Tents on the side of the Canal Saint Martin canal where migrants have been staying. Photo: AFP
Around 2,300 migrants have been living in makeshift camps along the canals in the north east of the French capital for months.
And now the Interior Ministry has asked the Paris police to step in to evacuate the camps, saying that Paris City Hall has “regrettably” failed to “request the evacuation of the public area” themselves.
Today the camps pose “humanitarian issues” that “are no longer bearable for Parisians,” Minister of the Interior Gerard Collomb said, stressing that “the role of the City of Paris will be essential in the preparation of this operation because if the camps are reconstructed” it will have been “useless”.
The minister also questioned the city's accommodation effort, saying that while “40 percent of the French asylum applications” go to Ile-de-France, Paris “only offers 2 percent of the accommodation available for asylum seekers” in France.
Collomb said that the operation would provide “shelter” but also allow “administrative controls” to be carried out.
He added that he sees this operation as an opportunity “to be able to welcome those who can benefit from the protection” of France but warned that it will also present a chance “to remove those who are not destined to remain on French territory”.
This will mark the 35th operation of kind to take place in Paris since summer 2015.
Two camps have been growing for several months in the north east of Paris, especially in the northern Villette area — where some 1,600 people live in alarming conditions.
An additional 600 people, mainly Afghans, are sleeping in a tent city along the trendy Canal Saint-Martin, where the recent drowning of a migrant increased concerns over the camps.
Migrants camped along the Canal Saint Martin recently told The Local of the squalid conditions they are living in as aid groups called on authorities to address ever-worsening situation, which they say will lead to security and health risks.
Abdul Jabar, 24, from Afghanistan has only been in France for the past five days, but his journey from Afghanistan took him 6 months.
He travelled from Afghanistan to Pakistan to Iran to Turkey to Bulgaria to Serbia, and then hopped on a truck to France.
“It's very bad here. I have no bed no food and no shower and it's very cold at night,” said Jabar who says his parents encouraged him to make the journey and ask for asylum.
When asked if he regrets the journey though, he says no. “Here there are no bombs.” Jabar says he seeks schooling, work, and a better life in France.
In July 2017, Paris police moved out 2,500 migrants who had been living rough in the north of the city.