Two unofficial migrants camps in the north of the Paris metropolitan area were evacuated by the police on Thursday, November 7 at dawn. The makeshift camps were situated at Porte de la Chapelle in the north of the French capital. The evacuations affected around 1,600 people, including numerous families who were bused to emergency accommodation.
The large evacuation of the two camps which comprised around 1,600 migrants in the north-east of Paris began at around 4.30 am on Thursday, November 7. The migrants, some carrying suitcases, some pushing pushchairs, others with plastic bags filled with their belongings waited in the cold on the big walkway at Porte de la Chapelle for a place on the buses brought in to take them to temporary accommodation. The majority of the migrants present were of Afghan, Sudanese, Eritrean and Syrian origin. A lesser number also came from various eastern European countries.
Translation: "The evacuation of the camps at Porte de La Chapelle this morning in a few pictures."
Many of those evacuated stood to be sent back to the EU country in which they first arrived under the Dublin regulation. Some in the crowd, however, had arrived directly in France and therefore could apply for asylum in the country; others had had their applications rejected and some even had refugee status but said they “didn’t know” how to find somewhere to live. Whatever their status, the migrants waited patiently, shivering in the cold for a space on the buses provided by the Prefecture.
Translation: "A lot of babies and young children boarded the buses."
A notable number of police officers were mobilized for the operation, almost 600 in total.
Both the Mayor of Paris, Anne Hidalgo, and the prefect Michel Cadot were responsible for the operation.
The day before, the French government had announced plans to toughen the asylum system and increase the numbers of expulsions.
‘It’s my 6th or 7th evacuation… I am not sure anymore’
It was in this context of a hardening of the political rhetoric regarding migration policy that the operations took place. A further evacuation is expected in another camp in nearby Porte d’Aubervilliers soon.
"At 5.50am the buses arrive. Families were evacuated first. Men had to wait."
"I don’t know where we will go but I am ready to leave,” said one Albanian mother, cradling one of her children in her arms. “I have run out of appeals in my asylum process but I can’t return to my country for political reasons. I just hope they don’t send me back there,” she explained, shivering with cold.
Several voluntary associations keep a close watch on proceedings. In a press release, one of them, Utopia 56, asks: “how do we know whether those who are being taken into shelters will not then be transferred to CRAs (Administrative detention centers) with the threat of being expelled hanging over them?”
The single men are separated from the family groups and wait under another branch of the suburban ring-road nearby. They say that the voluntary associations warned them of the impending evacuations a few days prior to the operation.
Translation: Groups of migrants from the surrounding camps are brought to the square on the outskirts of Porte de la Chapelle. A group of about 500 were escorted by the police.
They had to wait until 7 am for a place in the bus as the authorities chose to evacuate those judged most vulnerable first. “It’s my 6th evacuation...no my 7th… oh I don’t know, I have stopped counting,” sighs Ali from Sudan, who has been in Paris since 2017. This time he hasn’t even bothered to bring a suitcase. “I’ve left everything over there, a bit higher up in my tent,” he explains. “In any case it is always the same, they put me up for a while in one of these centers and then they ask me to leave and then I return here.”
A new strategy to stop the reconstruction of these camps
Ali doesn’t seem to realize that he may have trouble returning to this area and picking up his things. In fact, the police have already announced that they will do everything possible in order to prevent migrants from returning and reconstructing these camps. “In the past, we would evacuate these camps of 200-300 people but not everyone and then after a few days or weeks, they would have returned. This time our policy is one of ‘zero return’, explained a spokesperson for the police.
Michel Cadot, Prefect says: "The new strategy is that there will be a continued police presence to avoid any reconstruction of these camps.
Michel Cadot, the local prefect underlined this statement at an impromptu press conference at Porte de la Chapelle. “The new strategy is to maintain a police presence in the area to prevent any return or reestablishment of this camp.”
The authorities feared that the camps were becoming too big and that petty crime risked taking over the area. Since the beginning of 2019 the police have registered 213 crimes from those coming from the camp. And that is not even counting the frequent fights between migrants staying in the camps.
In order to avoid any kind of return, the police are planning on patrolling the area “24 hours a day.” They intend to carry out frequent identity checks and hold anyone they judge in need of detention. The patrols “will also carry cameras specially designed for this work.”