Recently I started to see many images of shanty towns in Paris, supposedly created by immigrants.

One included below is especially popular. Text says:

Meanwhile in Paris

Is this image true?

If yes, where is it? If no, is there a real problem with shanty towns in Paris at all?

Example image

This image (linked to on Facebook etc, at least from my PoV):


Sites with similar vibes and images:

I asked about the one that currently appears to be the most popular one, but of course we all live in "information islands".

Editors note:

The original question asked about "slums", but the picture shows a shanty town or squatters settlement. In English a slum is a district inhabited by very poor people living in buildings that are permanent but substandard (e.g. leaking roof, mould on walls, no indoor plumbing) while a shanty town describes a collection of improvised structures such as the one shown in the picture. "Squatters" are people who take up residence in a property without the permission of the owner. The inhabitants of a slum are not usually squatters (although some may be).

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    Note that in the US this would not be called "slums", but rather something along the lines of "squatters' village" or "shanty town". Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 11:21
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    theguardian.com/cities/2016/jan/05/… Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 11:21
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    @DanielRHicks Feel free to fix it if you know for sure I made a mistake. This fits what we call "slumsy" in Poland, and I'm not great at nuances.
    – Mołot
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 11:48
  • A link to the original picture making the rounds, or being "especially popular" would be interesting. (Uploading it here strips useful meta-data? At the URL embedded in the picture I do not find it easily.) Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 12:12
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    It could be that most slums are not "in" Paris, but rather they are in the suburbs of Paris. As noted in one of the quotes by LangLangC, the picture here is "North of Paris".
    – GEdgar
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 13:33

3 Answers 3


The image is true in the sense that it was not manipulated in its pixels, and it is true that it depicts mainly Roma people who set camp on the railway line in Paris. But the date of "meanwhile" is manipulative as it indicates present day 2018 Paris. Taken together, that is a "No. That picture with its caption is not 'true'."

The picture shows a shanty town on the Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture:

Paris' former Chemin de fer de Petite Ceinture ('small(er) belt railway'), also colloquially known as La Petite Ceinture, was a circular railway built as a means to supply the city's fortification walls, and as a connection between Paris' railway termini.[…]
Re-use and Present state
Access to the unused rail tracks is forbidden, but enthusiasts explore it nonetheless, describing it as a quiet, natural garden space within Paris

"Forbidden" does not mean inaccessible though: How To Explore Paris’ Beautiful, Abandoned Railway.

The above picture in doubt is confirmed when looking at newspaper reports like:

Life in the new shanty town taking root on Paris's abandoned railway: But a few hundred metres away, hidden behind a large metro ticket booth, a camp has taken shape. The 19-mile belt of Petite Ceinture has been derelict for several decades and its possible redevelopment has long sparked debate among environmentalists and entrepreneurs. Then, shortly after the migrant crisis hit Europe, the squatter’s camp took root. “I know there is a Roma camp just a few minutes walk from La Recyclerie, I think it is just straight down the rails,” says one of the cafe’s bartenders, “but I’ve never been there, nor said hello.”
With shacks made from wooden boards and sheets of plastic, and with numerous pans covering holes in case of rain, this 500-metre section of track is home to an estimated 350 people. The infrastructure is nonexistent: there is no electricity and no running water. Camp residents must make the walk to the municipal showers at Porte de Saint-Ouen, almost a mile away.
Many camp residents are Roma from Romania or Bulgaria, but as Philippe Gossens at the Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (League of Human Rights) explains, refugees from the Middle East also live here, after fleeing their homes and making their journey to Europe over the summer.
enter image description here
According to French law, anyone who trespasses on the Petite Ceinture is subject to a €3,750 fine and six months in prison – but the Reseau Ferre de France (the French Railway Network), which owns the abandoned railway, has so far kept silent on the camp and its future. In the first few months of 2015, though, French authorities destroyed 37 squatter camps and displaced more than 4,000 people, according to the Ligues des Droits de l’Homme (the League of Human Rights).
The Guardian, Tue 5 Jan 2016 12.42 GMT Last modified on Fri 11 May 2018 13.12 BST

See also Gurdian 2014: The Petite Ceinture: the battle over Paris's abandoned railway and Precarious Roma Village Of Northern Paris: A Few Cautious Considerations (December 2015).

This kind of news making the round is of course not very welcomed by the French authorities:

Paris police clear Roma from disused railway line camp
Police have cleared hundreds of Roma people from a slum-like camp built on a disused rail line in north Paris. More than 350 Roma people had lived in the camp on La Petite Ceinture since mid-2015. Activists said many left early ahead of the police action. The site belongs to the national rail authority SNCF. France has one of Europe's toughest policies towards Roma. Most live in camps that are regularly demolished and every year thousands are deported. Amnesty International urged city authorities to find a lasting housing solution for those evicted in Paris - saying they would become homeless in mid-winter.
BBC World 3 February 2016

The real and bigger problems to the present day in and around Paris have a more permanent structure and the problem zones are typically populated with French citizens. The name for these problem areas is "Quartiers Sensibles" (i.e. the poor Banlieues, often equated with or called "cités"). These are often equated with plain "slums" as well:

Macron Unveils Plan to Tackle Problems in France's Suburban Slums (2018):
President Macron laid out a series of concrete, actionable measures for the country's troubled banlieues, or suburbs — from more community policing, urban renovation, and educational support, to cutting through layers of bureaucracy, fighting drug dealing, and better communication with local mayors about suspected radicals.

