PARIS – French police dismantled makeshift migrant camps in areas underneath suburban highways in northeast Paris on Thursday, an opportunity for President Emmanuel Macron’s government to tout its pledge of getting tough on immigration.
Police carried out a large operation dismantling hundreds of exhaust-fumed clad tents and threatening to put those who return to the sites in detention centers.
Police Prefect Didier Lallement told reporters Thursday that "1606 people were evacuated and the site is now freed of all its occupants."
About 600 police officers were involved in clearing up the camps, as Lallement said a police presence in the areas would be maintained there to stop the migrants from returning.
In a statement, the police warned that "people who would try to resettle will be immediately checked and their administrative status verified, leading to them being placed in an administrative detention center if they are staying illegally on national territory."
This highly-publicised operation, the biggest in over a year, comes one day after a French government pledge to "take back control" of immigration.
New measures to grapple with rising immigration were announced Wednesday including what amounts to soft quotas for economic migrants, capping the numbers of immigrants according to job needs in various professions.
The centrist government’s shift to the right has provoked ire from the left, as Macron has been accused of cynically trying to fend off the appeal of the far right ahead of 2020’s municipal elections.
The elections next year will help parties lay the groundwork for the 2022 presidential vote. It is widely assumed that Macron will face off against far-right leader Marine Le Pen, whom he defeated in the presidential runoff in 2017.