In the middle of the afternoon of Monday, January 2, 2017, the police intervened in rue Pajol in the 18th arrondissement of Paris. This street homes several dozen exiles who regularly sleep here because they could not find anywhere better. They were given the order to relinquish their blankets and sleeping bags, which they were supposed to drop to the ground.
After the police had done their job, cleaners employed by Paris town council collected all these belongings and hauled dozens of sleeping bags, blankets, and duvets into the dump. Within minutes, sixty people were left with nothing, even though the temperature suffers a massive drop with nightfall. It seems to have been decided that they should be deprived of everything, even of this last bulwark against the cold, rain and wind, because they could not enter the La Chapelle Humanitarian Centre. Of these people on the street, some had been trying for several days in a row to gain access to the centre, but were always unsuccessful due to the queues. In fact, hundreds of them find themselves in front of the centre every day, and many of them are forced to sleep in the makeshift beds set up all around the building, tolerated on the sole condition that they remain unseen.
Almost a daily event in Paris, the sole object of this harassment seems to be to remove refugees from the sight of Parisians. Already, on Friday, December 30, the same scenario had taken place, and it was repeated all week, always causing the same effects: vulnerable human beings, left on the street, and after being stripped by the law enforcement forces, rendered even more vulnerable.
We vigorously refuse such an abominable and inhuman treatment of people dramatically thrown onto the roads of exile, exhausted by the thousands of kilometres they have travelled, the suffering and fear they have experienced, and who find themselves outside due to the asylum-related care system being saturated. The undeniable effort made to host many refugees cannot excuse the shortcomings of the arrangements currently in place which are only the application of the Geneva Protocol by a democratic country. In any case, nothing can justify the voluntary endangerment of a population in need of protection who ask for a safe haven that they are entitled to expect from a state and a city.
We denounce the decisions taken by the Prefecture of Police of Paris which, under the guise of preserving public order, flout elementary human rights as well as the values of our republican motto. It is shameful that state officials and city agents are employed in this kind of "dirty work" when this kind of dramatic situation should remind everyone of the duty of elementary solidarity. We will no longer bear silent witness to strategies that add cruelty to the indifference in which the refugees have been held for months.
The Breakfast at Flandres collective has brought together nearly 170 inhabitants of the Flanders, Aeolus and Pajol districts in the 18th and 19th arrondissement of Paris for over a year now. Their aim is to give the refugees a daily breakfast, to inform them, to orient them and to put them in relation with all the contacts likely to help them with their needs. Above all, each of its members is keen to show a welcoming face to these destitute, discouraged and harassed people. Its work is financed entirely by donations and in the last few weeks it has provided winter kits including blankets and duvets to refugees who sleep outside in below zero temperatures. The necessity of the collective reveals the shortcomings of care systems and, more generally, those of the public authorities. The hostility and inhumanity of police actions, which deepen gaps rather than filling them, and which undo acts of solidarity, seem to us incomprehensible and arouses our indignation, anger, and that of many of our fellow citizens.
We urge that the harassment of refugees left in the street immediately cease, that sheltering solutions be found for all those who request it, or else failure to provide assistance to persons at risk should be invoked. Finally, it seems imperative that every effort should be made to ensure that the flow of those who pass through our country or seek refuge here, particularly in Paris, be the subject of courageous public policies that take into account the scale of the phenomenon and treat individuals with dignity, as human beings, in order for France to be worthy of the trust placed in her by those who decide to leave everything to seek a better future.