Thousands of homeless migrants are sleeping rough in Paris - and no one's talking about it

'New camps like this spring up all the time, we have had problems like this in Paris for months'

Lucy Pasha-Robinson
Monday 31 October 2016 13:38
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Migrants sit in their tents at a makeshift migrant camp on a street near the metro stations of Jaures and Stalingrad in Paris, France, October 28, 2016
Migrants sit in their tents at a makeshift migrant camp on a street near the metro stations of Jaures and Stalingrad in Paris, France, October 28, 2016

As the world's focus turns to the near 10,000 migrants displaced from the Calais “jungle”, thousands of refugees are sleeping rough on the streets of northern Paris, away from the media spotlight.

Now, French authorities have launched an evacuation of a migrant camp in Stalingrad, the latest in a string of similar operations in the area in recent months.

Some 2,000 migrants are gathered in tents along a 700-metre stretch of Avenue de Flandre near the metro, with new arrivals adding to their numbers each day.

Many are said to have arrived following the closure of the Calais “jungle” last week.

Police descended shortly after dawn on Monday to start checking migrants’ papers and separating the camp’s occupants into those who had claimed asylum, and those who were not eligible to stay in France.

Those registered with French authorities will be taken to reception centres while those who have not started an application could be detained or deported.

Two police cordons were put in place around more than 100 migrants while police cleaned the area, one under the metro station of Jaurès, and the other close to the Saint-Martin canal where many Afghan migrants have been staying.

“This morning's inspection was for administrative reasons to check everyone had the correct papers, and also for sanitation reasons. The operation is now finished - in general, these things don't take long. Those without papers will not be arrested, the administrative police will transfer them to a retention centre in Vincennes. From there, it's too premature to say what will happen," a French police source told The Independent.

"You have to tell it like it is at the end of the day, there has been an influx of new arrivals for months. These are human beings fleeing from war zones, we have to find somewhere for them to go but there are arrivals every day. Many of them want to go to England, so they are in transition. New camps like this spring up all the time, we have had problems in Paris for months. Today's inspection is nothing like the evacuation of the Calais camp, we are removing certain people who don't have the right to be there from the area by checking their papers - it is not the same as an expulsion."

The camp has grown in size in the past weeks with Sudanese, Eritrean and Afghan migrants arriving in the area.

However, French president François Hollande promised the site would be cleared, saying: “These are not migrants from the Calais camp who have come to Paris.”

Prime Minister Manuel Valls also confirmed the camp would be dismantled next week.

A government humanitarian reception centre was expected to open in Paris in the next few days to house some of the migrants temporarily before they can be sent to more permanent structures elsewhere, however the exact date of its opening has yet to be confirmed.

A French official from the mayor's office told The Independent the centre will hold up to 400 migrants for between five and 10 days at a time.

"The aim of this centre is so migrants who arrive in Paris don't have to live on the streets while they carry out the necessary administrative procedures to seek asylum," the source told The Independent.

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