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Police clear out migrants from northern Paris site

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PARIS (Reuters) - French police moved migrants out from Paris’ biggest remaining makeshift camp on Tuesday as the government faced pressure to show it is taking a tough stance on illegal immigration.

Police cleared out the migrants from the camp site in northern Paris’ Porte d’Aubervilliers, which had housed more than 1,000 people often living in squalid conditions beside the busy and noisy Peripherique ringroad.

Those who were moved out were then taken on buses to transport them to new accommodation. Police faced no resistance during the operation.

The migrants appeared to be mainly from North Africa, the Middle East and Asia, many of them fleeing countries blighted by wars and poverty.

Since the closure of a huge migrant camp in Calais in 2016, many refugees have moved to Paris. Authorities have repeatedly dismantled illegal campsites only to see them pop up again in different areas a few months later.

The Aubervilliers site sprung up just two months after police had carried out a similar operation at two huge migrant tent camps in nearby sites in northern Paris.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo was present as authorities moved in during the early hours of Tuesday to dismantle the Aubervilliers site. Rubbish, debris and discarded items such as bicycles could be seen next to the ramshackle, shantytown-style tents.

Last November, Prime Minister Edouard Philippe said the French government would step up plans to clamp down on illegal immigration by clearing out migrant tent camps, imposing quotas for migrant workers and denying newly arrived asylum seekers access to non-urgent healthcare.

Opinion polls show that illegal immigration remains a big concern for many French voters, propping up support for far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who is likely to be President Emmanuel Macron’s main opponent in the next election in 2002.

Reporting by Sudip Kar-Gupta, Manuel Ausloos and Gonzalo Fuentes; Editing by Tom Hogue and Angus MacSwan