French government to evacuate thousands of migrants from squalid, makeshift camps near Paris

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The French government announced Wednesday that it will remove thousands of migrants at makeshift camps around Paris, as President Emmanuel Macron’s government fights with Parisian authorities about how to handle the crisis. 

In a tough statement, Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said the situation was “no longer bearable for Parisians” and announced that he had ordered an “evacuation operation” that would remove more than 2,300 migrants from the camps near Paris.

Le Monde reports that there are two camps, one near the Canal Saint-Denis, consisting of 1,600 people living in squalid conditions, and another near the Canal Saint-Martin.

In 2016, French authorities tore down the controversial “Jungle” camp in Calais -- a sprawling refugee camp near the port to the United Kingdom. In January, Macron visited the site and promised that it would not be allowed to be rebuilt.

But with the deconstruction of that camp, it moved the problem to Paris, where makeshift camps have cropped up around the city.

It was not immediately clear what would happen to the migrants if their shelters were dismantled - or whether they would be taken somewhere else.

While both the government and Parisian authorities have agreed that the conditions are unacceptable, they have differed on the approach that should be taken. Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo tweeted out a petition for the state to shelter the migrants.

“Some do not want to see them and yet they are there,” she said. “Their living conditions are more undignified every day, despite our efforts.”

In his statement, Collomb said the city had refused to deal with the matter, and that asylum seekers and rejected asylum seekers are disproportionately gathered in the region around Paris.

“This situation will be repeated indefinitely if measures are not taken by local authorities to prevent encampments from being rebuilt,” he warned. He also called for an approach that enforces the country’s immigration and asylum laws while also removing those who have no right to remain on French soil.

Although Macron ran a more pro-migrant campaign than his right-wing 2017 presidential challenger Marine Le Pen, he has upset some on the left by taking a harder approach on the migrant crisis.

Last month the country’s National Assembly passed a measure that would speed up the deportation process for failed asylum seekers and extend the length of time failed asylum seekers can be detained.