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article imageParis dismantles camp housing over 2,600 migrants

By AFP     Jul 22, 2016 in World

Police in Paris on Friday dismantled a tent camp under a railway housing over 2,600 people mainly from Afghanistan and east Africa, part of an ongoing drive to remove camps sprouting up around the French capital.

The operation in northern Paris was the 26th of its kind over the past year in the city, which is struggling to accommodate asylum-seekers.

Many hundreds of people, mainly men from Eritrea, Somalia and Afghanistan, had been living in tents or sleeping rough on mattresses on a strip of ground underneath an elevated railway.

The number of migrants sleeping rough had initially been believed to be lower, and only 1,400 places were immediately available in reception centres.

Among the 2,628 migrants evacuated on Friday were 153 women and children, police said in a statement.

Due to a shortage of places in formal reception centres, the authorities resorted to temporarily housing some of the people in three gyms and a retirement home.

The eviction operation on July 22  2016 was the 26th of its kind over the past year in Paris
The eviction operation on July 22, 2016 was the 26th of its kind over the past year in Paris
Jacques Demarthon, AFP

Last weekend, riot police intervened at the site to break up a fight between some of the camp's occupants.

The head of the French Immigration and Integration Office, Didier Leschi, said some were passing through France and were planning to seek asylum in other European countries.

Others, however, had already been granted asylum in France "but cannot find work and don't know where to live".

"It's very hard, we don't have blankets, showers or toilets," Mahamat Moussa, a 19-year-old from Chad who arrived in France nearly a year ago, and has sleeping rough in the makeshift camp ever since.

- Shortage of accommodation -

Migrant support groups complain of a dire shortage of accommodation for asylum-seekers, saying the 20,000 spaces created in the past two years are insufficient in the face of a constant stream of new arrivals.

Police evict between 1 200 and 1 400 migrants from a makeshift camp in Paris on July 22  2016
Police evict between 1,200 and 1,400 migrants from a makeshift camp in Paris on July 22, 2016
Jacques Demarthon, AFP

Over the past year, squalid camps have repeatedly cropped up in northern Paris -- with the police intervening each time to dismantle them.

In May, the city's mayor Anne Hidalgo announced plans to create a refugee camp with proper facilities, scheduled to be up and running in September.

The other main destination in France for refugees and migrants is the northern port of Calais, where thousands of people are camped out in the hope of stowing away in a truck bound for Britain.

Pierre Henry, head of France Terre d'Asile, a charity that helps refugees and asylum-seekers, called for other French cities to take steps to provide their own refugee accommodation.

"We need (accommodation) centres in all the regional capitals, to receive the refugees and help them get their bearings, so that people are not drawn just to Paris and Calais," he said.

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