Nov 20th, 2020, 07:05 PM

More Than 2,000 Migrants Evacuated From Makeshift Camp in Northern Paris Suburb

By Lauren Nanes
Police yelling at migrants in Saint-Denis suburb. Image credit: Brut Official on Instagram.
Police yelling at migrants in Saint-Denis suburb. Image credit: Brut Official on Instagram.
French police forcibly dismantled an illegal camp in Saint-Denis and loaded buses with asylum seekers to be taken to temporary shelters.

Under the instruction of interior minister Gerard Darmanin, French police uprooted about 2,400 migrants from a makeshift camp on Tuesday morning in the Paris suburb of Saint-Denis. The evacuation comes a day after the French government announced new measures to regulate immigration in a policy that is tough on asylum seekers and their access to health care. Next to the Stade de France stadium and adjacent to the "crack hill," a notorious spot for drug dealing, several hundred tents filled up the street bordering Paris. Many NGOs and associations were on site serving hot meals before the evacuation came into full effect.

Operating since August, the camp mostly filled with refugees from Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Somalia and Sudan has grown under largely unsanitary conditions. With no water for washing hands and little use of masks, Alix Geoffre from the Catholic association Cedre-Secours told AFP news, "this is really the worst camp we've seen in years." Not the first time France is reprimanded for the mal-treatment of immigrants, the European Court of Human Rights recently condemned the "inhuman and degrading condition" endured by asylum seekers in July of 2020. 

Coordinated by the Paris police headquarters, the prefecture of the Île-de-France and the Saint-Denis police, the evacuations began with children. Although the exact location is unknown, 70 buses were on stand-by as migrants began queuing to board buses from around 4:30 am to be taken to one of 26 designated temporary shelters and gymnasiums in the greater Paris region. All individuals are to be tested for COVID-19 at one of the centers set up by health authorities ARS before boarding the buses.

Videos shared on social media show police using tear gas and fire in the background. 

Refugees continue to receive temporary accommodation that inevitably puts them back on the street. This is only the latest of similar evacuations that take place every two to three months around suburbs like Aubervilliers and Porte de La Chapelle. Paris police chief Didlier Lallement told RFI news, "this operation has been undertaken so that people who are here legally can get the help they need, and those who are not will have to leave France." Relocation to small villages one to two hours away from the city makes integration more difficult for migrants as it is harder to find jobs or access French classes. The repetitive nature of dismantled camps and accommodation has charities enlisting the government to end the destructive cycle through demonstrations and protests.