France migrant crisis: Paris to open refugee camp in October

Construction work at the site of the camp. Image copyright AFP
Image caption Construction work has already begun on the men's camp in northern Paris

Paris is to open its first refugee camp next month in response to asylum seekers living in the city's streets.

Mayor Anne Hidalgo said a camp to house 400 men would be opened at a site in the north of the city in mid-October.

A camp for women and children, in the suburb of Ivry-sur-Seine, will follow by the end of the year.

Meanwhile, a planned centre for 200 asylum seekers in Essonne, 30km (20 miles) south-west of Paris, was set on fire overnight, investigators say.

Makeshift camps have appeared in public areas and streets in Paris, before being cleared by police.

Hundreds of people were dispersed in the city hours before the latest announcement.

The two camps will cost an estimated 6.5m euros (£5.4; $7.3m). They will provide shelter and medical care for asylum seekers for five to ten days.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said the fire at a planned asylum centre was a "detestable" act

The planned centre in Essonne, at Forges-les-Bains, was due to take in 90 people in October.

A meeting on Monday evening to discuss it was attended by protesters, according to French media, but dispersed late in the evening. The fire was reported to the authorities at about 02:30 (00:30 GMT).

French police are expected to launch an investigation into the cause of the blaze.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The planned centre's upper floors were damaged in the fire

Ms Hidalgo said the fire was "a disgrace".

"The people who did this should be utterly ashamed of themselves because if they think this is the way we express our country's values then they're quite wrong," she told French broadcaster BFMTV (in French).

"It's detestable, deplorable and criminal to act in this manner. I hope they'll be found and punished as appropriate."

Calls have mounted to close the migrant camp in Calais in the north of France, near the entrance to the Channel Tunnel. Protesters caused severe disruption earlier this week as they blockaded roads near the port town, demanding the closure of the "Jungle" camp.

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Media captionA long line of tractors and lorries brings traffic to a near-standstill near the Eurotunnel entrance in Calais earlier this week

Hundreds formed a human chain, joined by farmers and local businesspeople. Calais mayor Natacha Bouchart, who was among the protesters, said things were "becoming unbearable and something needs to be done".

About 7,000 migrants now live in the "Jungle", often in squalor, as many attempt to reach Britain in lorries crossing the Channel. In August, the authorities in France and the UK agreed to increase security and humanitarian aid in Calais, and further secure the Channel Tunnel.

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