After months of controversy around the emergence of makeshift camps around the Parisian suburbs and the well-being of the hundreds of refugees and families occupying these camps, the French capital has finally unveiled its response plan.
The city of Paris pledged on Monday millions of euros for its new refugee program, which it called “plan d’action de la communauté de Paris pour l’accueil des réfugiés” (English for “The mobilization of the Paris community for welcoming refugees”).
“Nothing indicates that these exiled arrivals fleeing war, dictatorship, slavery, misery will decrease [in number] in the short term,” said the Mairie de Paris in a statement on Monday.
Already supporting up to 3,000 migrants since June, the city’s program aims to help resettle the growing number of asylum seekers, and especially cater to the pressing demands of those most vulnerable, such as pregnant women, children and unaccompanied minors.
Partnering with key associations and NGOs such as the Red Cross, Femmes de la Terre, Sos Esclaves, the mairie vowed to open a center “specifically dedicated” to host children and vulnerable women, such as victims of human trafficking, by the end of October.
The plan also looks to mobilize “benevolent Parisians” who want to get engaged and help refugees.
The news comes at a time when reports about the rise in the number of young Syrian girls being forced into marriage have been making rounds in the media.
The number of Syrian girls forced into marriage “has tripled” since the conflict began in 2011, the Australian Broadcasting Company (ABC) quoted the international non-governmental organization CARE as saying.
According to UN estimates, more than four million people have fled the country, half of them are children.
UNICEF is requesting US $279 million (244 million euros) to “meet the humanitarian needs of crisis-affected children in Syria.”
But service and volunteer work is not foreign to the French society. According to a 2014 study, between 550,000 and 600,000 volunteer in service activities every year.
A student association, Sciences Po Refugee Help, which aims to “bridge the gap between those in need and those willing to act,” has been able to raise up to two thousand euros in two days through online crowd-funding.
Campaigning under the slogan, #TogetherWithRefugees, the group aims to raise 15.600 euros to provide material supplies and other basic needs for some of the asylum seekers arriving to Paris.
The young group, which was founded only a few weeks ago as a reaction to the blowing migrant crisis, has teams of volunteers visiting different camps around Paris and interacting in person with refugees, and documenting and communicating what they need to partner associations.
But the group’s work is proving difficult due to the constant evacuations and moving of refugees they work with.
“So, our work is on standby right now,” said Amélie Reichmuth, a member of the group and the head of the “Family Team,” a department dedicated to the needs of refugee families and children.
“We have not been able to really start working with the families as they were moved twice over the last weekends,” said Reichmuth, in reference to the refugees who occupied a makeshift camp near Porte de Saint-Ouen and were evacuated in the beginning of the month.
The group nonetheless has been improvising with the kind of help they could offer. A group of volunteers coordinated with a group of artists recently to “entertain” a dozen refugee children recently, said Noufel Bouzeboudja, another volunteer.
“Taking care of the kids is one of our major objectives.”