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French police clear migrant camp in Paris

July 29, 2020

Officers have cleared hundreds of people from a makeshift migrant camp in the French capital's northern suburbs. Aid groups have said they hope the coronavirus crisis will push authorities to provide permanent housing.

Asylum seekers gather their belongings ahead of their evacuation from a makeshift camp set along the Canal Saint-Denis in Aubervilliers near Paris
Image: Getty Images/AFP/C. Archmbault

French police on Wednesday removed more than 1,250 people from a migrant camp on a canal bank in the northern Paris suburb of Aubervilliers, authorities said on Twitter.

Many of the migrants at the site are believed to have come to France after fleeing violence and poverty in the Horn of Africa and Afghanistan.

The local prefecture tweeted that more than 1,000 men in addition to 250 people in families were moved in the operation. Local media said as many as 1,500 people had been living at the camp.

The Le Parisien newspaper reported that they were taken in buses to temporary shelters in the Paris region and would be tested for the coronavirus as a precaution.

Read moreIn lockdown: Migrants in France up against pandemic, police abuse

Migrants struggle in Calais

 'Weariness, despair'

The Aubervilliers site is the latest of dozens that have sprung up in northern Paris since the closure of a huge informal camp in the port city of Calais in 2016.

Police regularly dismantle migrant tents and move their inhabitants to shelters — only for new settlements to pop up elsewhere soon afterward. Local government officials have warned that such camps will not be tolerated, while aid groups have called for authorities to support permanent housing solutions for migrants sleeping rough.

Louis Barda of the NGO Medicins du Monde said Wednesday's operation was an oft-repeated cycle.

"There is weariness, despair, this situation has lasted for almost five years," he said. "The state is incapable of receiving (the migrants) in a dignified manner."

When France's coronavirus lockdown came into force in March, police moved migrants from camps in Paris into gyms, hotels and other accommodation. But after restrictions were lifted in May, many soon found themselves back on the streets.

The European Court of Human Rights earlier this month ordered France to pay damages to three asylum-seekers who spent months sleeping on the street, saying they had been "victims of degrading treatment."

nm/sms (AFP, Reuters, dpa)