Paris – Police evacuated a temporary migrant camp in central Paris, displacing people from tents, chasing them on the streets and shooting tear gas in a boom in growing outrage over the government’s tough new security policy.
The accommodation and integration of migrants living in impromptu camps in Paris, especially on its northern edge, has become a chronic problem. Police regularly remove hundreds or even thousands of people from such camps.
But the forced evacuation of mainly Afghan migrants from Place de la République on Monday night was widely reported in the media and hit nerves when Parliament voted on a new security bill on Tuesday. Critics say the bill would make it difficult for journalists or viewers to film cases of police brutality.
The outrage over eviction comes at a time of heightened tensions around President Emmanuel Macron’s broader security policy, which opponents say are increasingly restricting civil liberties. Part of this debate has taken place after Islamist terrorist attacks in recent months.
Monday night footage showed that with rising tensions and protesters against some protesters, police tried to clear the area, pushing people with anti-riot shields before using tear gas and dispersing grenades that explode and spray smaller rubber pellets. Police also chased some migrants in the side streets.
In a video widespread on social media, a policeman is seen stumbling on a fleeing man who falls to the ground. Another video a journalist also appeared, cornered on the street by officers wearing baton.
Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo on Tuesday expressed her shock in a letter to the French interior minister accusing the police of “brutal and disproportionate use of force”.
“Unfortunately, this unacceptable event is not unprecedented,” Ms. Hidalgo wrote in a letter she shared On Twitter.
Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin acknowledged his usual tough speech on Tuesday, acknowledging On Twitter that certain images of evacuation were “shocking” and saying that the Chief of Police of Paris had handed him a report documenting “several unacceptable incidents” without giving further details about these incidents.
Mr Darmanin said he had asked an internal police board for information over the next 48 hours and vowed to make the results of the investigation public. But critics were not convinced.
“It imports methods that were developed in Calais for Paris,” doctors without borders replied to Mr. Darmanin on Twitterreferring to the northern port city, where police have been accused of hostility and ill-treatment in handling migrants from France to Britain.
During the never-ending cycle in and around Paris, the police regularly free hundreds of migrants and smash their tents and huts, theoretically offering them temporary accommodation. But due to the lack of emergency housing and slow asylum procedures, many still live under bridges or on vacant plots.
Then on Monday night, roughly 450 blue tents sprouted on the Place de la République. Aid organizations such as Doctors Without Borders said the protest was aimed at authorities failing to provide housing for 700-1000 migrants who wandered the streets after 3,000 people were cleared of a camp in Saint-Denis last week, in a suburb. North of Paris.
Aid organizations say police are harassing and persecuting migrants, many of whom are young asylum seekers from countries like Afghanistan, Sudan or Ethiopia.
On Monday night, hundreds of migrants were joined by left-wing politicians, lawyers and activists in Place de la République. Police quickly surrounded the tents and began dismantling them as protesters shouted and mocked.
Most migrants seemed to leave peacefully. But the videos showed that police forcibly thrown out of them who refused to leave their tents.
France’s left-wing parties quickly criticized the evacuation.
“I was shocked by what I saw,” Olivier Faure, the leader of the Socialist Party, told France Inter radio on Tuesday. “We are a country that is supposed to be a country of human rights.”
The ministers responsible for housing and citizenship said in a statement on Tuesday that “migrants are people who need to be treated humanely and fraternally,” adding that authorities have released 10,000 people since mid-October with 4,500 funding. more places next year.
In 2017, President Emmanuel Macron himself said, “I don’t want men and women on the streets in the woods until the end of the year.” But the number of asylum seekers has grown since then, with almost 178,000 applicants in France last year, up 9 per cent from 2018.
Critics accuse the government of unnecessarily tightening its asylum policy.
“It is the responsibility of the state to take responsibility and not stop the proposition to attack us and mobilize all the necessary resources so that these populations do not live like rats,” – Yann Manzi, head of Utopia 56, one aid teams to help set up the Paris camp, he told reporters Monday night.