(TibetanReview.net, May31’19) – French authorities have dismantled a camp that was home to over 200 Tibetan asylum seekers in the district of Conflans, located some 30 kilometers from capital Paris, with plans to rehouse them, reported en.rfi.fr May 29. However, due to shortage of beds in state-run hostels and a lack of host families, several will remain homeless, the report added. The informal settlement had around 100 tents.
The reported said most of the Tibetans living in the camp, which is located on the banks of the River Seine, were confident of getting a ten-year visa that would allow them to live and work in the country. But first they must wade through massive amounts of paperwork, all in French.
A barge named “Je Sers” (I Serve), moored a kilometre upstream, was stated to have become an unlikely refuge for Tibetans and refugees from other countries trying to navigate their way through French bureaucracy. The barge is run by the Catholic charity La Pierre Blanche (the White Stone) which also runs a nearby food bank. It serves three meals a day, prepared on the barge, for anything up to one hundred migrants, the report said.
“It is very important they learn how to be independent, and that they have something to do while their papers are processed,” Father Protais Kabila, a volunteer priest, was quoted as saying.
The first Tibetans came to Conflans 2011, according to an international.la-croix.com report Dec 27, 2017. The report said France was one of few countries in Europe where Tibetans could easily obtain legal asylum.
La Pierre Blanche helped to find host families for accommodating the Tibetans, who had mostly travelled from Nepal. But in 2015, the association said it had become “overwhelmed and powerless” amid a large influx of Tibetans,” the report added.
Moved by the sight of Tibetans living in tents, parishioners opened up their homes to them,” parish priest Yves Laloux was quoted as saying.
More than 80 Tibetans, mostly women, were being housed by private individuals in Conflans and neighboring municipalities by then. The hosts included many retired families and also younger households of all social classes, the report added.
But the numbers kept increasing and the camp on the banks of the River Seine came up. After the camp was dismantled, French authorities provided accommodation to 120 out of the 200 Tibetans living in it, said the en.rfi.fr report. The remaining 80 were on the move again, hoping to be housed.