French Police moved in on a Paris university early Tuesday to remove dozens of migrants and activists who had been living in the building since January.
It is the latest move to clear out makeshift camps that regularly appear in the French capital amid concerns over influx of migrants into the country and the rest of Europe.
Authorities said 194 people, mainly from West Africa or Sudan and Eritrea, were taken to a gym to have their asylum applications processed, while an additional 160 “illegal occupants” were removed from the Paris-8 university in Seine-Saint-Denis, just north of the capital.
AFP reports that about 70 students and activists, alerted to the imminent operation, had slept on site and formed a human chain to try to keep out the police, who used tear gas to get inside.
It is understood that the migrants had been sleeping on the streets of Paris when pro-refugee activists invited them to occupy the university site in January.
Issa, who arrived at the site from Libya a month ago, told AFP he did not know exactly where he was going, but said he hoped to be allowed “to make his life” in France.
He and others had been having French classes while taking turns with cooking and cleaning duties and participating in a weekly general assembly, translated into five languages.
About three dozen camps of closely packed tents have been cleared in the city over the past three years, underneath highway overpasses or elevated metro lines, or along the city’s canals.
Some of the migrants have arrived in Paris from the northern port of Calais, where people have flocked for years hoping to stow away on trucks to Britain but where officials have vowed to prevent any new camp like the “Jungle”, which was cleared in 2016.
Many are hoping for refugee status, but they may face expulsion under President Emmanuel Macron’s tougher immigration laws, which speed up procedures to deport so-called “economic” migrants not considered at risk of persecution at home.
Meanwhile, migrant activists had invited dozens to shelter in part of the Paris 8 university in Seine-Saint-Denis, just north of the French capital, where they took turns with cooking and cleaning while also receiving French lessons.