After Calais, France clears Paris camp
Hundreds of French police cleared a huge migrant camp in northeast Paris yesterday in a fresh sign of the government’s determination to take refugees off the streets and into shelters. The evacuation of 3,800 people from the Stalingrad area of the city came less than two weeks after the demolition of the notorious “Jungle” camp in the northern port city of Calais.
Starting at dawn, police arrived to wake people sleeping in tents or on mattresses under an overhead metro line, 15 minutes’ walk from the Gare du Nord railway station. The operation proceeded calmly and in orderly fashion, with many migrants confused about where they would be taken on the government-chartered buses but there were no signs of resistance. “Where are they taking people? Somewhere in Paris or outside?” asked Abderrahmane, a 19-year-old from Guinea.
The area around Stalingrad, a gritty multi-ethnic part of the capital, is a magnet for migrants arriving in Paris and police have repeatedly cleared camps there, only for them to spring back into life days later. But six months before elections, Socialist President Francois Hollande has said he is determined to take refugees off the streets and has said France needs to show them a better welcome.
While some activists praise this fresh political will to tackle a long-standing problem, they stress that France has been slow to react to a crisis that has grown in intensity over the last two years. It has lagged behind other countries, Germany in particular, in providing appropriate lodgings for refugees to seek safety.
“Our worry is always the same: that the facilities in the shelters are absolutely not the same standard,” local activist Valerie Osouf told AFP, who criticized dirty and costly hotel rooms being used in some cases. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo has announced the creation of the city’s first refugee transit camp, which will have an initial capacity for 400 men. It is set to open this month in a disused railway yard in the north of the capital.—AFP