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French authorities clear refugee camps as France accepts 24,000 fresh refugees

September 17, 2015 at 11:14 am

French authorities cleared more than 500 refugees from two makeshift camps in Paris on Thursday, moving them to temporary homes, local media said.

Social workers and charity staff escorted by police arrived at the camps in central Paris in the early morning.

The Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons monitored the migrants as they boarded buses to their new homes. “You will be welcomed with dignity,” agency head Pascal Brice said, according to Le Monde newspaper. “You will be given food and officials will deal with you individually.”

The camps at Gare d’Austerlitz, one of the city’s busiest rail stations, and the 18th arrondissement town hall had been mostly occupied by Sudanese and Eritrean nationals.

The operation came as France faces criticism over its offer of immediate help to arriving refugees while ignoring those who have been living for months in squalid camps in Paris, Calais and along the northern coast.

France has agreed to accept 24,000 of the 120,000 new refugees the EU is seeking to allocate among members on a quota basis, allocating more than 600 million euros ($677 million) to the new arrivals.

“It would be abhorrent to say those who arrive will be dealt with quickly and the others we’ll leave outside,” Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo said Tuesday.

For most refugees, France is a transit point to the UK. Last week, Anadolu Agency spoke to Sudanese refugee Omar Abu Al-Kassem Ahmed, 23, at the Gare d’Austerlitz camp. “I came here to get train to Calais, from where I want to cross to the UK.,” he said. “I want to join my eldest brother.”

He added: “I want to go to England. There I can find a job easily and make a life for myself and help my family back home. In England there are a lot of opportunities and it is easier to settle down and make a living, here in France everything is complicated. It is easier to apply for a refugee status in England than France.”

Contrary to his beliefs, Britain has a harsher asylum system than most of its neighbours, with most refugees only given permission to stay after five years, according to the U.K.’s Refugee Council. Three-quarters of asylum claims are unsuccessful.