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Police remove migrants from central Paris square ahead of the Olympics

Migrants get Olympic boot

French police on Wednesday removed dozens of migrants, including families with young children, from the forecourt of Paris City Hall as the capital prepares to mark 100 days to the start of the Olympic Games.

Police arrived at dawn to remove about 50 people, mostly women and children aged 3 months to 10 years, who were bundled up in strollers, under blankets or covered with plastic sheets to shield against the rain while sleeping in the plaza. The migrants packed belongings and boarded a bus to temporary local government housing in the town of Besançon in eastern France.

Aid workers are concerned that the move Wednesday is the beginning of a broader effort by Paris authorities to clear out migrants and others sleeping in the rough in the capital before the summer Olympics without providing longer-term housing options.

“They’re clearing the way for the Olympic Games,” Yann Manzi, a member of the migrant aid group Utopia 56, told The Associated Press during Wednesday’s police operation in central Paris. “What is happening is nothing short of social cleansing of the city.”

Olympics organizers have said they are working with aid groups to find solutions for those in the streets, including the many people who come from around the world to Paris seeking refuge or employment.

Many of the families are from French-speaking African countries, including Burkina Faso, Guinea, Ivory Coast and Senegal. They have been sleeping beneath the ornate facade of the Paris monument for days, weeks and some even for months. Aid groups such as Utopia 56, have distributed food, blankets and diapers and helped some of them find temporary lodging for a night or two.

Fatoumata, a mother of two from Guinea, spent a whole month sleeping on the streets of Paris with her two children, aged 3 months and 3 years.

“It’s no way to live, it’s exhausting,” Fatoumata said, holding the baby and clutching the toddler to her. She boarded the bus in hope that life will be better outside the capital.

“They told us we are going to the provinces, which is better than sleeping outside with the children,” Fatoumata said. She spoke on condition her full name not be published because she doesn’t have residency papers.

The Paris Games will run from July 26-Aug. 11, followed by the Paralympics from Aug. 28-Sept. 8. —-

Associated Press writer Barbara Surk in Nice, France, contributed.



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