France: in Vitry-sur Seine, the fear of the expulsion of refugees from former offices converted into squats

France in Vitry sur Seine the fear of the expulsion of

In Vitry-sur-Seine, in Val-de-Marne, nearly 450 migrants have occupied abandoned offices in an industrial zone for three years. The vast majority are refugees and asylum seekers. Since the end of the winter break, they have been under threat of expulsion.

The squat is located in the middle of an industrial zone, far from homes and transport. Here, life is organized.

There are chairs upstairs, there are hairdressers. Hairdressers put the numbers, their telephone number on the wall and people make appointments. And it became a bit like a small village », Indicates Jhila Prentis of the United Migrants association.

There are small restaurants opening. It’s a real life that was organized in this building over three years. We can imagine that the place is starting to really exist and be a place of solidarity also between people who are unfortunately in this situation, who are in an irregular situation. They work, the children go to school, they should not have to live in conditions like this “, she continues.

This is the case for Nahélia, a young single mother. She occupies, with her daughter, an office which has been converted into a bedroom on the third floor. “ I shower here, with just a basin. I shower at home, there is no kitchen », she describes.

“We have no information”

A basin for washing, and for cooking, the young woman installed a simple stove on the table. Here, everyone has their own way and must respect certain rules.

We have organized if there is a power problem, a water problem, to clean buildings… everything », explains Bakary, one of the squat delegates. “ We organized this ourselves. We hired people who do the cleaning every day. For electricity too, we repair it ourselves, but also showers, toilets etc.. »

Sitting on the floor in the hallway, a small group of children play, watched by adults who go about their business. Nahélia started packing her bags. “ The situation, for me, is very hard, because the prefecture has not provided housing. We have no information, what day we have to leave, where we have to go, we are on the street… It’s very tiring », she whispers.

Start everything from scratch

Leaving means losing your job. It also means sending the children to school in another city and starting all the administrative procedures from scratch, as explained by Jhila Prentis, who is on duty for the United Migrants association:

There is a risk that the squat will be evicted with police officers and buses taking people to the region. The prefecture has also closed many emergency accommodation places in Île-de-France. So people are oriented elsewhere. This is a change that came to prepare for the arrival of the Olympic Games. We closed places in Île-de-France to send people elsewhere. People don’t know where they are going to be sent, they can’t organize themselves, they don’t even know the date of the expulsion. »

Most are ready to leave this place, but they remain worried about finding themselves on the streets again.