Migrants living in the Villemin garden, Paris, June 2021 | Photo: Utopia 56
Migrants living in the Villemin garden, Paris, June 2021 | Photo: Utopia 56

Many asylum seekers in Europe share similar experiences of spending years on the streets and bouncing between different countries in the European Union, unable to obtain official status and to start rebuilding their lives. InfoMigrants spoke to several migrants who are currently in Paris.

InfoMigrants met with a number of migrants who were temporarily living in the Villemin garden in Paris during the first days of June. They shared their personal experiences about life on the move in Europe. 

Hussein, 27, from Afghanistan: 'This life is hell'

"I arrived in France at the end of 2015 but my asylum application was rejected a few months later. I left France and went to Luxembourg, but I could not file for asylum as I did not speak the language and I could not make myself understood. I decided to try my luck in Spain, but everything was complicated there too.

So I came back to France three weeks ago. I have applied for asylum again and I am waiting to get called up for my meeting at Ofpra (French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons).

I have been living on the street since my return to Paris. I went to the rally in Place de la République on 25 May to be assigned to official accommodation. But there were not enough places, so I slept in the Villemin garden for a while.

It's been more than six years since I left Afghanistan, but I still haven't managed to get a residence permit in Europe. It's hard to believe that I have spent all these years on the street. I can see that my situation is getting worse every day. If I don't manage to get official papers and find a place to live, I will have to go back to my country. I think in the end I would rather die in Afghanistan than continue living this way. This life is hell."

Also read: Migrants in Paris: 'Sometimes we leave without having eaten for the day'

Kami, 29, from Somalia: 'I want to regain faith in humanity'

"My application for asylum was refused by Ofpra and I have to go back to Italy. But the living conditions there are much worse than here so I prefer to stay in France.

I have been living in Paris for almost two years. I have been given emergency accommodation several times but it is always a temporary solution. Each time, I had to go back to the street. I participated in the rally in Place de la République on 25 May to ask for better living conditions. All I want is to have a proper shelter, and not to have to worry all the time about rain, police and rats. I want to regain my faith in humanity."

Also read: In Paris, a gamble on shared housing between refugees and French citizens has paid off

Abdo, 38, from Yemen: 'I have been living on the street for more than 15 years'

"Since I arrived in Europe in 2004, I have visited almost every country in the European Union. My journey officially started in the Netherlands. I lived for three years on the streets of Amsterdam. I preferred to leave because I had no chance to survive in this country.

In 2007, I went to the United Kingdom. But after two years there, I was sent back to the Netherlands. A few years later I went to France, then to Germany and Norway. It was always the same: I was running away from the police for fear of being deported to the Netherlands again.

Now I am back in France again. I have been living in the streets of Europe for more than 15 years.

I went to the demonstration at the Place de la République, but, honestly, I don't think it will change our daily life. I'm afraid that the authorities will put us in a gym for a few weeks and then send us back to the streets again. It's always like that.

The associations are doing a great job, I am grateful to them for that, but it is not enough. I am appalled by the way the European Union considers us and treats us. All this is not managed in a humanitarian way."

Also read: Paris: 'Requisitioning' accommodation for the homeless at a city hospital

Saied, 34, from Sudan: 'The street changes people'

"I fled the war in Sudan in 2016 and traveled through Libya, Italy and France. I spent most of the last few years on the street, despite getting my official refugee status in 2019.

The street changes people, you become a new person and not necessarily a better one. I am grateful to the associations for their support but they can unfortunately only provide bread and coffee. I hope that the authorities will bring us to suitable shelters, both statutory refugees like me, and people whose asylum applications have been rejected. We are all human beings and we all deserve good treatment.

Since my arrival in France, I have met many good people who have expressed compassion towards me. Most tell me that the migration issue in France, and in the European Union, is actually a political issue. This is the reality, but why should we pay for a problem that is beyond us?"

Also read: 'We do what the state doesn't do': Surviving a Paris squat filled with tents

Abdulrahman, 31, from Yemen: 'I feel like I've lost control of my life'

"I have been in France for two years, after spending time in Germany. But I want to build my life in England because I have family there and also because my experiences in France have been bad. I didn't expect to be treated this way, it has nothing to do with what we were told about France when we were kids.

My application for asylum has been rejected and I can't go back to Yemen. What should I do? I feel like I've lost control of my life. I don't think I can ever have a normal life again."


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