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. The following day, Prosper volunteer Danika Jurisic provided this testimony on inhumane conditions for over 1200 people at a refugee camp at Eole Garden in between the 18th and 19th Arrondisements.
Danika has been in Paris for over three years now, and has gone through the refugee experience herself She is well equipped to help people understand their legal rights and also helps bring families to medical appointments, and coordinate food distribution efforts. Perhaps most importantly, Danika has been publicly telling the story of "Paris's forgotten refugees".
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.
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.
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.