World

Police remove migrants from central Paris square ahead of the Olympics

Olympics organisers have said they are working with aid groups to find solutions for those in the streets.

Migrants stand in front of Paris City Hall (Nicolas Garriga/AP)
OLY Paris 2024 Migrants Migrants stand in front of Paris City Hall (Nicolas Garriga/AP) (Nicolas Garriga/AP)

French police have removed dozens of migrants, including families with young children, from the forecourt of Paris City Hall as the capital prepares to mark 100 days to the start of the Olympic Games.

Police arrived at dawn to remove about 50 people, mostly women and children aged three months to 10 years, who were bundled up in strollers, under blankets or covered with plastic sheets to shield against the rain while sleeping in the plaza.

The migrants packed belongings and boarded a bus to temporary local government housing in the town of Besançon in eastern France.

Migrants stand in front of Paris City Hall (Nicolas Garriga/AP)
OLY Paris 2024 Migrants Migrants stand in front of Paris City Hall (Nicolas Garriga/AP) (Nicolas Garriga/AP)

Aid workers are concerned that the move is the beginning of a broader effort by Paris authorities to clear out migrants and others sleeping in the rough in the capital before the summer Olympics without providing longer-term housing options.

“They’re clearing the way for the Olympic Games,” Yann Manzi, a member of the migrant aid group Utopia 56, told The Associated Press during Wednesday’s police operation in central Paris.

“What is happening is nothing short of social cleansing of the city.”

Olympics organisers have said they are working with aid groups to find solutions for those in the streets, including the many people who come from around the world to Paris seeking refuge or employment.

Many of the families are from French-speaking African countries, including Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Senegal. They have been sleeping beneath the ornate facade of the Paris monument for days, weeks and some even for months.

Aid groups such as Utopia 56, have distributed food, blankets and diapers and helped some of them find temporary lodging for a night or two.

Fatoumata, a mother of two from Guinea, spent a whole month sleeping on the streets of Paris with her two children, aged three months and three years.

“It’s no way to live, it’s exhausting,” Fatoumata said, holding the baby and clutching the toddler to her. She boarded the bus in hope that life will be better outside the capital.

“They told us we are going to the provinces, which is better than sleeping outside with the children,” Fatoumata said. She spoke on condition her full name not be published because she does not have residency papers.

The Paris Games will run from July 26-August 11, followed by the Paralympics from August 28-September 8.