Paris police raided two sprawling migrant settlements at Porte de la Chapelle and Seine-Saint-Denis on Thursday, just hours after French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe announced a raft of hardline measures on migrants and asylum seekers in France.
The authorities woke the men, mostly from sub-Saharan Africa and some from the Middle East, at dawn and herded them onto buses that took 1,600 of them to temporary holding facilities in gymnasiums and sports halls elsewhere in the capital.
Speaking at the scene, Paris police prefect Didier Lallement told reporters: “I will no longer tolerate these installations by the roadside here or anywhere else on public spaces in Paris.”
Lallement added that police would remain at the camp sites over coming weeks to ensure that migrants released from detention do not immediately return.
But activists say that many of the migrants have nowhere else to go. Since the closure of the camps in Calais three years ago, many have made their way to Porte de la Chapelle and Seine-Saint-Denis, as well as other camps inside and outside the city.
Julie Lavayssiere, Paris coordinator for migrant advocacy group Utopia 56, told Euronews that many migrants will be “back on the streets” within a few days and liable for arrest if they are caught by police. “It is going to be a manhunt in Paris,” she said.
Ahead of municipal elections next year — and with immigration a key concern amongst French voters — Philippe announced a new crackdown on migrants and asylum seekers, including restrictions on healthcare for new arrivals and quotas for migrant workers.
Paris’ socialist mayor Anne Hidalgo told reporters at the scene that authorities had told her “time and again the camps would not come back, but each time they have reappeared.”
Meanwhile, conditions for migrants in northern France have deteriorated even further as winter approaches, with news last week that a 25 year old Nigerian man suffocated after lighting a small fire inside his tent to stay warm.