At the beginning of June 2016, more than 1,300 African migrants were removed from a makeshift camp in the Jardins d’Éole by the Gare du Nord station in Paris’ 18th arrondissement and assigned to a series of more formal camps and processing centers. Just two weeks later, Purdue University students visited the site with local journalists as part of their Immigration in France course with professor Nadège Veldwachter.
Journalist guides Yaël Hirsch, Ph.D., founder and editor of Toute la Culture magazine, and Melissa Chemam, specialist on Africa and immigration issues for France Inter radio, provided historical and legal background to the crisis while bringing the students to sites that represent the reality of migrants and refugees living on the streets of Paris.
Hirsch and Chemem shared background on France’s response to the migrant crisis in comparison with neighboring England and Germany, and brought students up to speed on debated European Union proposals to allocate resources and implement a unified response. At a local level, the group discussed proposed camps to be built throughout Paris and around Île-de-France, exploring the complexities of addressing this crisis within a national state of emergency and against the current geopolitical backdrop.
The walk ended by Jaurès metro stop, the site of another dismantled camp, where the group met with Manon Ahanda, founder of BAAM, a leading NGO that supports refugees in Paris with meals, legal aid, and French lessons. Prepared with the thorough introduction by Hirsch and Chemem, the students asked Ahanda thoughtful questions about his experience on the ground.