LONDON (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - As France prepares to shut down a swollen shanty town dubbed the ‘jungle’ near Calais, Paris will open its first official migrant camp this month to tackle the growing number of migrants and asylum-seekers sleeping rough on the French capital’s streets.
Since June 2015, the authorities have cleared 27 makeshift camps - housing more than 10,000 people - in Paris alone, said Bruno Morel, head of Emmaüs Solidarité, the charity that will manage the Paris migrant camp.
“People had nowhere to go while they waited for a more permanent housing solution,” he added. “So they would spend days, even weeks, on the streets in deplorable conditions.”
While France has been much less affected by Europe’s migrant crisis than neighbouring Germany, thousands of asylum seekers use it as a transit point in the hope of reaching Britain.
The first camp will house men for up to 10 days in the north of Paris, while women and children will be directed to another centre to open before the end of the year in the southeastern suburb of Ivry-sur-Seine.
“The Paris camp will give immediate shelter – a bed, a shower and hot food – to approximately 400 men,” Morel told the Thomson Reuters Foundation by phone from Paris.
The camp will include eight “islands”, as Morel called them, with a kitchen and wooden huts housing up to four people each, he said.
Each hut will have storage space and a phone charger, while separate cabins will be equipped with showers and sinks. A health pod will also provide emergency treatment where needed.
“We adopted a modular design, so that we could build the camp or dismantle it easily,” Morel said. He said the camp would likely need to move in 18 months, to make way for a new university in the area.
A recent drop-in session to present the project to potential volunteers attracted 250 people, he said.
“I‘m very encouraged by this civic engagement – it’s the best response we can give to fear-mongering about refugees and migrants.”
Deadly attacks by Islamist militants - including bombings and shootings in Paris last November and a truck attack in Nice in July - have raised tensions between communities in France. The anti-immigrant National Front party has gained popularity in recent years.
President Francois Hollande announced in September that France will completely shut down the migrant camp in Calais by year-end and disperse the migrants across the country.
Morel said that the Paris camps “won’t solve the migrant crisis, but we hope they’ll give people back some dignity.”
Reporting by Zoe Tabary, editing by Ros Russell. Please credit the Thomson Reuters Foundation, the charitable arm of Thomson Reuters, that covers humanitarian news, climate change, women's rights, trafficking and property rights. Visit news.trust.org