French police cleared over a thousand people in a makeshift camp in the north of Paris on Thursday morning, a day after the government unveiled plans to “take back control” of immigration.
Hundreds of police officers arrived at the camp near Porte de La Chapelle before 6 am (GMT), where migrants and refugees were living in tents under and around the flyover and motorways.
In an operation that began under steady rain, people were taken to temporary accommodation in sports halls and asylum reception centres across the Paris region.
Reports show that many of the migrants, which included families with young children, said they were from Afghanistan or sub-Saharan Africa.
One man from Sudan told France Info Radio that “It is awful. I sleep outside. Sometimes eat, sometimes don’t. But I need to get a proper home, to get some training, to work. I want to live.”
A better solution needed
In Paris, makeshift camps for asylum seekers and migrants is nothing new. The state has carried out over 30 clearances in the capital over the last four years. But charities have been critical of the evacuations, saying these are not permanent solution because most people end up living in the streets again and creating new camps.
Anne Hidalgo, the socialist mayor of Paris, spoke on the scene of Thursday’s evacuation and said, “we are not confronted by a surge of migrants that makes it impossible for us to accommodates them. Our country is capable of welcoming them in a dignified manner.”
“At least today a message is being sent that we have to have organised, dignified, humanitarian solutions,” Hidalgo said.
On Wednesday, President Emmanuel Macron’s government made announcements on immigration concerning the country’s policy towards asylum seekers and their access to health care.
France needs to “take back control” of how it deals with immigration, said Prime Minister Edouard Philippe.
The current centre-right party’s move to crack down on migrants is seen as an attempt to keep rightwing parties from drawing off voters in the upcoming 2020 municipal elections.
Police are due to clear out more camps in northern Paris in the coming days.
In 2016, similar makeshift camps in the woods were created after a migrant camp in northern France was closed. Hundreds of people, many of them unaccompanied children, lingered at the French port in waits to come to the UK.
The camps were so dirty and unsafe that BBC reported that that people there were using the chemical plant in proximity to wash up. Many of them were arrested and then released with no place to go.
The region, known as Calais, went through several waves of migrants. Most of the arrivals were initially from Kosovo, Iraq, and Afghanistan in 2002, just after the American invasion into Afghanistan. The 2014 wave consisted of people from Middle Eastern descent, mostly Syrian, and some parts of Africa.
Since the complete demolition of the camp in the summer of 2016, refugees and migrants started to flow into the French capital.
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