Despite receiving significantly less media coverage than other ongoing conflicts, the War in Darfur, Sudan has already seen over 300,000 casualties and almost 3 million displaced in the last 14 years. Many of these those displaced have spent months travelling through northern Africa and across the Mediterranean to Italy, Germany and France.
For many hundreds, their travels have landed them in Porte de la Chapelle, the supposed safe-haven of Paris and the symbolic gateway to a refugee’s new life as a European citizen. However, their asylum comes at a cost: months of living on the streets before the bureaucratised system will read and approve their application. For every thirty applications that are processed, over a hundred more refugees will arrive in the area. Until then, life for these Sudanese refugees doesn’t stray far from the pavements surrounding the camp where they wait to be admitted or evacuated by the French authorities. The ever-expanding clusters of tents lining the streets has undoubtedly fostered a shared sense of community and ambition for the future.
Although it is not an ideal situation, it is a vast improvement from what they left behind. During my time in the camp, one man, Magdi, drew me a representation of the harsh life that he and his family had fled from in Darfur: houses being burnt and bombed by the oppressive Sudanese government in their attempts to suppress the rebel groups. Another drawing depicted a drowning refugee, his hand stretching above the surface towards the French flag labelled ‘EUROP’. The disparity between these refugees’ heightened anticipation of Paris and the reality that befalls them means that huge numbers still hope to travel on further to reach the UK in search of a better life.
Whatever their decision, it is not one taken with ease, and is a struggle in either case.
Founded in January 2016, Utopia56 helps refugees all over France through managing camps, distributing donations and handing out food and water. Although they are mainly based in Paris and Calais, they were also responsible for managing France’s first humanitarian camp at Grande-Synthe in Dunkirk.
Donations to Utopia56 go towards providing shelter for children and families, transporting donations and providing supplies to those in need.
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