In Bagnolet, immigrant families no longer want to be invisible

Since Saturday, about 250 people, including many pregnant women and very young children, have been living in a camp near the Parc des Guilands, in Bagnolet, on the outskirts of Paris. In the face of saturated emergency services, they have been sleeping on the street for months, and they can no longer stand it. They no longer wanted to hide, they no longer wanted to pack up their tents every morning and demand permanent residence.

Straddling Montreuil and Bagnolet (Seine-Saint-Denis), Parc des Guilands soaked in heat, this Tuesday, July 12. On rue de l’Épine, a green bridge crosses the road that runs through the middle of the park. Over the bridge, on the lawns, families are looking for a little freshness in the shade of the trees and enjoying the holidays. Under the bridge, on the stack, there is no question of freshness. But the bridge’s shade is better than the tents whose canvas feels soft under the sun.

About 250 people have been living in this camp, in tents, since Saturday. Mainly families, some with children, pregnant women sometimes on the verge of ending.

About 250 people have been living in Banyole camp since 9 July 2022. Credit: InfoMigration

Some families are already sleeping on the side of this road for a month and a half, as part of the temporary shelters Utopia 56 provides to families without housing. “Generally, we get tents and blankets the next morning. But after Saturday’s demonstration, the families decided to stay in Bagnolet permanently,” explains the association’s coordinator in Paris, Pierre Maturin. More pickups every morning.

>> to read : After a demonstration in front of the Town Hall in Paris, African families on the street get temporary housing


Several NGOs and associations that help migrants, including Utopia 56, Médecins du Monde, Pantene Solidere and the Solidarité immigrant group Wilson, called for demonstrations on Saturday between the Ukrainian reception center, Porte de Versailles and the Ile-de-France province. “Demanding the state to provide the empty beds in this center for families on the street.” According to Pierre Mathurin, “between 300 and 500 places are left vacant every night” in the center of Porte de Versailles.

After the demonstration, the families decided to change their strategy and project themselves in the hope that they would be accommodated. “We don’t have a place to sleep, so we wanted to stay here. We’re tired of having to move all the time. We’re outside but at least we’re together,” says Nassara, a 24-year-old from Côte d’Ivoire, wearing a long blue dress with yellow flowers. .

>> to read: In northeastern Paris, migrants face an eternal return to the streets

“The place of families is not in a tent,” could we read on the white sheet hanging under the bridge. However, this has been the daily life of these families for months now. Christians are pregnant in the fifth month. This mother of a 5-year-old, who was educated in the 12th arrondissement, has lived in France for seven years and claims that she has not received stable housing. “We sleep outside and in the morning I take my son to school.”

Next to her is Mary, who is also from Ivory Coast, with her six-month-old baby in her lap. She arrived in France in February 2021, and was housed in more than two dozen hotels by 115. A few nights at a time. “There, I’ve been sleeping outside for three months,” says this young mother, her hair covered in an orange beaded cap.

“this is not fair”

Mary is not the only one who can no longer find a home. “The 115 didn’t give me a place in two months,” said Massandje, 22, who has been living in France with her husband and one-year-old son for two months.

Masande has been living in France with her husband and son for two months.  You find
Masande has been living in France with her husband and son for two months. She considers it “unfair” not to give accommodation, planned for Ukrainians but now free, to homeless families. Credit: Information Immigrants

The young woman participated in a demonstration on Saturday to demand equal treatment for all immigrants. “There are people who have been there for months and do not have housing. And the Ukrainians arrive and immediately they have housing. This is unfair,” she said angrily. We ask: If there are vacant places of residence, why are we on the street?

Since Saturday, the camp’s families have been living thanks to the solidarity of the area’s residents who stop regularly to drop refills of water bottles and food on the side of the road. But access to water and sanitation remains insufficient. Public toilets in the Parc des Guilands are not enough.

“The camp has grown rapidly and the mayor of Bagnolet is just starting to put his nose up, Pierre Mathurin regrets. His deputy told us his position is to oppose dry evacuation and to challenge territorial conservatism.”

It will likely be difficult for families to survive the heat wave in the next few days. In an effort to cool off, some left the roadside to join garden lawns and families on vacation.

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