with Ukrainian refugees in Paris

REPORT – Every day, hundreds of refugees receive residence permits at the Accueil Ukraine Center on the Porte de Versailles.

Teenagers quarrel. The girls wear colorful skirts or trousers over huge Skye combat boots. The boys have a Slavic haircut, their hair is glued to their foreheads with gel. We take some coffee brought by a volunteer, or grind an empty cup. Mines are different. On the morning of this Wednesday, March 23, a long line formed at Pavilion No. 2 of the Parc des Expositions de la Porte de Versailles in Paris. The crowd consists of Ukrainians who have landed in Paris to receive documents that will officially sayrefugees“.

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Avenue Ernest Renan, in the fifteenth arrondissement, the prefecture of Ile-de-France, together with several associations, manages the Accueil Ukraine center, which has already received more than 6,000 people, i.e. about a third of the arrivals registered in France to date. . It is supported by other similar entry points in Nice, Strasbourg and the prefectures.

Temporary protection

In this station hall without trains, the passage is administrative. Several hundred people are waiting to enter a row of stalls. Luba, in her forties, mentors her daughter and little boy while chatting with an elderly couple. “I don’t know anything about France! But I have an uncle who got married here and I have cousins.she recalls. I arrived from Kyiv through Poland, Germany to the Vostochny Station. But I will ask for accommodation next to them, in Lyon“Fatigue has not spared Luba from being rude. She leaves us to argue furiously with her absent-minded children, before bursting into laughter with them just as suddenly.

The first step for refugees: a police department stand that, after an interview lasting a few minutes, says “temporary protection» guaranteed by the European Union to Ukrainians, or at least temporary permission for one month, time to “checks“. The fate of non-Ukrainians sometimes seems uncertain between temporary status, return to the country and a possible asylum request.”It’s being solved“, we check on the spot. In this first gateway, many families chat at the counters, often with the help of a volunteer interpreter. There are young people. With some exceptions, they are not from Ukraine. The law prohibits men from 18 to 60 from entering the territory. of them are of sub-Saharan or Balkan origin. Dembe, when he was about to enter the outer line, tells us that he was “courier in kievand that he wants to find relatives in Spain. The first figures reported a third of non-Ukrainians among the refugees in the first ten days.

SEE ALSO – Ukraine: how France accepts refugees

Then there are the counters reserved for the French Office of Immigration and Integration (OFII). “Here newbies activate their rightsassociated with temporary protection, we are told. Allowance (in the amount of 400 euros per person, up to more than a thousand euros for a family with three children), work permits, etc. Then the refugees go to another large room where accommodation is discussed. Government services should distribute refugees according to their possible acquaintances in the region and the availability of housing. A delicate mission, given that the receiving system is already close to the limit of its capabilities. Brittany’s referral for a woman in her sixties who is holding a boy of five or six, perhaps her grandson. She watches herself and then watches affectionately as he plays his Game Boy.

The refugees seem to be aware of the efforts made by France. No cry, no disappointment, but, on the other hand, pity. Still in line, Vasily, who is in his thirties, looks sternly. He does not specify why he left Ukraine despite the mobilization, but he also keeps his claims to himself: “We know that we will be well helped, and it depends on us how to behave well. The only problem is work. I’m a technician, I don’t know what I can do here“.

Hostels are equipped in the pavilion of the exhibition center. ALL

In addition, about 500 cots allow you to take a nap or even spend a night or two, confirms a spokesperson for Coallia, an association that specializes in accommodation for vulnerable people. Social workers manage the logistics of the site along with the Salvation Army, France Terre d’Asile and others. There is a children’s room where some children draw or play checkers with a volunteer. A few tens of meters away – and on another planet – the Parc des expos also hosts the Rétromobile or Franchise Fair…

Kindergarten allows children to be distracted while their mother or parents carry out administrative procedures. ALL

For immigrants from Ukraine, this place should be, first of all, the final destination and the starting point of a new life. At the exit we meet Anna and Martha, who have been sunbathing for half an hour before starting the process. The drama seems to subside in the spring. One from Kyiv, the other from Lvov. For several days now they have been living with their respective friends in the capital. “we have to work“, rushes Anna, who is waiting for the resumption of activities in the IT sector, since her employer in Ukraine also has offices in France. She also says that she is looking forward to “return to UkraineMartha is more indecisive. She “like paris“… Do they think the war will end soon? “Yes, in MayAnna asks. Why in May? “Because it’s my birthday!“.


SEE ALSO – War in Ukraine: Ukrainian refugees continue to flock to the Polish border

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