Statutory Refugees Sleep Rough in France
They obtained refugee status from the French State granting them international protection, yet they live on the streets. According to migrant rights associations, 15% to 20% of those living in makeshift camps around major cities in France are statutory refugees and the situation is worsening due to new provisions implemented by the French government. In a joint-statement issued on June 13, 2019 right associations denounced authorities' instructions to evict approved refugees from shelters three months after obtaining their status if they have not found suitable housing.
"The situation is particularly alarming in the region of Paris where 50% of asylum applications are concentrated, unfortunately it is happening in other major French cities too," according to Steve Irakoze, Eviction Policy Officer at La Cimade, who stated "the main issue remains the severe shortage in reception capacity. Many asylum seekers have found no place in the national reception scheme and end up living in squalid conditions on the streets. If they are ever granted refugee status, it will be unlikely that they make their way out of precariousness and find housing."
In 2018, 122 753 first-time applicants were registered at the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA). Another 35,900 more asylum seekers falling under the Dublin procedure will be added to that number since they needs to be accommodated until they are transferred to the Member State responsible for their application. However with only 86,592 places available to accommodate them under the National Reception Scheme, only 44% of asylum seekers effectively obtained accommodation last year. As a result every night thousands sleep rough in sprawling tent encampments under highway overpasses, in local playgrounds and parks around Paris area and many French cities.
In addition, once an application has been accepted, the change in legal status makes the person subject to Common Law and the state no longer has a legal obligation to house and accompany them. From then, people have three months to leave their shelters - these being reserved to asylum seekers only - without any solution being proposed.
NGOs claimed in a joint statement that the pressure has increased since the beginning of the year with clear instructions from the authorities to send more and more "end of care" notifications. "Putting people back on the streets only feeds the issue of homelessness and illegal camps in cities. It is totally contrary to refugee integration policies, which have been promoted as a national priority," stated the communiqué.
Between 2016 and 2018, France granted 110,000 people refugee protection status, who also received a 10-year residency card. However, many refugees are unable to find housing. The 37 Temporary Accommodation Centres (CPH) with 8,700 places reserved for recognised refugees are overcrowded. With similar rights to social benefits as French citizens, refugees should be able to apply for social housing but most of them find the French administrative system too complex.
The cumbersome administrative procedures and the absence of needs assessment are a barrier undermining their social and economic transition. "Tacked on to the shortage of accommodation is a shortage of social workers. Currently in CPH, there is approximately one social worker to help ten refugees integrating into society. That is just not enough. In other words, once they have the status, refugees are totally left by themselves. This situation is aberrational since they particularly need stability and support to start a new life and access employment," concludes Steve Irakoze.
«In July 2017, newly elected president Emmanuel Macron stated that he wanted refugees “off the streets, and out of the woods” by the end of the year. As on the campaign trail, he had said that France was honoured to welcome refugees. Nevertheless two years later, despite a slight increase in reception capacity, right groups stress that the government has not drawn yet any homogenisation plan for the National Reception Scheme, and rather ducks its responsibility onto the department authorities and migrant associations.
August 25, 2019 Categories: