NGOs Accuse France of Evicting Homeless Ahead of Olympics

A coalition of non-governmental organizations (NGOs) has accused the French government of forcibly relocating homeless individuals from Paris in advance of the 2024 Summer Olympics.

The report, issued by over 80 NGOs, states that the number of forced eviction operations targeting squatters and those sleeping outdoors in the French capital has significantly increased over the past year. They attribute this trend to the upcoming Olympic Games, which Paris is set to host.

According to France 24, the number of orders issued by local and regional authorities authorizing the forced displacement of squatters has more than tripled in the Paris region over the past three years. Data collected by one such group monitoring evictions indicates that only 15 such removals occurred between May 2021 and April 2022, while nearly 50 took place between May 2023 and April 2024.

An umbrella group called Le Revers de la Médaille (The Other Side of the Medal) asserts that authorities in Ile-de-France – the region encompassing Paris and its suburbs – demonstrate a particularly “high propensity” to resort to such measures. The group further accuses the French government of what it terms “social cleansing.”

“This acceleration in the pace of evictions and the provision of temporary housing coincides with the arrival of the Olympics,” Theo Ferignac, an activist with Law Access Collective, told France24. “These figures clearly indicate a desire to minimize the number of homeless camps in Paris this summer.”

According to France24, authorities have launched at least three major forced eviction operations in the Paris suburbs between April 2023 and April 2024 – each involving the displacement of hundreds of individuals, including the homeless, squatters, and migrants.

The displaced individuals are encouraged to board buses provided by authorities and relocate to other parts of France, as reported by the broadcaster. Upon arrival, they are often accommodated in temporary reception centers with a maximum capacity of 50 people for a period of approximately three weeks. After this period, they are instructed to vacate these shelters as well, as reported by France24.

According to The Other Side of the Medal, around 3,958 out of the 6,000 homeless and squatters residing in Ile-de-France in 2023 were transferred to temporary reception centers in other regions. This practice has drawn the attention of the UN Special Rapporteur on the Right to Housing, Balakrishnan Rajagopal. “How does France justify this?” he wrote on X (formerly, Twitter) in April.

French authorities have consistently denied any connection between the evictions and the Olympics. “This emergency accommodation policy aims to distribute the burden across the country … Operations of this nature are conducted regularly, and are not dictated by the Olympic and Paralympic agenda,” stated French Sports Minister Amelie Oudea-Castera in March.

The Paris mayor’s office cited the overburdened emergency accommodation system in the French capital. They informed France24 that the number of individuals without accommodation in Paris has increased by a “worrying” 16% since 2023.

Other regions have also expressed disapproval of the government’s policy. “It’s more a matter of shifting the problem rather than resolving it,” said Strasbourg’s deputy mayor Floriane Varieras. “The issue of homelessness won’t be addressed simply by ‘regional temporary shelters’.”