On 6 November, the French government announced an outline for stricter immigration and migration policy, and just one day later, French police vacated two migrant camps in northern Paris. Nearly 600 officers arrived at around 6:00 a.m. on 7 November to begin escorting migrant families and individuals from the camps and transporting them via coaches to reception centres. The two camps, located near the Porte de Chapelle, are believed to have held between 600 and 1,200 migrants, including families with young children. Most are from Afghanistan or sub-Saharan Africa.
Following the publication of a series of more stringent immigration and migration policies, French Prime Minister Edouard Philippe issued a statement saying that France must “take back control of immigration,” and that the country needs to be more clear in its selections and policy making regarding asylum and assimilation. Phillipe elaborated on this by saying that granting asylum to those seeking it must be “actively based upon [French] principles and goals.”
According to the Mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo, large-scale migrant camp evacuations by French police have occurred before. “Every time, we’re told it won’t happen again, but we need proper processing procedures when people arrive in France in order for them to have their rights respected,” she said in a statement to Al Jazeera. “In camps like these, about 20 percent of people are refugees who are here legally but have not been offered any kind of housing. There are also homeless families.”
During the evacuations on 7 November, Paris Police Chief Didier Lallement reported that the operation was a direct result of the “implementation of the [government] plan.” He also added that the evacuation of migrant camp installations “did not happen by chance” and that he would “no longer tolerate these installations by the roadside… or anywhere else on public spaces in Paris.”
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner stated on 6 November that additional migrant camps in Paris, believed to be housing more than 3,000 migrants, will be evacuated by French police “before the end of the year.”
The French police force is not acting solely upon their own agenda when it comes to large-scale evacuations of migrant camps; they are explicitly instructed to carry out these acts of intimidation and displacement by the French government. Although these migrant camps include families with children and individuals without access to opportunities to live or seek asylum elsewhere, French President Emmanuel Macron is mandating the dissolution of migrant camps in order to appease right-wing French voters prior to the upcoming elections. The French right-wing government officials have also pressured Macron to adopt militant immigration and migration policy reform, to which he has unfortunately given in.
The European Union has created legislation regarding seeking asylum and migration in response to violent conflict brewing in the Middle East and parts of Africa, from which many migrants arriving in EU member states are fleeing. In addition to violent conflict, circumstances of drought, poverty, and economic crises have driven migration to Europe from Syria, Afghanistan, and several African countries.
France, with a mixed-ideology constituency and government, has struggled to respond in recent years to shifting numbers of migrants entering the country and larger numbers of requests for asylum from people living outside of the European Union. Asylum requests are up 20 percent from 2017, and there are growing concerns surrounding employment and visa distribution. President Macron has also been forced to address the political challenges of the French far-right National Rally and its figurehead Marine Le Pen. This opposition has triggered many of the right-leaning immigration and migration policy reforms introduced since Macron took office in 2017. France has implemented a quota system for granting work visas, tighter regulations in granting asylum, and a number of migrant camp clearance operations in larger cities.
In the future, France will likely face more pressure from the far-right to continue immigration crackdowns such as the ones that have occurred in the past week. Macron, if he chooses to continue on the path he has taken in past months, may push for additional restrictions on immigration and migration into France. These types of policies, however, could easily lead to violence, and the displacement and intimidation of so many people in need of assistance could present a unique set of issues that France has not anticipated.