Paris police dismantle largest makeshift refugee camp

Police begin clearing out 1,500 refugees and migrants from Millennaire camp in French capital for security reasons.

    Police in Paris began dismantling the largest makeshift camp housing refugees and migrants in the French capital. 

    Authorities moved in on Wednesday to clear out as many as 1,500 people, mostly Africans from Eritrea, Sudan and Somalia, from the Millennaire camp in the northeast of the city.

    The evacuees, who will now be relocated to 20 shelters across the Paris region, are being moved out of the camp for general welfare and security reasons, French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said in a statement.

    "Police services will be fully committed to preventing such camps being built again," Collomb said.

    The evacuation was the 34th to take place in the French capital since June 2015, he added. 

    Al Jazeera's Natacha Butler, reporting from Paris, said the "peaceful" clean-up operation, which was still ongoing at noon (10:00 GMT), began at 6am local time (04:00 GMT).

    The camp is next to a canal where two migrants drowned earlier this month. 

    "There were tents all along on both sides of this canal," Butler said. "The conditions were really quite appalling - no sanitation and everyone relied on the kindness of strangers and charities for food handouts."

    Undocumented migration

    Police have cleared out about 28,000 people from Paris camps in the city over the past three years, but many continue to travel to the French capital.

    President Emmanuel Macron has pushed a new immigration law - still being debated in parliament - that would speed up the asylum process and lead to increased deportations of people seeking work in France, rather than those fleeing war or persecution at home.

    In his statement, Collomb said evacuees who are eligible for asylum would be supported. 

    About 2,700 undocumented migrants live in the Paris area, according to officials and NGOs. 

    As millions of refugees and migrants arrived in Europe in recent years after fleeing war and economic devastation, France has welcomed only a fraction of the newcomers.

    "This government is really speeding up deportations and detentions of illegal migrants," said Butler.

    "What it wants is to try and reduce the number of people coming to France and reduce camps like these, which are becoming a very visible symbol of France's immigration problem."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies


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