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First official refugee and migrant shelter opens in French capital

Charlotte Boitiaux, FRANCE 24

A refugee and migrant shelter with beds for 400 single men opened Thursday in northern Paris, part of an ongoing drive to take asylum-seekers off French streets after the demolition of the Calais "Jungle".

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“Only a few migrants came here this morning”, said FRANCE 24’s Charlotte Boitiaux, who was at the scene on Thursday morning and saw five men entering the new shelter.

“Most migrants in Paris have already been evacuated from the Stalingrad camp to other shelters outside the city. A local official told me that new arrivals were expected as soon as word spreads about this new shelter”, Boitiaux added.

The centre, in a disused railway yard near Gare du Nord station, will take in 50-80 people a day -- the estimated number of migrants that arrive in Paris daily, most of whom end up sleeping rough.

They will spend up to 10 days at the site where they will receive medical care and advice on seeking asylum before being transferred to a French "Welcome Centre".

"The idea is to create a place where every newly arrived migrant can be welcomed and offered dignified, humane shelter," said Bruno Morel, head of the Emmaus Solidarité charity running the centre.

A separate facility for families and women will open in early 2017 in the southeastern suburb of Ivry-sur-Seine.

Unaccompanied minors will be sent to existing children's shelters around the city.

The opening of the men's centre comes a week after police cleared a camp in northeast Paris where 3,800 people -- mostly Afghans, Sudanese or Eritreans -- had been living in tents and mattresses under an overhead metro line.

Last month, authorities also demolished the notorious "Jungle" shantytown in the northern port of Calais -- the main launchpad for migrants' attempts to cross the Channel to Britain.

France's Socialist government is anxious to show it has a handle on migration in the run-up to presidential and parliamentary elections next year.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

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