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Police remove thousands of migrants from northern Paris pavement camps

PARIS (Reuters) - French police took thousands of migrants living in tents on the pavements of northern Paris to temporary lodgings in and around the city on Friday.

They loaded 2,771 people, including dozens of unaccompanied children into vans and coaches at dawn, Interior Minister Gerard Collomb said, noting that the government was determined to prevent a proliferation of makeshift, illegal camps.

“These illegal camps present a security and public health risk for both the occupants and local residents,” the Paris police prefect’s office said in a statement as 350 police and other officials conducted the clear-out.

As people continue to cross into Europe from Africa and the Middle East in their thousands, about 100 migrants a day have been arriving in the Porte de la Chapelle area of northern Paris, Paris City Hall official Dominique Versini told CNews TV station.

Local authorities have also reported a rise in the number of migrants roaming the streets of the northern port city of Calais, where a sprawling camp was razed last November and its inhabitants sent to other parts of France.

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Calais, from which migrants hope to reach Britain, has come to symbolise Europe’s difficulty in dealing with a record influx of men, women and children fleeing conflict and poverty at home.

“France must respond to this unprecedented migration crisis in Europe humanely and firmly,” Collomb said in a statement.

He said this week the situation was getting out of hand despite, or perhaps because of the magnet-effect of, the opening of refugee reception centres by Paris mayor Anne Hidalgo..

“It’s always the same problem,” Collomb said on Thursday. “First off you say ‘I’m going to open a centre for 500 people’ and next thing you know you have 3,000 or 4,000 people and you’re left having to sort the problem out.”

French president Emmanuel Macron has asked Collomb to produce plans to process asylum requests more rapidly so that the authorities can say within a maximum of six months who is granted refugee status and who is deported.

Reporting by Brian Love and Julie Carriat; Editing by Ingrid Melander and Louise Ireland