Paris police in 'shocking' clash at migrant camp

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Media caption,

Police tipped some migrants out of their flimsy tents

French police violently dismantled a makeshift migrant camp in the heart of Paris overnight, clashing with migrants and activists.

Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin tweeted that some of the scenes were "shocking", and ordered the police to provide a full report on their actions.

Dozens of small tents were removed from Place de la République, with occupants sometimes being tipped out by police.

The homeless migrants say they are forced to live on the streets.

Volunteers had joined the migrants and, linking arms, the crowd - several hundred strong - chanted "papers for all, accommodation for all!" when police moved in.

Police later used tear gas and chased people through the streets, using batons to hit some of them.

Security law dispute

The violence came ahead of a vote in the French parliament on Tuesday on a controversial security bill, which opponents say could undermine the media's ability to scrutinise police behaviour.

France has seen large demonstrations this year against police brutality and alleged racism.

Article 24 of the bill makes it a criminal offence to post images of police or soldiers on social media which are deemed to target them as individuals.

Image source, Getty Images
Image caption,
Police used tear gas to scatter the crowd near the large square

The new makeshift camp in the centre of the capital appeared a week after police had dismantled a bigger, illegal migrant campsite near the French national sports stadium in northern Paris.

"They are too violent," lamented Shahbuddin, a 34-year-old Afghan, quoted by AFP news agency. "We just want a roof."

Ian Brossart, a Paris city hall official overseeing housing, condemned the "law and order response to a social situation".

President Emmanuel Macron has adopted a tough policy towards irregular migrants, many of whom see their final destination as the UK, via Calais.

The far-right National Rally led by Marine Le Pen still poses a big threat to him politically.

The huge surge in migration to Europe via the Mediterranean in 2015, fuelled by the Syrian civil war and other conflicts, has declined, but many asylum seekers still live in precarious conditions in the continent, homeless and unemployed.

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The French government argues that the new security bill does not jeopardise the rights of the media and ordinary citizens to report police abuses.

But in the face of criticism the government added an amendment, specifying that Article 24 "will only target the dissemination of images clearly aimed at harming a police officer's or soldier's physical or psychological integrity".

People found guilty could be punished by a year in prison or a fine of up to €45,000 (£40,000).

French human rights ombudsman Claire Hédon is among the bill's critics: she called Article 24 "disproportionate" and warned that police use of drones for surveillance of demonstrators, granted by another clause, would be "especially intrusive".

Anne-Sophie Simpère of Amnesty International called it "a freedom-killing law that would threaten freedom of expression, the right to demonstrate and the right to privacy", France 24 news website reported.