French Police Struggle to Contain Migrants Amid Coronavirus Lockdown
Many refugees believe COVID-19 pandemic is a 'fable' and ignore quarantine measures
French police say they are struggling to contain migrants amid the country's national COVID-19 lockdown, with many immigrants ignoring quarantine measures claiming the coronavirus pandemic is just a "fable."
In Paris, authorities are being stretched to the limit as they battle to enforce the coronavirus lockdown in the city’s migrant areas, often referred to as "no-go zones."
In Paris's northern suburb of Saint-Denis, an area mostly populated with migrants, residents openly flout the quarantine measures.
According to a report at Le Temps, many of the African and Middle Eastern inhabitants believe that the COVID-19 pandemic is just a story invented by white people for the purpose of oppressing them.
“They don’t understand anything,” a police officer told the outlet.
“Some of them are even saying that the virus is a fable invented by white people to force them to get off the streets.”
Like everywhere else in France, on the streets of Saint-Denis, where approximately 110,000 people reside, almost everything is shut down.
However, many people still walk the streets in open defiance of the French government's shelter-in-place order.
A Le Temps journalist witnessed a group of migrant teenagers congregating in front of a shopping center in spite of a veiled mother, pushing her daughter in a stroller, admonishing them to go home.
Others were discussing ways to falsify the documents that the police require people to carry when they go outside, which is supposed to only be for emergency reasons.
They are printed in the newspapers, although the government has already published three different versions of the document since the crisis began, leading to confusion.
Breaking quarantine without a valid reason is punishable by a fine of 135 euros ($146).
The police have said that controlling all the immigrants is impossible, so they are merely trying to deter them from violating the quarantine.
Last week France’s Interior Ministry announced that 4,095 tickets had already been issued.
But the problem is not only the number of immigrants violating the government’s edicts but also the fact that the police fear getting into an altercation with them will increase the risk that they themselves will be exposed to the virus.
Many of the immigrants are indeed wearing surgical masks, at the very least, but they are obtaining them via unorthodox means: they’re stealing them from pharmacies and hospitals, as someone named Ahmed told Le Temps.
Apparently, the illicit drug trade is also continuing unimpeded in Saint-Denis.
And in the suburb of Colombes, a man from Saint-Denis was recently arrested for stealing masks and hand sanitizer.
“We are not going to give up,” a police officer told reporters.
“But we also know where these people live and how they live, and strict containment for them is just impossible.”
French police removed hundreds of migrants from a camp just north of Paris on Tuesday in the first such move aimed at limiting coronavirus spread among homeless people around the capital.
The migrants began boarding buses in Aubervilliers at dawn, with officials saying they were headed for gyms and hotels in Paris and a nearby suburb.
Interior Minister Christophe Castaner said the operation was aimed at "protecting the health of the most precarious populations... notably by preventing large gatherings."
According to a recent New York Times report, migrant gang violence has been spiraling out of control in French cities, most notably in the northern port of Calais.
“This is a level of violence never seen before,” Interior Minister Gérard Collomb said in February after arriving in Calais, where three clashes had just erupted and migrants were shot.
Mr. Collomb called the situation “unbearable” both for local residents and the 800 migrants who live there.