France is due to welcome some 200 refugees on Wednesday, the first of 24,000 asylum seekers President François Hollande has pledged to take in over the next two years.
A first bus carrying 53 people arrived in Champagne-sur-Seine, east of Paris, Wednesday morning. They were welcomed by the French Red Cross in a hastily built shelter.
A FRANCE 24 reporter witnessed the arrival of another 46 at a leisure centre in the Paris suburb of Cergy-Pontoise.
A further 77 refugees from Iraq and Syria were also expected in the Orantes monastery, west of the French capital.
In total, France is expected to receive around 1,000 refugees this week in an effort to ease the pressure on Germany, which has seen thousands of migrants cross the border from Austria in recent days.
FRANCE 24's Ben Barnier reports on arrival of refugees in France
The Red Cross said they had been given refugee status by French authorities and would be crossing the border from Germany over the next three days.
Prime Minister Manuel Valls was due to chair a cabinet meeting on Wednesday to find housing solutions for the 24,000 refugees France has pledged to take in.
Several French mayors have offered to find accommodation for the refugees, though two have caused controversy by saying they would only take in Christians.
The remarks prompted swift rebukes from Valls and representatives of the French Catholic Church.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he would convene a meeting on Saturday with mayors who are willing to host refugees.
“The more people share in this solidarity, the more efficient we will be,” he told reporters on Wednesday. “When faced with such a humanitarian tragedy, one does not stop to ask what faith people belong to.”
A bus carrying Syrian and Iraqi refugees arrives at the Hubert Renaud leisure centre in Cergy-Pontoise, a suburb of Paris. (Photo: Charlotte Oberti, FRANCE 24)
The refugees were greeted by local officials, fire brigades, social workers and representatives of several aid groups. (Photo: Charlotte Oberti, FRANCE 24)
The leisure centre has a capacity of 110. French officials say the refugees will eventually have access to social housing. (Photo: Charlotte Oberti, FRANCE 24)
Date created : 2015-09-09