PARIS: Police moved hundreds of migrants from a makeshift camp in northern Paris early on Tuesday, the latest attempt to discourage asylum seekers from living in the streets of the French capital.
Police said 1,436 people — including 93 children and 1,187 single men — had been removed from the camp, where they had been living in tents and makeshift shelters along the Paris ring road.
Dozens of camps have sprung up since the migrant influx to Europe that began in 2015, and some 20,000 people have been removed from camps in or near Paris in the past year.
Under a biting wind, the migrants climbed on to buses carrying a bare minimum of belongings, leaving behind tents as well as mattresses, bicycles and other items.
“We’ll see where the police are going to take us,” said Fatima, a 38 year-old from Ivory Coast, waiting to board a bus with her three daughters, one still in a pram.
“For now we don’t know what’s going to happen, but we’re staying hopeful,” she told AFP.
Yssouf, a 29-year-old also from Ivory Coast, told AFP on Tuesday he had been living at the camp since December after he was ordered to leave a housing facility when his asylum request was rejected.
“The cold was starting to get unbearable,” he said. “I’m glad to be able to have shelter, even though I know it’s only for a little while. It’s better than nothing.”
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner had promised to clear all migrant 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.
Officials have said they were now deploying police to ensure migrants 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 told journalists at the scene.
But critics say that unless the government provides long-term lodgings or the prospect of legal residency, many migrants will avoid administrative centers and return to the streets.
Some 300 people had already set up tents just a few hundred meters away from the razed camp.
It was the 60th major operation to clear migrant camps in or near Paris since 2015.
President Emmanuel Macron said last year that France must end its “lax” approach to immigration.