Despite Sarkozy’s sweeping attempt to clear Paris of its slums last year and permanently deport illegal residents (mostly gypsy Roma populations), some settlements still remain. That’s the thing about slums–they’re resilient because they don’t take much to build and they’re by no means isolated to developing countries. Many global cities struggle with the management of these informal housing settlements that pop up overnight on marginal lands–on a highway median, along a train line.
One prominent slum was beneath an underpass at Asnières-sur-Seine, visible to anybody that took the bus to Paris Beauvais airport, where Ryanair is hubbed. It has since been removed. But another settlement along the RER B line to Airport Charles de Gaulle remains (or perhaps was later settled by those uprooted).
It is situated between Le Bourget and La Courneuve-Aubervilliers. La Courneuve is home to many 1960s large social housing complexes (including the “Cité of 4,000”), some of which are currently being gutted. In 2005, La Courneuve was “branded by France’s police intelligence agency as one of the country’s 150 ‘no-go zones’ where police officers should enter only with major reinforcements” [New York Times] and the city kickstarted the riots of that year. Amazingly, La Courneuve’s 35,000 residents encompass 80 nationalities and ethnic backgrounds–a far cry from demographics of Paris proper just 10 minutes away.
It’s pretty hard to get photographs of this place becomes the RER B whips by it so quickly, but you might be able to tell here that it’s built from discarded materials. There are a curious number of baby strollers on the roofs. It might look like just a junkyard, but the smoke rising from the many makeshift chimneys in the winter give it away.
Google satellite imagery from 2007 show this area was still a grassy no-man’s land between the paper factory and the RER line/highway. Bing maps from 2010 show some reduction in greenery, but no housing settlements yet. I’ve seen the settlement since fall 2010, so it’s probably less than a year old.
Google Maps (October 20, 2007):
Bing maps (2010):
There are undoubtedly others in the outskirts of Paris. Have you come across any?
For more imagery on the gypsy Roma population in these settlements, check out this great photo essay “Roma the Unwanted Europeans” by Steven Wasserman.
Untapped also previously reported on the ongoing urban renewal of Roma gypsy populations in Istanbul.