French authorities complete clearance of Paris migrant camp
Paris authorities have cleared about 3,850 migrants out of a makeshift roadside camp that had mushroomed into a new embarrassment to France.
Carrying their meagre belongings, the migrants from Sudan, Ethiopia and other countries boarded dozens of buses to temporary shelters around the Paris region, where they can apply for asylum and get medical care.
The operation around the canals of north east Paris began before dawn and went calmly under the watch of riot police.
In the past few weeks, the site had become the biggest migrant camp Paris had seen in years. It posed a new challenge just as the French government was shutting down the filthy migrant camp in Calais that had become a painful symbol of Europe's migrant crisis.
Thousands of Calais migrants were transferred to temporary reception centres, but some fled to Paris. Pitching tents on boulevards near the Stalingrad subway station, they joined migrants who had arrived from elsewhere after dangerous sea crossings from the Middle East and Africa.
"This is the biggest operation sheltering migrants we have had to face in the last 18 months," said Christine Gauthier of the Paris region's housing department.
The regional administration said 3,852 people were taken to 78 temporary centres. Among them, 339 were identified as "vulnerable", including women, children and the ailing, and they were given special care.
President Francois Hollande had vowed to clear out the Paris camp, saying France could no longer accept such migrant settlements, but it is unclear whether the government can prevent new camps from surfacing, especially as Europe's migrant crisis persists.
Regional authorities have evacuated more than 21,000 migrants in 30 such operations since June last year.
Paris is slated to open a new refugee centre soon but aid groups say its capacity is far too small to meet demand.