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Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 September 2018

French police clear out Paris migrants camp

Scores of migrants are waiting to be escorted from the 'Millenaire' camp

Police moved in on Wednesday to clear out some 1,500 people from the largest makeshift migrant camp in the French capital, which has become a focal point in France's immigration debate.

The mainly African migrants were being moved out of their tent camp along a canal used by joggers and cyclists on the city's northeast edge, put in buses and taken to gymnasiums in the Paris region. Bulldozers then tore down the tent city along quay.

Two migrants drowned this month in canals along encampments and others have been injured amid rising tensions in the filthy, crowded camps, adding pressure for authorities to act. But the evacuation was delayed amid bickering over what to do with the migrants.

"To stay one month here is very, very, very bad for me. All the people have sicknesses and not have food," said Sudanese Farouk Ahmed.

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President Emmanuel Macron wants a tough response to migrants arriving in France.

Two days ago, he nevertheless opened the way to citizenship and a job for a Malian migrant who scaled a building and saved a young child dangling from a balcony in what Macron called "an exceptional act". A video of Mamoudou Gassama's feat went viral, gaining him the nickname "Spiderman."

"This is very good for refugees … refugees are helping people," Mr Ahmed said of Mr Gassama's heroism, claiming that the French regard refugees as "bad".

The camps are at the heart of a political debate between French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb and Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo over how to handle migrants. The mayor and dozens of associations pressed for the migrants to be sheltered once dislodged from their encampments, as in the past. The minister dragged his feet.

"This is an issue of dignity," said Pierre Henry, head of an aid group, France Terre D'Asile. "Street camps should not exist in our country."

Police have cleared out some 28,000 migrants from Paris camps in the past three years, but the arrivals continue.

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