French police evict hundreds from abandoned Paris warehouse ahead of Olympics

17 April 2024, 12:14

A homeless person sleeps near the Eiffel Tower
France Paris Squats. Picture: PA

The camp in Vitry-sur-Seine had become home to about 450 migrants.

With the Paris Olympic Games 100 days away, police have carried out a large-scale eviction at France’s biggest squat in the south of the capital.

Authorities, including dozens of gendarmes, cleared out the makeshift camp at an abandoned bus company headquarters in Vitry-sur-Seine on Wednesday.

The camp had become home to about 450 migrants, with images of the eviction spreading rapidly across social media.

OLY Paris 2024 – 100 Days
The countdown clock, set up on the banks of the River Seine river in front of the Eiffel Tower, reads 100 days before the Paris 2024 Olympic Games opening ceremony (Christophe Ena/AP)

Aid workers are concerned that the broader effort by Paris authorities to clear out migrants and other people sleeping rough in the capital before the summer Olympics is troubling, as those evicted are not provided with longer-term housing assistance.

“The squat was the biggest in France. It doubled in size in one year because of the Olympics. Last year, authorities cleared out migrants from nearby the Olympic Village, and many displaced people came here,” said Paul Alauzy, of the humanitarian organisation Medecins du Monde, who has been closely following the steady pace of evictions over two years.

The conditions inside the warehouse were cramped, he added.

The clearance operation will continue over several days.

The site is currently empty: 150 people left during the night, before the police arrived, while 300 were evicted before 8am on Wednesday. Among the 450 were 20 children and 50 women, the aid group said.

The action is part of a broader push by local authorities to dismantle makeshift camps as Paris prepares to host the Olympics from July 26 to August 11.

Advocacy groups working with the homeless and other vulnerable populations have been voicing their concerns for months.

They have been particularly vocal about the accelerated pace of camp clearances as the Games approach, warning of the dire consequences for those who find themselves without shelter.

On Wednesday, observers said some five buses were at the site, intended to transport migrants to specially allocated sites in cities such as Orleans or Bordeaux.

Other migrants will be bussed to temporary filtering sites.

France Paris Squats
Migrants in front of Paris City Hall (Nicolas Garriga/AP)

Mr Alauzy said he fears “it will just be a matter of days or weeks for many of the migrants to be sleeping rough on the street again”.

The fate of these displaced individuals remains a pressing issue as the French capital gears up for its time in the global spotlight, highlighting the tension between urban beautification efforts and support for marginalised communities.

Earlier this month, French police removed about 50 migrants, including families with young children, from the forecourt of Paris City Hall.

The migrants packed their belongings and boarded a bus to temporary government housing in the town of Besancon in eastern France.

By Press Association

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