French police have dismantled a tent camp home to 2,628 refugees as part of an ongoing operation to clear out shelters sprouting up around Paris, which is grappling with a shortage of accommodation for refugees.
The raid took place in the northern part of the capital, Paris, on Friday, marking the 26th of its kind over the past year in the city.
The camp’s occupants were mainly men from Somalia, Eritrea and Afghanistan, who had been living in tents or sleeping rough on a strip of ground underneath an elevated railway.
“It’s very hard, we don’t have blankets, showers or toilets,” Mahamat Moussa, a 19-year-old Chadian, who had been sleeping rough in the camp over the past year.
Some of those evicted were temporarily transferred to three gyms and a retirement home because of insufficient reception centers in Paris.
The head of the French Immigration and Integration Office, Didier Leschi, said some of the refugees were passing through France to other European countries.
However, others “cannot find work and don’t know where to live,” despite being granted asylum in France, Leschi added.
Squalid camps have repeatedly cropped up in northern Paris over the past year, with police intervening each time to raze them.
Pierre Henry, head of France Terre d’Asile, a charity that helps asylum seekers, called on all French cities to provide their own refugee accommodation.
“We need (accommodation) centers in all the regional capitals, to receive the refugees and help them get their bearings, so that people are not drawn just to Paris and Calais,” he said.
Thousands of refugees are living in the “Jungle,” the name given to various encampments in the port city of Calais around the Channel Tunnel, the undersea passage into Britain.
Despite hundreds being evicted from the Calais refugee camp, a latest census said the population had surpassed 7,000, with new aerial photographs appearing to show it has grown and moved to an adjacent field.
Recently, Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart called for camps to be moved to British soil in the aftermath of the country’s June vote to leave the European Union, saying, “The British must take the consequences of their choice.”
The situation in France is part of a wider refugee crisis across Europe, which has been struggling with its biggest influx of asylum seekers since World War II, as people flee conflict-ridden zones in Africa and the Middle East.
Many blame major European powers for the unprecedented exodus, saying their policies have led to a surge in terrorism and war in the violence-hit regions, forcing more people out of their homes.
More than 245,210 asylum seekers have reached Europe via the Mediterranean so far this year, while over 2,970 people died or went missing in their perilous journey to the continent, according to the latest figures by the International Organization of Migration.