Over thirty thousand Ukrainian refugees have been registered in France since the end of February. Many of them have arrived through Paris, and the city had to use the emergency skills it has developed over the years to organise a smooth reception.

Even though a large number of Ukrainians are only passing through France to reach Spain or Portugal, those who decide to stay are conducted in Porte de Versailles, where the French State has installed a huge Welcome Point. There, different stakeholders, the national level, the local authority, NGOs and associations are working together to offer a dignified reception to the Ukrainian refugees arriving in the region.

Reception in France is a national competence. But the city of Paris supports the State in mobilising resources (food, transport and facilities). The NGO France Terre d’Asile, responsible for accompanying the refugees in their registration process, and the Red Cross are also present on site.

Arriving in Paris: the journey of a Ukrainian refugee

When arriving by train, the refugees are welcomed in the stations by the Red Cross, which is responsible for managing flows according to the reasons for arrival (settlement in France or transit). Depending on the hour of arrival, the refugees are then either transported by buses provided by the city of Paris to the Welcome Point in Porte de Versailles, where they can get registered for the temporary protection or, if arriving late in the evening, to one of the two gymnasiums opened as emergency accommodation centres by the city. These two gymnasiums, close to different railway stations, are financed by the city with a budget of 100 thousand euros each and managed by the association Aurore. The city has put in place a vast transport network supporting the transportation of the refugees from the different accommodation or reception centres to the railway or bus stations. Five buses are mobilised every day and do shifts from 6:30 am to 9:30 pm. Nightshifts are also provided by the city partners.

Today, the 5000 accommodation places available in the Ile-de-France region are occupied, and, apart from several exceptions, Ukrainians wishing to stay in France are redirected to other regions in the country. There are daily departures by bus from the Welcome Point in Porte de Versailles to regions in France that have informed the national level of their accommodation availabilities.

Going further: from reception to long term integration

The city is aware that it must go beyond emergency measures and offer services for those living today in Paris. It is not yet clear if the local authority wants to open a specific centre for Ukrainian refugees, enabling them to register to all municipal services, or if they will be integrated into the mainstreamed local services. For now, the city has started to increase its offer of language classes for adults after identifying eight hundred demands for classes from Ukrainian refugees living on the Parisian territory. As it is its competence, the city also works closely with schools to integrate Ukrainian children. Today, almost 300 pupils got registered in Parisian schools, and more are excepting in the coming weeks. Paris has opened a special school proposing a parents-children space, where language classes are offered to adults while children are in school.

The city is now starting to work with the association Union des Etudiants exilés, on the topic of international students coming from Ukraine. This population is not receiving temporary protection as they are not Ukrainians. They often only receive a one-month temporary permit, which is rarely renewed, putting them in a very unstable administrative situation. The association is trying to get political support from the local authority to find a legal solution to enable them to stay and register to university to resume their studies.

Getting other cities inspired

In our project CONNECTION, Paris is paired with the city of Zagreb to exchange knowledge and good practices on integration strategies at the local level. In this context, Zagreb visited Paris for two days for a staff exchange and had the opportunity to follow the work the Parisian civil servants are doing on the integration of migrants, with a special focus on the reception of Ukrainian refugees. After meeting with different associations and stakeholders, the Croatian delegation visited the Welcome point in Porte de Versailles and took stoke of all the different actions put in place by the city of Paris. In a few weeks, it will be Paris’ turn to discover the work of Zagreb when it comes to integration through a CONNECTION’s workshop organised in Zagreb. More info on Zagreb’s integration strategy is already available here.