Authorities in France have been forced to convert former low-cost hotels around the country into temporary housing for asylum seekers as the strain on infrastructure begins to show.
With 86,000 applications for asylum recorded in France during 2016, and existing reception centers having only 40,000 places, the lack of available accommodation has become an urgent matter.
The closure last October of the notorious ‘Calais Jungle’, the makeshift camp site in the port town of Calais where about 8,000 people from Africa and the Middle East gathered while attempting to get to the UK, has exacerbated the situation.
The low-cost housing scheme which authorities have had to implement has been called “Prahda” (Program for reception and accommodation of asylum seekers), and is being overseen by the housing ministry.
Reports say that local authorities were warned of a need to house 5,351 emergency places in September 2016, a month before the Calais Jungle was closed, meaning the situation is almost certainly worse now.
According to L’Express newspaper some of the accommodation converted for asylum seekers will be in budget Formule1 hotels, 62 of which were bought by the French state this year for a variety of purposes including housing vulnerable people.
The newspaper said authorities believe it will cost 5,000 euros (about $5,600) to convert each room.
But the overall idea has been met with skepticism by some.
Stéphane Dupont-Ferrier, mayor of Fontanile, where some asylum seekers would be housed, told L’Express: “Ninety-six people is an enormous number for our town of 2,800 inhabitants. It risks bringing trafficking and prostitution”.
Thierry Cozic, the socialist mayor of Arnage added that he is not against the centers but said that “contrary to common sense” a center will be built near a tourist complex.
Between 300 and 600 immigrants are currently believed to sleep rough in Calais. Thousands of others do the same in France’s largest cities.