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Schools, Hotels in Paris Converted into Housing for Migrants

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Schools emptied because Whites have few children; White woman devotes her life to helping and teaching Blacks

BEFORE THE Taliban forced him to flee Afghanistan, Younis exported flowers to the United Arab Emirates and China. (ILLUSTRATION: Camille Arrignon (in yellow) gives a French lesson to migrants who are staying on the grounds of the Guillaume-Bude secondary school building in Paris. About 200 migrants are living there.)

The 30-year-old crossed Iran, Turkey and much of Europe before arriving in Paris a month ago, a brutal journey that left him with a discolored lesion on his ankle and a swollen leg. After weeks living on the banks of the Seine, Younis — who gave only his first name because his asylum application is still being processed — now sleeps in a former Paris high school that had been vacant, one of about 200 migrants living there.

Paris is turning a blind eye to humanitarian groups converting abandoned public buildings like the school into migrant centers, recognizing that the 1,000 official emergency housing spots Paris has created since June are not enough to shelter all migrants left without a roof, Paris’ deputy mayor, Bruno Julliard, told French radio.

The school’s classrooms are lined with sleeping bags atop makeshift cardboard mattresses. Migrants drink instant coffee and eat meals concocted from donated ingredients. It’s bare-bones, but migrants, activists and many city officials agree it’s better than being on the streets.

The asphalt courtyard echoes with myriad languages as migrants kick soccer balls, play cards, or paint murals on the school’s peeling walls. Younis studies, writing French in meticulous cursive next to translations in his native Dari. The alphabet is different and the sounds are foreign, but he said the real challenge is that “I don’t have a job or a place to stay, I can’t read, I can’t focus.”

France has approximately 25,000 beds designated for asylum seekers, a number far short of the needs of the nearly 70,000 who applied for asylum in the country last year, part of what Julliard called the “unprecedented migrant crisis” facing Europe.

He said allowing migrants to stay in empty buildings is a “pragmatic” way to lodge people France cannot send back home, because deporting them to conflict zones would violate international human rights conventions.

French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve announced in June that France would create 11,000 new housing centers for asylum seekers by next year. But Paris, in partnership with the national government, “needs to do more,” Julliard said. That’s why the city is allowing migrants to stay in city property like the former school, at least for now.

A former hotel in southern Paris also took in approximately 200 migrants last week. A variety of aid groups work together to manage the stopgap centers.

Camille Arrignon, 23, teaches the French classes Younis attends. She said migrants need more than a room. “I want to defend them not because of politics,” she said, “but because they are humans.“

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Source: Associated Press

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