Saturday 16 December 2017

2,800 migrants removed as Paris evacuates makeshift street camps

Migrants gather to be taken away from a makeshift street camp in Paris (AP)
Migrants gather to be taken away from a makeshift street camp in Paris (AP)

Paris authorities have evacuated makeshift street camps in the French capital, removing nearly 2,800 migrants as Europe contends with an upsurge in new arrivals crossing the Mediterranean.

In heavy summer heat, groups of primarily African men and a few families lined up to board buses with a mixture of relief and apprehension.

"We Need Dignity" read a handwritten sign next to a mattress stretched across cobblestones and surrounded by litter.

The migrants in the La Chapelle neighbourhood on Paris's northern edge were taken to temporary shelters in the wider region where they will be given medical check-ups and guidance, police said.

City Hall said it is the 34th such operation in the past two years.

Tents, sleeping bags and rudimentary cardboard structures housing migrants have sprung up on pavements and boulevards in the area, angering some residents even as others come to offer food and blankets.

City authorities estimate that dozens of people fleeing conflict and poverty in Africa and the Middle East pour in daily to Paris.

Many continue on to the port of Calais to try to cross to Britain, but many stay in Paris in the hope of finding unofficial work or to seek asylum.

Such unauthorised camps "present serious risks for the security and health of their occupants as well as neighbourhood residents", police said in a statement.

About 350 police and 100 other officials and aid workers took part in Friday's operation.

Police said the migrants will be given "proposals for orientation" to other sites around France where they can try to seek legal paths to residency. Some may eventually be deported.

Arrivals have grown this summer around Europe, notably as more people are taking the risky sea journey from Libya. More than 2,000 have died.

Senior European officials have tried this week to agree on solutions, notably to help Italy help cope with the tens of thousands of people arriving on its shores.

European Council President Donald Tusk called for UN sanctions against migrant smugglers illegally taking people to Europe - notably in Libya, where lawlessness has allowed a lucrative trade in smuggling African migrants northwards.

President Emmanuel Macron's government is expected to announce new measures to cope with the migrant crisis next week.

A centre opened last year in northern Paris to help asylum seekers has provided temporary shelter for 12,000 people but is not large enough to care for everyone.


Press Association

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