Paris is set to house up to 1,000 refugees in two camps to deal with the matter of the growing number of men, women and children fleeing war and poverty who are forced to sleep on the streets of the French capital, the city’s mayor said on Tuesday.
The construction of the two camps in Paris comes as the government faces pressure to dismantle a swollen shanty town named the ‘jungle’ near the port of Calais, whose inhabitants are blamed by residents for a rise in crime and the suffering local economy.
Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo said one camp would be built for men, the other for vulnerable women and children, with the first site opening in mid-October.
Hidalgo, who had announced in May that she would set up a camp in Paris, called it a "first for Europe" and said it was France's duty to accommodate refugees in "humane" conditions.
Hidalgo said the camps would be temporary and cost $7.2 million to set up, of which the Paris municipal authorities would cover 80 percent.
Asylum-seekers will be allowed to stay in the shelter for "five to 10 days" and receive medical care while waiting for a place in a refugee hostel, the socialist mayor told reporters.
The Paris shelter will open in an area where hundreds of refugees have been sleeping rough, on the pavement or under railway bridges.
The camp will be located not far from Paris's Gare du Nord train station, which is the main terminal for Eurostar trains to London.
By the end of 2016, the shelter is expected to have 600 beds.
"We have to come up with new ways of overcoming the situation. Things are saturated," Hidalgo told a news conference. "These migrant camps reflect our values.’’
France has not been on the frontline of the vast influx of refugees to Europe in the last 18 months, with many refugees seeing it mainly as a transit country to other destinations in northern Europe.
But it has an extreme shortage of accommodation for asylum seekers, leaving many people to fend for themselves.
Truck drivers, farmers and Calais business owners on Monday blocked traffic on the motorway approach to Calais demanding a deadline for the dismantling of the "jungle".