Police clear France's largest squat ahead of Paris Olympics


France's largest squat, which housed up to 450 mostly legal immigrants, was on Wednesday evacuated in the southern suburbs of Paris – 100 days ahead of the Olympic Games.

The operation to evict people from a disused factory in Vitry-sur-Seine reportedly took place without incident, with some occupants already having left the premises in anticipation of the arrival of police.

Some 250 officers were mobilised according to the Val-de-Marne prefecture. Shelters were planned for those evicted, both in the Ile-de-France area surrounding Paris and other regions, such as Bordeaux.

Carrying their belongings, the 300 or so remaining occupants – men, women and children – left the premises shortly after 8am. 

Some had been living at the site for several months, either unable to find accommodation in the private sector or still awaiting social housing.

According to the United Migrants NGO, which regularly provides assistance, 80 percent of migrants are legally residents of France.

The Revers de la Médaille (Flip Side of the Coin) group, which brings together NGOs that help people living on the streets, has for months warned of the plight of the homeless, whose makeshift camps are being dismantled as the Olympic Games approach.

Mohammed Sayed, an Eritrean, had been living in the squat for three years.

He has refugee status and works in electrical maintenance for the construction company Eiffage on a permanent contract, but has been unable to find accommodation.

"It's not that I'm happy to be here, but where am I going to go?" the 40-year-old asked the AFP news agency, his large suitcase beside him.

Several squats evacuated

Once the headquarters of a bus company, the building in Vitry-sur-Seine has gradually been taken over by people who have been evicted from other squats in the Paris region.

At the end of March, residents said they were unable to find accommodation elsewhere and were forced to set up beds and mattresses on the floors of the near-derelict, multi-storey building.

In 2023, police evacuated the disused former headquarters of Unibéton in Seine-Saint-Denis – close to the future athletes' village for the Paris Olympics – where 500 migrants were living.

In July, a further 150 people who had taken refuge in an abandoned retirement home in a suburb in Val-de-Marne were also evicted.