In Paris, Hello Olympics, goodbye migrant camps

17 April 2024 / Radouan Kourak

This Wednesday morning, in the southern suburbs of Paris, a major operation was launched to evacuate the largest squat in France, located in Vitry-sur-Seine, just 100 days before the start of the Olympic Games. Occupied by up to 450 migrants.

The evacuation, expected for several days, mobilized some 250 agents, according to the prefectural authorities of Val-de-Marne. The disused company which had housed these people for several months saw its premises empty shortly after 08:00 a.m., while the occupants, loaded with suitcases, left the premises.

According to the United Migrants association, which provides regular support to these people, 80% of them were in a legal situation in France, thus highlighting the precariousness of their situation despite their administrative status.

This evacuation also raises the concerns of the “Le Revers de la Médaille” collective, bringing together associations that help vulnerable people. The latter warns of the fate of the homeless whose makeshift camps are being dismantled at an accelerated pace as the Olympic Games approach. This situation highlights the persistent challenges faced by vulnerable populations, even in large metropolises like Paris, and raises questions about housing and immigration policies in France.

As the country prepares to welcome the world for the Olympic Games, the evacuation of this squat highlights the tensions between the need to provide adequate shelter and assistance to vulnerable people and the imperatives of security and image public associated with an event of this magnitude. Authorities have stressed the need to find sustainable solutions to meet the housing needs of these marginalized populations, but challenges remain numerous.

These evacuations of migrants highlight several issues, including access to housing and immigration. For several weeks, the city of Orléans has experienced a significant flow of arrivals of “relocated” migrants from Paris to Orléans before the Olympics: the mayor is demanding accountability from Gérald Darmanin. Since May 2023, up to 50 homeless people from the Paris region have arrived in Orléans (Loiret) every three weeks “to clear the way before the Olympics”, accuses the town hall.