Police Operation Creates Tension in Paris Migrant Camp

Regional authorities say they have cleared out more than 19,000 migrants from Paris since June 2015

French authorities finished clearing out the makeshift shelters in the squalid Calais migrant camp known as the "jungle" on Monday, after moving more than 6,000 people to temporary housing in a long-awaited effort to tackle France's migrant crisis.

The administration for the Pas-de-Calais region said in a statement that the weeklong clear-out operation finished Monday evening, but cleaning crews will continue combing the site in the coming days.

It said three rickety places of worship built by the camp's residents will remain standing for now, so that underage migrants staying in nearby container housing can continue to gather for prayer.

The Calais camp, which housed as many as 10,000 people from the Mideast and Africa seeking to cross the English Channel to Britain, grew to become Europe's biggest slum, lacking basic human amenities and any government control. The French government began clearing it out last week and relocating its migrants across the country.

A smattering of the Calais migrants are believed to have fled to a resurging camp in Paris that has also drawn growing numbers of migrants moving in from Italy — and has emerged as a new challenge to the government's efforts to deal with the migrant crisis.

Paris police rounded up Afghan migrants at the Paris camp Monday and cleared away some of their tents. The operation in northeastern Paris, near the Stalingrad subway station, was marked by tension and confusion. Riot police physically forced the migrants back and drew a cordon around them, as some migrants yelled and pushed back on police riot shields.

Police and regional officials said the operation was aimed at verifying migrants' documents and sanitary conditions. They insisted it wasn't a full-scale evacuation, though city officials cleared away some tents along a canal.

President Francois Hollande said Saturday that the Paris camp will be evacuated soon. Such camps frequently surface in Paris, and authorities routinely clear them out and move some migrants to temporary shelters.

Shikhali Mirzai, a young man who says he arrived in Paris from Afghanistan five days ago, said he did not understand why the police were trashing their tents.

"Where are these people going to sleep?" Mirzai asked. "It's very cold. It's very cold. This isn't a life, it's an animal's life."

After travelling through Pakistan, Iran and Turkey, Mirzai crossed into Europe where he walked hours on end and hid under trucks to make his way to Italy's border with France. Mirzai said smugglers then disappeared with his money, leaving him hungry in the mountains overlooking the French Riviera, before he made his way to Paris.

"Every day, I see on TV, on the internet, on Facebook that here there are human rights. Where are the human rights? I'm not seeing any human rights here," said Mirzai.

Charity worker Houssam El Assimi, of the local aid group La Chappelle Debout, held a sign reading "No to police raids against migrants." He said Monday's operation was the 27th in the area in which police sort people based on whether they have papers and the right to seek asylum.

Regional authorities say they have cleared out more than 19,000 migrants from Paris since June 2015.

Copyright AP - Associated Press
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