Migrants flock to Paris after Calais evacuation

Migrants have set up tents on the median strip of a major road near the Stalingrad and Jaures metro stations in Paris.
Migrants have set up tents on the median strip of a major road near the Stalingrad and Jaures metro stations in Paris.PHOTO: EUROPEAN PRESSPHOTO AGENCY

Number camping in streets has jumped from 1,500 to over 2,000

PARIS • The number of migrants sleeping rough on the streets of Paris has risen by at least a third since the start of last week when the "Jungle" shanty town in Calais was evacuated, officials have said.

Along the bustling boulevards and a canal in a north-eastern corner of Paris, hundreds of tents have been pitched by migrants - mostly Africans who said they are from Sudan.

While the presence of migrants there is not new, it grew substantially last week, Ms Colombe Brossel, Paris deputy mayor in charge of security issues, said last Friday.

"We have seen a big increase since the start of the week. Last night, our teams counted 40 to 50 new tents there in two days," she said, adding that there was now a total of 700 to 750.

This means there are 2,000 to 2,500 sleeping in the area, up from about 1,500 a few days before, she added.

After years of serving as an illegal base camp for migrants trying to get to Britain, the "Jungle" at Calais was finally bulldozed last week and the over 6,000 residents of the camp near the English Channel were relocated to shelters around France.

France's asylum chief, Mr Pascal Brice, said the arrivals in Paris did not mean there had been a wholesale movement from the Jungle to the capital. He added: "There might be some movements at the margins (towards Paris), but what is crucial is that those 6,000 people have been protected."

Between Paris' Stalingrad and Jaures metro stations, migrants who spent the night camped out on the median strip of a major road scattered last Friday morning, many carrying their tents while police patrolled the centre of the boulevard.

Migrants and officials said police checked identification papers and asylum requests, and later let the migrants return to the central strip of the avenue, where they put their tents back up.

Authorities said the newcomers did not come only from Calais. Others did, but had arrived before the dismantling of the camp.

Ama, a 24-year-old Sudanese who is six months pregnant, said she had come to Paris from Calais, but that was months ago.

"I was in Calais before, but I did not find the route (to Britain)," she said. "I couldn't stay there being pregnant. It was too hard."

Deputy Mayor Brossel said it was up to the central government, and not city authorities, to act.

"These people must be sheltered," she said.

The city of Paris has plans to open two migrant centres, but they would have a total capacity of fewer than 1,000 beds.

Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said later last Friday that the Paris makeshift camp would be dismantled in the coming days.


A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on October 30, 2016, with the headline 'Migrants flock to Paris after Calais evacuation'. Print Edition | Subscribe