some have been able to remain at home, others have found themselves on the front line. It is the carers, the social workers, the delivery drivers, the immigrant workers and many others who have faced the full brunt of the pandemic.
It goes without saying that the migrants abandoned on the streets have also been hard hit. With administrative processes stalled, and food distributions interrupted, they have found themselves in a complete deadlock. The destruction of tents and other property has worsened progressively as the streets have emptied of potential witnesses.
As well as these repeated attacks on their dignity, the migrants have been pushed ever further into the outskirts of Paris, into ever more inaccessible and dangerous places, as part of a deliberate political move to invisibilise their situation.
These decisions have had disastrous direct consequences, as witnessed in the tragically high number of deaths by drowning that have occurred near camps in these last few weeks. Confronted by this state of affairs we had no choice but to move back into Paris, via this camp, in order to demand long-term accommodation for all.
Faced with the absence of action from public authorities, we must help advocate for those who have been left behind, now more than ever.