Ross Ibbetson, Daily Mail, November 17, 2020
French police have forcibly cleared a huge Paris migrant camp where more than 2,000 people lived shoulder-to-shoulder in tents under a motorway overpass.
Around 2,400 migrants, most of them young men from the Middle East and Africa, set fire to their camp under the A1 in Saint-Denis in the northern suburbs of Paris last night after police in heavy riot gear arrived.
The nearby metro station was closed for security reasons as officers attempted to control the crowds ahead of the arrival of dozens of buses to remove them this morning.
Police said the operation would ‘guarantee the safety and health of all, especially against COVID-19.’
Firemen were dispatched as thick black smoke billowed up from under the overpass near the Stade de France national stadium.
At a press briefing, Paris police prefect Didier Lallement declared the camp ‘not acceptable.’
‘This operation aims to ensure that people with the right to be here are given shelter and those who do not have that right do not remain on French territory.’ The police chief said.
A total of 70 buses were deployed to move the migrants on from around 4.30am.
They will be taken to various holding centres, some of them ill-equipped gymnasiums, ahead of processing by the immigration authorities.
The dismantling of the migrant camp was condemned by some human rights organisations who claimed it was part of ‘an endless and destructive cycle.’
Some claimed there was little mediation and that social workers could have been deployed instead of riot police.
However, others praised the movement of the people, most of them from Afghanistan, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, to more secure accommodating.
Pierre Henry, chair of the France terre d’asile (“France country of asylum”) NGO, tweetd: ‘I welcome the sheltering of some 2,000 people, temporary residents of a place of indignity near the Stade de France.’
The pandemic has further complicated the handling of the vulnerable people.
Early last month, Médecins sans frontières published a report on testing at different migrant centres in the Ile-de-France region.
Of the ten emergency facilities analysed, positive Covid-19 results were in the range of 23 and 62 percent.