DIY humanitarian city
Around the start of our research project, France elected President Emmanuelle Macron (May 2017) and his new center-right party LREM (La République En Marche). An ambigous rhetoric promoting ‘firm but humane’ migration policies elicited contested responses throughout the courses of Macron’s first year in office. The controversal immigration laws introduced in early 2018 by the minister of interior marked a growing move towards detention and deportation of migrants who are either denied asylum or Dublined.
At the same time, Socialist Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, whose Centre de Premier Acceuil (‘The Bubble’) in Porte de la Chapelle represented municipal attempts to perform a semblance of provisioning and orientation for new arrivals, regardless of their status, was received with mixed responses. On the one hand the Bubble presented unpredecented inner-city humanitarian municipal assistance to all, and on the other hand it magnified the city’s inability to provide sufficient humanitarian care (especially housing) for the number of refugees coming in.
According to Frontex, 40% of refugees and asylum seekers in France have been Dublined elsewhere in Europe, but only an average of 16% are actually deported. As a result, Paris is one of the destination cities in Europe, where the refugee ‘camp’ and street level migrant mobilities converge & collapse into one another. This has formed a kind of experimental and ephemeral humanitarian stage where the politics and legal structures from above confront vibrant DIY politics and resistance from below.
In the absence of housing provision, micro-slums continue to form at the urban interstices. Paris raises crucial questions about the role and extent of humanitarian welfare, and what forms of humanitarian care are palliative, and what sustainable and progressive alternatives might emerge.