France's Interior Minister has called for the evacuation of migrant camps in northern Paris on Wednesday. More than 2,000 migrants have set up tents along Paris canals used by joggers and cyclists.
There are currently around 2,300 migrants living in tents along the banks of canals such as Saint-Martin, a scenic stretch popular with tourists in the heart of Paris. Pressure on the authorities has mounted as fights between migrants have broken out and two migrants drowned in the canals earlier this month. Aid organizations had sounded the alarm about the living conditions in the camps.
French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb ordered to clear out the camps on Wednesday, pledging to evacuate the migrants and disperse or summarily deport them. "This situation will be repeated indefinitely if measures are not taken by local authorities to prevent the camps from reconstituting themselves", he said. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo disagrees with this approach. She, along with refugee aid groups, refuses to evict the group and wants the migrants to be put in shelters instead.
Tough stance on migrants
Collomb's decision is emblematic of the hardline approach followed by French President Emmanuel Macron. His recent migration bill doubles the time that authorities may detain migrants and harshens penalties for illegal migration. It also penalizes those who help migrants who are in France illegally.
Evictions, however, are not new. In the past three years, Paris police have already cleared out 28,000 migrants from camps in the city in 35 separate operations. In 2016, for example, police cleared out a camp in Northern Paris, where migrants camped out under a bridge the Stalingrad metro station. Around 40 percent of asylum seekers in France are concentrated in the Paris Metropolitan region.