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FRANCE – MIGRATION

Police use tear gas in heavy-handed evacuation of migrant camp in Paris

Migrants wait to be evacuation from a camp near the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, 17 November 2020.
Migrants wait to be evacuation from a camp near the Stade de France stadium in Saint-Denis, north of Paris, 17 November 2020. Christophe ARCHAMBAULT / AFP

French police used tear gas to dismantle a camp of several hundred migrants at a major Paris central plaza in the night between Monday and Tuesday. The migrants had set up camp after being cleared from several shelters in the region without being relocated.

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The camp appeared on Place de la République in Paris on Monday evening when volunteers helped set up 500 blue tents for migrants, most of them from Afghanistan, in an effort to draw attention to the plight of people during long waits for asylum.

Police arrived to dismantle the camp around an hour later, picking up tents, sometimes with people still inside, to jeers and protests from volunteers and migrants. 

“They are too violent,” Shahbuddin, a 34-year-old Afghan, told AFP agency as he was forced out of his tent. “We just want a roof.” 

Police used tear gas to disperse what remained of the camp.

The dismantling came a week after migrants were evacuated from makeshift shelters in the northern suburb of Saint-Denis without being relocated.

No solution for migrants on streets

Paris police have vowed to stop camps from forming in the capital in recent years, with the result that they have appeared in the surrounding suburbs instead. 

“This evening of protest had ended without a solution for more than 450 exiles. Only more violence and a non-welcoming policy from the state. Once again, these people will sleep on the street tonight,” tweeted NGO Utopia 56

“We’re here to show that we have nowhere else to go,” said Murtaza, 20, from Afghanistan. “We can’t live like animals, we just want to claim asylum.”

Humanitarian groups say after clearing camps, migrants are sometimes taken to temporary housing but have to lasting solution to keep them off the streets. 

Government orders report

Paris deputy mayor for housing Ian Brossart condemned what he called a “law and order response to a social situation”.

French Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin said he found the images to be shocking and that he had ordered the police to explain the scene. 

“Some images of the dispersion of the illegal migrant camp at Place de la République are shocking,” Darmanin said. “I have requested a report on the circumstances from the police prefect by tomorrow [Tuesday] at midday.”  

The incidents come at a time the government is facing criticism over a proposal press freedom groups fear will be used to stop journalists filming and photographing police operations

(with newswires)

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