location of reception areas, way of life… The difficult settlement in Lorraine

To access the Travelers Reception in Tomblaine, only one way is possible: you have to walk along the waste reception center and take a narrow section. On the site, electric cables are strewn on the ground, a handful of children play outside and the adults tell each other about their day in a small parking lot, where every square meter is important. A young couple waits in front of their brand new trailer. “We hear all too often about travelers who are unwell,” laments Logan, 23.

“We sleep most of the time near a cemetery or a waste center. We have to deal with it, but sometimes we have to leave the place in a hurry because of the bad smells,” she regrets from her living room.

A statement shared by William Acker, himself from a traveling family and author of the book Where are the “Travellers”? Critical inventory of reception areas. After the factory fire Lubrizol in Rouen, in September 2019next to a reception area, it works on the living conditions of the travelers.

Listen to our interview with William Acker

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Reception areas that are not welcoming

“Of the 1,400 reception areas for travelers in France, almost 7 out of ten places are systematically banished from cities”, warns William Acker. “Placing populations that we don’t want to see in urban centers or close to home, far from everyone, raises questions. Especially in our country, where in the end all citizens are equal,” he emphasizes.

“If we continue to think about offering specific accommodations to travelers, we will fall back to the discriminatory ways of the past with regard to travelers,” laments the lawyer.

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Places that we hide relatively transparent

In Lorraine, William Acker lists 16 receiving areas in the Mosel, 12 in the Meurthe-et-Moselle, 11 in the Vosges and 7 in the Meuse. Although Meurthe-et-Moselle is not one of “the worst students”, half of its areas are out of the way, according to him.

“These are places we hide, relatively transparent. When travelers are not a problem, we don’t talk about them, we don’t see them. But when there is a concern, such as illegal installations, that’s when we discover them,” he condemns.

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“The detainees greet us from their cells”

A little further, on the heights of Nancy, the largest area of ​​the Metropolis of Greater Nancy is dedicated to travelers: “Manitas de Plata. Once through the security gate, we plunge into one of these long alleys with its sixty squares. A dog runs towards us. “The prisoners are so close that sometimes they greet us from their cells,” slips a traveler in front of his white caravan parked not far from the impressive Maxéville prison. A few meters further on hangs an elderly woman putting out her laundry, an essential task which proved impossible at the beginning of the year due to the cold.

“In winter, the days were difficult here. The frozen water, the less strong current… It was exhausting,” Logan recalls. Despite heat wave, this summer the young woman intends to continue traveling the roads of the south. “We travel everywhere. It’s one of the main advantages associated with our lifestyle,” says his companion, who works in construction. Last year, at this time, they put their suitcases in Saint-Tropez, Thonon-les-Bains , before returning to Lorraine in Metz.

Meanwhile, the young woman takes her problems patiently. “Here in Tomblaine, places are tight. The elected officials have done the absolute minimum to develop this area. There is nothing welcoming about it,” she adds at the entrance landing, pointing to the sanitary facilities outside. But what disturbs her the most is the discrimination that travelers in particular face on social networks.

Faced with these waves of hatred and these comments describing them as “second-class citizens” or “wild gypsies”, the young woman exclaims: “Get to know people before you judge them!”.

Here is the reception area at Tomblaine (54) for travellers. Photo ER/ Jordan Cure-Heaton

The equipment inside his caravan.  Photo ER/ Jordan Cure-Heaton

The equipment inside his caravan. Photo ER/ Jordan Cure-Heaton

This is where Logan and his companion Manzon live year-round.  Photo ER/ Jordan Cure-Heaton

This is where Logan and his companion Manzon live year-round. Photo ER/ Jordan Cure-Heaton

The living-dining room.  Photo ER/ Jordan Cure-Heaton

The living-dining room. Photo ER/ Jordan Cure-Heaton

To Neuves-Maisons, the area pointed out

Among the other reception areas in Lorraine, William Acker points to Neuves-Maisons, administered by the municipalities of Mosel and Madon as well as Pays du Sel and Vermois. “It is next to a steel wire factory (Seveso type), a railway line and high voltage power lines. There is therefore a multitude of pollutants in the vicinity,” he condemns.

Faced with this criticism, the elected representative of Neuves-Maisons, Pascal Schneider, temperament: “It is true that it is not the most welcoming or bucolic place in our city, but the children only have a five-minute walk to reach the schools”.

Some elected officials do not want to welcome travelers?

The mayor adds: “Proximity to factories can indeed be disturbing in terms of noise and atmosphere, but these nuisances fall perfectly within the standards of the Global Health Office”. For Pascal Schneider, the problem lies elsewhere. “There are really no other options for arranging this area on the remaining municipal and common area. We have proposed to certain municipalities – and they will recognize each other – that they take turns welcoming travelers to a “passage” area, but all the elected representatives must still play the game”.

Travellers: what you need to know

  • Travelers in France represent almost 400,000 people, from a multitude of populations (Roma from Eastern Europe, Gypsies, Gypsies, Manouches or Yéniches). They have a life expectancy 15 to 20 years lower than the national average.
  • Since 2000 and the “Besson II Law” during the reign of Lionel Jospin, municipalities with more than 5,000 inhabitants must provide reception areas and large passages for travellers. These are part of a multi-year departmental plan. When they are in order, they can ban illegal parking on their territory.
  • At the time of the Vichy regime, travelers had an anthropometric notebook that they had to sign every day and were not allowed to stay more than 48 hours in a commune.
  • 40% of the reception areas in France lie on the municipal border.

Faced with this difficult installation in Lorraine, as everywhere in France, travelers will have to fight this summer and the coming months to assert their rights.

Who are these people helping them?

To help the daily life of the travelers, many “shadow workers” operate. Illustration from a reception area in Essey-lès-Nancy (54) with an employee of the association Amitiés Tsiganes.

Twenty employees and 2,000 mailboxes to manage

The association provides a postal domicile service in Mosel and Meurthe-et-Moselle. They have twenty employees to manage more than 2,000 mailboxes. Every morning the postman delivers many letters from social organizations but also from families. “We often have all three generations. This corresponds to approximately 80,000 letters per year! says Aydin Sevil from their premises in Haut-du-Lièvre.

But their tasks are not limited to this. Five social workers work closely with the department for schooling of young people, professional integration and health-related procedures.

Gérard Houot, president of the association Amitiés Tsiganes, is happy for the work his team has done. He would still like to be able to count on additional support from certain elected representatives. “Travellers don’t travel as much. They stay six months in one place as long as they have this option of parking. But it is rather the chosen ones who at some point make them go,” he says.

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