1,000 refugees evacuated from Paris camp near subway station

Police evacuate nearly 1,000 refugees from Paris camp near subway station as hundreds still seek to cross from Turkey to Greece

Photo by: Reuters
Photo by: Reuters

Workers demolish makeshift shelters as refugees and French riot police look on during the partial dismantlement of the refugee camp nicknamed the "Jungle" in Calais, France on March 14, 2016.

French police evacuated nearly 1,000 refugees from a large makeshift camp near a Paris subway station in the east of the French capital on Wednesday as hundreds of people sought to cross from Turkey to Greece despite European efforts to curb the arrivals.

The refugees reportedly included people from Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan and Afghanistan who had been living beneath elevated train tracks for the past several weeks.

France’s Interior Ministry said in a statement that the evacuation was peaceful and authorities offered the refugees temporary lodging and help in applyng for asylum.

According to the mayor’s office the refugees would be housed in emergency shelters for a month, allowing them to begin the asylum process.

The Paris transit authority sealed off the Stalingrad metro station during the evacuation. The area has seen the emergence of multiple refugee camps in recent years that are periodically cleared out.

The evacuation was the 19th of its kind in Paris since June last year, which has seen 6,500 refugees moved to emergency shelters.

The ministry said "the street should not be a refuge" for people fleeing persecution, adding that the evacuation was necessary for public order, public health and humanitarian reasons.

A refugee walks on a path in the northern area of the camp nicknamed the "Jungle" as French riot policemen secure the southern sector as the camp is dismantled, in Calais, France on March 14, 2016.  (Reuters)

"I don't know where we are going, but it will always be better than here," said Ahmed, an Afghan who said he was fleeing "the war and the Taliban."

Ahmed is one of several of the refugees to have come from the grim "Jungle" camp in the northern port city of Calais, parts of which were cleared away by authorities earlier this month.

France has not seen nearly as many Syrian refugees over the past year as Germany or countries farther east, but has experienced tensions around the northern port of Calais, where refugees converge in hopes of crossing into Britain.

The French government is trying to limit the size of the "Jungle," now home to about 3,500 people, and persuade refugees to give up on their dream of reaching Britain and apply for asylum in France.

Tightened security has reduced nightly bids to sneak onto trucks or storm the port, and increasing numbers of refugees appear to be giving up and coming to Paris.

The Paris camp sprung up underneath an elevated section of the metro train track, and some 400 people were evacuated on March 7 and taken to shelters, but the camp quickly reformed.

"The pace is increasing, I think there are a large number of people who were in Calais and who are coming to Paris," said regional government official Sophie Brocas.

Two women walk between tents at the port of Piraeus in Athens on March 29, 2016. (AP)

Meanwhile, the influx of refugees to the Greek islands seems to be on the rise again as the weather warms.

The Greek government reported on Wednesday that 766 people reached the islands of Lesbos, Samos, Chios and Kos in the 24 hours before Wednesday morning. The number is roughly a three-fold jump compared to the number of arrivals in previous days.

The Turkish coast guard said that it rescued dozens of mostly Syrian refugees as they were trying to reach Greece in an inflatable dinghy.

On Tuesday, a German combat ship rescued scores of people off the coast of Libya who were trying to cross the Mediterranean to Italy's southern islands.

German Navy sailors surround a boat carrying more than 100 refugees near the German combat supply ship "Frankfurt am Main" during EUNAVFOR Med, also known as Operation Sophia, in the Mediterranean Sea off the coast of Libya, Tuesday March 29, 2016. (AP)

More than one million refugees - about half of them Syrians - reached Europe across the Mediterranean last year, a rate of arrival that has continued through the first three months of 2016.

TRTWorld and agencies