Migrants Transported Away from Paris: Olympics at all Costs?

Olympics aquatics center under construction in Saint-Denis, France (Photo: Chris93 / Wikimedia Commons)

Mayors of small towns in rural areas of France are becoming more and more outraged at the steady stream of migrants from the capital to their areas, which they credit to cleanup efforts before the Paris Olympics, according to reporting in the French daily newspaper Le Monde.

On Monday, March 26, the mayor of Orléans, a town of 100,000 inhabitants in central France, voiced his dismay about the unannounced entry of up to 500 homeless migrants in his community. He maintained that this was done in the capital to “clean the deck” in preparation for the July and August Olympics.

The mayor of Orléans revealed that each new entrant is given three weeks at a hotel at the expense of the state, but after that is left on their own.

For an extended period, Paris has served as a major hub for asylum seekers and refugees, primarily from Africa, South Asia, or the Middle East. The need for temporary emergency housing in Paris is far higher than the availability. Consequently, makeshift camps frequently appear under bridges or on vacant land throughout the capital, only to be repeatedly destroyed by law enforcement. The government’s objective is to relocate many of the occupants from Paris to institutions in other parts of the nation, while they are given the opportunity to petition for asylum.

In a speech in September 2022, French President Emmanuel Macron supported the notion of distributing refugees and asylum seekers across the nation.

Macron referred to the long-standing practice of concentrating immigrants in major cities’ low-income neighborhoods as “absurd” and asserted that refugees may aid in a “demographic transition” in rural and small-town France. The population is declining in many locations outside of France’s major cities, which is causing school closures and a labor crisis.

However, parties on the right and extreme right have long criticized the strategy, claiming Macron is bringing Islamism, poverty, and violence into traditionally conservative towns that are often suspicious of outsiders.

In February, the Revers de la médaille (The other side of the medal), an umbrella organization of eighty French charities, protested what it called the “social cleansing” of Paris in advance of the Olympics through the expulsion of migrants, the homeless, and prostitutes. The grievances were similar to those previously voiced in Olympic host cities.

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