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A few months ago a national committee was created in order to discuss about the Centers of Reception and Orientation (known also as CAO or “respite centers”). It was meant to have monthly meeting, even if the previous meeting was held in March and the following one has just been done on July 26. This was the opportunity for the Minister of Housing, the only present in the absence of the Minister of Interior, to make a few announcements, of which some are only confirmations about what was already in the air.

3,000 new places should be created to reach a sum of 5,000 places.

First observation; this means that the French State still does not intend to respect the law. The legislation infact provides that an asylum application should be registered within three days -ten days in case of large number of requests. And then that people have access to the accomodation system for asylum seekers. If the law was apllyied, respite centers would have only a secondary role, the role of hosting people who want to take a step back and reflect about their migratory project, and there would be no need to increase their capacity of about the 150%.

In Calais the registration of applications takes more than two months, and people sleep outside the offices of the PADA, the Platform for Reception of Asylum Seekers, for a better chance to be part of the little number of people who will be given an appointment soon.

The situation is the same in Paris, but with delays that exceed four months and again people sleeping in front of the PADA, and periodically hunted by police. With delays changing from one region to another, still we face a similar situation throughout the whole France.

And once the request is registered there’s another pproblem to face: to access accommodation. The accomodation system for asylum seekers is full, the number of places is chronically insufficient.

Which brings us to the question: is it necessary to create thousands of places in CAO while there’s a lack of thousands accommodation places in the system for asylum seekers? And when people will be stuck in the CAO because they can’t be directed to asylum seekers facilities if they are full?

We can already see the result in Calais, such as crowded CAO and there is not enough departures, people sleeping outside -where buses depart for CAO- for a change to get on them. Then a sorting is done on site, tensions, a shameful situation.

We can already see consequences in Paris as well, the last evictions of camps was done without rehousing anyone, since the CAO are full, and people were evicted from place to place without any solution being offered.

Isn’t the State just moving the problem instead of solving it? Isn’t France creating an accomdodation system as bad as possible, since the funds allocated by the State for CAO are insufficient for a home and decent support?

Above all, trying to make permanent the CAO means trying to make permanent the shameful situation of refugees there where they are. If there were conditions of proper accomodation, access to information and support services in Calais, Dieppe, Norrent-Fontes, Paris and elsewhere where the migrants are, there would be no utility to send them in centers throughout France to reflect on their migratory project.

The “respite centers”, a system that proliferates by the will of not solving problems.

Another number given at the meeting: 45% of those admitted in CAO leave without being relocated to another accomodation solution.

No analysis is made on and of that almost half-of failure. What we see in Calais, where a part of that 45% of people comes back, are people who do not wish to stay in France and thus take their road again, people who found CAO completely different from what they were told to Calais, people who are lost because the support received wasn’t enough and return there where they have contacts, came back people who filled an asylum application and people who didn’t, people in Dublin procedure who fear being deported to the country responsible for their asylum request, people who were forced to get into a bus during the eviction of their camp …

The national committee could have deepen these issues and improved the system. But no.

Furthermore, 45% of people went to the accomodation system for asylum seekers, so they applied for asylum and have finally found a place in this system.

And 10% of people was referred to other devices, without we know to what. Are these people under house arrest or in detention center to be deported? Are they people who have “chosen” help for a “voluntary” return? People who found other accomdation solutions, for example because they already had the refugee status?

Questions that are not indifferent if you care about the fate of people who go to these centers.


Chagall Ulysse sirènes

Marc Chagall: Ulysses and the Sirens.