Images of French police violently removing people from a migrant camp in the centre of Paris have sparked shock and condemnation from politicians and NGOs. But aid workers say it is just the latest example of the “infernal cycle” facing migrants in the French capital.
The around 500 tents had been set up that evening by volunteers and quickly filled with migrants looking for a place to sleep, but were torn down again just hours later.
Many of those who had set up camp on the Place de la République had previously been living at a larger camp in Saint-Denis on the outskirts of Paris.
A week ago, it too was dismantled by police.
It’s a pattern that has become familiar in the French capital: A migrant camp is set up only to be quickly torn down again and a new camp set up somewhere else.
“The first thing we are asking for is obviously the sheltering of these people who should already have been sheltered with the evacuation of the Saint-Denis camp,” said Kerill Theurillat, Paris coordinator at the NGO Utopia 56, told AFP.
“And the second thing we are asking is to stop this infernal cycle of camps that are being formed, that are being evacuated, often violently, that are being set up again. We want to put an end to this infernal cycle and that there be a real mechanism for welcoming these people.”
Police say those in France legally are offered alternative shelter, but aid workers saythat such shelters, often crowded gymnasiums, are insufficient and unsuitable meaning many soon end up back on the streets.
“We are quite saddened today to see that the recommendations that were made by MSF, were not followed since at the time of the dismantling of Saint-Denis, they are still sending people to gymnasiums,” Corinne Torre of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) told AFP.
“There is a lack of accommodation… and the result is that all these people are still on the streets, with arrivals every day.”