Police clear refugees from Paris' biggest illegal camp in migrant crackdown

Blitz on tents comes just a day after Malian 'Spider-Man' hailed a hero for plucking child to safety outside building

Jane Dalton
Wednesday 30 May 2018 22:40 BST
French police clear refugee camp in Paris in latest anti-migrant crackdown

Police have cleared the largest illegal refugee camp in Paris that has become a focal point in France’s immigration debate.

The evacuation of more than 1,000 migrants came a day after President Emmanuel Macron awarded honorary citizenship and a job to a Malian immigrant who climbed the outside of a building to save a boy dangling from a balcony.

Mamoudou Gassama, who scaled four floors to pluck the child from danger, was given a medal for courage and has been nicknamed Spider-Man.

In the French government's latest attempt to deal with the illegal migrant influx, riot police helped to clear the Millénaire camp in northeastern Paris of many of its 1,600 inhabitants.

Days earlier, homeless charities warned a tragedy could happen following a stabbing and two drownings at the tent camp, which was beside a canal used by joggers and cyclists.

The migrants, mostly from Somalia, Sudan and Eritrea, were put on buses and taken to temporary housing and gymnasiums in the Paris region.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said 1,000 migrants had been moved.

They were moved for general welfare and security reasons, French interior minister Gerard Collomb said.

"Police services will be fully committed to preventing such camps being built again," Mr Collomb said. The evacuation was the 34th since June 2015, he said.

A spokesman for the greater Ile-de-France region said similar operations at smaller camps around Paris would take place as soon as possible.

Europe has faced a refugee and migrant crisis since 2015, after years of conflict in the Middle East, with more than a million people from Africa and the Middle East arriving on the continent.

In France, much of the migrant influx ended up in the northern port of Calais, where a giant slum was cleared in late 2016. Most of the rest have gathered in Paris and the southeast near the Franco-Italian border.

Officials and NGOs say 2,700 illegal migrants live in the Paris area. They said the migrants would be allowed to file asylum requests.

An NGO worker said: "A lot of these migrants believe they will end up being welcomed here, in France. We try to inform them on the realities they face, because if they have left their fingerprints in another country, they will be expelled."

Under European law, asylum-seekers must remain in the first European country they enter. They often have to register with their fingerprints when they arrive.

Mr Macron's government has said it wants to be both firm and fair on immigration. But it has taken a tougher stance lately, with parliament approving a bill that tightens asylum rules.

Agencies contributed to this report

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