Police shook tents until migrants fell out sparking outcry and probe
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Police shook tents until migrants fell out sparking outcry and probe

Paris: France’s interior minister has ordered an internal police investigation after officers were filmed tossing migrants out of tents while evacuating a protest camp in Paris.

Aid groups and the government were working to find temporary lodging for hundreds of migrants forcibly removed from the short-lived camp on the Place de la Republique on Monday night.

Housing and integrating migrants living in makeshift camps in Paris, especially on its northern edge, have become a chronic problem. Police regularly clear out hundreds or even thousands of people from such camps.

Police removed tents from the Place de la Republique in Paris with migrants still in them.

Police removed tents from the Place de la Republique in Paris with migrants still in them.Credit:Getty Images

But the violent evacuation of mostly Afghan migrants on Monday, filmed by journalists and activists, struck a nerve as it drew nationwide attention amid tensions over a draft law beefing up police powers that easily passed a vote in the lower house of parliament on Tuesday. Critics say the bill will make it harder for reporters or bystanders to film instances of police brutality.

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The outcry over the evacuation comes at a time of heightened tensions around President Emmanuel Macron's broader security policies, which opponents say increasingly restrict civil liberties. Part of that debate has played out after a string of Islamist terrorist attacks over the past few months.

Paris police are under government orders to explain themselves after officers were filmed tossing migrants out of tents while evacuating them.

Paris police are under government orders to explain themselves after officers were filmed tossing migrants out of tents while evacuating them.Credit:AP

Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin ordered an internal police investigation into “certain incidents”, promising to make the results public.

“Was I shocked by some of the images [of the evacuation]? The answer is yes,” Darmanin told Parliament.

His rapid reaction to the outcry stands in contrast to his vigorous defence of police officers in recent months, and to the government’s tepid response to more severe and sustained violence by police at protests by yellow vest activists and others in recent years.

Migrants were tossed out of a makeshift camp on Place de la Republique in Paris on Monday night.

Migrants were tossed out of a makeshift camp on Place de la Republique in Paris on Monday night.Credit:AP

In the evacuation, police lifted tents with migrants inside, shaking them until they tumbled to the ground, and those who resisted were kicked or beaten with batons, according to the head of aid group Doctors Without Borders in France, Corinne Torre.

Images shared online showed activists and local officials shouting and trying to block police from dislodging the migrants. Torre, who witnessed the evacuation, said several people sought treatment for injuries from her aid group, known by its French acronym MSF.

Aid groups and Paris legislators said they set up the protest camp of about 300 tents to call attention to the plight of hundreds of migrants who were kicked out of another camp in Saint-Denis in the shadow of France’s national stadium last week and have been sleeping in the streets since then for lack of other options.

Most are from Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea, and some have been refused asylum while others are in bureaucratic limbo while they try to apply, Torre said.

The Paris police headquarters said in a statement that the Republique camp was evacuated because it was illegal, and “invited” the migrants to seek lodging elsewhere offered by the state or aid groups.

A protester holds a poster reading "Government of shame, Police of fear" during a rally on the Place de La Republique on Tuesday, a day after police ejected migrants by force.

A protester holds a poster reading "Government of shame, Police of fear" during a rally on the Place de La Republique on Tuesday, a day after police ejected migrants by force.Credit:AP

The ministers for citizenship and housing said in a statement on Tuesday, Paris time, that 240 potential spots in temporary lodging had been located for the migrants, saying they “should be treated with humanity and fraternity.”

The draft law presented to the National Assembly was meant to strengthen local police and provide greater protection to all officers. It notably makes it a crime to publish images of officers with intent to cause them harm, a measure that has prompted repeated protests by civil liberties campaigners and media freedom groups.

AP, The New York Times

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