Refugees rounded up rough sleeping in Paris streets
At least 2000 refugees and migrants were rounded up off the streets in Paris, by the police, where they had been sleeping for weeks in squalid and unsanitary conditions.
Riot officers watched as the refugees were being bused to temporary shelters in school gymnasiums.
Refugees and migrants had arrived in hundreds in the Port de la Chapelle area of northern Paris, sleeping under the road bridges and on the side of the road with almost no access to drinking water, sanitation or food in the vicinity of Paris’s new Aid Center for Asylum seekers that were opened in November.
To move them from the area, the operation which took place calmly had begun early at dawn. Groups of men and women and children from the war-torn and allied occupied countries - some only with rucksacks or plastic bags of belongings - were sent to buses and driven out of Paris.
This was the 34th removal of refugees and migrants in large numbers from the French capital by the police since 2015.
Aid workers warned that France needed to establish an effective long-term strategy for processing and housing asylum seekers in decent conditions rather than constantly taking emergency action at the last minute.
Guillaume Schers, who runs the emergency program for Terre d’Asile, a French NGO working with asylum seekers, said: “The number of people arriving in France is not likely to drop this summer.” He said there had to be a permanent, stable and strategic plan for taking care of asylum seekers in France rather than the current “multi-layered and complex” system focused on crisis management.
Many of those sleeping roughs had queued each day for access to the aid center only to find it was full. Hundreds had bedded down on the pavement outside the gates, alongside traffic-choked roads. In recent weeks, more than 1,000 people had been sleeping here, with aid associations saying 200 more arrived each week.
Corinne Torre, the head of French operations for the doctors’ charity Médecins Sans Frontières,warned that the major issue was refugees’ and migrants’ mental health after trauma. “Most of these people have come through Libya. Many have faced violence, torture, inhumane treatment, traffickers or sexual violence. We don’t talk enough about that, and there should be better structures in place to deal with it.”
This sudden influx of refugees and migrants sleeping rough in Paris had grown after the closure of the Calais migrant camp last October.
A 25-year-old veterinary student from Somalia said he had been sleeping on the street in Paris for one week, with little water or food and no blankets to lie on. He had come to Paris from Calais after several weeks in squalid conditions there. “I’m exhausted from living on the street,” he said, “I’m not sure where they are taking us today. I just want to be somewhere fit for humans. I’m so tired and hungry, but you just have to be patient.”
On Friday the 8th, French authorities organized buses to take people to temporary locations in the Paris region, mainly school gymnasiums that had become available during the holiday season.
Some local politicians in Paris have warned against a continuing cycle of removals and the return of rough sleepers, with a lack of long-term strategy on asylum. The last such police operation in Porte de la Chapelle was only two months ago when 1,610 migrants were moved.