Dozens of irregular migrants, including families with children, who sought a better life by embarking on a perilous journey and crossing multiple countries to reach France, have been living in deplorable conditions in a parking lot in a Paris suburb for months.
Nearly 200 irregular migrants from Iran, Morocco, and notably Afghanistan are living in a parking lot in Pantin, a northeastern Paris suburb that has been converted into a refugee camp with the assistance of non-governmental organizations and local residents.
The camp, which has around 90 tents, is home to three families with children.
There are just four mobile toilets and no place to take a shower at the camp, where rubbish overflows from their bins and clothes are placed to dry on the fence encircling the parking lot. To stay warm, migrants built a fire in a trash can.
Every day, French police patrol the area, observing and photographing the parking lot.
French government’s apathy
Some of these irregular immigrants spoke to Anadolu Agency about their struggle for survival.
Zeki, a 24-year-old Afghan immigrant, said he fled his homeland four years ago, worked in Istanbul for three years, and then arrived in France two days ago, passing through many Balkan countries.
He has met irregular immigrants who arrived in France before him, but the state does not care for them, thus he is considering leaving the country, he asserted.
Noting that irregular immigrants who wish to leave France prefer countries such as Germany and Italy, he stated that these countries have immigrant camps where immigrants are cared for.
People bring food to the camp every evening, stressing that there are only four mobile toilets, which are insufficient.
‘Police count numbers daily’
Inayatullah, another Afghan irregular migrant living in deplorable conditions, said he has been living in the parking lot for two months and that at least 200 people now stay there.
He described the harsh conditions they faced in the camp, saying that police came every day to count the people camping in the parking lot and that no one questioned what they were going through.
He underlined that there is no place where people can take a shower, therefore they travel to a distant location 1-2 times each week to do so, saying, "This is how life goes."
He said they are frequently helped by non-governmental organizations and given food, but that the state only provides a small amount of money to select irregular migrants.
This financial aid was not available to anyone who has previously been deported from France, he added, adding that not all, but around half of them may be receiving government assistance at this parking lot.
Another migrant, who did not share his name or country of origin for fear of being known to others in his home country about the deplorable conditions he lives in on the outskirts of Paris, said the media visited and filmed the camp, but this did not help and no steps are taken to improve their living conditions.
The immigrant stated that, despite his youth, he no longer feels youthful because of the challenges he has faced and dealt with maturely. He bemoaned the inhumane conditions they are subjected to here.
At the end of 2021, a group of immigrants, including families with children and unaccompanied children, slept in tents for weeks in a tunnel beneath a bridge in the capital Paris, despite the cold weather.