Outcry in France After Police Clear Paris Migrant Camp


PARIS — The police violently cleared out a temporary migrant camp in central Paris, forcing people out of tents, chasing them in the streets and firing tear gas in a crackdown that fueled growing outrage over the government’s tough new security policies.

Housing and integrating migrants living in makeshift camps in Paris, especially on its northern edge, have become a chronic problem. The police regularly clear out hundreds or even thousands of people from such camps.

But the violent evacuation of mostly Afghan migrants on Monday evening from a symbolic square in central Paris was covered widely in the media and struck a nerve, coming as Parliament voted on Tuesday to move forward with a new security bill that critics say would make it harder for reporters or bystanders to film instances of police brutality.

The outcry over the evacuation comes at a time of heightened tensions around President Emmanuel Macron’s broader security policies, which opponents say increasingly restrict civil liberties. Part of that debate has played out after a string of Islamist terrorist attacks over the past few months.

Mr. Darmanin said he had asked an internal police watchdog body to investigate over the next 48 hours and he vowed to make the results of that inquiry public. But critics were not convinced.

“You are importing methods that were developed in Calais to Paris,” Doctors Without Borders responded to Mr. Darmanin on Twitter, referring to the northern port city where the police have been accused of hostility and mistreatment in their handling of migrants trying to reach Britain from France.

In what has become a seemingly never-ending cycle in and around Paris, police regularly clear out hundreds of migrants and raze their tents and shacks, theoretically to offer them temporary accommodation. But a lack of emergency housing and slow asylum procedures has left many still living under bridges or on vacant lots.

Then on Monday evening, roughly 450 blue tents sprouted on the Place de la République, a large square in eastern Paris. Aid organizations like Doctors Without Borders said that the goal was to protest against the authorities’ failure to provide housing for 700 to 1,000 migrants who were left to roam the streets after 3,000 people were cleared last week from a camp in Saint-Denis, a suburb north of Paris.

Aid organizations say that the migrants, many of them young asylum seekers from countries like Afghanistan, Sudan or Ethiopia, are harassed and chased by police.

On Monday evening, the hundreds of migrants were joined on the Place de la République by left-wing politicians, lawyers and activists. Police quickly encircled the tents and started dismantling them as protesters shouted and jeered.


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