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French cities overwhelmed by refugee flow, govt must step in urgently – mayors

French cities overwhelmed by refugee flow, govt must step in urgently – mayors
The mayors of seven major French cities say they have been “backed up against a wall” by an unending influx of refugees. Paris must address the strain on the areas, which are struggling to accommodate new arrivals, they wrote.

The mayors of Lille, Bordeaux, Strasbourg, Grenoble, Rennes, Toulouse and Nantes have called out the government for inaction, asking it to do more to tackle the refugee crisis. The resources at the mayors’ disposal are far from adequate to cover the needs of asylum seekers who want to stay at already-overcrowded shelters, the mayors wrote in an article to Le Monde on Saturday.

Despite the steady increase in the number of available housing facilities, they are all “completely full,” according to the mayors, referring to a rise in refugee applications towards the end of the year. “The year 2017 ends with a massive increase in asylum applications and the arrival of newcomers puts extreme pressure [on local administrations],” they wrote.

The worsening situation with the lack of shelters means the city administrations are “backed up against the wall,” they said. The mayors went on to suggest more areas should share the burden, and proposed setting up a “network of solidarity between the cities of France.” They then demanded the government hold an extended meeting “at the highest level” “without delay” to discuss the “social emergency.”

In response to the plea, the French Interior Ministry issued a circular, proposing a resettlement scheme that would result in the mobilization of some 20,000 housing units by 2018, as reported by AFP. The program envisions mobilizing public and private property for the purpose of “balanced distribution” of refugees across France. It also asked the French prefects to establish “mobile teams” that would identify migrants living in emergency shelters.

READ MORE: 50 French detention center staff take sick leave to protest new arrivals, working conditions

France has been one of the European countries most heavily affected by the migrant crisis. After the bulldozing of its infamous Calais ‘Jungle’ camp in October 2016, some 6,000 of its residents were relocated to various migrant centers across the country. However, makeshift camps are still being set up by asylum seekers, with some sleeping rough on the streets of the French capital, sparking anger from local residents and sanitary concerns. Last week, a group of Parisians said they would start a hunger strike if police didn’t relocate some 100 Afghan and Syrian migrants camping in a northern Paris neighborhood.

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