Alastair Jamieson / NBC News
City officials have installed urinals and given aid groups space to distribute food, and the police presence is more benign than in Dunkirk or Calais, but food is paid for through donations.
Asylum applicants must make an appointment but waiting times can be weeks long and most sleep on nearby waste ground under the city’s traffic-choked orbital highway, Boulevard Périphérique. A water pipe allowing them to wash has been set up next to the road, hidden by dumpsters in an attempt at privacy. Tents and mattresses line the exit ramps, overlooked by a tower topped by a neon sign advertising electronics giant LG and its slogan, “Life Is Good.”
Abdilahi Abdi, a 21-year-old Somali master carpenter who fled the violence of Al Shabaab terrorism, says: “I was here one month then they gave me an appointment then they canceled it and said I had to come back after more weeks and I am still sleeping here.”
“Life is not good here,” he laughs, “but I still want to live in France, somewhere.”