“When you’re outside in the street, you don’t sleep, you’re constantly aware of everything that’s happening around you, it’s exhausting. And even if you think you are asleep, your mind is always on hold, ready to move if needed. I didn’t sleep well when I was in the street, and I tried to find a psychologist, and then he asked me why I didn’t sleep well and I said ‘I don’t know, but before I slept well, and now that I am in the street, I can’t sleep’. It’s as though since we arrived in France, we’re still in a journey of uncertainty and constant waiting.” An asylum seeker from Guinea shares his difficulties sleeping outside ever since the Porte de la Chapelle ‘bubble’ has been dismantled and since his arrival in Paris. Living in limbo, as many would describe in the interviews, in the ‘uncertain’ and being in a constant fight for survival – that is what living outside in Paris is like these days.
When there was the ‘bubble’ they could go inside and ask to be seen by doctors for somatic symptoms such as headaches, digestive problems and sleeping troubles. Now, aside from the Medecins du Monde mobile truck that comes 3 times a week for consultations, these single men are left alone outside without the knowledge of how long they will be living in this uncertainty and without being seen by specialized health professionals. So they take things day-by-day, and hope tomorrow offers a better alternative. With the summer days approaching, many fear the heat and even more evacuations of the camps.
Clémentine André is an MSc student in Global Migration Studies, at the University College of London (UCL). Clémentine has spent seven weeks in Paris, studying the effects of everyday uncertainty on refugee mental health.