French police clear out sprawling migrant camps in northern Paris

French police clear out sprawling migrant camps in northern Paris
Illustration photo of migrants being cleared from a camp in Paris in July 2017. Photo: AFP
Police in Paris launched a major operation on Thursday morning to clear out the makeshift camps on the northern edge of the city where hundreds of migrants and asylum seekers had been living in squalid conditions.

Around 600 French police took part in the evacuation which began in the early hours of Thursday morning.

Between 1,500 to 3,000 migrants, including 250 women and children, had been living in the camps that had sprung up alongside major roads, underneath motorway flyovers and bridges around the Porte de la Chapelle area of northern Paris.


The camps were also adjacent to a notorious Paris spot known as “crack hill”, where drug dealers congregate and sell cheap crack cocaine to addicts and migrants.

As usual when migrant camps have been evacuated in Paris, hundreds were taken by buses to temporary accommodation in sports halls and asylum reception centres across the Paris region.

Photo: Rory Mulholland

But charities have been critical of the clear outs in the past for not providing a permanent solution. Many of those evacuated end up living on the streets once again with new camps forming in a matter of months.

Paris police chief Didier Lallement said on Thursday: “I cannot allow such a dangerous situation to develop, not only for those who set up in the camp but also for motorists. This cannot go on.”

The huge police operation meant roads had to be closed and caused major traffic disruption in the area around Porte de la Chapelle, notably the A1 motorway and the périphérique ring road.


READ MORE: Chaos at the gates of Paris – Inside the Paris migrant camp nobody talks about

The clear-out comes just a day after the President Emmanuel Macron's government announced a raft of measures on immigration, many of which were aimed at toughening the country's policy towards asylum seekers and their access to health care.


“We want to take back control of our migration policy,” said the French PM Edouard Philippe.

The government had announced on Wednesday that the Paris migrant camps would be cleared “before the end of the year”.

The Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has long been calling on the government and police to act.

“I do not understand why the state lets indignity and chaos prosper at the gates of the capital of France,” she said previously.

Speaking at the scene of Thursday's evacuation Hidalgo said: “We are not confronted by a surge in the number of migrants that makes it impossible for us to accommodate them. Our country is capable of welcoming them in a dignified manner.

“The streets are not places to live,” she said. Police are due to clear out camps at nearby Porte d'Aubervilliers in the coming days.

 Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said that 16,000 places would be made available in three new migrant centres, an effort to keep migrants from setting up new settlements.

Awa, a 32-year-old woman from the Ivory Coast, said on Thursday that she had been sleeping in a tent at the Porte de la Chapelle since she arrived in France a year ago.

“It's raining, it's cold. I don't know where I will go, but I'm glad to go because I will have a roof over my head tonight,” she said, as she waited in line for a coach, carrying just a backpack.

Earlier this year The Local's freelance reporter Rory Mulholland visited the camp.

“About a hundred metres from “Crack Hill,” a patch of wasteland where dishevelled drug-addicts congregate to buy a fix and where many live rough, a sea of tents stretches out underneath a motorway flyover,” he wrote

“There a few hundred migrants from war-torn or impoverished countries live in appalling conditions, waiting for their next appointment with the migration authorities, who after an initial meeting send them away to fend for themselves for months on end.

“It lies beneath an intersection of the périphérique, the eternally clogged Paris inner ring road, and a series of multi-lane highways leading to the suburbs, and is invisible to most people zooming past overhead.”




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