16:48 GMT28 May 2020
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    Fifty French members of Parliament from the Ile-de-France region are spending the night of February 28 on the streets to draw attention to homelessness in France.

    The initiative by Mama Sy, vice mayor of the Etampes commune, managed to redirect a group of politicians away from their disagreements and toward a common goal: The 50 Ile-de-France MPS will spend the whole night on the streets as air temperature are expected to fall as low as —2 Celcius.

    According to Sy, people need to comprehend the seriousness of the problem.

    "We can no longer allow people to live and sleep out on the street. We want it to end. To do that, we demand the requisition of empty buildings. This is not about one or another official's mistake — we all failed and we must end this inhumane situation together," Sy told Le Parisien.

    ​Two bodies of homeless people who died of cold exposure were discovered in France Sunday and Monday. A 35-year-old homeless man was found dead by his companions in the southeastern city of Valence on Sunday and on Monday the body of a 62-year-old who lived in a cabin in the woods near Paris was also found, RFI reports.

    And these are not the first deaths this year: between January 1 and February 14, 48 people died on the streets of France. According to estimates by Les Morts de la Rue, a homelessness advocacy group, 2,838 homeless French people died in 2015.

    Considering the number of homeless people living on the street today, the situation is critical. The Paris mayor's office counted 2,952 homeless people in the French capital in mid-February.

    A similar scenario repeats every winter: politicians seek to make French people aware of the problem, either by conducting public actions or by making loud statements. Back in September 2017, French President Emmanuel Macron declared that "no man must remain on the streets or in the woods before the end of the year." The goal has yet to be realized.

    So far, the homeless can only follow the advice, given to them back in 2012 by Nora Berra, then state secretary on healthcare, who recommended people of risk groups, including the homeless, to "avoid going out in the cold." Easier said than done.

    For the last few days, the better part of Europe has been struck with an unusual cold spell that's been dubbed the "Beast from the East." Five people have died from hypothermia in the last 24 hours in Poland, according to a government security center report. Germany is suffering from temperatures ranging from —10C to —34C, the latter recorded at Germany's highest peak, Zugspitze. France suffered a record low of —12 degrees in several provinces. Moscow's low tonight was —20. The cold caused numerous car accidents and many flights have been canceled or delayed. Austria even suspended the law requiring women to have their faces bared and allowed women to wear burqas without penalty.

    "In this cold, no policeman will pick on people who cover their face from cold," the Austrian Interior Ministry said in a statement.


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