Police forcefully remove migrants from central Paris square in 'shocking' scene

Police forcefully dismantle a refugee camp in central Paris.
Police forcefully dismantle a refugee camp in central Paris. Copyright MARTIN BUREAU / AFP
By Lauren Chadwick
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France's interior minister called the images of police forcefully removing migrants from the Place de la République "shocking".


Police dismantled hundreds of migrant tents in Paris' Place de la République on Monday in a scene that France's interior minister called "shocking".

Video posted to social media by journalists and non-profit organisations showed police strong-arming migrants and throwing people out of their tents, as they removed the makeshift camp from central Paris.

French interior minister Gérard Darmanin said some of the images of police dismantling the "illegal migrant encampment" at Place de la République were "shocking".

Darmanin, who has been a staunch defender of police in the country, said that he would have the police inspector general investigate "several unacceptable actions" and to make the conclusions public within 48 hours.

The event also comes as France's National Assembly is set to vote on a security law which makes it illegal to disseminate images of police or soldiers' faces.

Article 24 of the law states that disseminating the images with the aim of damaging an officer's "integrity" would carry a prison sentence of up to one year and a maximum fine of €45,000. The article has been heavily criticised by human rights' activists and press freedom groups.

Ian Brossat, who advises the Paris mayor on housing, emergency accommodation and refugee protection, tweeted that refugees were harassed and elected officials were prevented from observing what was happening on Monday night.

"To think that we will solve a social problem with police batons is totally delusional," said Brossat in a video circulating on Twitter Monday night. He said the city of Paris had proposed two locations for migrant accommodations to the French state.

"The risk is that tomorrow it will be the same story. As long as there is no accommodation there will be people outside. As long as there are people living outside there will be camps. To think we will regulate this with police harassment, as they did this evening, it's not ethical," he added.

Journalists at the scene reported being manhandled by police officers, with images emerging of police hitting and kicking people.

'Counterproductive' police response to migrant crisis, NGOs say

Police used tear gas to disperse hundreds of migrants and encourage them to move out of the city centre.

A non-profit organisation working to help migrants without housing said that they would file a complaint with the police inspector general and continue their fight.

"The violence this evening is abject but we must not pretend that it is just happening now," the organisation Solidarité Migrants Wilson wrote in response to Darmanin's tweet, stating that it came after six days of police chasing migrants.

"The repeated use of law enforcement for such operations, under such conditions with a lack of a coherent public policy is nonsense. It defies understanding. It is counterproductive, utterly ineffective, expensive," said Pierre Henry, the director of a non-profit organisation called France Fraternités.

The Paris police said in a statement that the creation of "such encampments by some associations is not acceptable" and confirmed that they dismantled the "illegal occupation of public space."

Just last week, police dismantled an illegal migrant camp housing 2,000 people in Saint-Denis outside of Paris. The majority of the migrants were men from Afghanistan, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia.

Police said that since last week at least 3,000 people had been sheltered through officially dedicated centres.

Police have said that people in a regular situation need to be directed to the appropriate places and people in an irregular situation need to leave.


The incident comes as Europe prepares to revamp its response to the migrant situation, focussing more on deporting people who do not have the right to seek asylum.

Watch Niall O'Reilly's report in the media player above.

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