France Starts Building New Emergency Asylum Seeker Housing

AP Photo
The Associated Press

The flood of asylum seekers crossing the Mediterranean from Africa and the Middle East for a new life in Europe comes at a cost – and taxpayers have to foot the bill.

In France that means the government has to build a total of 10,500 new housing units for people granted entry, including 4,000 for asylum seekers and 1,500 emergency slots for illegal immigrants.

The new accommodation has been approved for immediate construction. According to France 24, in the past seven years, the number of asylum seekers has nearly doubled in France to reach more than 66,000 cases in 2013.

This has created a chronic housing shortage and half of all asylum seekers have to fend for themselves, resorting to living in slums, squats or sleeping rough.

Processing these asylum requests takes an average of two years, and legislation proposed in July aimed to shorten the wait to nine months by 2017, giving authorities dealing with the cases more funding and staff.

The managing director of France Terre d’Asile, a group representing asylum seekers, greeted the news cautiously: “It is a sweeping plan of a type that has never been put into place until now,” said Pierre Henry.

He added the increase in housing would require close vigilance as the plan will involve a variety of players from around the country. Medical assistance as well as extra food and clothing is also needed.

The announcement comes as Italy has been increasingly applying pressure to other European Union nations to take in their share of the waves of migrants arriving on its shores.

Prime Minister Matteo Renzi threatened last Sunday to go to a Plan B to deal with migrants which “would hurt Europe” if Italy is not given greater help with the crisis.

According to AFP, the country is struggling to accommodate an endless wave of boat migrants and a crackdown on security at the French and Austrian borders has excerbated the situation, causing a bottleneck at Italy’s train stations.

The crisis “should not be underestimated. It is a serious issue and, let me be clear, Europe’s answers so far have not been good enough,” Renzi said in an interview published in the Corriere della Sera daily.