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France dismantles two makeshift migrant camps in Paris

Kenzo Tribouillard, AFP | The migrant camp near Paris's Gare d'Austerlitz was desimantled on Friday

Paris authorities evacuated more than 500 mostly African migrants from two makeshift camps on Thursday morning, moving them to special housing as France steps up its efforts to deal with Europe's migrant crisis.

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City social workers and charity workers arrived at the camp before dawn Thursday, watched over by French police.

The majority of the camps residents appeared calm and were packed and ready to leave.

The operations took place at a large camp near the Gare d'Austerlitz train station in southeast Paris, and another in the 18th arrondissement of northern Paris.

City hall said they were being moved to special migrant housing centres in Paris and the surrounding region, and that they will be offering them assistance in applying for asylum.

Pascal Brice of the French OFPRA organisation that helps people deal with asylum applications was at the Austerlitz camp in the early hours of Thursday morning. Brice told the migrants that at the accommodation centres they would “be welcomed with dignity, given food and officials will deal with your situations individually”.

Malian migrant Souleymane Diakité told AFP he had been living at the Gare d’Austerlitz camp for “nearly a year” and was unsure what would happen to him.

"They told us they were evacuating the camp but they haven’t told us exactly where they will be taking us,” he said.

President François Hollande has said France will take in 24,000 refugees over the next two years.

French Prime Minister Manuel Valls underscored this policy on Wednesday, declaring, “The right to asylum is a fundamental right that is part of our history.”

French public opinion has been divided over how to handle the growing number of asylum-seekers, amidst a rise in support for the anti-immigration National Front party and high unemployment.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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