French police migrants Paris
French police evict thousands of migrants living on sidewalks near the reception centre for migrants and refugees at Porte de la Chapelle in the north of Paris, France, on 7 July 2017 REUTERS/Pascal Rossignol

French riot police evicted more than 2,000 refugees and migrants from the streets of Paris and escorted them onto busses early on Friday morning (7 July).

Many of the refugees came from Eritrea, Sudan and Afghanistan, where they had fled war and conflict. They had spent weeks living on the streets around Porte de La Chapelle in northern Paris, sleeping rough outside the French capital's new aid centre for asylum-seekers.

Paris City Hall official Dominique Versini said that the number of refugees and migrants sleeping on the capital's streets had risen to around 2,500 in recent weeks.

Interior minister Gerard Collomb described the situation as "unsustainable." He said the aid centre had been set up as a "first humanitarian welcome post" but that it had become overwhelmed by "the constant arrival of migrants, around 400 every day."

"It's always the same problem," he said on Thursday (6 July). "First off you say 'I'm going to open a center for 500 people' and next thing you know you have 3,000 or 4,000 people and you're left having to sort the problem out."

At 5am (4am BST) dozens of police vans arrived to clear the area around Porte de la Chapelle. 350 officers were deployed to carry out the eviction.

Police said people were being evicted as "the illegal camps" they were living in "present a security and public health risk for both the occupants and local residents." TV footage showed that the eviction was peaceful and nonviolent.

The migrants and refugees were taken to temporary accommodation in gymnasium buildings across Paris. It is unclear how long they will remain there.

"We are concerned that transporting people to centres will do little to resolve the situation unless there is a long term plan in place," Marta Welander, director of Refugee Rights Data Project, told IBTimes UK. "There have been over 30 evictions since 2015 and none of them have helped address the situation in a constructive manner due to the absence of a plan and appropriate asylum information."

Most recently, riot police intervened in Porte de La Chapelle last month, when they evicted 1,610 migrants from the area.

Welander said that police in Paris had used "excessive force" and shown "an abhorrent disregard for safeguarding needs of unaccompanied minors" when dealing with refugees and migrants in the past. In a survey conducted earlier this year over half of refugees living in Paris described their experience with police as "violent", with many people having been kicked or hit with batons during the relocation process, according to Welander.

President Emmanuel Macron told parliament this week that he wants to overhaul the French asylum system and make it "more human and fairer." He is expected to reveal his new asylum policies in upcoming weeks.

"The increased police presence, the excessive use of tear gas, pepper spray and systematic dehumanisation of refugees in Northern France must be brought to an end for Macron's claims to be taken seriously," a spokesperson for Help Refugees told IBTimes UK.

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