Life in the new shanty town taking root on Paris’s abandoned railway

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Life in the new shanty town taking root on Paris's abandoned railway
The new Roma camp on the abandoned Petite Ceinture train tracks is home to around 350 people / © M Astar/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock

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Life in the new shanty town taking root on Paris's abandoned railway
The new Roma camp on the abandoned Petite Ceinture train tracks is home to around 350 people / © M Astar/Sipa/Rex/Shutterstock

This section of the derelict Petite Ceinture railway – known for its hipster cafe and beer garden – is now home to a squatter camp too. Annabelle Azadé meets some of the 350 people who live in its makeshift shacks

For the past couple of years Boulevard Ornano in Paris’s 18th arrondissement has been mostly known for its hipster beer garden, La Recyclerie. Perched above the long-quiet rails of the Petite Ceinture – an abandoned circular railway built more than 150 years ago in the centre of Paris – it offers a cafe, stalls and gardening workshops to its mostly gentrified clientele.

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. […]

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