Migrants stand by as police dismantle a makeshift tent camp in northern Paris. Photo: Paris
Migrants stand by as police dismantle a makeshift tent camp in northern Paris. Photo: Paris

The City of Paris has announced that it is opening the doors of its long-awaited “Refugee House”, an activity center aimed at migrants and refugees, in June. The center will house a library and a café, and offer a host of activities, including computer workshops and conversational French classes.

The center "is a symbol for Paris’ desire to stand out as a refugee city" and aims to be “a place of reference” in which migrants receive “a quality welcome,” Dominique Versini, an official at the City Hall’s solidarity unit, explained last week. On Monday, city officials revealed that the “Refugee House" is set to open in June. 

The center will initially be located on the ground floor of a building located in the 14th arrondissement which currently serves as an emergency shelter for families. The center, which will have 800 square meters at its disposal, will be fitted with a café and a library, and will host a string of activities such as computer workshops and conversational French classes.

Emmaüs solidarité, an arm of the Emmaüs France charity, and Singa, an NGO helping refugees find accommodation and employment, will be in charge of operating and managing the “Refugee House.”

“Everyone is welcome, regardless of a migrant’s administrative status,” Bruno Morel, a spokesman for Emmaüs solidarité, told InfoMigrants.

A meeting point

The aim is for the center to become a meeting point and a place where migrants feel they can come for information. “If a migrant wants to play sports, for example, we can point them to the activities and facilities offered by City Hall, or other sport associations. We can also help to guide them when it comes to job training programs or in finding jobs that fit their skills,” Morel said.

Four Emmaüs solidarité staff members will work there alongside volunteers and civic services personnel.

Within two years, the center will be transferred to the premises of a former hotel school located in the 19th arrondissement. At the height of the 2015 migrant crisis, the school was used as a migrant squat, but has since been transformed into an accommodation centre. “Refugee House” will occupy four of the building’s floors.

In recent week, Paris’ mayor, Anne Hidalgo, has increasingly expressed concern over the precarious situation that many of the city’s migrants find themselves in. She has slammed the government for its handling of the makeshift tent camps in the north of the capital. Although some 800 people were taken in and offered accommodation in a recent camp dismantlement operation, most NGOs doubt that it will stop new tent camps from popping up. 


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