Some 300 to 400 homeless immigrants occupied an empty building in Gentilly in the Paris suburbs over the weekend, and several dozen of them have taken refuge on the roof to avoid being expelled, French news agency AFP reported on Sunday.
The migrants entered around midnight on Saturday. The empty building of 8,000 square meers had been “scheduled for destruction,” and they made “a citizen requisition,” indicated United Migrants, an association that supports them.
Authorities, who arrived on the spot, stopped people from entering and asked those already there to leave, which they refused to do, a police spokesperson told AFP, adding that the head of the association was arrested. Asked by AFP, the Créteil prosecutor’s office indicated that one of those responsible for the operation was in police custody. “He is a well-known activist in the police services for many actions of this type in disused premises unsuitable for habitation,” according to a source familiar with the matter.
“These 400 people are homeless, said United Migrants in a statement. “They have already exhausted their temporary housing solutions (…). In order to avoid sleeping on the street for the umpteenth time with all the dangers and difficulties that entails, they have decided to occupy this place,” argued the association. “The residents are committed to maintaining the cleanliness of the premises and ensuring a calm occupation with respect for the neighborhood,” it added.
“The condition of this squat is illegal and is not suitable for housing people with regard to the state of the building and the lack of electricity,” said the PP, specifying that 100 women and children were there. They are understood to be mainly exiles from Africa (Sudanese, Chadians, Ivorians, etc.) and Afghanistan, including several families.
By Sunday morning, “about 300 people were still there,” said Madeleine Barataud, an associative activist present at the location, adding that “about 40 people were entrenched on the roof to avoid being evicted.”