My brain is so fried that I don’t even know where to begin.
This is not the first time I’ve had to go to the Centre de Réception des Étrangers, but it was certainly the worst.
I showed up with my dog around 8:30AM to meet a crowd of people already standing and sitting in a line that reached out of the alley of 19-21 rue Truffaut. Lovely. Well, I had no choice. I got in line and soon made friends with a Canadian girl standing next to me.
By 10AM we had gotten much closer to the door, but it may have just been an illusion created by the bizarre fact that the people at the head of the line figured that standing closer together would somehow be beneficial. The sun started to peer out from behind the neighbouring building. I joked that at some point it would go behind the tree and we would have shade again. We didn’t think we would actually be out there long enough for that to happen. But we were, and it did.
While we were in the sun, the line got more and more cramped, and at some point I could no longer sit on the ground at all, or protect my dog-in-a-bag from getting smushed. I had to keep her in her bag and hold it for the last 2 hours because there was no way I could bend over to pick up the straps if the line started to move.
My Canadian friend finally decided to circulate a petition, asking that something be done about this situation. Not just today, but in the future, for all Étrangers. Because this is ridiculous. We got at least 2 pages of signatures that I’m aware of, and she intends to send copies to various places. We exchanged information to keep in touch and I’m looking forward to raising a little hell about this. She told me it was on the news a long time ago, but nothing changed. She told me last time she was here there was a pregnant woman who passed out due to the heat. We learned that the center that normally handles one of these residency issues had closed and now this center handles it in addition to what they were already handling.
This is all insanity. It’s 2013 and it doesn’t take much thought or effort to get organized. If they can’t take appointments, they can at least schedule groups of people at staggered times. They can at least take a list of names so that people can come back later and not stand around for 5 hours. There are numerous solutions to this. Something needs to be done. This cannot be how France greets those who are trying to become citizens, by telling them to wait outside in a crowd for hours on end, at least once a year during this process…. with no offer of water, no available restroom, not even chairs or protection from the elements. They treat us like animals. And then people begin to behave like animals, pushing and shoving, trying to get themselves in front of others. As we reached the front of the line, we heard more and more arguments between people in line and people who were trying to cut. One woman got called out several times as she tried again and again to cut to the front of the line. To make sure I and my new group of friends got in before others who had weaseled their way in front of us, we had to link arms and squeeze ourselves through after our spokeswoman make sure the man in charge knew that we were together and that we came before the people trying to make it through the door. I thought my dog would pop, squeezing through the crowd.
Once inside, we got to sit down and wait for our numbers to be called, which came about much faster. Though once upstairs, Mme. Grumpy-pants, after asking me for my ID and papers, told me dogs weren’t allowed. I said I just stood in line for 5 hours outside, and I have nobody with me. She gave me the “I don’t care” look, and some related words, and then walked away. I grumbled loudly, picked up my doggy-bag and went to the front desk. The nice man there agreed to watch her for me as I went back upstairs. Screw you, lady, your bad mood isn’t going to ruin my entire day that easily. I know you think that’s part of your job description, but I’m going to make sure you do the other part. So I waited, and watched as she just chatted it up in another adjoining room. I noticed there were only 3 out of a possible 12 people manning the desks here. She eventually came back, bringing with her a guy in a blue shirt I’d seen and heard outside earlier. She complained about the dog (why do you hate dogs? She was in a bag, is she preventing you from doing your job?) and he asked if I had a dog. I said, yes, downstairs. He seemed fine with that, and left. Ha. Do your job now, Mme. Grumpy-pants. And she did. We spoke little, and in a few minutes I thanked her and left with my récipicée.
On the way out I squeezed past the dozens of people still in line outside in the sun….
Something’s got to change.
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