Counting what is actually and commonly defined as slums, France as a whole seems to have an ongoing problem, although on a smaller scale than with the suburbs.

Le Monde: Ces 570 bidonvilles que la France ne veut pas voir (2017) discussed in English in France races to tear down its 570 squalid shanty towns but root problems persist and Outlining the global fault lines of the ‘slum’ narrative as: “The 570 slums that France doesn’t want you to see”, drawing attention to the hundreds of informal settlements in France (113 in the Paris region alone) where 16,000 inhabitants live a marginal and precarious life.

The key difference to classify that picture circling now as not entirely "true" is that the actual conditions depicted are not "current events" in 2018 and that the more depressing scales of French problems lie elsewhere and that even when actual "slums" keep popping up, they are not as permanent as commonly believed and understood for "slums" or frozen in that picture, but relatively quickly evicted in general. Scandalous as these conditions are, nonetheless, they are also not exclusive to France.


That "meanwhile" in question was a rather short lived phenomenon captured in that photo. There may be very well relatively small slum-like "settlements" in Paris, and elsewhere, now. But the scenes in the picture are not to be found any more, and on that location depicted they are very unlikely to return there (A High Line for Paris, Only More So). As a "look at the scandalous news from Paris" picture this is manipulative in 2018.
As long as deprived citizens, migrants and refugees are treated like they are in Europe these shanty towns can pop up everywhere at any time.

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    "Taken together that is a 'No'"? Isn't it an ongoing problem? Here is an article from just a few months ago saying there are 113 slums like this in Paris alone as of October last year. thelocal.fr/20171020/… and here is an article from just 2 weeks ago about ANOTHER two slums being cleared out. france24.com/en/20180604-paris-police-two-migrant-camps Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 13:34
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    These look like squatter towns or shanty towns. That means improvised makeshift housing built by the inhabitants, generally on property not owned by them. Slums is a more general term that refers to an area of densely populated housing inhabited by the poor and in a bad state of repair. It tends to connote high density urban housing such as apartment complexes.
    – barbecue
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 15:17
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    The Conclusion here is a bit misleading - the points of contention on the original post are the timing of the specific picture and the nature/name of the low-quality living arrangements that immigrants are taking up in Paris. Without including this context to acknowledge the ongoing problem depicted in the original post, the conclusion that the depicted scene is 'very unlikely to return' cannot be substantiated, and the paragraph as a whole is deeply misleading.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 16:35
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    The name for these problem areas is Banlieue. This is incorrect. A banlieue is the French equivalent of a suburb. There are wealthy banlieues and poor banlieues. Banlieues are not by definition problem zones, although problems can exist within them, as is true anywhere.
    – CJ Dennis
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 1:19
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    and in France they are equated with HLMs since the 70s (cf WP) => It's a bit more complicated than that (as usual) and a better word would be "Quartiers Sensibles". In practice, there are rich and poor "banlieues" and everything in between, so "banlieues" really are just "suburbs". Figuratively speaking, however, "banlieues" is often used negatively; in the XIX, it was used negatively by city dwellers because the people living there were not up-to-date on fashion/morales, and since the 50s/70s, "banlieues" evokes only the "poor" ones when used without a qualifier. Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 11:49

Although, as LangLangC stated, the image you provided doesn't show an actual migrant camp (the Roma people didn't come to France during the migrant crisis of 2015 but rather since 2008 when Romania and Bulgaria entered the EU, and keep coming here since then), there were until recently two big migrant settlements in Paris at Porte de la Chapelle and Canal Saint-Martin.

They were dismantled last month but the government offered no real solution so far for these migrants, so other settlements might pop out sooner or later, in Paris or the surrounding area.

From The Telegraph (2018-05-30):

Police have evacuated the largest illegal refugee camp in Paris days after homeless charities warned that the situation was heading for “tragedy” following a stabbing and two drownings.

From InfoMigrants (2018-06-04):

French police evacuated two migrant camps near the Canal Saint Martin and Porte de la Chapelle in northern Paris on Monday morning, less than a week after clearing out a another larger migrant camp. Many of the people who have been evacuated are worried about their futures. Under EU legislation, they could be sent back to the first EU country that they entered and, in some cases, deported to their countries of origin.

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    Please add relevant citation from your sources
    – SIMEL
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 13:39
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    Don't the articles titles are enough? It's not a particular claim in these articles that made me linked them, i linked them as evidences that show the actual existence of "slums" in Paris. If you want more precise claim I can link some but I didn't think it was that relevant.
    – F. Emin
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 13:49
  • Citation is different (and more effective at proving your point) than referencing - you need to more clearly indicate how the two articles referenced relate to (and prove) the specific points you're making.
    – Zibbobz
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 13:54
  • Ok I'll add it then, just need a few minutes :)
    – F. Emin
    Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 13:57
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    I'd like to add some scale and perspective to that "keep coming here". Deportation of Roma migrants from France. These kind of settlements might be found all over Europe, but (currently) they do not last that long. "Large" is very relative when you compare these pictures with huts to the horizon with the actual numbers found in other parts of the world. Commented Jun 18, 2018 at 15:18

To answer more precisely on the where part of the question, the shantytown is on BD Ney, 75018 Paris (48°53'53.1"N 2°21'05.6"E):

enter image description hereGoogle Maps screenshot

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    Google Streeview suggests that camp on the La Petite Ceinture near Porte de Clignancourt was present in September 2017 but was not there in April 2016
    – Henry
    Commented Jun 19, 2018 at 22:36
  • @Henry nice find! Commented Jun 20, 2018 at 7:18

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