French police have started to prepare to take down illegal migrant camps in central Paris as several unauthorized encampments have recently sprung up along the city’s canal Saint-Martin. ‘Tent camps have mushroomed in recent weeks along canals used by joggers and cyclists in eastern and northeastern Paris, raising concerns for safety and public hygiene,’ the UK newspaper Daily Mail reported Wednesday.

President Emmanuel Macron is under huge pressure to deliver on the issue of illegal immigration. Elected last May, thanks to a broad Socialist-Conservative alliance scrambled together to stop the right-wing Front National candidate Marine Le Pen from coming to power, Macron’s popularity has been on the free fall ever since. In March, Macron’s popularity fell to 40 percent, its lowest point so far.

To prevent right-wing Front National from shoring up popular support, President Macron has decided to get tough on illegal immigration. Last month, the French parliament passed a tough new immigration law aimed at tightening asylum regulations. Apart from facilitating migrant deportations, the new bill introduces a one-year prison sentence for entering the country illegally.

The decision to evict the encampments was taken by Marcon’s government after the city’s Socialist Mayor Anne Hidalgo refused to take action against the squatters. Associated Press reported the impending removal of the illegal migrant camps:

Police are preparing to dismantle makeshift camps holding close to 2,500 migrants in the French capital, France’s interior minister said Wednesday (…).

A burgeoning encampment in far northeast Paris, on a canal used by joggers and cyclists, is the focal point of the debate pitting French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb against Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo, who are at odds over how to treat migrants and find a lasting solution. (…)

Expressing “regret” at Hidalgo’s refusal to take the necessary steps to allow police to evacuate the migrants, Collomb said he had no choice but to order the removal of the estimated 1,400 people living at the largest camp and others around Paris. His order is expected to be carried out in the coming days.

The interior minister made it clear in a statement that closing the improved camps would result in some migrants being expelled from France. The mayor and aid groups want the people at the camps to be moved to shelters and given help, fearing the evacuations will result in migrants simply being dispersed or summarily deported.

The eviction is the latest in the series of measures undertaken by the French authorities to clamp down on illegal migrant camps popping up across the country since the crisis began in the autumn of 2015. In October 2017, the French police dismantled the notorious ‘Jungle’ camp, known for rampant crime and violent riots, in the northern port city of Calais. Paris has been a preferred camping cite for illegal immigrants. “Migrant arrivals haven’t slowed despite police already evicting about 28,000 migrants from other Paris camps in the past three years,” German public broadcaster Deutsche Welle confirmed.

By toeing German Chancellor Angela Merkel’s line on open borders for illegal immigrants, Macron carries a big portion of blame for Europe’s continuing migrant crisis. With Britain leaving the EU, Macron wants Germany to plug the financial gap. Desperate to get Merkel’s support on the EU’s budgetary allocation, he has failed to challenge German government on its reckless refugee policy.

Macron, however, should know what’s at stake as he deals with the issue of illegal immigration. If he fails to deliver, he will be paving the way for the Front National candidate in the next presidential election.

Video: France’s new tough immigration law

[Cover image via YouTube]