Water, shower and shelter: Heatwave help for Paris migrants

With a heatwave gripping France, charities and City Hall have mobilised to help the French capital’s migrant and refugee population, many of whom live in makeshift camps without easy access to fresh water or protection from the elements.

At a Salvation Army centre outside just outside Paris near the Porte de la Chapelle, migrants and refugees from Afghanistan, Eritrea, Ethiopia and many other countries mingle, drink tea and water or take a nap.

With temperatures in Paris nearing 40°C this week amid a heatwave sweeping across the country, the relative cool of the welcome centre is a much-needed respite.

Paris’s refugees and asylum seekers, many of whom live in tents along the périphérique ring road surrounding the French capital, are particularly at risk of the heat’s ill-effects.

But here, they have ready access to fresh drinking water, can take a shower, get medical help, or just cool off for a while.

“It’s really bad now there is the hot weather,” says Khaled, an asylum seeker from Afghanistan. “There are a lot of families living in parks or in tents and they are facing a problem there with children.”

With an army of volunteers and the support of Paris City Hall, the Salvation Army is doing its best to help all in need.

“We've received 1,000 re-usable drinking bottles from the city that we've started handing out to people so they can have water with them,” explains Emmanuel Ollivier, Salvation Army director.

“And they have access to showers: we provide more than 300 showers a day.”

Paris has seen a surge in migrants sleeping rough in recent months, according to the NGO France Terre d’asile, with more than 2,000 living in tents in and around the French capital.