Ahead of 2024 Olympics, France evicts hundreds of migrants from abandoned Paris warehouse

French authorities on Wednesday evicted hundreds of migrants from a squat in a southern suburb of Paris with just 100 days to go until the Olympics, encouraging them to board buses to other parts of France.

Charities have accused the authorities of seeking to clear homeless people from the French capital to make it look better for the Games from July 26 to August 11.

The abandoned office building in Vitry-sur-Seine had been home to up to 450 migrants, most of them documented but awaiting social housing, according to non-governmental organisations who visited to help them.

Last year, authorities cleared out migrants from nearby the Olympic Village, and many displaced people came here

Paul Alauzy, health monitoring coordinator
“The squat was the biggest in France. It doubled in size in one year because of the Olympics. Last year, authorities cleared out migrants from nearby the Olympic Village, and many displaced people came here,” said Paul Alauzy of the humanitarian organisation Médecins du Monde, who has been closely following the steady pace of evictions over two years. The conditions inside the warehouse were cramped, Alauzy said.

The clearance operation will continue over several days. The site is empty: 150 people left the night before the police arrived, while 300 were evicted before 8am. Wednesday morning. Among the 450 were 20 children and 50 women, the aid group said.

Clutching their belongings in bags, suitcases or trolleys, the roughly 300 people who had remained left calmly on Wednesday morning under the eye of police in riot gear, looking worried about their next step.

A migrant walks with his belongings stored in a trolley to take a bus for another reception centre, during the evacuation of France’s biggest squat. Photo: AFP

Most were young men, but several young mothers with children were also among the crowd.

One by one, holding documents in plastic folders, they approached immigration officials sitting behind tables to explain their situation in broken French or stilted English.

Buses waited outside, ready to take them to the central city of Orleans or the southwestern city of Bordeaux.

But many people said they did not want to leave the Paris region.

“I want to stay here,” said Abakar, a 29-year-old from Sudan who did not give his second name.

Two migrants use their smartphone as they wait with their belongings to get to another location, during the evacuation of France’s biggest squat. Photo: AFP

He said he was in Paris to follow a logistics course and had been promised a job in a supermarket.

At one table, a woman official tried to convince another young man to try his luck in Bordeaux.

“You know, in France, there isn’t just Paris. Bordeaux is nice, it’s warmer than here,” she said.

But he, too, was attending training in the capital region, and so she directed him to another table where a colleague was in charge of accommodation near Paris.

Umbrella association Revers de la Medaille, french for The Medal’s Other Side, which underscores the harmful effects of the Games on the most precarious populations, said it did “not know where families with school-going children were sent to.”

A homeless person sleeps just next to the Eiffel Tower. With the Paris Games 100 days away, French police carried out a large-scale eviction at an abandoned factory, located on the southern outskirts of Paris, on Wednesday. Photo: AP

They have been particularly vocal about the accelerated pace of camp clearances as the Games approach, warning of the dire consequences for those who find themselves without shelter.

The fate of these displaced individuals remains a pressing issue as the city gears up for its time in the global spotlight, highlighting the tension between urban beautification efforts and support for marginalised communities.

Earlier this month, French police removed about 50 migrants, including families with young children, from the forecourt of Paris City Hall. The migrants packed their belongings and boarded a bus to temporary government housing in the town of Besançon in eastern France.


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