For Newly Arrived Migrants, Paris Offers An Upgraded Welcome : Parallels It's taken a while, but Paris finally has a safe place for migrants congregating in the city. A new facility has been opened which offers asylum seekers showers, medical care and a bed.

For Newly Arrived Migrants, Paris Offers An Upgraded Welcome

  • Download
  • <iframe src="https://www.npr.org/player/embed/503348490/503361331" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Paris has opened a refugee camp that is different from other such camps. It's designed to give migrants dignity and to help facilitate their path in applying for asylum. As NPR's Eleanor Beardsley reports, the new camp is now home to men who had been living in bad conditions on the streets of the city.

ELEANOR BEARDSLEY, BYLINE: The bank of 50 washing machines and dryers humming away is just one of the welcome signs in this new Paris camp. Next to the washing facilities is a clothing depository where volunteers give newly-arrived migrants sweaters and coats.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: We're going to have a lot of shoes.

SADIQUE ULA MALAGZAI: (Unintelligible).

BEARDSLEY: One worker is trying to fit Afghan Sadique Ula Malagzai with shoes. The young man wears a flip-flop on one foot and a puffy white bandage on the other. Malagzai walked to Paris from Italy.

MALAGZAI: I am walking. The shoe is hurting me. And when I lose shoes, my foot is injured.

BEARDSLEY: And did you get good care here? How is this place?

MALAGZAI: It is good. The people are so polite, and they respect us. We are happy here.

BEARDSLEY: And how long will you stay here?

MALAGZAI: Forever.

BEARDSLEY: The city of Paris, the French state and humanitarian groups came together to build the facility, which they call a welcome center, not a refugee camp. It's located in an unused industrial site in the north of the city and can shelter up to 600 single men. Patrick Vieillescazes is with the Paris police department, which is also involved. He says the center is a response to the thousands of migrants who've been coming to the French capital from places like Sudan, Eritrea and Afghanistan.

PATRICK VIEILLESCAZES: Basically, the situation in Paris was that we were facing elicit camps on street level.

BEARDSLEY: Vieillescazes says police regularly cleared the camps away, sending the migrants to centers around France where their cases were then dealt with. He says the goal of this center is to reverse that order. It gives migrants a place to go from the moment they arrive and allows authorities to better regulate the asylum system.

VIEILLESCAZES: It's not a refugee camp. It's the first gate in the system. It's not only a shelter, a home. It's also a way to enter the system.

BEARDSLEY: More than 22,000 migrants have come to Paris over the last year. New arrivals will now be welcomed here in a thousand-square-meter heated tent, where they get a cup of coffee and an interview. There is a medical unit on site, showers, TV rooms, meals and insulated wooden cabins for four people.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: Shokran, shokran - in there.

BEARDSLEY: So we're visiting a room in this new camp. It's warm.

Ah, it's your room?

ALI MOSA: Yeah. My name Ali Mosa. Sudan, Chad, Nigeria, Djair (ph), Libya, Italia...

BEARDSLEY: It took Sudanese migrant Ali Moosa six months to get to Paris, and he hopes to find a job here. Vieillescazes says that could be a problem because the center is part of a national asylum system, and migrants can only stay at this facility 10 days before they must move to one of 250 permanent centers somewhere else in France.

VIEILLESCAZES: We have to explain to them that if they don't want to accept the place we propose, we can't shelter them here. That's the rule. Otherwise, it can't work.

BEARDSLEY: Running the center costs about $45 per migrant per day. A hundred and twenty employees and 500 volunteers keep the operation going. Bruno Morel is with Emmaus, the humanitarian organization that runs the center.

BRUNO MOREL: (Speaking French).

BEARDSLEY: "In the street, you're struggling to survive," he says, "so you can't possibly do what you need to restart your life. And you're prey for smugglers and traffickers." In January, the city plans to open a second center for the more vulnerable women and children asylum seekers, and there are plans to include a school on the site. Eleanor Beardsley, NPR News, Paris.

Copyright © 2016 NPR. All rights reserved. Visit our website terms of use and permissions pages at www.npr.org for further information.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by Verb8tm, Inc., an NPR contractor, and produced using a proprietary transcription process developed with NPR. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.