Arriving at Dax on February 6, 2017 by the TGV (France’s high-speed train service) at night, Frédéric was a little late to take me to the Berceau of Saint Vincent de Paul. He immediately told me: “The migrants have arrived.” And added: “These are mostly single women from Eritrea, Somalia, Sudan and Afghanistan. There is even a family of 6 people.”
While driving, Frédéric tells me how the reception took place in the premises of the Lazaristes Internal Seminary, at Le Berceau. They are currently empty of any occupants.
“They arrived by bus — tired by the journey that brought them from the Ile de France to the Landes. Intimidated but happy.”
The mayor of Saint Vincent de Paul, the sub-prefect of the Landes, the heads of charitable associations, the Vicar General of the diocese of Dax, and the administrators of the work of le Berceau, tried to exchange a few words in English; For Arabic speakers, a professor of Dax was there.
The association “Maison du Logement” has received the approval of the State to organize the reception of these women. Employees and volunteers will help them to regularize their situation and carry out the project.
All the furniture present in the different rooms has been made available.
Each person welcomed can benefit from a bed with a real mattress: something unimaginable a few days ago. They will share a room for two by affinity. This is not always the case in some places where the means do not allow it for various reasons.
The hospital of Dax will supply meals. The Seminary kitchen will also allow each of them to cook, according to their taste, the dishes of their country of origin.
This is what Frédéric told me during the journey between the station of Dax and the Hillon.
This Tuesday, February 7, Jean-Pierre, René, Eric, Pascale and I were meeting. And one moment, in an aside, we wondered how we would talk about the people in this group. Will they be the “migrants” in a pejorative sense, will they be the strangers, “people of passage?”
How do we speak of them? Like us, they have a name and a history. These are people. They need our attention.
What is important in this event is that the heart of Monsieur Vincent beats in the middle of winter, as in 1617.