Evacuations of squalid Parisian camps: migrants need real solutions

There is a lack of long-term solutions for migrants in Paris, and violence against them persists, Medecins Sans Frontieres warns today alongside 22 other organisations.

On 6 November, the French government pledged to evacuate all the Parisian migrant camps before the end of 2019, promising unconditional accommodation for everyone - about 3,500 people. 

A conditional and inadequate response

Yesterday, French authorities evacuated part of the Porte d'Aubervilliers camp, north of Paris, where more than 2,000 people survive in makeshift tents and shelters along the ring road. MSF are regularly on site to offer medical consultations.

Hundreds of migrant people waited in line to be able to board the buses from the Ile de France prefecture - but not all had access to them. 500 were evacuated. Among those left behind some no longer have tents or sleeping bags, which were destroyed during the operation. 

A first operation took place on 7 November at Porte de la Chapelle in Paris and Wilson Avenue in Saint-Denis, but contrary to the commitments made, the principle of unconditional accommodation was not respected.

Within 48 hours, we observed the return to the street of several dozen people, who were "not meeting the required administrative criteria". As their tents and sleeping bags were destroyed during the evacuation, these people are now destitute. 

The "zero return" policy

In parallel, the police headquarters announced the implementation of a "zero return" strategy, deploying police to prevent camps reappearing at Porte de la Chapelle and in the other areas concerned. This police harassment that disperses migrants seems to be the only promise kept so far. It does not solve the situation for people who are living on the street but makes them less visible and isolated. 

Migrants are forced to hide, and to live in unspeakable conditions. This policy does not allow for those who wish to apply for asylum to do so in decent conditions. It also reduces their access to food distributions, healthcare, information on their rights, and distances them even further from the housing system.

We have already observed the ineffectiveness of such police deployment at Porte de la Chapelle in 2017 and at the Millennaire in 2018: its only effect is to move the camps to other less visible sites.

Endlessly drifting and pushed further out of sight

With 60 evacuations since 2015, this is an endless cycle of confiscation, temporary evacuation and police harassment, MSF warns.

Sixty times, unconditional shelter and sustainable solutions were promised but in the weeks that followed, we witnessed men, women and children returned to the street, constantly moved on by the police to prevent them from settling.

Keeping people in such situations is undignified, and particularly worrying as winter approaches once more.  The French government cannot continue to replicate these evacuation operations without guaranteeing lasting accommodation, access to healthcare and rights for all migrants in the territory.

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