It’s been almost a year since Ferrette, a tiny village in France’s Alsace region, transformed one of its old army barracks into a reception centre for refugees seeking asylum. After having spent months on the road, or ending up stuck in the notorious "Jungle" migrant camp in Calais, families from Afghanistan, Iraq and Syria are increasingly finding renewed hope as they arrive at this calm and serene village set deep in the French countryside.
In light of the European migrant crisis and an influx of Syrian, Iraqi, Afghan and east-African refugees, France has tried to pull its weight by expanding its network of reception centres for asylum seekers. Ferrette turned out to be one of the French villages that ticked all the boxes in its capacity to accept some of them, as it had two abandoned army barracks, a willing mayor and a network of local associations ready to take on the task of welcoming those in need.
What hadn’t been accounted for, however, was that not everyone living in Ferrette was open to the idea. Some villagers voiced concern over accepting the refugees. Who were they? Did they pose any danger? Would it cause villagers problems having them there? The questions were plentiful as the arrival of a total of 80 asylum seekers would see Ferrette’s population jump by as much as 10 percent.
A year later, our reporters went to Ferrette to meet some of its newest inhabitants, including a Syrian family who was forced to seek refuge from heavy bombardment at home, and an Afghan couple and their two young daughters who recently received their residence permits and now feel happily integrated in the little village. Our reporters also met with Aziz, from Afghanistan, who moved to Ferrette after receiving his residence permit. Feeling welcome and integrated, he is now looking for a job within the building industry. Little by little, the smiles seem to be returning to these refugees’ faces. But they now face the next chapter of their journey, that of starting a whole new life.