PARIS – Paris' mayor presented a plan Tuesday to open a new reception center for migrants in the French capital, in an effort to cope with Europe's migration crisis.
Anne Hidalgo said that the center, which will have 400 places in the north of Paris, aims at taking care of "several dozen migrants arriving every day" in the capital. It will open by mid-October.
"They'll be able to rest, get a health checkup, psychological assistance and of course some advice about their situation," she said at a news conference.
People will be allowed to stay from five to 10 days, and then be sent to specific centers around France where they can make asylum demands.
With the new center, Hidalgo hopes to prevent migrants from camping in squalid places in the city — and ease tensions in concerned neighborhoods.
French authorities say about 15,000 migrants have been removed since June 2015 from Paris streets and parks, and given shelter.
The new center is going to be managed by Emmaus Solidarite, a nonprofit organization specialized in fighting poverty and homelessness. In total, 200 social workers will help take care of the migrants.
The mayor of the northern 18th district, Eric Lejoindre, said Parisians living in the area have expressed concerns over the project. He promised a "sober, clean, nice" place. "Our goal is not to move the problem. It's to solve it where we can," he said.
The Paris center will be made of shipping containers and include showers and toilets, and it will also have soccer fields, leisure rooms and a place where they can get new clothes so that they "feel welcomed," architect Julien Beller said.
Hidalgo's announcement comes after an overnight fire at a shelter for migrants due to open next month in Forges-Les-Bains, west of Paris. If the investigation shows the fire was started deliberately, "everything will be done to arrest and bring to justice the perpetrators of the heinous act," the Interior Ministry said in a written statement.
Mukhetr Dawud, 26, a migrant living under a bridge in northern Paris who said he came from Sudan, welcomed with a big smile the idea of the new center to open in Paris.
"That's good ... we are ready to go there," he told The Associated Press.
Dawud said that he has been in Paris for a week and hadn't eaten for two days except for a piece of bread.
Another center of 350 places for women and families will open at the end of the year in the suburban town of Ivry-sur-Seine, southeast of Paris.
The Paris mayor's initiative comes after criticism from abroad over France's handling of the migration crisis.
Jeffrey Schaeffer contributed to this report.