Police clear Paris migrant camp that swelled after Calais closure

Reuters News
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Posted: Nov 04, 2016 2:31 AM

By Matthias Blamont and Cyril Camu

PARIS, (Reuters) - French police evacuated thousands of migrants on Friday from a camp in northeast Paris that had doubled in size after the closure last week of the "Jungle" camp in Calais.

Police moved in at daybreak. The migrants were to be moved to sports halls and other facilities before being transferred to holding centers, pending screening of their asylum requests.

The Socialist government ordered the operation days after the larger camp on the northern coast was torn down.

Some 600 police were deployed in northeast Paris on Friday, following a tense confrontation between migrants and police at the same site on Monday, when officers carried out identity checks.

A Paris city official said the operation was completed shortly after midday and that 3,852 migrants had been removed from the site. Another said the process had gone ahead without incident.

The number of migrants sleeping rough in tents and makeshift shelters near Stalingrad metro station had swollen in the past two weeks to between 3,000 and 4,000, said Housing Minister Emmanuelle Cosse.

Some of the first buses departed amid cheering, applause and, in some cases, cries of solidarity with the migrants from bystanders.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo said Paris authorities would house several hundred vulnerable women and children as two new temporary camps were being built in the city's outskirts.

CALLS TO SCRAP BORDER DEAL

The Paris and Calais camps, home to about 10,000 migrants in all, have come to symbolize Europe's fraught efforts to deal with a record influx of migrants fleeing conflict and poverty in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve has said more than eight in every 10 of the Calais migrants are expected to qualify for asylum.

Diplomatic tensions between France and Britain, where anti-immigrant sentiment was a driver in the vote to leave the European Union, have escalated over who should take care of the Calais migrants. Many dream of reaching Britain, tantalizingly close across the Channel.

France's Socialist government has been torn, ahead of next year's presidential election, between the rise of the anti-immigrant National Front and demands that refugees be treated humanely.

In a televised debate on Thursday, conservative candidates all said Britain must manage asylum-seekers on its own territory rather than leave the task to France.

"We must denounce the Le Touquet agreements," election favorite Alain Juppe said, referring to the accord that moved Britain's southern border checks onto French soil.

He main rival for the center-right nomination, former president Nicolas Sarkozy said: "We must go to Britain and negotiate with (British Prime Minister) Theresa May the opening up of a center so that the British decide themselves who they want to take in."

(Writing by Brian Love; Editing by Richard Lough and Andrew Roche)