Dec 1st, 2014, 11:56 PM

Ici C’est Gratuit

By Marc Feustel
André Inora. Image Credit: Carenina Sanchez
Written by Amanuel Neguede

"I've been in Paris for seven years now and I haven’t spent a dime on anything.” André Inora, a remarkable geography student with outstanding grades at La Sorbonne University, has been squatting empty apartments since his arrival in France in 2007. These were seven years of “instructive”squatting, as he explains that without a rent to pay each month “you have more time to focus on what really matters.”

Today’s French society has set high standards of living, and squatting empty locations is far from being considered a conventional choice of life. Squatting is frowned upon across the globe and squatters are often viewed as rejects of society, incapable of living a healthy and stable life. “I don’t tell everyone I meet that I squat here,” Inora confessed. “A lot of people automatically assume I am a delinquent”.

Jean-François Robert, André’s geography professor, completely disagrees with what he calls a “backward dogma.” He only have commendable remarks on Inora’s behalf. “He is a unique individual with a unique perspective on life,” Robert says confidently. “He’s never disappointed me and whatever he does in the future, I am sure he will be the best at it.”

Inora first squatted in a Haussmannian building in Paris’ 12th arrondissement. Then in an old sex shop depot in the heart of Pigalle, in the 18th. A marvelous 2000-square-meter house in Boulogne to continue. Today in an old French pavilion in the 14th, next to Alesia, Inora has always had the privilege of living comfortably in enormous space — for free. (See the article in the Peacock Magazine’s Winter issue).

“How many years have you been in France?” Inora asked. “How much money did you spend on rent since you got here? Don’t you think you could have done a lot with all that money?”

The student just came back from a two-week trip to Madagascar and is now planning his Christmas holidays —a safari in the plains and a hike on the Mount Kilimanjaro, in Tanzania. Inora has visited over 20 countries in the past three years. “I was swimming with octopuses and turtles,” he recalls. “I wouldn’t be able to afford any of this if I had to pay rent, bills etc.”

According to the French National Institute of Statistics and Economic Studies (INSEE), squatters are considered sans-abri or sans-domicile-fixe, which means “without a shelter” in French. But unlike thousands of men, women and children, Inora and his three roommates have the comfortable luck of having a roof.

For politicians, Inora and his friends are regarded as homeless. For the decent French tax payer, the student is considered an outcast or a criminal. But in his eyes, squatters are “the embodiment of a rebellious movement against a society purely based on capitalist epitomes.” Painters, musicians, jugglers and fire spitters, but also municipal workers: “These are the people I live with,” Inora says.