Paris evacuates nearly 2,800 migrants from makeshift camps as arrivals surge
French police evict thousands of migrants at porte de la Chapelle, Paris, on July 7, 2017. (PASCAL ROSSIGNOL/REUTERS)
Paris authorities evacuated nearly 2,800 migrants Friday from ever-expanding makeshift street camps in the French capital, 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’ northern edge were taken to temporary shelters in the Paris region where they will be given medical checkups and guidance, police said. City Hall says it is the 34th such operation in the past two years.
Tents, sleeping bags and rudimentary cardboard structures housing migrants have sprung up on sidewalks 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 hopes of finding unofficial work or to seek asylum.
Such unauthorized camps “present serious risks for the security and health of their occupants as well as neighbourhood residents,” Paris 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 scattered 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.
Top 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 Friday for U.N. sanctions against migrant smugglers illegally taking people to Europe – notably in Libya, where lawlessness has allowed a lucrative trade in smuggling African migrants northward.
Austrian Foreign Minister Sebastian Kurz said that would-be migrants should be stopped at the EU’s outer borders and sent back to their homelands after being rescued and given any care needed. Kurz has previously suggested that some NGOs rescuing migrants on the high seas might be in collusion with human smugglers.
In France, a farmer has attracted nationwide attention with a video appearing to show police forcing underage migrants to go back to Italy. The national human rights watchdog urged the interior minister Friday to investigate the situation.
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.