Last January, Première Urgence Internationale carried out a social and sanitary evaluation of a group of Afghan people who sought shelter at the exit of two tunnels located in the Seine-Saint-Denis French department. The group had been living there, in harsh conditions, for the past few months.

“The people that we met come from the east of Afghanistan, notably from the disputed areas or those controlled by the Taliban” underlined Florence Batori, the French Mission Coordinator for Première Urgence Internationale. 35% of them fled the Nangarhar Province, and 20% come from Kunduz, a town located in the north of the country and recently subject to violent fighting between the Taliban and the Afghan and international forces. “Many mentioned a high degree of ongoing insecurity and some still suffer from injuries caused by war weapons” followed Florence Batori.

The most common migratory route consists in crossing Iran, then Turkey, and Greece or straight to Bulgaria, then Serbia, Austria, Germany or Italy to finally end up in France. They made their way to the Seine-Saint-Denis by bus, crowded trains, shared taxis and a lot of walking.

The analysis of their social and sanitary situation helped Première Urgence Internationale identify and fully understand what kind of help they needed. Even though there are no major health issues, the problem lies with the access to healthcare. Most of them don’t know where to go to be taken care of. Moreover, even if most of them have a mattress to sleep on, they are all exposed to cold winter nights and don’t have access to a watering place, a toilet or a shower. “The police department evacuate the area every two weeks, and their belongings are thrown away if they aren’t there” commentated the French Mission Coordinator. Even so, they come back, but not as many.

“All of them put forward the significant and priority need to dispose of a decent accommodation”

Last October, Première Urgence Internationale had already carried out an exploratory mission in seven sites of the Nord-Pas- de-Calais region where refugees and migrants live. The closing of the Reception Centre of asylum seekers in Sangatte in 2002 didn’t improve their situation in the region. Thousands of people are still living in inhumane conditions with the hope of reaching the United-Kingdom.

The progressive escalating of conflicts, particularly in Syria, Iraq and Afghanistan, has led to an unprecedented crisis on both geographic and humanitarian levels, and with millions of people affected, displaced or who have sought refuge abroad. If most of these people have fled to neighbouring countries, many continued their exile to Europe. This tendency, in constant growth for several years now, has turned into a mass phenomenon since 2015, assimilated to a humanitarian disaster. In 2015 over a million people entered Europe via sea or land.

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