‘Open-air toilet’: Police clear out migrant shantytown in Paris after locals’ complaints

Anti riot policemen wear facemasks as they control the evacuation of the migrants camp by buses at Jardin d'Eole, in Paris on June 6, 2016 © Geoffroy Van der Hasselt
French riot police have moved on the Eole gardens, near the Paris Eurostar hub, to clear out a shantytown full of UK-bound migrants, following locals’ complaints of gang violence and that the park turned into an “open-air toilet.”

The masked riot police moved in on Monday morning to break up the camp at the Eole Gardens. Many of the migrants were taken by surprise, folded up their tents and gathered up their belongings as riot police cleared out their shantytown.

Shortly after 7am local time, 1,850 migrants – mostly Afghans, Sudanese, Somalis and Eritreans – were ordered on to a fleet of 40 hired buses and then taken to temporary accommodation centers in other parts of France.

Migrants had set up the camp in the park after Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo announced that the city's first-ever international refugee camp will be built outside the French capital later this summer. In the meantime, migrants from all across Europe, including many who previously stayed in Calais, in the notorious ‘Jungle’, made a beeline for Eole Park.

Migrants at the Eole were washing and drinking at stand pipes, and there were fears that conditions such as the scabies would break out, along with more serious contagious diseases. Last week, Medecins du Monde, a Paris-based humanitarian organization, had reported cases of tuberculosis at the Eole, previously unknown in French migrant camps.

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Local residents were also complaining that the park’s grass lawns nearby had turned into an open-air toilet, and the entire place served as a hangout spot for people smugglers offering migrants passage to London via train or plane, with a ‘temporary passport’ included.

Violence between rival gangs of different ethnicities – mainly Afghans, Sudanese and Eritreans – also broke out from time to time, while police struggled to maintain order.

“Camps are not the solution. The solution is to receive people in different locations in existing structures so they can be integrated in our country,” French Housing Minister Emmanuelle Cosse, who was present at today's operation, said.