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French police clear migrant camp near national stadium

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PARIS (Reuters) - French police on Tuesday cleared hundreds of migrants from an illegal camp next door to the French national sports stadium, the Stade de France, just north of Paris.

Police arrived before dawn at the camp, a mix of tents and improvised shelters made out of plastic sheeting and cardboard boxes under a flyover on the edge of the capital.

The migrants, which included some families with small children, were ordered on to buses. When there was a crush to board the buses, police deployed tear gas, according to a Reuters journalist at the scene. Some children were caught up in the tear gas.

Representatives of non-governmental organisations that work with the migrants said there were at least 2,000 people at the camp. Several hours after the raid started, hundreds were still waiting to board buses.

Police said their objective was the safety of the people at the camp, especially during the COVID-19 epidemic. They said people moved on from the camp would be given alternative accommodation.

Philippe Caro, a volunteer with an association called Solidarite migrants Wilson, which helps people at the camp, said the accommodation being offered was often not inadequate.

“In spite of everything, there are going to be people left out on the street,” he said. The people at the camp were predominantly asylum seekers from conflict zones, including Afghanistan, Somalia, and Sudan.

France has joined other European states, among them Italy, Britain and Sweden, that have taken tougher approaches on migrants since the outbreak of the Syria conflict in 2011 triggered a migrant crisis across Europe.

Opinion polls show voters are worried about the issue of migration, driving support for far-right leader Marine Le Pen, likely to be Macron’s main opponent in the next presidential election in 2022.

Writing by Christian Lowe; Editing by Alexandra Hudson