PARIS (AP) — Aid groups and social justice activists gathered outside the Paris Olympics headquarters on Monday to protest and appeal to French authorities for the protection of the rights of thousands of migrants and other vulnerable individuals living on the streets. This comes as the Paris region prepares for the upcoming Summer Games.
In a brief demonstration on Sunday night, activists projected the words “The Other Side of the Medal” onto the main offices of Paris 2024 in the suburb of Saint-Denis, while also displaying protest signs at the entrance.
Over 70 non-governmental organizations sent a letter on Monday to authorities in the Paris region, the Olympics organizing committee, and Olympic sponsors, raising concerns about the potential for “social cleansing” of society’s most marginalized individuals in Paris and its suburbs leading up to the Games.
Organizers of next year’s Games have pledged to hold discussions with these organizations to determine the appropriate course of action. They acknowledged the long-standing tensions in Paris surrounding migration and the issue of providing housing for individuals sleeping on the streets.
While Paris police regularly clear out makeshift camps occupied by migrants from various parts of the world, citing reasons of public health and safety, the city continues to attract people fleeing from conflict and poverty, resulting in the recurring emergence of these camps.
Aid groups have reported an increased pressure from authorities towards migrants as the Olympics draw nearer and the city prepares to welcome millions of spectators for the Games. Last month, officials attempted to shut down food distribution points in certain Paris neighborhoods, but the move was rejected in court.
The signatories of Monday’s appeal called for a comprehensive and coordinated policy that ensures continuous care for those in precarious and excluded situations, both before, during, and after the Games. They also urged for the inclusion of aid groups in the pre-Olympics planning conducted by local authorities.
Among the signatories are Doctors of the World, the French branch of the Salvation Army, and other organizations that provide emergency housing, food, medical assistance, administrative support, and other forms of aid to individuals living on the streets.
In response, the Paris Olympics organizing committee released a statement affirming its commitment to making the Games a platform for unity and inclusivity.
“In a spirit of dialogue and receptivity, Paris 2024 will engage with the protesters to meet their representatives and address their concerns,” the committee said.
The Paris regional administration has yet to respond to the request for comment.
Follow AP’s coverage of Paris Olympics preparations at https://apnews.com/hub/2024-paris-olympic-games
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