0
0
0
s2smodern

JRS France: opening of a reception center to take care of asylum seekers at a decisive stage of their journey

JRS France (Jesuit Refugee Service) opened at the end of February, in Fontenay-sous-Bois, a place to welcome asylum seekers on the day of their interview at OFPRA, called the Oasis. Sandra Jouandeau, program manager and Guillemette Belpaire, project manager, present this place of respite for tried and vulnerable people.

What is the origin of this project?

Regardless of where they live in France, all asylum seekers must go to the French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons (OFPRA) located in Fontenay-sous-Bois (94) to have their interview. 'asylum. A few streets further is also the National Court of Asylum (CNDA) which is the second and final recourse when the OFPRA has given a negative response.

This interview is a decisive moment where they are very vulnerable . They will be asked to share their life story and relate sometimes traumatic events from their migratory journey, during an interview which can last between one and four hours. The protection officer will determine the veracity of their story, and therefore the possibility of granting them refugee status or not . They then find themselves very alone, without knowing whether the interview will result in a positive response, the response coming several weeks after the interview.

To come, asylum seekers travel by bus or train, often the same day, sometimes the night before their interview. Some, without accommodation in the Paris region, are forced to sleep on the streets the day before this decisive step which will decide their future life (refugees or rejected asylum seekers). When they arrive at OFPRA, they are very stressed and tested physically and mentally . Alone or with family, they can arrive at 5:00 a.m., for an interview at 9:00 a.m. or 2:00 p.m., and have no place to rest, take shelter or even eat before this stage.

Faced with such situations of indignity and inhumanity, which also undermine the very conditions for exercising the right to asylum, JRS France therefore initiated the project of opening a place of respite in order to allow people to pass this interview in better conditions . By interviewing asylum seekers beforehand, as part of field surveys, several needs emerged: to eat and drink, to take a shower, but also to (re)rest, take care of oneself, to be surrounded. Many spoke of the wish to be able to pray, reflect, meditate before this key stage.

What does this place look like and who do you welcome?

We have premises of 186 m2 in Fontenay-sous-Bois located 5 minutes from OFPRA. With the expertise and furniture support of AXA , we were able to set up distinct spaces: a herbal tea space where you can eat, conducive to exchanges and informal meetings, a respite space where you can rest, a a meditation space where you can pray whatever your religion, a hygiene and beauty space, where you can shower or brush your teeth, a media library space where art therapy workshops are held. A psychologist is also present on site for more confidential discussions for people facing significant stress .

Due to a capacity, we can accommodate around thirty people each day (in the morning and one afternoon per week), among the 400 asylum seekers who undergo interviews each day. This makes it possible to build quality relationships between the people welcomed and the volunteers/employees.

Beyond the material services provided there, this space is first and foremost a place where we take care of every person.

This project was not done in a day: the reflection was initiated in 2021 – during Covid – with Father Antoine Paumard, Jesuit and former director of JRS. We were able to benefit from a vacant space belonging to the Notre-Dame congregation which was very supportive and patient of this project. We had to understand people's needs, remove regulatory and administrative obstacles, build a team, find resources... We partnered with the French Red Cross which brings its operational know-how , its human, health and social resources, and completes the support for asylum seekers with the presence of a psychologist but also an art therapist who makes it possible to offer artistic activities.

JRS linked and brought together all the stakeholders in the project . One or the other of us is present three days a week on site as coordinators. The project benefits from strong mobilization since more than fifty volunteers responded. We have established a debrief time at the end of each volunteer service, with a replay of the moments experienced, valuable for the teams. Here we live, concretely, the values ​​of JRS, which are those of welcome, listening and human attention.

0
0
0
s2smodern