350 young men, mostly from Africa, have set up camp in the city, demanding the authorities provide them with accommodation
Hundreds of migrants have occupied the square near the iconic Louvre Museum in the heart of Paris, demanding "emergency accommodation." The protesters, mostly young men from African countries, claim to be unaccompanied minors and insist they can no longer survive on the streets as winter approaches.
The migrants, who total over 350, descended on the 1st arrondissement of the French capital on Friday, according to Le Figaro newspaper. The protest was organized at the urging of the Utopia 56 humanitarian association. The volunteer group, which was founded in 2015, first helped migrants stranded in the notorious Calais camp. According to its website, its activities are now focused on aiding "exiled people and people on the street, unconditionally and without distinction of legal status."
One of the migrants, Mana, told reporters that his life is "hell on Earth," describing how when he goes to sleep, the "sheets are wet, you feel the ice in your veins."
Speaking to journalists, a representative from Utopia 56 said the protest is aimed at making the plight of the migrants "more visible," and urged the city government to provide them with accommodation.
According to the activists, the young men had previously lived in squalid conditions in a makeshift tent camp on the outskirts of Paris for months. While originally declared adults "for lack of an official document," the young men insist they are minors, and have all filed appeals with a juvenile judge to be recognized as such, the humanitarian group claimed.
Utopia 56 accused the city of turning a blind eye to the problem and ignoring their repeated complaints.
Critics of the French government's immigration policies, especially those on the right, have slammed the policies as lax and ineffective. Politicians such as the National Rally's Marine Le Pen have proposed drastically reducing the number of newcomers arriving in France, as well as enabling the authorities to deport illegal migrants.
While traditionally attracting and welcoming people from its former colonies, France, along with several other European nations, experienced a surge in the number of arrivals in 2015 at the height of the European migrant crisis. While this has leveled off in recent years, the issue continues to be pressing.