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The number of children without accommodation in France has increased since January 2022, warns Unicef. The United Nations Children’s Fund estimates that there are more than 1,600 minors on the street in this new school year. Associations denounce the dysfunction of the accommodation emergency call number and the unavailability of nights at the hotel.
Sleeping on the street one day before the start of the school year. A reality “unacceptable and unworthy in France”, judge Adeline Hazan, president of Unicef France, and Pascal Brice, head of the Federation of Solidarity Actors (FAS), in a column published Tuesday August 30 in Liberation .
Some 1,658 children without accommodation were forced to sleep outside or in makeshift shelters in the week before the start of the school year, warn the United Nations agency dedicated to the defense of children’s rights and the FAS, on this special day for young school children. “Some of them, although it is impossible to estimate the number, will not have the chance to go to school today”, indignantly UNICEF .
The FAS study, carried out on the night of August 22, is based on the number of families with children who called 115 [numéro d’urgence hébergement] and who could not be accommodated despite the urgency of their situation, “for lack of places available or compatible with the composition of the household”. Paris remains the department with the highest number of non-necessary accommodation requests, followed by Nord, Seine-Saint-Denis and Bas-Rhin.
Malfunction of the French accommodation emergency number
Among these 1,658 families on the street, there were 368 children under three years old, according to this barometer. However, recognize that the authors of the study, these figures are below reality, since they only take into account people who managed to reach the emergency number.
However, in many cases, the 115 “rings in the void”, as evidenced by Océane Marche of the association Utopia 56: “In the camps, people try to reach the 115 every day, for several hours in a row… Yesterday, a family showed me their call history, they spent three hours there. After 50 minutes of waiting without any operator on the other end, the device hung up on its own.”
“Stressed to say they had no home”
Utopia 56, which organizes citizen accommodation, has seen an increase in the number of street children over the past year. “Only yesterday evening, around fifty families with 44 children, including 13 babies under the age of one, reported to our daily office in the Place de l’Hôtel de ville in Paris”, explains Océane Marache. “Some of them were going back to school today and they were stressed that they didn’t have a home.”
The street deprives children of dignified and secure living conditions and of an environment conducive to their development and well-being, thus undermining their rights.
– UNICEF France (@UNICEF_france) September 1, 2022
Any street child can legally be educated, by requesting a residence from a social worker or an association and by registering with the school services of the town hall concerned. “Theoretically it is possible yes…”, comments Océane Marache. “But in reality, how do you expect these children to be able to study if they don’t have enough to sleep properly or take a shower? It’s not uncommon to see them doing their homework on a bench next to our office. .”
Last night, on the forecourt of the Hôtel de Ville in Paris, 135 people in families and on the street asked for our help for emergency accommodation. Among them, 67 children, 18 of whom are under three years old. Despite the street, some will start school in a few days. pic.twitter.com/rI6BDgCPhu
— Utopia 56 (@Utopia_56) August 31, 2022
Utopia 56 follows more particularly the case of unaccompanied foreign minors. In Paris, 200 of them are waiting for recognition of their minority by the French state. A procedure that can take between three and eighteen months. “In the meantime, they are not housed by Childhood Social Assistance and cannot go to school”, explains Luc Viger, from the minor pole of the association, who otherwise provides them with some French lessons. .
The number of street children on the rise
“France, by ratifying the International Convention on the Rights of the Child, is committed to ensuring their fundamental rights, in particular their right to development, protection, health and education”, underlines UNICEF France, which calls on the government to take the necessary measures.
“We can no longer close our eyes”, are alarmed Adeline Hazan and Pascal Brice in their tribune. “Despite the unprecedented means mobilized to sustain 200,000 accommodation places and which must be kept at least, the situation remains very worrying.” Both calling on French President Emmanuel Macron to keep his commitment to “bring a roof to all those who are homeless”.
Return of tourists, lack of places in the hotel
Especially since in this new school year, the figures for poor housing for children soar with a 77% increase in families without accommodation compared to January, according to the Unicef/FAS barometer.
In question, according to Utopia 56, the end of the winter truce [31 mars] and the return of tourists to Paris, which have pushed many families into the streets. “Tourism has resumed and many hotels have stopped social services since they have reopened to foreign tourists. Once again, we find that resorting to hotel nights is not a rehousing solution”, underlines the Parisian coordinator of this association.
An observation shared by Unicef which regrets that “the use of hotel nights” is “the main response provided”, recalling that the hotel is “unsuitable for family life and does not meet the basic needs of 27,102 children, 9,201 of whom are under the age of three, live there”.