Illegal migrants in Paris suburb soar to 400,000 as hundreds of migrant children sleep on streets

David Chazan — Telegraph.co.uk July 5, 2018

Tents in which migrants live are seen in a makeshift camp along the Quai de Valmy of the canal Saint-Martin. Click to enlarge

Tents in which migrants live are seen in a makeshift camp along the Quai de Valmy of the canal Saint-Martin. Click to enlarge

Illegal immigrants, now estimated to make up a fifth of the population of Seine-Saint-Denis, north-east of Paris, are severely straining public services and creating social tensions, according to a parliamentary report.

Seine-Saint-Denis has long been the French department with the highest proportion of immigrants, but the report warns that the number of illegal migrants may have risen as high as 400,000.

The report catalogues what the conservative newspaper Le Figaro describes as “the incredible deterioration of social, economic and security conditions” in the area, where 28 per cent of the population lives below the poverty line.

Police, schools, courts and other public services are struggling to cope, while the presence of undocumented foreign nationals is blocking the implementation of effective policies by the authorities, argue the two MPs who wrote the report.

Rodrigue Koukouendo, from President Emmanuel Macron’s centrist party, and François Cornut-Gentille from the centre-Right Republicans, are urging the government to review France’s ban on gathering data on the ethnic makeup of the population so that immigrant numbers can be better monitored and regulated.

“To identify urban phenomena of ghettoisation, to explain educational difficulties, to combat discrimination and to adapt the resources of the police and the judiciary to a specific population, the question of establishing so-called ethnic statistics is raised,” the report says.

French law prohibits the collection of data based on race, ethnicity or religion, a rule intended to guarantee equal treatment, but critics argue that it is outdated and leaves minorities vulnerable.

The report argues that urgent plans must be made to combat poverty, high unemployment, the emergence of a parallel economy in some areas, and trafficking of people and drugs which it says have taken over some districts.

Conservative MPs are also calling for the abolition of a scheme that gives illegal immigrants access to free health care provided they have a stable place of residence and income.

Campaigners also claim that hundreds of unaccompanied migrant children are being left to sleep on the streets of Paris because of flawed age assessment procedures.

Last year France’s child welfare system took more than 25,000 underage migrants into care, but Human Rights Watch argues that under-18s are often wrongly classified as adults.

An estimated 550 migrants arrive in Paris each week.

Most cross the border from Italy, where there are no systematic border checks under the Schengen agreement.

Parisians demanding tougher policies and more deportations complain that the capital has become “the new Calais”.

Mr Macron has promised to speed up processing of asylum applications and the expulsion of migrants who do not qualify.

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