Libraries Without Borders has created in record time a library within a hotel where 450 afghan refugees are housed in the south of Paris. Collaborating with the association France Terre d’Asile (France Asylum Land), which is in charge of the hotel operations, the project allows refugees to resist the creeping boredom and lethargy of quarantine and to stay hopeful for what’s next to come.
Books to escape
Since the takeover of the city of Kabul by the Taliban on August 15th, France has welcomed some 2,600 Afghan nationals. In quarantine for sanitary reasons, the refugees have been temporarily housed in hotels all over France. The organization France Terre d’Asile welcomes 450 of them, including 150 children, in a hotel in the south of Paris. The refugees are fed, supported by psychologists, and helped by teams within the association with their requests for asylum.
“These people have left everything behind and are utterly without resources here. It was essential for us to not only to nourish them materially, but also to give them nourishment for the mind, something that allows them to find a bit of joy, time, and space in order to think of something other than what happened at Kabul. Books are part of the things that we need on a daily basis to escape.” – Delphine Rouilleault, Director General of France Terre d’Asile.
The books are part of a library in a small room on the ground floor of the hotel where the refugees can come every afternoon to read books and play games. This allows them to resist the weariness, to fight against stress, and, for some, to start learning French.
“The majority among them will ask for asylum in France. Others want to be reunited with their families in England, in Germany, or in other countries in Europe. But their mind is always orientated towards Kabul. Many have loved ones in danger there who are trying at all costs to escape the country. Even today it is difficult to start a new life.” – Delphine Rouilleault, Director General of France Terre d’Asile
Every morning, buses take those who wish to stay in France to a special office to request asylum. During the process, the refugees are directed towards emergency housing centers across France where they receive a subsidy and support. It will be several months before they can obtain refugee status or subsidiary protection from Ofpra (French Office of Refugee and Statelessness Protection).
Numbering more than 41,000, the Afghans are today the largest community in France to submit and receive requests for protection. However, they make up only 1.58% of 2.6 million Afghan refugees in the world, according to the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees. Most of the refugees are welcomed in Pakistan and in Iran, where they nourish the thought of one day returning to their home country.
Translation: Austin Li