The massive operation targeting the camps underneath highways in northern Paris began in the early morning and involved nearly 600 police officers. By the time it was finished, an estimated 1,606 migrants were taken away — and police say they will keep a presence in the areas to may sure they don’t come back.
“I will no longer tolerate these installations by the roadside here or anywhere else on public spaces in Paris,” Didier Lallement, the leader of Paris’ police department, was quoted by Reuters as saying.
Police officers guard migrants as they clear a camp Thursday in northern Paris. (AP)
Buses picked up the migrants – described by Reuters as being mostly men from Africa and the Middle East – and later dropped them off at gyms and other public venues in the Paris area while the makeshift structures they used to call home were demolished.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner announced that state-sponsored facilities will now house the migrants as their asylum requests are being processed — but any that are denied must leave French territory and some risk deportation.
Some of those who have been granted asylum, he added, are refusing to stay at the housing that they have been offered, Reuters reported.
Police officers evacuate a migrant from a camp on Thursday in Paris. (AP)
The removals came a day after Prime Minister Edouard Philippe revealed new quotas in France for migrant workers and restrictions on the kind of health care they can receive. Those measures, he said, will help France “take back control” over its expanding migrant population.
“Retaking control means when we say yes it really means yes, and when we say no it really means no,” Philippe, who serves under President Emmanuel Macron, said Wednesday. “We’ve decided to go far in opening up where we think it’s good for France, and go far in restrictions where the abuses are intolerable.”
Immigration has become a major political concern for Macron’s La Republic en Marche party, as right-wing voters continue to threaten his chances of winning office again in 2022.
Marine Le Pen, leader of the National Rally party and 2017 presidential candidate, remains Macron’s toughest competition for president. Her party topped Macron’s in the European election this summer — it’s considered “the first round” of presidential elections.
The migrants were bused away to several facilities in and around Paris Thursday after they were removed from the camps.
French authorities cleared a sprawling migrant camp in Calais in 2016 but migrants have since set up a series of camps in Paris that have been demolished by authorities — and then later rebuilt in different parts of the city, according to Reuters.
“[Police] have told me time and again the camps would not come back, but each time they have reappeared,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was quoted as telling reporters Tuesday.
Fox News’ Kaylie Piecuch contributed to this report.