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Paris, City of Blight, City of Forgotten Refugees

Today marks the first in the Prosper series, “Voices from the Field” in which we’ll share direct testimonies from refugee aid volunteers in various parts of the world. Some of these are individuals who have been going back and forth to Greece. Others have moved to indefinitely to “hotspot” areas or contribute remotely online. These testimonies are essential communication in the informal international solidarity network that has arisen in the past nine months. Most of this reporting takes place on Facebook, which leads to the inevitable problem of preaching to the converted. “Voice from the Field” will widen the audience for these stories.

We begin with Prosper volunteer Danika Jurisic who provides this testimony on inhumane conditions for over 1200 people at a refugee camp at Eole Garden in between the 18th and 19th Arrondisements. On Tuesday May 31, Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo made international headlines by announcing plans for a new “humanitarian” refugee camp to be built in the North of Paris. This post was written the following day

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It has been almost 30 days since this refugee camp at Eole Garden was created.

It started small, with ten to twenty people, the ones who were left behind after the evacuation of the camp known as Stalingrad 3. Before, we had the time and energy to sit and talk with people, to encourage them, to get to know them. We formed a connection with them. Now, in the midst of almost 1,000 lost people, I can barely distinguish their faces.

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There are hundreds of tents, but only two urinals and six toilet booths. The smell is unbearable, and the conditions are shameful. People are living in the mud, constantly assaulted by rain and cold even though it is early June. I gave someone a winter jacket today, and I saw many people without shoes. Cases of tuberculosis were documented this week.

Those refugees who I consider to be my friends feel forgotten.

They are getting louder and more unpredictable by the day, driven by the basic need to be seen, to be heard, to be part of society. They blocked the road in front of the camp today, as they had the day before. It was an act of despair, a silly and desperate act that seemed more like the tantrum of an angry child than serious disobedience.

Their power starts and ends there: when they refuse to wait in line, when they ask for more blankets, when they place a garbage container in the middle of the street.
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We are all tired. It has been almost thirty days without any action by the authorities. We are all at the end of our strength, our tolerance, our limits.

Our Parisian mayor Anne Hidalgo promised us a new camp just days ago, after months of ignoring lives being lived on the street, in cold, inhumane conditions.

I welcome that initiative, and feel all can be forgiven. Just show us an act of decency, of humanity.

We all need it.

Note, on Monday, June 6 the camp was evacuated. For more information, or to volunteer, please contact People to People Solidarity—Paris Camps or Care for Calais.

Danica Mracevic Jurisic

Read more posts by this author.

Paris, France

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