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French police clear last makeshift migrant camp in northern Paris

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By Laurie Timmers  with AFP
Migrants in a makeshift camp alongside the Porte de la Villette bridge in Paris, in January 2019.
Migrants in a makeshift camp alongside the Porte de la Villette bridge in Paris, in January 2019.   -   Copyright  AP   -   Francois Mori

Police cleared the last migrant camp in Paris on Tuesday morning, fulfilling the government's promise to clear the northeast of the capital of illegal settlements.

More than 400 people were moved out of the Porte de la Villette camp, as security forces dismantled makeshift refuges and removed 266 tents pitched on the banks of the Saint-Denis Canal.

The operation began at dawn, around 6 AM local time (5:00 AM GMT), and ended a few hours later, shortly before 8 AM (7:00 AM GMT).

"The evacuation operation at Porte de la Villette has ended, as the camps were endangering the sanitary condition of the place and the safety of people, both the occupants and local residents," authorities tweeted.

Authorities told reporters at the scene that the camp's occupants lived in conditions of poor hygiene, with litter surrounding the shelters and rats infesting the area.

Speaking to AFP, the police department of the Ile-de-France region (Prif) confirmed that 427 people, including four women, mainly from Eritrea and Somalia, were taken in buses to gymnasiums and reception centres within the Ile-de-France area following the operation.

"There are no more camps, that was the idea. And the police will monitor this site to avoid them coming back, as they have done in Porte d'Aubervilliers and in Porte de la Chapelle," police said.

Last week security forces cleared another makeshift migrant camp in the northern city of Calais, and moved more than 1,400 migrants out of the Porte d'Aubervilliers tent camp in northern Paris.

In November, Interior Minister Christophe Castaner pledged to shut down all illegal migrant camps in the north-east of Paris and began to turn the screw on them.

24-hour police units were deployed on former campsites and video surveillance systems were installed to prevent their reformation.

"We will not repeat an endless cycle of evacuations and relocations," Paris police prefect Didier Lallement said last week.