MSF worker helping migrants living in Paris streets | Credit: MSF/Remi Decoster
MSF worker helping migrants living in Paris streets | Credit: MSF/Remi Decoster

The situation is getting ever worse for homeless migrants and refugees in Paris. According to Doctors Without Borders (MSF) and Médecins du Monde (MDM), about a thousand refugees and migrants are living on Paris streets amid the arrival of winter and plunging temperatures, mainly north-east of the French capital and in the Seine-Saint-Denis area.

An MSF statement notes that the situation grew worse for migrants after August 18, 2017, following the demolition of camps in the Porte de la Chapelle area in the city's northern parts. Over 2,700 people had been housed there and migrants have since been regularly cleared out by authorities. 

''Rain and the police are making it impossible to stay here. Rain forces us to crowd together under bridges, but once we have settled into a place, the police come and move us,'' Ibrahim (name changed), from Sudan, told the MSF team. ''Since I left Sudan, the police have followed me constantly on the journey. I did not think that the treatment would be the same in France. We do not know where to sleep here. As soon as we sit down somewhere, the police come and tell us to move. They wake us up in the middle of the night and make us get up. Sometimes we ask them where can we go, but every time they say 'I don't know, just get out of here'. I have no other choice than to request asylum here. There is only death in Sudan.'' 

'Words are no longer enough' 

The humanitarian organizations say that for migrants in the French capital, ''it is becoming ever more difficult to access healthcare assistance and basic services''. Every day, they see worsening health conditions due to the winter. ''Temperatures have dropped and migrants continue to live in the streets without any chance of obtaining lodgings,'' said Corinne Torre, head of the MSF mission in France. 

Jemal (not his real name), from Ethiopia but who has been in Paris for a month, called the situation ''absurd'', noting that ''I have been in UN refugee camps in Africa and the camps can be chaotic and precarious there but at least there are tents, something to eat, access to information and a feeling of safety. Here the only information that we receive are rumors and the police persecute us as if we were criminals.'' 

On July 27, French president Emmanuel Macron said that asylum seekers would have lodgings in France, declaring that none of them would still be homeless by the end of the year, the organizations said. ''With the arrival of winter, words are no longer enough: migrants urgently need shelter and new reception centers are needed as soon as possible,'' said Françoise Sivignon, Médecins du Monde chief in France.
 

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