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Migrants And Homeless Moved Out Of Paris Ahead Of Olympics

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The authorities say the relocations are not related to the Games, claiming emergency accommodation centers have reached saturation

At least 500 migrants and rough-sleepers have been moved from the capital to rural areas and small towns in France as Paris gears up to host the 2024 Summer Olympics in July and August. The move is seen by humanitarian activists and some local authorities as an attempt to hide the homeless ahead of the event.

Some regional mayors have expressed concerns over the new arrivals to their regions. Serge Grouard, the mayor of Orleans in central France, with a population of around 100,000, confirmed to reporters on Monday that there were rumors the move was aimed at “cleaning the deck” in the capital before the Olympics.

Grouard said up to 500 homeless migrants arrived in the city without his prior knowledge. “I’m not certain, but obviously the coincidence is disturbing,” he added. New arrivals are offered three weeks in a hotel at the expense of the state, but are then left to get by on their own, he explained. The deputy mayor of Strasbourg, Floriane Varieras, told AFP that she is facing similar problems, calling the situation “opaque.”

Some humanitarian activists have also linked the move to the upcoming Summer Olympics, claiming the government launched the campaign to make the French capital “more presentable.” “If the idea is just to hide misery and homelessness and to clear the air before the Olympics, it’s really not working on a humanitarian level,” Paul Alauzy of the NGO Medecins du Monde told Euronews.

The state’s regional security office reiterated on Tuesday that the recent relocations were the result of emergency accommodation centers reaching saturation, adding that the measure is unrelated to the Olympics.

Some of the relocated people also confirmed to Euronews that they were advised to change regions, with overcrowding given as the reason.

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File photo: French soldiers patrol the streets as part of the counter-terrorist Vigipirate plan, France, 2019
France wants foreign troops to reinforce Olympics security – media

France received 167,000 asylum requests in 2023, the second-highest number in the EU, with migrants mostly from Africa, South Asia, and the Middle East.

With demand for short-term emergency accommodation far exceeding supply, makeshift camps regularly emerge around the capital and are periodically raided and broken up by police.

France would not be the first host of the Olympics to reportedly resort to these types of measures. In 2008, Beijing’s Olympics clean-up saw hundreds of beggars and homeless people ousted from the streets, with many shipped back to their home regions. Rio de Janeiro’s homeless were forced out of tourist areas when Brazil hosted the Games in 2016.

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