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French police pull down Paris migrant camp

The Local/AFP · 2 Jun 2015, 08:28

Published: 02 Jun 2015 08:28 GMT+02:00

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Police began to clear out the migrants at around 6.30am with buses lined up to away most of the migrants to a temporary transit centre outside the capital.

Later on Tuesday morning French police also cleared out two migrant camps in Calais that were located close to the Eurotunnel terminal, where many of the refugees try to board trains to the UK.

The camp in Paris, which had been set up underneath the overground Metro between the stations of Barbès and La Chapelle, was set up around eight months ago.

But in recent weeks the migrants, who were mostly men but included several women and children, were living in squalid conditions with authorities concerned about hygiene and the possible outbreak of diseases.

Authorities had put up signs over the weekend ordering the migrants to leave the camp within 48 hours and early on Tuesday morning police surrounded the site and blocked nearby traffic.


One Sudanese migrant, who asked not to be named, said that had spent Monday night at another migrant camp near the Gare du Lyon on the other side of town, and wasn't aware that this camp would be dismantled.

"Someone told me that this place was getting taken down so I came here immediately. But it's too late, they won't let me in," he told The Local.
"I don't know what I'm going to do now. I have to think. If they gave me papers I would stay in France..."
He said that he had travelled to the northern port of Calais before, living for a period in the campsite there, but got sick and had to return to Paris in search of medicine. He added that fights would often break out among migrants in the queues for food or while trying to smuggle themselves onto UK-bound trucks.
The man, in his thirties, said that his parents had died in Sudan and that he was forced to flee, spending time in a prison in Libya before sharing a boat with 200 others on the way to Italy. 
"It's a very difficult life. But this is what we have and all we can do is try."

The refugees, most of them from Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia waited to board nearby buses to be taken to various shelters in the Paris area. Around 60 of them will be fast-tracked through the asylum process, reports say.

"The camps are a risk, in terms of outbreaks of diseases and health conditions, above all for those who live there," said France's Health Minister Marisol Touraine.  

"France will welcome migrants, but it must also implement policies that will allow migrants to stay in the home countries and not end up in squalid camps," she added. "France will not close its eyes. It will assume its responsibilities."

Migrants were refused entry to the camp, even to reclaim their belongings before being moved on.The makeshift campsite is now empty, except for the empty tents and litter. #lachappelle pic.twitter.com/CIEG1lqJxR

According to a survey conducted at the site last week by city authorities and refugee associations, 160 people at the camp wanted to stay in France while 200 intended to continue to other destinations, mostly the United Kingdom and Nordic countries.

“I have tried three times to get on a train to Calais, but each time the police caught me and threw me off,” 21-year-old Amanuel, from Eritrea told The Local previously.

“We try to hide in the toilets, but it’s difficult. We’ll try again. That’s our life for the moment,” he said.

“But we hope it will get better once we reach the UK.”

Story continues below…

So far this year, more than 40,000 migrants -- many of them fleeing conflict and poverty in countries like Libya and Eritrea -- have arrived on Italian shores and some 1,770 have perished on the hazardous journey that's often undertaken on rickety and overcrowded craft.


The Local/AFP (news.france@thelocal.com)

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