Inequality in way France receives Ukrainians refugees, other migrants

Inequality in way France receives Ukrainians refugees, other migrants

Ukrainians given right to work, health coverage, other migrants subjected to three-month wait for Social Security

By Hafsa Alami

PARIS (AA) - The number of migrants in France has been exploding for more than 20 years.

They have fled their countries because of wars and poverty, trying to get to the UK to join families and friends or find work.

The city of Calais, with its port and the Channel Tunnel, is the best crossing point and the symbol of “a better life opportunity.”

Often arriving in a state of exhaustion and stranded, migrants attempt many crossings, putting their lives in danger.

“I was trying a lot of times, about 15 or 20 times. Some people had their legs cut off, others died,” a refugee from Sudan told Anadolu.

It was a different picture at the beginning of the Ukraine-Russia war where discrimination in the reception of immigrants began to appear, including accelerating asylum applications and conducting administrative procedures.

The first step once in France is where the prefecture of Paris controls identity documents proving migrants have fled Ukraine. If everything is in order, they are immediately issued a temporary residence permit for six months, renewable for three years.

Authorizations are the concrete application in France under the European directive on “temporary protection” created in 2001 and activated March 3, 2022.

The protection system also gives migrants privileges, including the right to work and obtain health coverage immediately, whereas asylum seekers have, since 2019, been subject to a three-month wait to benefit from Social Security.

When Afghans fled the Taliban in August 2021, French President Emmanuel Macron said: “Europe cannot bear the consequences of the current situation alone.”

“We must anticipate and protect ourselves against significant irregular migratory flows,” he said.

Six years earlier, during the Syrian crisis, some organizations asked then-President Francois Hollande and European countries to help and work in favor of temporary protection. Those requests went nowhere.

In Calais, the situation appears to be difficult and inhumane. In a camp 30 minutes from the city’s center, a migrant said: “you can’t find any Ukrainians here with us. They are all living and sleeping in houses. We suffer from cold and rain and get some warm by the fire during the day.”

“When we put our lives in danger to get a better life, the government is offering all needed help to Ukrainians,” he added.

Since 2015, access to housing for migrants has been one of the main battles led by associations.

As police evacuate migrants’ camps and seize tents, the 115 emergency number is saturated, leaving most in the streets night and day.

“We as associations are not jealous but all we want is granting equality to all. The government takes migrants in buses 120 kilometers (75 miles) away from Calais because they know that it is the closest to Britain’s borders,” said Mariam, a volunteer with the Secour Catholique association.

“One of them told me once that “animals live better than us as if we are garbage,” said Mariam.

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