This summer, they were fleeing war. But this weekend the refugees took smiling photos as they experienced the city of lights and dreamt of a new future in France with the help of the organisation that has in the past worked with Spanish Republican exiles and people fleeing Nazi Germany.
Nour Shekhany, a 22-year-old who was studying economics in Damascus before fleeing Syria, said he wanted to see “the bridge that collapsed from all of the love padlocks” — or the famous Pont des Arts.
Currently living in Cergy, northwest of Paris, they are some of the migrants welcomed by France to help neighbouring Germany with its influx of asylum seekers.
“I never imagined being here,” said Ali Merkath, 33, who came with his wife and two children.
(A refugee looks out of the window of a bus during a tour organized by French non-profit association Secours populaire francais through Paris on October 10, 2015. Photo: AFP)
“Baghdad, that's done. Now, my country is France, this is where we will build our future.”
But for some refugees, the moment is bittersweet.
Aboud Omar from Syria's devastated Aleppo left his wife and six children — one of whom is just a newborn — at a refugee camp in Turkey.
“I ask God and the French government to bring my family here as soon as possible,” said Omar, 37.