An aerial view of the Grande-Synthe camp |Credit: Solidarity Border
An aerial view of the Grande-Synthe camp |Credit: Solidarity Border

Last week the police installed water taps, showers and toilets near the migrant camp in Grande-Synthe after having been ordered to do so by the Council of State. Relief groups welcome the new facilities but say there aren't enough of them.

It's a victory for migrant aid organizations in northern France: Water distribution points, showers and toilets were finally installed by the Northern Prefecture near a migrant camp next to a gymnasium in Grande-Synthe, where more than 900 people, mainly Iraqi Kurds, live.

Aid groups had been asking for months that the facilities be set up and had even referred the matter to the Council of State, which, on June 21 ordered the prefecture to install "a sufficient number" of them within eight days.

'A dozen showers for 900 migrants is not enough'

Éric Etienne, the deputy prefect of Dunkirk, told AFP that the sanitary facilities - 25 toilets, a drinking water distribution point with eight spigots, a sink and six showers - were set up in a field near the gymnasium on June 28.

The facilities were to be supplemented this week with an additional five showers, four toilets, two faucets and another urinal, the deputy prefect said.

The Prfecture du Nord has installed showers toilets and water taps near the Grande-Synthe camp Credit Solidarity border

Aid groups welcomed the new sanitary facilities but say they are insufficient. "It's too little. Even if they add 15 more showers, it still won't be enough. About ten showers for 900 migrants, can you imagine?" Akim Toualbia, president of the group Solidarity Border, told InfoMigrants. "Not everyone will be able to shower."

What’s more, the showers are only available from 10 am to 11 am and from 2 pm to 4 pm, just three hours a day, according to Solidarity Border. "We need to increase the number of showers and extend the hours of access," Toualbia said.

The facilities created a 'gathering point'

The organizations also complain that the toilets, open 24 hours a day, are not lit. "Migrants do not go there at night, especially women, because they fear for their safety," Toualibia said.

The deputy prefect asserted that the installation of the facilities "has created a gathering point for those who want to take advantage of it," scandalizing the relief groups working there.

"The prefect says that the camp has gone from 600 migrants to 900 in a few days, but that is completely false," Toualbia said. The number of migrants has been stable for several weeks, he said.

"Iraqis have come en masse to Grande-Synthe since the showers were put in, obviously," Claire Millot of the Salam association told InfoMigrants with irony.

In addition to showers, water points and toilets, the Council of State had ordered the prefecture to "set up information patrols (...) during which documents will be distributed to migrants in their primary languages, including Sorani (a Kurdish dialect), to inform them of their rights." The prefecture maintains that these patrols are conducted every day.


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