Her baby could well be born and grow up there, in the middle of the tents, and that is her greatest fear. The Ivorian Ange, eight months pregnant, is one of the exiles to whom “even the street is forbidden”. She therefore sleeps hidden in a Parisian parking lot, transformed into a camp.
Every evening for several weeks, Ange, who has refused to give his name “not to worry the family”, rushes into the parking lot a stone’s throw from the Arc de Triomphe, painfully climbs the circular ramp reserved for cars and takes place in one of the forty tents on the platform, where around 70 migrants live out of sight.
An improvised kitchenette, two toilets, a few electrical outlets, a parking space that serves as a storage room for suitcases, some mounted on wheeled trolleys. Above all, a bearable temperature, while it is negative outside, on March 1st.
“It’s better than being outside,” sums up the 29-year-old, who has “always been on the street” since her arrival in France in December. “Being hosted is my greatest wish. But when I call 115 (the emergency number dedicated to the homeless, Editor’s note), I am told that it is full. »
The day before, for her pregnancy, she went to the Parisian hospital of Pitié Salpêtrière. “But the doctor can’t do anything. All I want is for my daughter not to sleep outside,” she said, sitting in her tent.
Photo Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP
” Dignity “
The place, made available to the Utopia 56 association by an individual, is as unusual as it is symptomatic of the “political will to + invisibilize + exiled people”, estimates Nikolaï Posner, a manager of the organization.
“It’s not a 4-star hotel, it’s a place of transition, which offers some dignity to these people (…) so that they can rest and focus on their reconstruction” , he justifies.
Utopia 56 believes that “police harassment is put in place so that people do not settle in public space”. “Today they are even forbidden to be on the street,” he denounces.
Photo Emmanuel DUNAND / AFP
The association estimates at “thousands” the number of exiles hidden in squats or places like this parking lot, since the dismantling of the camps in the north-east of Paris, synchronous with the will of the authorities to no longer let settle other “fixing points”, since 2020.
Result: “We are counting 400 migrants on the street at the moment in the Paris region, while arrivals remain significant. We are aware that it is very underestimated ”, agrees Delphine Rouilleault, director of France land of asylum, whose counts are a reference for the authorities.
A desire to “disperse” which is accompanied by another “reality”, abounds Pascal Brice, the boss of the Federation of Solidarity Actors (FAS), which brings together the main organizations helping the homeless: “ We have hotels that are putting an end to their emergency accommodation agreement and that are putting people back on the street in order to welcome visitors for the Olympic Games ”.
“Building a better reception requires a better distribution on the territory”, defends the director of the French Office for Immigration and Integration (Ofii) Didier Leschi, assuring that “75% of asylum seekers are placed safe”, including 1,800 people “directed to the region each month”.
The fact remains that hundreds of people remain without a solution, like Khadija Koné, a 26-year-old Ivorian mother. Every evening for two months, the same ritual: wandering the streets during the day, until the parking gate opens around 8 p.m.
“The street is very hard,” she mumbles, in the tent she shares with her 3-year-old daughter. His blue t-shirt, his khaki pants, his waistcoat is “all that (she) has”, after fleeing the “abuse” in Libya and Tunisia.
Sima Hamala, a 27-year-old Malian newcomer, finds that the place, as basic as it is, offers “the essentials: being sheltered, being able to rest, having a hot coffee”.
He too has only known the streets in Paris, with his wife, after a journey through Africa, the Mediterranean and Europe.
In April, the association will have to leave the parking lot.
Sima Hamala fears it: “If they close, it will be very, very difficult for us”.
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