Cité de la mode

A few weeks after the violent evacuations of the migrants from the La Chapelle camp, then from the Pajol hall, we went to meet the migrants settled in the other large Parisian camp, the one located under the Cité de la mode et du design, in the 13th district of Paris.
About 100 migrants face the Seine and remain invisible to the clubbers who frequent the Nüba, a very “trendy” open-air bar and nightclub located just above, on the terrace of the Cité de la mode et du design.
Most of the migrants come from Sudan. It’s often the same story: people flee a country at war, crossing the desert to reach Libya crammed into a pick-up truck; some spend a few months in this country, others years before being able to cross the Mediterranean Sea and reach the European coast, usually for around €1,000. Alongside the Sudanese migrants, different African nationalities rub shoulders, a few Moroccans and Tunisians, some Guineans, a Senegalese and a Nigerian.
Many are planning to go to Great Britain or a Northern European country, others prefer to stay in France. Among these men aged between 19 and 55, only one woman, Greta, a 53-year-old Romanian coquette, is very concerned about the cleanliness of the camp. Every morning, she sweeps the broom and picks up cups and greasy papers.
Under the City of Fashion and Design, the nights are short. The party is in full swing until around 5 o’clock in the morning. Under these conditions, it is impossible to sleep in the tents. Then, until mid-afternoon, the camp lives in slow motion, especially during this period of Ramadan. Some men are outside, contemplating the Seine, the runners and the passing frames. Others go to the daytime reception of Secours Catholique at the Austerlitz train station to take a shower or to the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) to carry out administrative procedures.
All day long, different people parade through the camp. It starts with the National Police at the end of the morning. Three officers are in charge of “counting” the migrants. Then in the afternoon, several NGOs make their rounds: Emmaus, Médecins du Monde and Secours Catholique. In the early evening, activists and other volunteers from the Migrant Support Collective of the Quai d’Austerlitz take over. Finally, around 10 pm, 300 meals are distributed by the association “Un pas pour demain” and young volunteers who have organized themselves to help migrants.
Above the camp, clubbers flocked in large numbers to the Nüba. In this month of July, the place is very popular with young Parisians. The contrast between the top and the bottom is striking! Some don’t see the misery spread out under their feet, others notice it without really knowing what to do.
A simple barrier at the top of the stairs symbolically separates the bar from the camp. But in the minds of the migrants it is
for the moment an impenetrable barrier. Quite a symbol…

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