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Thousands of Homeless People Removed from Paris Region in Pre-Olympics ‘Social Cleansing’

5 Jun 2024 08:17

Islam Times - Thousands of homeless people have been removed from Paris and the surrounding area as part of a “clean-up” operation ahead of the Olympic Games, campaigners said.

Those moved on include asylum seekers, as well as families and children already in a precarious and vulnerable situation, the collective Le Revers de la Médaille, which represents 90 associations, said in a report released on Monday, The Guardian reported.

Police were also cracking down on workers and drug addicts, removing them from their usual networks in which they could receive vital healthcare and support, it added. “The Île-de-France region has been emptied of some of the people that the powers that be consider undesirable,” it concluded.

The collective said expulsions and the dismantling of tent camps in and around the city had intensified since April last year, and 12,545 people had been moved in the last 13 months.

Paul Alauzy, a coordinator for health monitoring at Médecins du Monde, accused the authorities of “social cleansing” of the city’s most precarious population in order for Paris to “appear in the most flattering light possible” for the Olympics. He said people were being bussed to temporary regional centres set up last year as a short-term fix for the problem.

“They are hiding the misery under the rug,” he said, adding, “If this really was a dignified solution to the problem, people would be fighting to get on the buses. They’re not. We are in the process of making life impossible for these people and those who support them.”

The collective said at least 20,000 homes were needed across France, including 7,000 in the Île-de-France region, to provide a long-term solution for the homeless people. Paris city hall had come up with a plan to provide 1,000 urgent places but it had yet to be approved by the prefect, the state representative, it added.

The report qualified social cleansing as “the harassment, expulsion and disappearance of populations categorised by the public authorities as undesirable from the venues where the Games are happening …”

“This clean-up is based on a double approach of dispersal to avoid the creation of informal settlements that would be too visible, and the removal from the Paris conurbation of those people who are in a very precarious situation and who may occupy public space on a daily basis,” it said.

“Although these public policies have been in place for a number of years, a number of indicators lead us to believe that the Olympic Games are acting as an accelerator,” the report added.

Anne Hidalgo, the Paris mayor, has said the city hall had been asking the government, which is responsible for emergency housing, to come up with a credible plan for housing the estimated 3,600 people living on the capital’s streets “for years”. Last year she insisted nobody would be forced to leave the city.

“I am angry about this being pushed on to the city [authority] because it’s not our role or responsibility and we already play more than our part in finding urgent accommodation for vulnerable people. Every week we are putting families into homes,” Hidalgo said.

At a press conference in April, Pierre Rabadan, a former French rugby international and now the deputy mayor in charge of the Olympic Games, said the problem was the number of homeless people living on Paris’s streets, not the Games.

He said the 300 people who faced being moved from the central security zone were less than 10% of those sleeping on the streets of Paris.

“I say, don’t be indignant about people being moved because of the Olympic Games, be indignant about the fact there are 3,600 people sleeping in the streets. We should surely be able to find a dignified solution for them,” he added.

Léa Filoche, the deputy mayor responsible for solidarity, emergency housing and the protection of refugees, said it was not a problem specific to the Olympic Games, and laid the blame firmly with the government.

“Emergency housing is the state’s responsibility,” she said, adding, “We’ve been talking about this with government representatives for more than a year about how to address this problem during the Olympics.”

“First they said they’d come up with 400 places, then 200, now it’s down to 80. We came up with a plan to create 1,000 urgent places; they came back to us and said they had no money,” she said.

“We are doing our best but the system is saturated,” Filoche added.

Story Code: 1139803

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