France: organisation amongst the homeless

The treatment of the homeless, especially those who are immigrants the attitude of the French government, as does the resitance organised against it.

Submitted by jef costello on November 20, 2007

A familiar sight to many Parisians are the rows of people living in tents along the banks of the canal St Martin. They are homeless, mostly immigrants, mostly illegal. The tents are supplied by les enfants de Don Quichotte, an organisation that battles for the rights of homeless people. Initially there were only a small number of people, faced with harassment by police and private security guards they often had their tents and what little possessions they had taken from them. Numbers have grown and the encampment is now seen as semi-permanent. For now the police are choosing to leave them in peace.

Another encampment has been set up in central Paris, in rue de la banque, opposite the stock exchange. Attempts to settle the site were repeatedly broken up by police who confiscated tents and arrested or moved on those present. With the support of several organisations and their own determination they have succeeded in holding the site. Reports of numbers vary with anything between 140 people and 200 families present at night.

At least four people froze to death on the streets of France last week, with the government trying to cut costs and especially social budgets the numbers on the streets, and the numbers of those who suffer and die can only increase. There are an estimated 8000 officially homeless people in the Ile de France region with several hundred thousand in 'precarious situations' . Organisations such as DAL (right to housing) have taken an increasingly confrontational stance faced with an administration that is at best unhelpful.

Salauds de Pauvre (poor bastards) has stated that a new encampment will be set up at the Gare d'Austerlitz, with tents supplied. Many homeless are expected to try to take possession of the area.

Student strikers at the Tolbiac campus in Paris invited the homeless and badly housed to join them in the university buildings. The students have since been forced out of the buoildings at least twice by riot polie using tear gas and batons.

In France due to the treve d'hiver it is illegal to evict someone from the end of October until mid-March, which always provokes a rash of evictions from September. The French government has also been accused of trying to deport as many of the estimated 2-3000 Roma in the Ile de France region before the treve d'hiver began. In many cases the police arrive at encampments with ready-signed 'notices to quit French territory' which is an abuse of due process and then give a humanitarian payment of 154 (45 for children) to pay for repatriation, this payment is again designed to be made after appeals and hearings rather than during de facto deportations. After clearing the sites of people the police, assisted by private security guards do their best to destroy the entire camp to prevent others from using the site.