Police in Paris have evacuated more than 1,250 people from a migrant camp on the bank of a canal in the suburb of Aubervilliers. Migrant support groups condemned the move and said permanent solutions needed to be found.
Migrants in the tent camp on the Saint-Denis canal northeast of Paris began boarding buses at dawn. They were taken to temporary shelters in gymnasiums in the Paris region where they were to be tested for COVID-19 as a precaution, the newspaper Le Parisien reported.
Many of the migrants were from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Sudan and Chad.
Migrant tent camps have repeatedly sprung up around northern Paris in recent years, especially since a large informal camp known as “the jungle” in the port town of Calais was dismantled in 2016. Police have carried out dozens of evacuations, and since November have said they are determined to stop the Paris camps being re-established.
The camps have included asylum seekers, migrants refused asylum in other European countries, and people who have been granted asylum in France but have been unable to find housing.
Ismael Fatah, a 29-year-old from Somalia, got into the queue for the bus after abandoning his tent.
"It's the fourth time that I find myself in a camp, life is hard in France. I did not expect this welcome. My country is at war, it is not my choice to be here," he told the news agency AFP.
Rights groups critical
Several migrant and refugee advocates were critical of the evacuation.
"It is always useful to bring people to shelter. But this repetition since 2015 is absurd and unworthy," Pierre Henry, director general of the charity France Terre d'Asile, tweeted.
"The people are exhausted; for some it is their tenth
evacuation," said Silvana Gaeta of the NGO Solidarite Migrants Wilson,
which provides meals at the camp.
"Half of them will meet again on the street as soon as this evening," she said.
She accused the authorities of trying to place migrants "out of sight, well-hidden, so that people will think everything is in order and that the migrants are well cared for. This is false."For Alalisad, a 32-year-old migrant from Somalia, the evacuation was "incomprehensible".
"I don't understand, they come to get us they put us in hotels for three months, and then we go back on the street," he told AFP. France has converted a number of low-cost hotels into migrant reception centers.
Louis Barda, from the nongovernment organization Doctors of the World, said the situation had lasted for almost five years. "We have already seen this movie. The state is incapable of receiving (the migrants) in a dignified manner."
The camp, with hundreds of tents on either side of the canal, is served by only two water access points.
"Measures to fight against the coronavirus epidemic, especially physical distancing, are impossible to enforce in the camps, and precarious populations are the ones most exposed to COVID," said Barda.
Two people from the camp have also drowned in the canal, according to local
With dpa, AFP