Celebrating Empty Squats

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Celebrating Empty Squats

Moving from one crisis to another we sometimes forget to celebrate the successes we have had. While we are now busy helping the Al Elfi family with their quest to stay in…

CelebrationMoving from one crisis to another we sometimes forget to celebrate the successes we have had. While we are now busy helping the Al Elfi family with their quest to stay in France, we want to take a moment to look at a previous effort that has now come to a successful end.

A group of about 55 Syrian refugees arrived in Béziers from Spain in 2015,  having traveled through various countries in North Africa. They left behind everything. Over weeks and months, fathers, mothers, children and small babies ended up squatting in the La Devèze neighborhood with little or no resources. One family was found in the train station, where they’d been for several days with nowhere to go. The children were hungry.

The Mayor of Béziers, Robert Menard, brought them into the public spotlight by visiting the squats in La Devèze with a video crew telling the Syrians they were not welcome in his town.

LSR was founded in September of 2015 and soon became aware of these families living in precarious situations with little food, no heat, lack of bedding and other necessary furnishings, and no access to health care.

All through the winter months until the end of March, LSR supported these traumatized families with food, medical care, clothing, home furnishings and other essentials for survival.  Many volunteers from all over the region spent hours collecting, sorting and delivering food and other necessities. It was truly a massive effort and many thanks go to all who were involved in helping these families for such an extended time and not giving up.

One tireless member of our group supported the families with transport to the various offices in Montpellier and Béziers in order to file their requests for asylum and health care services. She spent many hours driving back and forth, and visiting the families numerous times to give them moral support. The process to get accepted for asylum and to be offered housing is a long and confusing one and for a number of families there were many complications.

One of the success stories is the placement of one family with a little daughter who has Down’s Syndrome. They were given housing in a location that gives them access to vital and necessary professional help from a specialist centre for handicapped children.  Without special efforts on the part of our volunteer, they might have ended up in a location without any support for this little girl.

Early in 2016 several families were given “demandeur d’asile” status and left the squats for official housing in CADAs (Centre d’accueil de demandeurs d’asile) in towns around the region. By the middle of April, all but one of the families were exempted from the Dublin regulations and are now in CADA housing.  We hope all the families will eventually receive official refugee status and make a good life in France.

Through our support of the families in La Devèze, we were very fortunate to meet the team at La Cimade in Béziers.  We are proud of our association with them and the families who live in the CADA managed by them. We hope to continue our relationship with La Cimade to offer assistance to not only the Syrian people but all those who have arrived in the region in the hope of starting a new life in France.

Comments (2)

  • Joanne Hurley

    I have some things that I could share with any needy family: towels, clothes, toiletries etc as I moved to the area last year. I have looked for someplace to contribute, knowing the need and just have not found out where to give my things. Let me know. Thanks and keep up the great work.

    May 07, 2016
    • Wendela Kilmer

      Hi Joanne, thank you for your offer. I’ll get back to you.

      May 08, 2016

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