Below is an eye witness account from one of our volunteers on the ground
Last Friday saw the first 70 people processed and released by the Porte De La Chappele "Welcome Centre". Having visited the centre we saw that the conditions provided are good. The centre offers legal advice, medical care, social workers and a few days shelter under a roof, a bed to sleep in and hot food. An all important break from the bitter city streets.
People queue outside of the centre from about 2.30am with the hope of getting inside to gain access to these services.
Last week around 200 people were waiting on the road outside the centre at 7am. As the admittance volunteers got ready to accept people, there was a rush to be the first in line. The police at the gates responded with batons and tear gas.
New arrivals to Paris are numbering around 100 a day. The Welcome centre is restricted to accept 40 people a day. With 60 + people not gaining access along with those already on the streets, there are many left outside somewhere in the city.
These people are living in the streets under constant and tiring harassment by the police. When a person has found a doorway or a dark corner to sleep in, they are searched for, found and moved-on. Over and over again. All night, most nights. Whilst being moved-on all over the city they are increasingly vulnerable to the dangers of the dark city nights. Not to mention the temperatures dropping below zero.
The need now is a constant supply of aid from funders and donors. This is because it is becoming increasingly visible that new arrivals to France from across Europe are still crossing borders and ending upon in Paris. The people who have chosen to leave the CAOs (centres) that they were taken to after the closure of the Calais jungle, they are still arriving. People tired and scared of being chased around the city streets of Calais are finding their way to Paris. And people who have been arrested and detained for sleeping/walking/sitting/standing in the streets are at various points released and also find themselves in Paris.It was declared in the media that the evacuation a few weeks ago was a "success!"
We have seen differently.
The numbers on the street have inevitably risen to the point where a new street camp has emerged and is obviously and rapidly growing.
We need aid.
We are, in only a few short weeks back to frantically asking for:
-Tents, Sleeping bags, roll mats and blankets
-Thermal underwear vests and long johns and socks.
-Mens small to medium underwear.
-Mens small to medium Warm Winter clothes
-Winter boots and shoes, sizes 39 to 46 (especially 42 and 43)
-GLOVES, hats and scarves.
- Emergency space/heat blankets and sleeping bags.
-cold and flu survival kits.
- mini torches
-Phones, chargers, power banks and sim cards. And credit (phone credit for refugees and displaced people)
The unrelenting hostility from the police, the government, the unsupportive far-right residents, dire living conditions in winter weather and the trappings of a dark inner city culture is taking its toll on these people. Some fall into an abyss of sorrow and pain in these dark times. These people look broken. Others somehow manage to get through every day and night of hardship with humour, kindness and dignity. It must take a herculean effort.
Every night we see how the system in place is failing these people and failing to learn from its mistakes. It should be a fore gone conclusion by now that the numbers will continue to rise and there will be more street camps as a result.