French interior minister vents frustration with Paris migrant center

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French Interior Minister Gerard Collomb leaves the weekly cabinet meeting at the Elysee Palace in Paris, France

PARIS (Reuters) – France’s interior minister said on Thursday that hundreds of migrants needed to be moved from an overflowing reception center in Paris and he appeared to take a dig at the city’s mayor for creating the problem.

Paris Mayor Anne Hidalgo in November opened the 400-bed center in the city’s Porte de la Chapelle district, but the minister said many migrants were arriving in the capital every week.

“It’s always the same problem,” the minister, Gerard Collomb, told CNEWS. “First off you say ‘I’m going to open a center for 500 people’ and next thing you know you have 3,000 or 4,000 people and you’re left having to sort the problem out.”

European Union member-states are at odds over how to tackle the migrant crisis, with hundreds of thousands of refugees fleeing war and poverty in countries like Syria, Afghanistan, Eritrea and Sudan reaching Europe each year.

Large numbers travel to France, often hoping to use its northern port of Calais as a launching pad from which to reach Britain.

President Emmanuel Macron, elected in May, has instructed his interior minister to cut sharply the time required for processing asylum requests and Collomb has said illegal migrants should be repatriated swiftly.

“The situation as it is can not carry on,” Collomb said.

Hidalgo meanwhile, speaking at the Porte de la Chapelle center, urged the centrist government to draw up new legislation aimed at ensuring migrants are shown more humanity on their arrival in France.

The legislation, she said, should include a fund to help local authorities assist migrants.

Collomb in late June ruled out a new reception center in Calais, to replace the squalid ‘Jungle’ camp bulldozed by the authorities last year, saying such centers were a magnet for migrants.

France independent rights watchdog has condemned the “inhumane” conditions facing migrants.

(Reporting by Matthias Blamont and Emmanuel Jarry; Editing by Richard Lough and Richard Balmforth)

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