In Rennes, migrants tossed about for months claim a roof

“My head isn’t working, I can’t sleep and the kids ask me why we don’t have a house.” Like Ramzan, a hundred exiles have occupied a gymnasium in Rennes since Saturday to demand a permanent roof after months, even years of wandering.

Behind large black gymnastic mats set up like screens, dozens of families are trying to preserve their privacy and organize their lives. Asylum seekers, rejected or newcomers, most come from Georgia, Chechnya or Albania.

“Many were already there last summer, in the Parc des Gayeulles camp in Rennes. In October, the Eclaireurs de France welcomed them near Rennes, but the deadline for leaving the place was January 15”, explains Yann Manzi, co-founder of the Utopia 56 migrant aid association, told AFP.

Ramzan fled Chechnya with his wife ten years ago. Now the father of four children, he says “being outside” since 2017. “I feel bad for the children. In the fall, we slept in a car for four months,” he says. “We are constantly stressed, the little one is always crying and telling me + Dad, don’t go out +. He saw how the police caught me to take me to the detention center”, continues the thirty-year-old, dismissed from the asylum, who is counting on his years of presence in France to regularize his situation.

Sitting on the stands, Elisée, a 49-year-old Congolese, holds out his forearm, crossed by a scar. “I was shot at, there were massacres, I was imprisoned for my religious opinions but I managed to escape and come here in 2018”, says this exile who hopes for “a roof”, wrapped up in a red jacket.

-“Be on the look-out”-

Tamaria, a 26-year-old Georgian mother of three, can’t understand why “no one is helping (her) after six months of camp to camp.”

“My husband was a soldier in the army. We left everything because of the political situation and there we find ourselves on the street. We cannot wash because the water is cold, we only eat sweets, which is not normal for children,” she said.

In the center of the gymnasium, children are jumping on a trampoline. A few children’s books and stuffed animals lie scattered about.

“They are not in very good general condition,” notes Céline Farges, a pediatrician who has been following them for several months. “They are generally quite tired, very grumpy, very restless, very difficult to learn. Even by putting games in front of the little ones, we can see that they do not know how to play, that they cannot concentrate, that they are on the alert and have no cycle + I sleep, I eat, I play +, it’s quite terrible”.

Questioned by AFP, town hall and associations point to the responsibility of the State. “They have been tossed around from non-permanent solution to non-permanent solution for more than a year, it is the permanent ping-pong with the prefecture which does not want to take charge of them. The State is not doing its job “, denounces Yann Manzi.

“You don’t leave a country for nothing,” he continues. “Even if they have a completely atrocious story, we tell them + go back home to die +”.

When questioned, the prefecture reiterated its desire to “find lasting solutions” and recalled that the State finances the sheltering of 1,450 people in Ille-et-Vilaine every evening.

“We host 950 people a day at the expense of the town hall”, explains David Travers, deputy delegate for Solidarity. “These are essentially people who are horribly designated by the name of + neither regularizable, nor deportable +, an unbearable non-status which condemns them to wander in precariousness for 5 to 10 years before being able to claim to obtain regularization, “adds -he.

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