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IMMIGRATION

Paris mayor: ‘Migrants can’t sleep on the street’

Just days after another makeshift migrant campsite was torn down by Paris police, the city's mayor has said that Paris needs to open a centre in the capital for migrants as they "can't sleep on the streets".

Paris mayor: 'Migrants can't sleep on the street'
Migrants sleep, eat and live on the streets in northern Paris. Photo: AFP
“One thing is for sure: Migrants can't be sleeping outdoors” Mayor Anne Hidalgo told French channel BFMTV
 
She added that Paris needed a centre where migrants could “rest and take time to reflect”. 
 
“As we are now being faced with an influx of migrants, we need to open a centre that can help migrants who don't know where they are going to seek asylum,” she added.
 
The centre could offer shelter for up to 15 days and could be in place “within a few weeks”, she said.
 
François Fillon, the former Prime Minister of France, didn't agree with the idea, telling Le Point that the French expect the government to “send illegal immigrants home” instead of “organizing a tour of Paris”.
 
Trouble as riot police evict Paris migrants
(Critics say police were violent in taking down a campsite in the capital on Monday. Photo: AFP)
 
The mayor's words come just days after police forcibly evacuated a migrant campsite in northern Paris. 
 
Critics said the police employed violence to clear the site, with protesters on the scene forming a human chain in a failed effort to stop officers from moving the 100 or so migrants on.
 
Jacques Toubon, head of France's human rights watchdog Défenseur des Droits, told the channel that an investigation had been launched into how the police handled the evacuation.
 

(A migrant sleeps in a park after being booted from the La Chapelle campsite. Photo: AFP)
 
Migrants in Paris are a hot topic at the moment after police shut down another much larger campsite in the capital last Tuesday. The campsite was located near the La Chapelle Metro station and was home to an estimated 400 migrants.
 
At the edge of the campsite, one Sudanese migrant told The Local at La Chapelle that he wasn't sure where he would sleep now that his camp had been taken down. 
 
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.
  
“It's a very difficult life. But this is what we have and all we can do is try,” he added.
 

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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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