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New refugee centre under construction in Paris

France has faced criticism for its handling of the refugee crisis [Getty]

Date of publication: 6 September, 2016

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Set to open in October, the centre will accommodate up to 400 people at any one time.
On Tuesday Paris’ mayor Anne Hidalgo announced the imminent opening of a fledgling reception centre for refugees in the French capital.

The centre, which has been commissioned with Europe’s refugee crisis in mind, is set to be built in a disused railway yard in northern Paris, and will accommodate up to 400 people catering exclusively for men travelling alone. It is scheduled to open in mid-October.

"They'll be able to rest, get a health checkup, psychological assistance and of course some advice about their situation," said Hidalgo at a news conference.

Visitors to the centre will be permitted to stay between 5 and 10 days before begin relocated to specific centres in other areas of France to process their asylum demands.

Hidalgo hopes that such measures will prevent those in need from taking refuge in squalid places around the French capital.

The new centre is set to be managed by Emmaus Solidarite, a nonprofit organisation focused on fighting poverty and homelessness.

According to French authorities around 15,000 people have been removed from the streets of Paris and given shelter since June 2015.

Some Paris residents have expressed scepticism and concern about the scheme. Seeking to assuage such worries Eric Lejoindre, mayor of the 18th district of Paris pledged the centre would be a “sober, clean, nice” place.

“Our goal is not to move the problem. It’s to solve it where we can,” said Lejoindre in comments published by the Associated Press.

The new $7.2 million shelter will be located close to Gare du Nord, the main Eurostar terminal linking Paris with London.
To date France has received only a small percentage of the million-plus refugees and migrants that have crossed into Europe in the last 18 months and faced criticism for its handling of the migrant crisis.

Many who have sought refuge in France have pointed to an acute shortage of accommodation for asylum seekers and a lack of job opportunities as deterrents to claiming asylum in the country. They have also faced animosity and abuse from local host communities.

One asylum seekers hostel set to open in October in the Essonne area south of Paris was set ablaze according to local investigators. Meanwhile, since June 2015 French authorities dismantled more than 20 informal camps around the French capital.

Hidalgo has previously been critical of the French government’s response to the refugee issue, accusing the state of failing to provide those seeking refuge from conflict and hardship “a fitting welcome.”

Hidalgo expressed the importance of establishing more reception centres “where migrants can rest and get a medical check-up and psychological help as well as advice on their status and what they can expect.”

In addition to the new Paris reception centre, a further facility for women and children, as well as families, is under construction in Ivry-sur-Seine, in southeast Paris.

“If we need to create other sites, we’ll do it,” said Hidalgo.

Agencies contributed to this report

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