Compelling news from the refugee and migrant sector
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Refugees moved on ahead of Paris Olympics

11 April 20240 comments

Refugees and asylum seekers appear to be being swept up in an apparent clean-up operation ahead of the Paris Olympic Games.

Reports from France say refugees living on the streets or in squats are becoming the targets of police raids that see them bussed to other cities.

Local media reported the case of a refugee from war-torn Sudan who was ordered onto a bus, along with 500 others, despite having a job and refugee status.

The refugees were told they were being sent by bus to Toulouse, almost 700-kilometres away.

Police went from room to room ordering the migrants outside and taking their identity documents.

The raids came after the French government announced a policy of sending migrants from the capital to regional towns.

French President Emmanuel Macron made the call in September 2022 during a speech in which he described as “absurd”, the idea of concentrating refugees and migrants in low-income and troubled neighbourhoods of Paris.

He argued that rather than adding strain to the stretched social services of these areas, asylum seekers and refugees could help reverse declining populations and labour shortages in other areas of the country.

At the time, charities welcomed the idea in principle, but worried about the implementation.

But it caused outrage among far right, anti-immigration politicians.

Now, refugee advocates have accused Macron and his government of wanting to ‘clean up’ Paris ahead of the Olympic Games, to be held in July and August.

They say the migrant transfers are linked to a desire among French authorities to banish rough-sleeping, tents and squats from the capital before the eyes of the world fall on its famed cobbled streets.

In February, a group of about 80 French charities criticised what they called the “social cleansing” of Paris ahead of the Olympics with efforts to remove migrants, the homeless and sex workers.

“Clearly ahead of the Olympics, there are transfers, a social cleanup to prepare the city for the arrival of tourists,” said Jhila Prentis a volunteer the United Migrants charity.

United Migrants wants the government to run more checks before sending people to the regions and that the migrants agree to be located.

France’s Housing Minister Guillaume Kasbarian told parliament that 200,000 homeless people slept in shelters provided by the French government each night, half of them in Paris.

“Given the saturation in the Paris region, not everyone can find a place. That’s why, without any link to the Olympic Games, the government put in place a dispersal policy from March 2023,” Minister Kasbarian said.