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IMMIGRATION

Trouble as riot police evict Paris migrants

Parisians formed a human chain in a failed attempt to stop riot police from evacuating a migrant campsite in northern Paris on Monday, when over 100 migrants were moved on.

Trouble as riot police evict Paris migrants
A migrant collapses in front of riot police and protesters in Paris. Photo: AFP
The migrants are understood to have come from the temporary campsite that was in place for about a year near the La Chapelle metro station, a campsite that was cleared out last week of its 400 or so residents.
Monday afternoon saw around 120 of these migrants moved on again from their new camp, which was near the Saint Bernard church in the 18th arrondissement, reported French channel BFM TV. 
Around 30 of them were taken in by police to have their identities checked, AFP news agency reported, while the rest were taken off in buses to an unknown location.
A video of the evacuation on BFMTV showed the police acting roughly with the migrants, carrying one of them away when he apparently refused to cooperate. 
While many of the migrants are on the way to the northern port of Calais, others have been left wondering what to do in the meantime after their nearby camp was taken down last week.
 
One Sudanese migrant, who asked not to be named, told The Local last week that he would try his luck at another large camp near the Gare du Lyon train station.
 
French police pull down Paris migrant camp
(A scene from the La Chapelle campsite last week. Photo: AFP)
 
“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 at the time.
  
“It's a very difficult life. But this is what we have and all we can do is try,” he added.
 

POLITICS

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area

European countries agreed on Thursday to push towards a long-stalled reform of the bloc's migration system, urging tighter control of external borders and better burden-sharing when it comes to asylum-seekers.

How the EU aims to reform border-free Schengen area
European interior ministers met in the northern French city of tourcoing, where president Emmanuel Macron gave a speech. Photo: Yoat Valat/AFP

The EU home affairs commissioner Ylva Johansson, speaking after a meeting of European interior ministers, said she welcomed what she saw as new momentum on the issue.

In a reflection of the deep-rooted divisions on the issue, France’s Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin – whose country holds the rotating EU presidency – said the process would be “gradual”, and welcomed what he said was unanimous backing.

EU countries backed a proposal from French President Emmanuel Macron to create a council guiding policy in the Schengen area, the passport-free zone used by most EU countries and some affiliated nations such as Switzerland and Norway.

Schengen council

Speaking before the meeting, Macron said the “Schengen Council” would evaluate how the area was working but would also take joint decisions and facilitate coordination in times of crisis.

“This council can become the face of a strong, protective Europe that is comfortable with controlling its borders and therefore its destiny,” he said.

The first meeting is scheduled to take place on March 3rd in Brussels.

A statement released after the meeting said: “On this occasion, they will establish a set of indicators allowing for real time evaluation of the situation at our borders, and, with an aim to be able to respond to any difficulty, will continue their discussions on implementing new tools for solidarity at the external borders.”

Step by step

The statement also confirmed EU countries agreed to take a step-by-step approach on plans for reforming the EU’s asylum rules.

“The ministers also discussed the issues of asylum and immigration,” it read.

“They expressed their support for the phased approach, step by step, put forward by the French Presidency to make headway on these complex negotiations.

“On this basis, the Council will work over the coming weeks to define a first step of the reform of the European immigration and asylum system, which will fully respect the balance between the requirements of responsibility and solidarity.”

A planned overhaul of EU migration policy has so far foundered on the refusal of countries such as the Czech Republic, Hungary, Poland and Slovakia to accept a sharing out of asylum-seekers across the bloc.

That forces countries on the EU’s outer southern rim – Italy, Greece, Malta and Spain – to take responsibility for handling irregular migrants, many of whom are intent on making their way to Europe’s wealthier northern nations.

France is pushing for member states to commit to reinforcing the EU’s external borders by recording the details of every foreign arrival and improving vetting procedures.

It also wants recalcitrant EU countries to financially help out the ones on the frontline of migration flows if they do not take in asylum-seekers themselves.

Johansson was critical of the fact that, last year, “45,000 irregular arrivals” were not entered into the common Eurodac database containing the fingerprints of migrants and asylum-seekers.

Earlier, German Interior Minister Nancy Faeser suggested her country, France and others could form a “coalition of the willing” to take in asylum-seekers even if no bloc-wide agreement was struck to share them across member states.

She noted that Macron spoke of a dozen countries in that grouping, but added that was probably “very optimistic”.

Luxembourg’s foreign minister, Jean Asselborn, hailed what he said was “a less negative atmosphere” in Thursday’s meeting compared to previous talks.

But he cautioned that “we cannot let a few countries do their EU duty… while others look away”.

France is now working on reconciling positions with the aim of presenting propositions at a March 3rd meeting on European affairs.

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