Fury as Paris evicts immigrants from 'unsafe' buildings

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The Independent Online

The decision was made after two fires killed 24 people, mainly children, last week. Since April, nearly 50 people have lost their lives in blazes in the capital. The squats, located in two separate districts of Paris, were the first of 60 buildings considered unsafe and closed.

Although squatters were expecting to be evicted after Mr Sarkozy's declarations, they did not expect it to happen on the first day of school. "Sarkozy, I don't know if he has children," said one squatter, Aoua Sila. "What he is doing right now, we'd never do this to mothers or fathers of children."

The squatters posed no resistance and gathered their belongings as quickly as possible. Two vans were used to evacuate the families, apparently all from the Ivory Coast, to nearby hotels, where they will stay for a couple of weeks.

Hyacinthe Marcel Kouassi, the Ivory Coast's ambassador to Paris, said: "They're going to some temporary accommodation. After that, the authorities will have to find them permanent, decent housing."

Roger Madec, Mayor of the 19th district in northeast Paris, where the second squat was located, called the evacuation a "miserable operation," and insisted the building was safe.

The evictions come a day after the Prime Minister, Dominique de Villepin, promised new housing to help the poorest. The government announced that 28,000 homes would be built rapidly, some of them on land that was supposed to be used for the 2012 Olympics but only if municipal authorities agree to build 3,000 temporary student housing units on it within 18 months.

The socialist Mayor of Paris, Bertrand Delanoe, said he was "stunned" by the plans and that the 18-month timetable was "simply not realistic".

Pressure groups accused the government of not taking the problem seriously and of using the fires as an excuse to throw Paris's poorest inhabitants, as well as immigrants and asylum- seekers, into the streets.

Thousands of demonstrators are expected to take to the streets of Paris today in protest at the government's proposals.

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