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Paris council warns more deaths likely after migrant drowns

Migrants at the Canal Saint Martin camp in April AFP

Paris city councillors this week called on the government to provide accomodation for some 2,000 migrants camped out in the French capital and warned there could be more deaths, following the drowning of a young man, believed to be Afghan, on Monday night.

"We demand an operation to provide shelter ... of not there will be more deaths," Paris city housing chief Ian Brossard told RMC radio on Friday.

Police pulled the body of a man aged between 20 and 25 years old out of the Canal Saint-Martin in the north of the city on Monday night.

Although he had no identification on him, witnesses said he was Afghan and had been drinking heavily.

"Of course it could have been avoided," Brossat, a member of the Communist Party, said.

Earlier in the week Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo called on the government to provide accommodation for the migrants who have set up camp along the canal bank, warning "Lives are in danger."

Providing shelter was "a humanitarian duty and a necessity for public order", she added.

"We feared the worst and the worst has happened," the France Terre d'Asile NGO said in a tweet that called on the authorities to "live up to their responsibility to provide shelter for people urgently and with dignity".

Another body was pulled out of the canal on 6 May but was in such a state of decomposition that identification was impossible, police sources said.

Interior Minister Gérard Collomb hit back at Hidalgo on Wednesday, claiming that the government's handling of migrants has been "above approach" but saying it was up to the city council to take the legal steps necessary to evacuate the area.

The camp sprung up after the closure of a nearby centre for migrants so that a university can be built on the site.

On Tuesday France Terre d'Asile counted 2,348 people living in camps in Paris, Brossat said.

"The government's role is not to count the dead, it is to make it possible to put an end to this chaos," he declared.