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Police evacuate France's oldest shanty town

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Police evacuate France's oldest shanty town
Roma community members walk with their belongings after the forced evacuation of their camp on Thursday. Photo: AFP
16:13 CEST+02:00
A 300-strong Roma population was evicted from a shanty town in the northern suburbs of Paris on Thursday, despite a strong call for the camp to remain.
On a cold and rainy day in Paris, around 300 people were evicted from their camp in the Samaritain shanty town in La Corneuve, Seine-Saint-Denis, which was wedged between the A86 motorway and the RER B train line. 
 
The collection of makeshift homes had stood in the area for around seven years - enough to make it the oldest of its kind in France. However, a judge ruled earlier this month that enough was enough and that the slum had to be torn down. 
 
The move didn't come as a surprise for the residents, who were aware that the evacuation had been scheduled for a while and had even penned an appeal to the mayor to keep the town intact. 
 

(Police moved residents on from the shanty town on Thursday. Photo: AFP)
 
Authorities on the scene said the evacuation went without protest.
 
"The atmosphere is calm, we're speaking with the occupants, and they know it is merely a judicial decision," one official told Le Monde newspaper.
 
The camp was home to around 80 families, most of whom came from Bulgaria and Romania.
 
One resident of the camp, 17-year-old Jozsef Farkas, personally wrote an appeal to the local mayor calling for the camp to remain after an offer from two NGOs, the Abbé Pierre Foundation and the Médecins du Monde to help fix the slum.
 
The organizations had offered to fund and carry out a cleaning of the slum, to install running water, and to help register the residents in schools and jobs with the long-term goal of joining regular society. 
 

(A look inside the shanty town before it was evacuated. Photo: AFP)
 
Over 38,000 people signed the petition, although their signatures fell on deaf ears. 
 
"Even though we have made huge efforts for seven years, our living conditions have not improved and remain dramatic due to the lack of an official address," the teen had written in the appeal.
 
He added that the 300 residents would simply be left to move "out onto the streets" if the eviction went ahead. 
 
"What will be our fate? Where will we go? What will we do?" he wrote.  
 

(Residents from the slum gathered on the nearby streets of La Courneuve. Photo: AFP)
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