The mayor of Paris’s 15th arrondissement says he was never consulted on the decision to house hundreds of male migrants temporarily at a local gym as France struggles to find long-term solutions to its refugee influx.
Around 435 men have been staying at the gym, part of Université Paris-Descartes, since Friday, when 2,500 migrants were evacuated from Porte de la Chapelle in northern Paris.
The decision to turn the university sports complex into a temporary shelter was taken by the Paris police prefecture and has infuriated Philippe Goujon, mayor of Paris’s 15th arrondissement (district) and a member of the conservative Les Républicains party.
“This is the third time that a gym in the 15th arrondissement has been chosen, without me being informed, in order to be transformed into a camp for migrants — the majority of whom are clandestine and not eligible [to seek] asylum,” he was quoted as saying in French daily Le Monde on Saturday.
Goujon denounced a “deafening” silence from the MPs of French President Emmanuel Macron’s party, La République en Marche. “I regret that the new president of the French Republic follows the same policy of lack of immigration control as his predecessor (François Hollande),” he said.
At the temporary centre, 10 white tents holding 20 beds each have been erected on the athletics pitch. Around 150 men are housed in one gymnasium and 135 others are housed in a second gymnasium.
Several residents of the 15th arrondissement object that the migrants are being installed in their neighbourhood, while others are more sympathetic. “I think it’s good because for once we’ve really transformed something for them,” Eugénie, a woman in her fifties who does not wish to give her last name, tells FRANCE 24. “The presence of the migrants in the area doesn’t bother me because the situation is controlled.”
The centre shelters the highest number of migrants in the Paris region since the closure of temporary camps at Porte de la Chapelle. The migrants were put on buses and sent to various arrondissementsand to other towns in the Ile-de-France region.