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Migrants settle into unused Paris high school

The playground outside of La Maison des Réfugiés, an unused high school in Paris' 19th arrondissement currently being used to house migrants
The playground outside of La Maison des Réfugiés, an unused high school in Paris' 19th arrondissement currently being used to house migrants Feriel Rarrbo

Deputy Mayor of Paris Bruno Julliard declared on French radio this week that he supports the idea of using abandoned buildings to house migrants. RFI's Feriel Rarrbo reports from Paris' 19th arrondissement, where migrants are currently staying in an unused high school.

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The school, with its walls covered in graffiti, has not been used in four years. The Paris city hall has assured the 200 migrants who have recently settled there, as well as volunteers, that they will not evict them from the building dubbed La Maison des Réfugiés.

On the first floor, women and families are on one side, and men   brought together by where they come from   live in rooms with no beds on another side.

In what used to be the playground of the school, Sabir from Sudan says he has trouble sleeping well there.

“I’m from Sudan and I would like to continue my studies here in Paris, but if I can go to Britain, I will,” says Sabir, 23 years old.

He is not the only one who is thinking of crossing the sea to get to the UK. Mekal, after a long journey from Eritrea, tried his luck in Calais, but decided to come to Paris after many failed attempts to make it to Britain.

“I tried and tried but now I’m tired," he told RFI. "I want to work and maybe go to school, but how can you do that when you don’t have a house?”

Gabriel, a young volunteer at La Maison des Réfugiés, remains very critical of what the governments now has to offer.

“At first the government was just beating people up, kicking them out because they want Paris to look like a city with no misery, so I don’t think they realise that refugees are human beings," he says. "They’re just afraid of the media attention around this.”

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