French police clear last refugee camp in Paris

Four women are among group moved on from makeshift camp, which authorities describe as dirty and 'overrun by rats'.

    Migrants and refugees wait to be evacuated by police early on January 28, 2020, in Paris [Philippe Lopez/AFP]
    Migrants and refugees wait to be evacuated by police early on January 28, 2020, in Paris [Philippe Lopez/AFP]

    French police have cleared the last refugee tent camp in northeastern Paris, moving 427 people to shelters as part of a plan to take migrants off the streets.

    The group, which included four women, were living in 266 tents and makeshift shelters in a canal-side camp "strewn with waste and refuse, overrun by rats and giving off a pestilent and foul-smelling odour of urine and excrement", according to the authorities.


    Tuesday's operation to dismantle the camp began at 6am (05:00 GMT) and lasted two hours, the regional prefecture said.

    Dozens of informal settlements have sprung up in recent years around the French capital.

    Many of the refugees and migrants have their sights on the northern channel port of Calais, a jump-off point for crossings to Britain.

    French authorities regularly tear down the camps, saying they pose a health hazard.

    Last week, police moved more than 1,400 migrants, including 93 children, from another camp in northern Paris.

    Interior Minister Christophe Castaner had promised to clear all camps from the city by the end of last year, in part by opening more shelters for asylum seekers but also by deporting those whose claims are rejected.

    Police are being deployed to ensure migrants and refugees do not return to the razed camps or set up new ones.

    "We are not going to resume a never-ending cycle of evacuations followed by new installations," Paris police chief Didier Lallement said last week.

    But rights groups say that unless the government provides long-term lodgings or the prospect of legal residency, many migrants will just return to the streets.

    President Emmanuel Macron said last year that France must end its "lax" approach to immigration.

    Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo is among Macron's critics. 

    In a recent radio interview, she said: "We are dealing with an unprecedented humanitarian crisis ... Some 20 percent of the migrants living rough on Paris's streets are actually recognised refugees - we clearly have a huge problem with our reception policy. We are far from guaranteeing them a dignified welcome."

    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and news agencies