On Thursday, 10 March, the Ministry of the Interior held a press conference at Place Beauvau dedicated to the reception of displaced Ukrainians. Didier Leschi, Director General of the OFII, was among the speakers.
The press conference presented the work streams of the Ministry of the Interior to deal with the possible massive influx of displaced persons from Ukraine. Marlene Schiappa, Minister Delegate to the Minister of the Interior in charge of Citizenship, opened the conference with an overview of the situation. To date, there are more than 7,700 displaced persons from Ukraine in France. Some of them are in transit to the countries of Southern Europe; others will stay here, at least for a while. The Minister welcomed the massive commitment of local authorities and individuals.
This mobilization is reflected in real terms since more than 10,000 people have registered on the Je m’engage pour l’Ukraine (I am committed to Ukraine) platform (https://parrainage.refugies.info/) according to the figures presented by Jérôme Medelli, Head of the Office of the Interministerial Delegate in charge of the Reception and Integration of Refugees (DIAIR). Then Clemence Olsina, Director of Asylum within the Directorate-General for foreign nationals in France (DGEF), spoke about the implementation of the first reception of refugees and about temporary protection and access to housing.
Then Didier Leschi, Director General of the OFII, took the floor. He highlighted the goals of the OFII in this context and particularly the payment of an allowance comparable to that for asylum seekers in all respects. He also spoke about the Parisian first reception structure, Porte de la Chapelle, designed for the reception of displaced Ukrainians, for an indefinite period. On site, the deployment of OFII and police prefecture services in the form of a single desk for asylum seekers facilitates registration in the temporary protection system.
Joseph Zimet, the prefect’s coordinator for monitoring the reception of Ukrainian refugees, concluded this series of interventions, particularly by announcing the creation of an Interministerial Crisis Unit.
The press conference continued with a series of questions from journalists. Asked about a possible “double standard” regarding refugees, Didier Leschi recalled that the OFII directs more than 1,600 refugees to accommodation facilities throughout France every month. He also pointed out that the hotels used to accommodate Ukrainians are the same as those used to receive Afghans a few months ago. Finally, displaced persons from Ukraine, like all asylum applicants, are offered vaccination against Covid-19.
At the end of the press conference, the prefects, Joseph Zimet and Didier Leschi, noted a change in perspective. France, where Ukrainian community is rather small, is becoming a resettlement country, at least for a while, where the displaced persons have been mainly in transit to the countries of Southern Europe until now. At the same time, according to the data provided by Didier Leschi, about 1,000 Ukrainians who have applied for asylum in recent days are gradually opting for temporary protection. Therefore, they, like everyone else, hope for a rapid end of the conflict, which will allow them to return to the country of their origin as soon as possible.