Migrant crisis: Police clear Paris's 'Stalingrad' camp

Migrants wait before entering buses Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The number of people sleeping at the Paris camp soared after the Calais "Jungle" was closed

French authorities have cleared a makeshift migrant camp housing more than 3,000 people in Paris.

Several hundred men began queuing near the Stalingrad metro station before 06:00 local time (05:00 GMT) and the first bus left shortly afterwards.

They were taken to reception centres in the Paris region, AFP news agency reported.

The operation followed the evacuation of about 7,000 people from the "Jungle" camp in Calais a week ago.

A spokeswoman for the Paris prefecture said the operation ran smoothly.

The migrants, many from war-torn countries such as Afghanistan and Sudan, would be able to make asylum requests once they were in holding centres, she said.

Some 600 police officers took part in the evacuation, she added.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Many of the migrants said they were happy to leave the makeshift camp
Image copyright Reuters
Image caption The migrants were living rough in increasingly cold and unsanitary conditions

Why Stalingrad? BBC's Hugh Schofield in Paris

Image copyright AFP/getty
Image caption The camp extended for several hundred metres

The pocket of Paris around Stalingrad metro, the Villette canal basin and the Avenue de Flandres had become a fixed point on the migrants' map of Europe.

Africans and Middle Easterners travelling north from Italy or west from Greece knew there would be a reception of some kind waiting for them there. Aid groups had a system in place. The neighbourhood is "populaire", in other words leftwing, so there was more local sympathy than there might otherwise be.

Migrants also knew they could make the contacts here that would take them further down the road. The Paris encampment had become a stepping stone on the route to Calais - and from there to the UK.

But the Calais route is blocked, for now. Word got out that there was no point chancing the Channel. And with winter approaching it made more sense to stay in Paris. Hence the build-up of the past few weeks. The cork was at Calais. The bottleneck was Stalingrad.

The Stalingrad camp was previously cleared in July and September, but migrants quickly returned and their numbers grew as the Calais camp was closed.

"I have no idea where we are going. Paris or nearby, it's fine for me. The important thing for me is to have papers. I've been here for a month in a tent, it's good to leave," said Khalid, a 28-year-old migrant.

More on the Calais 'Jungle'

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