(AP) — Aid groups and social justice activists protested outside the Paris Olympics headquarters and appealed Monday to French authorities to protect the rights of thousands of migrants and others living on the streets as the Paris region prepares for the Summer Games.
Activists projected the words ‘’The Other Side of the Medal’’ on the Paris 2024 main offices in the suburb of Saint-Denis and strung up protest signs outside the entrance in a brief demonstration Sunday night.
More than 70 nongovernmental organizations issued a letter Monday to Paris region authorities, the Olympics organising committee and Olympic sponsors warning of a risk of ‘’social cleansing’’ of society’s most marginalised from the streets of Paris and its suburbs ahead of the Games.
Organisers of next year’s Games promised to meet with the organisations to discuss next steps, and noted that Paris has long faced tensions over migration and how to house people sleeping in the streets.
Paris police routinely clear out tent camps housing migrants from around the world, citing public health and safety, but the French capital remains a magnet for people fleeing conflict or poverty, and camps routinely resurface.
Aid groups say they are seeing an increase in pressure from authorities on migrants as the Olympics approach and as the city prepares to host millions of spectators for the Games. Officials sought to shut down food distribution points in some Paris neighbourhoods last month, but the move was rejected in court.
The signatories to Monday’s appeal called for ’’an ambitious and concerted policy … to guarantee continuity of care of people in situations of precariousness and exclusion, before during and after the Games.’’ They asked for aid groups to be included in pre-Olympics planning by local authorities.
Signatories include aid group Doctors of the World and the French branch of the Salvation Army as well as those who provide emergency housing, food, medical aid, administrative support and other help to people living in the streets.
In response, the Paris Olympics organising committee said in a statement that it remains committed to making the Games ‘’a vehicle for cohesion and inclusion.’’
‘’In a spirit of dialogue and listening, Paris 2024 will approach the protesters to meet representatives and discuss their concerns,’’ it said.
The Paris regional administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.