Three Nigerian migrants died this weekend in a fire in Marseille, in the south of France. Panicked, they jumped out of the windows of the social housing building where they were squatting, officials said. A young child was taken to hospital in serious condition.
A two-year-old child and an adult were also seriously injured in the fire inside the ten-story building, where migrants from Nigeria are known to squat, said the public prosecutor of Marseille. The child was very badly burned. Nine other people are said to have suffered less serious injuries.
The three victims, seemingly desperate amid the flames spreading through the building, jumped out of the windows. Knotted sheets hanging on the front, according to the AFP Press Agency.
The fire spread quickly through the technical ducts, but did not reach the apartments which are “without penetration of smoke”, indicated the public prosecutor during a press briefing.
Tensions between migrants and drug traffickers
“The existence of two fires, one on the sixth floor, the other in the stairwell” prompted the investigators to open a criminal investigation, added the public prosecutor.
The Nigerian community of Marseille accused drug traffickers of being behind the tragedy. “The dealers terrify us. They have guns. They prevent us from sleeping, ”says Azeke Endurance, 30. AFP. According to the prefect of police, Frédérique Camilleri, there is indeed “a notorious degree of drug trafficking here” as well as “tensions between the inhabitants and the traffickers”.
Echoing Camilleri’s statement, Laurens, the public prosecutor, also described the situation on the ground as “extremely tense”. The prices of the drugs are written on the walls in the stairwell of the building, he said.
A 31-year-old Nigerian had lived there for a year with his wife, now six months pregnant. Each month, the couple had to pay illegal rent to the drug dealers who trafficked in the building.
“Sometimes they hit my wife because they came to collect the money. Sometimes they took 200 €, sometimes 300 € ”, explained the asylum seeker. France Blue radio network. “If you tell them you don’t have any money, they’ll hit you several times. The man decided to sleep in the street with his pregnant wife where it is “less dangerous than the squat”.
“A very worrying situation”
The dilapidation of the building, which was to be demolished, is evident. “The situation was very worrying,” said Lionel Royer-Perreault, president of the social housing management company Habitat 13, owner of the building. He said the entire building was in no danger. At the time of the fire, there were a total of 14 legal tenants in the building and only one in the part that burned down.
According to a press release from the town hall of Marseille, “91 people, including 28 women and 27 children, were taken by municipal services to two gymnasiums for emergency reception” on Saturday evening. Officials called on the state “to provide decent accommodation for all those affected.”
“Marseilles politicians have been accused of ignoring warnings about substandard housing in 2018, when eight people were killed when two buildings collapsed in the center of the port city,” AFP reported.
In recent months, numerous fires have also broken out in migrant camps across Europe, totally or partially destroying living spaces. Although some of these fires are caused by arson, the majority are accidental, according to the NGOs involved.
This article is based on an InfoMigrants French article.