French suburban men tired of gang stereotypes launch 'cook for refugees' campaign

'This will show what our neighbourhoods are really like – people usually see drugs and violence'

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The Independent Online

A group of young men from an underprivileged Paris suburb have launched a social media campaign challenging others to feed homeless refugees and migrants.

The trend has spread across the city and beyond. At least seven other districts in Paris and have taken up the challenge, as have neighbourhoods in Toulouse and Marseilles.

Paris has seen a visible increase in the number of refugees sleeping rough on its streets. Charity workers have said there are now around 1,000 living in makeshift camps around the city.

Despite the promise of an official refugee camp in the city, the numbers of homeless are expected to increase after the demolition of the Calais “Jungle” next week.

Malik Diallo, a delivery driver from Sarcelles, in the northern suburbs of Paris, decided to take action after he saw a woman and a young child lying in the street.

He and a group of friends cooked 150 plates of hot food. They made Tchep – a West African rice dish – and prepared sandwiches.

Laden with food and drinks, they headed towards the Stalingrad area and handed out their offerings to those sleeping rough.

“None of us had done this before: we had no idea how this would happen,” Mr Diallo told French weekly, L’Express.

“This experience has touched us all, it’s very moving,” he added.

They posted a ten-minute video of the event on Facebook and challenged another neighbourhood, Sablons, to feed the migrants in the same way. The clip attracted more than 70,000 views and was shared hundreds of times.

"This will show what [our] neighbourhoods are really like – and the image is very different from what people usually see, which is all about drugs and violence," Mr Diallo said.

One resident in Sablons, which took up the challenge, told French daily, Le Parisien: "Here, we know the value of solidarity. Our parents were migrants. We all experienced the misery.”

Paris' makeshift camps, which are home to more than a thousand people, are routinely subject to evictions – "a few hundred" people at a time.

In 2015, nearly 80,000 people applied for asylum in France, with many living in the Calais camp.

France has called on the UK to take responsibility for those living in the Jungle, many of whom have family ties to the UK. 

Yet the UK asylum process has proved lengthy. One refugee charity has launched legal proceedings against the Home Office for failing to accept unaccompanied minors.