French police evacuate over 2,000 migrants from camp in Paris suburb

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French police have dismantled a huge camp near the Stade de France in the suburb of Saint-Denis, just north of Paris. More than 2,000 people, mostly migrants had been living there since August. They are to be taken by bus to temporary shelters in the Paris region.

Police arrived at dawn on Tuesday to begin evacuating the camp where the migrants, mostly men, had been living in tents in unsanitary conditions.

Seventy buses were on hand to take them to one of the 26 designated temporary housing shelters and gymnasiums in the Paris area.

According to the charity France terre d'asile, around 2,400 people had been living at the site under a motorway bridge near the stadium since August.

"These camps are unacceptable, with people living in atrocious conditions," the Paris police chief Didier Lallement told the press. "This kind of situation poses a risk to the local residents."

"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," he said.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin posted a message on social media hailing the operation.

"This is really the worst camp we've seen in years," Alix Geoffroy, from the Catholic group Cedre-Secours which helps asylum seekers, told AFP.

"We're wondering if a new camp might be set up further away from Paris, in the suburbs in even more difficult circumstances."

Covid-19 testing

The migrants are to be tested for Covid-19 at one of the centres set up by the French health authorities (ARS) before boarding the buses headed to the shelters.

Most of the inhabitants of the camp were men reportedly from Afghanistan, Sudan, Ethiopia and Somalia, seeking asylum.

They have already been moved from other camps around Paris which have been dismantled in recent months, such as the Aubervilliers camp with its 1,500 residents.

A collective of charities and NGOs has called for the government to "end this destructive cycle", whereby dismantled camps and temporary shelters only lead to new camps being set up a short time later.

"The authorities continue to organise these operations but the last 65 times have proven to be inefficient and they have only succeeded in dispersing people," the organisations wrote in a statement.

France was berated by the European Court of Human Rights (CEDH) in July this year which slammed the “inhuman and degrading conditions” experienced by migrants. It said France had failed in its duties under domestic law” and were in breach of Article 3 of the Convention of Human Rights.