PARIS—A migrant died in Porte de la Chapelle on April 2 from suspected poor health conditions. A member of the charity association Solidarité Wilson said an old woman was found dead near an old mattress, her mouth open and her hands clutching a little bag, by policemen during an illegal camp evacuation.
The tragedy shed light on the extreme poverty and appalling conditions of migrant camps in the French capital. As spring arrives, thousands have built new illegal camps on the edge of Paris.
Porte de la Chapelle is one of these spots. According to journalist Rory Mulholland, this could be “one of the most sordid spots in all France.”
It’s hard to think otherwise at the sight of the tents circled by litter and waste, lying beneath bridges and multi-lane highways leading to the suburbs.
In the middle of this urban ghetto is “Crack Hill,” a patch of wasteland where disheveled drug-addicts congregate to buy their fix.
In early April, police dismantled a new camp composed of 300 tents in this place.
Drugs, Violence, and Prostitution
Last week, around 20 French NGOs asked officials to help the migrants in Paris who live in very poor conditions.
Compounding their dire living conditions is a range of other problems, including drugs, violence, and prostitution.
For Saïda Bouzaoui, who volunteers for an association that helps migrants, the situation has become critical.
Last year, her association, Solidarité Wilson, had to close its doors and stop helping migrants due to violent conditions and life threatening situations—not just for the migrants, but for the volunteers themselves.
Neither the mayor of Paris nor government officials seem to have a solution for the migrants. So they wander, set up camp somewhere, then get evacuated by police soon after, before establishing a new camp somewhere else.
This situation has remained relatively the same since 2015, and only thing that seems to change is the number of migrants, which is always increasing.
According to Solidarité Wilson, there were 1,200 migrants in Paris in 2017, but this number could now be up to 2,000, according to official figures.
The assistance coming from residents in Paris and volunteers is often the only help they can find. In recent months, several migrants died in this area, according to police.
However, the exact number is hard to determine, Bazzi said.