Paris police round up thousands of refugees camping in the streets
The refugee crisis in France is getting worse as authorities say that up to 500 migrants arrive in Paris every week and join makeshift encampments that pose a "security and public health risk" to residents.
The camps are situated on the sidewalks near a refugee processing center. Paris police are now conducting round-ups of the migrants, moving them to temporary lodgings all over the city.
The migrants were being escorted onto buses to be taken to temporary lodgings such as gymnasium buildings in Paris and areas ringing the capital. Live TV footage showed what appeared to be a peaceful evacuation.
Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said earlier this week the situation was getting out of hand with more than 400 arrivals a week in the area.
"It's always the same problem," he said on Thursday. "First off you say 'I'm going to open a center for 500 people' and next thing you know you have 3,000 or 4,000 people and you're left having to sort the problem out."
He has been asked by President Emmanuel Macron to produce a plan to accelerate processing of asylum requests with a view to deciding within six months who will be granted refugee status and who gets sent back.
The camp in Paris has swollen despite the creation of two new centers by Paris City Hall to register and temporarily house migrants arriving in the city.
Local authorities have also reported a rise in recent weeks in the number of migrants roaming the streets of the northern port city of Calais, where a sprawling illegal camp was razed to the ground last November and its inhabitants dispatched to other parts of France.
Calais, from which migrants hope to reach Britain, has come to symbolize Europe's difficulty in dealing with a record influx of men, women and children who have fled their native countries.
Last year, police cleared a huge refugee camp outside Calais, but it didn't do much good. Another one has sprung up to take its place.
As for Paris, police made no mention of it, but the city has become a "no-go" zone for tourists because of the increase in crime. It doesn't help that authorities allow the refugees to sleep and congregate on the sidewalks in the middle of the city. Spreading the problem out by moving the migrants to various places around the city is likely to increase crime in those areas, too.
France has been stricter than some European countries in granting asylum requests, but the number of refugees keeps climbing. Immigration was not the top issue in the recent presidential and parliamentary elections, but it's still there as a problem. Eventually, it's probable that, like almost everywhere else in Europe, there will be a voter backlash. What, then, will new president Macron do?