A migrant under a camping tent in Porte de la Villette, Paris | Photo: InfoMigrants
A migrant under a camping tent in Porte de la Villette, Paris | Photo: InfoMigrants

Several migrant rights associations have asked French authorities not to evict officially recognized refugees who cannot find permanent accommodation. Under French law, the refugees have three months to move out of the asylum centers after their refugee status is approved.

In a joint communiqué, leading French migrant organizations including Emmaus Solidarité and France Terre d'Asile, last week asked the state to allow refugees to remain in their shelters after their asylum claims have been approved.

Under the current rules, residents have three months to leave their shelters after obtaining refugee status. These centers -- generally recognizable by acronyms like Cada, Huda and Pradha -- are reserved only for asylum seekers.

Bruno Morel, president of Emmaus Solidarité, says the pressure has increased since the beginning of the year. "At the beginning of 2019, the CHUM [emergency shelters for migrants] became Huda [centers for asylum-seekers]... and Huda [centers] were put under the French Interior Ministry, which puts a lot of pressure on occupants."

In other words, the ministry has been sending more and more "end of care" notifications to refugees approved in France or other EU countries as well as those whose asylum claims have been rejected.

At the end of the three months, "some associations managing centers receive instructions from the state to evict refugees and rejected claimants," NGOs complain. "Putting people back on the streets only feeds the homelessness and illegal camps in cities. It is totally contrary to refugee integration policies, which have been promoted as a national priority."

The associations are demanding that no refugee be forced to leave a shelter unless suitable alternate accommodation is provided.

Over the past three years, nearly 110,000 asylum seekers have been granted refugee status, according to France Terre d'Asile.

One social worker for 10 refugees

It is common for refugees who have just obtained their status to be unable to find other housing. They do not get places in the only centers reserved for them: the CPH (temporary accommodation centers), because they are overcrowded. According to the French NGO, Cimade, there are 7,000 places in temporary housing centers. "In the temporary accommodation centers, there is one social worker for 10 refugees," said Pierre Henry, director of France Terre d'Asile. "Just one intermediary to help refugees to integrate into society, find a job... that’s just not enough."

Many approved refugees, who have the same rights as French citizens, also do not know how to apply for lodgings from public housing offices. They find the French administrative system too complex. So, many remain in the centers.

For Henry, the situation is critical. "As there is not enough room for the number of refugees in France, they remain in emergency accommodation facilities reserved for asylum-seekers," he explains. "They do not find support adapted to their refugee profile."

In the Paris metropolitan area, the accommodation shortage is so acute that many live in camps. This winter, InfoMigrants met Yusuf, a 27-year-old Somali refugee living on the streets despite his refugee status. "Being a refugee does not really guarantee much. I slept for a while in a camp on Wilson Avenue in Saint-Denis [a suburb north of Paris]. We were evacuated by the authorities and sent to shelters. But once there, I was told that the place was only for the undocumented migrants, so I had to leave," he explained.

Aurélie Radisson, deputy director of a Caritas France center for asylum seekers and refugees  in Paris, is worried. "This situation is ugly because it’s a segment of society that particularly needs stability to start a new life and access employment," she said.


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