Last Friday, French police began tearing down a huge camp in northeastern Paris.
The camp was home for thousands of Afghans and Africans. Their removal to shelters is part of a government effort to stop migrants from living on the streets.
The migrant camp was sometimes called “Stalingrad” because it was near the French capital’s Stalingrad metro station.
Aid groups said at least 3,000 people occupied the camp; however, broadcaster CNN said the number was closer to 4,000.
Most migrants leave their home countries in search of work or a better life. But many of the people who lived in Stalingrad are considered refugees. They were forced to leave their home country because of war or oppression.
Some migrants held their possessions while waiting for buses to take them to holding centers around Ile de France, a French province that includes Paris.
Didier Leschi is the director of the French Immigration and Integration Office. He promised his agency’s teams would be present at the holding centers. He also said language aides would be available.
The migrants will be able to stay in Ile de France temporarily. Then they will be sent to reception centers all over France. At the centers, they will be told how to make an official request for asylum.
The police operation to clear Stalingrad came a week after French President Francois Hollande ordered the destruction of another camp near the port of Calais.
That camp was known as "the Jungle." Hundreds of migrants fled to Stalingrad after the Jungle’s demolition.
Calais is near the English Channel. Thousands of migrants used the camp as a temporary stop on their way to Britain.
Many risked their lives by traveling through the Channel Tunnel, an underwater transportation link connecting France to Britain.
President Hollande said 5,000 migrants had been evacuated from the Calais camp in the past week and sent to 450 centers around France.
Hollande also said he spoke with British Prime Minister Theresa May to ensure that British officials would "play their part" in welcoming the new arrivals.
France’s refugee crisis
After the demolition of “The Jungle,” France began busing an estimated 1,500 unaccompanied young people to other parts of France. Most of them were from South Sudan and Afghanistan.
The youngsters will be taken to temporary shelters around the country, while British and French officials consider their individual cases.
People who lived in the temporary camps have made long and dangerous trips, often by boat, to Europe from Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria, or other countries.
The terrible conditions in France’s migrant camps have become a sign of Europe's worst refugee crisis since World War II.
France’s Interior Minister told the Reuters news agency that 85 percent of the Calais migrants are expected to meet the government’s requirements for asylum.
Migrants in the Jungle faced severe security and health problems, such as scabies and tuberculosis, according to a study in 2015. A water source was also polluted with deadly bacteria.
Leigh Daynes, director of charity group Doctors of the World, told The Guardian newspaper that Calais was a “humanitarian emergency.” The residents were already hungry, he said. But their suffering was made worse because of their unsafe and difficult trips to reach France.
Hollande said his country should not accept the camps because they are “not worthy of France.” They are not a long-term answer for migrants and refugees, he said.
A mixed welcome
Throughout France, people have shown mixed feelings toward the Calais migrants. Some towns have been filled with protesters for and against migrants. Some local leaders launched a campaign against taking them in.
But some towns around France are happy to receive the migrants from Calais. For example, people in Reims offered hot coffee and treats to 29 Afghans and Sudanese as they arrived in October. Residents have been calling aid groups to donate clothes for the migrants and volunteer their services.
Philippe Wattier is the director of the Salvation Army office in Reims. He said that a number of migrants have a poor image of France because many people, including police, have mistreated them.
Sometimes, there are threats of violence against migrants. A letter to the Salvation Army last week threatened to burn down the buildings where migrants are staying.
Wattier said the hostility in the letter is similar to feelings in other parts of Europe and the United States.
I’m Jill Robbins.
Alice Bryant adapted this story for Learning English from many reports from VOANews.com and other media. George Grow was the editor.
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Words in This Story
province - n. any one of the large parts that some countries are divided into
reception – adj. of or related to a place where people are received, welcomed or accepted
migrant – n. someone who moves from one place to another to find work
English Channel - n. a body of water that separates France from England
tunnel - n. a passage that goes under the ground, or through a hill or mountain
unaccompanied - adj. in the context of this story, “unaccompanied” means without the presence of parents
play ____ part – expression. to do what you can or should do to help reach a goal. The structure of the expression is: play + possessive pronoun + part.
scabies - n. a disease that is caused by small insects and that causes itching and red spots on the skin