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On March 24, MSF began assisting the health authorities’ COVID-19 response in Paris and the suburbs, but it is also developing activities to ensure access to routine medical care is maintained for people living on the streets.

This includes migrants, the homeless, and unaccompanied minors interrupted in the process of appealing to the courts for recognition as minors.

There are two main arms to our work. The first is a mobile clinic run five days a week near food distribution sites, providing consultations by a nurse and doctor. The second is teams of nurses visiting the gymnasiums, hotels and other sites to which 700 or so migrants were relocated from a camp in Aubervilliers.

In recent days, a nurse hotline has been set up to receive support requests from various collective accommodation shelters. MSF is working to put in place basic hygiene measures to protect the residents as well as the staff.

A psychologist has joined the team to address mental health issues, as the epidemic and lockdown can increase anxiety in many people who endured extreme trauma during the long journeys from their home countries.

Since April 7, we have been working in a "COVID-positive" centre established for COVID-19 patients and people with symptoms, who live on the street or in collective accommodation shelters and who cannot isolate themselves. In the first week of operations we have conducted 426 medical examinations and identified 125 people suspected of having COVID-19.

Just over half of 44 people tested were positive. Northeast of Paris, on April 4 we responded to a request from Reims University Hospital to temporarily increase its number of intensive care beds by setting up a medical care tent in its grounds.


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In northern France, at the border with Italy, and in Paris, migrants and refugees encounter policies and practices aimed at preventing them from settling or claiming their rights.

Since 2007, Médecins Sans Frontières France has been providing medical and psychological care as well as social support to asylum seekers.

Unaccompanied minors are among the most vulnerable, often arriving alone in France after arduous journeys. A lack of information, language barriers, and a maze of administrative bureaucracy often make it impossible for them to even register their claims. Some manage to apply for child protection and, if recognised as minors, are looked after by children’s services. 

Children whose claims are turned down are excluded from the legal system and denied any further assistance.

On the streets of Paris 

MSF runs primary healthcare mobile clinics and regular outreach activities in Paris, where hundreds of refugees and migrants are sleeping rough.

Forced to hide from the authorities, they are increasingly invisible to the local population. This leaves them vulnerable to abuse and violence.


With insufficient space in humanitarian shelters, hundreds of migrants have nowhere to go but onto the street, exposed to the cold, and to police operations.

Where possible, MSF also provides emergency accommodation. In collaboration with other organisations, MSF teams have assisted in the organisation of a centre for unaccompanied refugee minors where they can access psychological support.

Condition of migrants in Paris

In December 2017, in collaboration with several associations and lawyers, MSF opened a day centre in Pantin, in the suburbs of Paris, to offer unaccompanied minors medical care, and social and administrative support. MSF teams follow up each individual case. 

Treating migrants stranded in Calais

MSF began working in the Calais area in 2015, filling gaps in services provided by other organisations, and adapting its activities as needs arose.

Migrants and refugees trying to reach the United Kingdom found themselves stranded in northern France, unable to proceed beyond Calais. Here, the number of inhabitants in the ‘Jungle’ – an informal camp for refugees and migrants – increased from 3,000 to nearly 10,000 between September 2015 and September 2016. 

Issues associated with informal settlement such as cramped conditions, lack of sanitation, and exposure to the elements, had significant consequences for people’s health.

In the second half of 2016, ‘fixed’ settlements and camps were progressively closed by the French authorities, and by October 2016, the ‘Jungle’ was dismantled. We halted our medical and psychological activities, but continued to monitor the situation and provide assistance, either directly or by supporting other organisations.

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