Last week ULIP welcomed academics, activists, artists and practitioners for a one day workshop exploring the circumstances surrounding unaccompanied and underage refugees and migrants presently living on the streets of Paris.
The event brought together researchers from both sides of the Channel and was the first Paris-based gathering for staff involved in a new collaborative project – Home for Refugee Children – a joint endeavour with colleagues from Queen Mary University of London (QMUL), The Victoria and Albert Museum of Childhood and The Geffrye Museum of the Home.
The workshop explored a wide range of perspectives relating to the plight of these refugees - from the large scale initiatives to house them in temporary accommodation by the City of Paris and the efforts of France Terre d’Asile to assist in the processes of claiming asylum, to the longer-term perspectives of psychiatrists caring for unaccompanied minors caught between multiple cultures and identities, and film-makers exploring new ways of expressing migrants’ journeys.
As each new approach was unfolded different terms and a new type of discourse were added to our collective vocabulary for discussing these refugees, revealing to what extent their situations can be caught in an impasse of incomprehension. The state of urgency surrounding their presence in Paris also undoubtedly intensifies the disconnection between these different languages. No agreement can be found even on the term used to describe this group: Mineurs isolés étrangers, Mineurs etrangers non-accompagnés, Mineurs non-accompagnés, jeunes migrants – all competing to classify them and differing very strikingly from the English language tendency to refer to child refugees or refugee children.
The space for exchange and communication created by the day-long workshop offered a remarkable relief from these conflicting patterns of speech and the competing priorities that they reflect. The conference will act as a spring board to develop a new research project exploring further the languages and expressions surrounding this group in the coming months.
If you’d like to find out more about the project or be involved please contact our Director of Research, Dr Anna-Louise Milne.
Through the period of existence of what was known as ‘the jungle’ on the outskirts of Calais, activists and researchers increasingly came to recognize that this space of provisional living needed to be understood as an extension of the United Kingdom, and London in particular.
When the French authorities undertook to dismantle ‘the jungle,’ the contours of this complex transnational space changed again as the people and languages of it were pushed back from the shadow of Great Britain to Paris and from there, in some instances, to other sites in France. ‘Calais is in Paris’ was a graffiti slogan sprayed at that time on the bridge above the Eurostar train lines.
What were the consequences of this pushback? What of ‘the jungle’ was re-built in Paris in terms of community networks, provisional modes of inhabitation, and potentially life aspirations? How do we, as a group of researchers, professionals and activists in refugee-related work able to build connections across the Channel, respond to these questions?
11.00-11.30: Welcome and introductions
11.30-13.00: Introduction to the work of France terre d’Asile, their initiatives in providing emergency shelter and family reunification programme, and their perspective on the situation on the streets.
Simon Bichet (Chef de service Maraude-Migrants 75) and Jean-René Galaverna (Chargé de mission pour les MIE), France terre d’Asile.
13.30-15.00: Presentation of the Ville de Paris’ response to and programmes for housing unaccompanied minors currently encamped around Paris.
Pierre-Charles Hardouin and Nicola Iodice (Département des actions préventives et des publics vulnérables, Ville de Paris).
15.30-17.00: An introduction to the pioneering transcultural approach adopted by the Maison de Solenn/Maison des adolescents in the treatment of unaccompanied minors.
Dr Rahmeth Radjack (Child Psychiatrist, Maison de Solenn/Maison des adolescents, Cochin, Paris).
17.00-18.30: Film workshop with a group of unaccompanied minors currently based in Paris including screenings of -
Here Be Dragons - Janetka Platun (former Leverhulme Artist in Residence, QMUL)
Passing Tides - Eithne Nightingale (PhD School of Geography, QMUL) and Mitchell Harris (Independent film-maker).