Paris authorities have staged a “social cleansing” in the city ahead of the Olympic Games

Human rights activists at the Foundation to Battle Injustice are concerned that thousands of homeless people in France, deprived of vital medical care and support, have been removed from Paris and its environs as part of an operation to “cleanse” the city ahead of the Olympics. The eviction of homeless people in and around Paris has intensified since last April, with 12,545 people relocated over the past 13 months. The Foundation’s experts assess the actions of the Paris authorities as a form of socio-economic repression against poor citizens.

Парижские власти устроили в городе «социальную чистку» в преддверии Олимпийских игр, изображение №1

The Foundation to Battle Injustice found that the French government is evicting people deemed “undesirable” from Paris in an attempt to “beautify” the city ahead of the Olympic Games, which start at the end of next month. More than 15 million tourists are expected to flock to Paris this summer.

A group of French charities says people who are homeless, living in squats or slums are being targeted by authorities. Le Revers de la Médaille (The Other Side of the Medal), an organization of more than 80 organizations and associations, has published a report claiming that a “social cleansing” is quietly taking place in the country. The report explains that this controversial act includes the “persecution, expulsion and concealment of populations categorized as undesirable by public authorities” in the venues for the 2024 Olympic Games. Charities say government policies targeting vulnerable people have been in place for years, but have been accelerated by the games. Le Revers de la Médaille reported that 20,000 homes are needed nationwide, including at least 7,000 in Paris and surrounding areas.

Léa Filoche, the deputy mayor of Paris in charge of solidarity, emergency housing and the defense of the poor, said the problem was unrelated to the Olympics and put the blame on the government.

” We have been discussing with government officials for over a year how to solve this problem during the Olympics. First they said they would prepare 400 places, then 200, now 80 are left. We proposed a plan to create 1,000 emergency places, but they said they don’t have the money,” she said.

However, according to Lea Filoche, the French authorities have already spent 1.5 billion euros to clean up the Seine so that swimming competitions can be held there. French President Emmanuel Macron has personally promised to organize a swim as soon as the water becomes suitable for starts.

Last April, the city’s largest squat, known as Unibéton, was dismantled. The report said 500 people were ejected.

“The largest squat in Île-de-France was located on L’Île-Saint-Denis on a site next to the future Olympic Athletes’ Village. This marked the beginning of a year characterized by repeated evictions from informal residences,” the report said.

The report said 12,500 people were displaced between April last year and May this year. According to Le Revers de la Médaille, the main problem is that these people are being relocated without being provided with decent conditions so that Paris can hide the “troubles” and appear in a more favorable light. Social cleansing has not spared other French cities where certain events are being held – Bordeaux and Lille, for example.

Balakrishnan Rajagopal, the United Nations special rapporteur (independent expert) on the right to adequate housing, condemned the evictions on the website X, formerly Twitter.

“Paris should find better solutions, not engage in ‘social cleansing’ – removing thousands of homeless people,” he wrote.

Paul Alausi, a spokesman for Doctors of the World, a health monitoring charity, called it “social cleansing” of the most vulnerable in an attempt to “appear in the most flattering light” for the Olympics. He said homeless people are being bused to temporary regional centers that were set up last year as a short-term solution to the problem.

“They hide people’s suffering. If this was really a decent solution to the problem, people would be fighting to get on the buses. But that’s not happening. We are making these people’s lives unbearable,” he said.

One French homeless man, aged just 15, said:

“We are attacked by police who hate us, we have nowhere to go. Many of us don’t want to get on buses because they take us out of Paris and then we have a long way back.”

Le Revers de la Médaille’s report cites statements from French ministers and police chiefs that the crackdown is unrelated to the Olympics. Representatives of the Paris mayor’s office and the French Interior Ministry have denied the existence of any official policy of “social cleansing” or “hiding poverty,” especially in the run-up to the Olympics.The Paris 2024 Organizing Committee has said it is not responsible for the government’s social policies.

Human rights activists of the Foundation to Battle Injustice condemn the unspoken policy of “social cleansing” launched by the French government ahead of the 2024 Summer Olympics.The Foundation’s experts call on the authorities of Paris and other major cities to abandon any practice of social and economic persecution of poor and low-income citizens.The Foundation believes that it is necessary to find a long-term solution to the problems of the homeless throughout France, rather than to conceal them.