Migrants battle extreme temperatures in as record heatwave hits France

A record heatwave of over 40 degrees Celsius hit France at the start of its summer season in June 2019, leaving vulnerable migrants to battle extreme temperatures.

Heatwaves are not unusual in France during the summer, but its impact continues to be felt. The worst heatwave was experienced in 2003, when about 15,000 people died from heat-related causes. This year, Paris and other cities have again boosted preparations to help cool the city’s residents.

For irregular migrants living in outskirts of Paris, such as Porte de la Chapelle in northern Paris, some facilities were also made available. An emergency drop-in centre run by charities offers showers, toilets, coffee and some shelter from the heat during the day.

“My tent is unbearably hot from about 6:00 am. I have to come here to keep cool,” Ahmed Yusuf, 35, said in an interview with news agency Agence France Presse. He is one of hundreds living in makeshift camps in the area. The population of irregular migrants in Porte de la Chapelle is estimated to be between 700 and 1,200.

“In Sudan, I was used to the heat, but it’s different here in France,” said Mustapha, 26. “We’re always outside so we can’t really protect ourselves.”

In particular, cold showers provide much needed relief. At this centre, migrants from Africa and Asia form a queue to take showers to cool themselves down.

“Somehow, you know, this is worse than our weather. I don’t know why, but the sun, it just feels so close,” said Abdallah Salam, 20, a Somali irregular migrant. “There, at least you get good wind — you don’t get the sunshine like this. Here you can really feel it.”

A boy, Amir Sherifi, said he arrived in France after a long journey from Afghanistan about a week ago. “It’s too hot,” he said.

However, these lines are getting too long for facilities to cope with the demand. Volunteers in Paris said they had to close down some showers and limit the number of people using open showers.

“We couldn’t continue,” Cougoureux said, adding that pressure was building over the “constant stream of people”.

TMP -30/07/2019

Photo credit: Guillaume Destombes / Shutterstock

Photo caption: French capital, Paris, under massive heatwave and pollution spikes.