French minister backs Paris police chief after dismantling of migrant camp


FILE PHOTO: French CRS riot police form a line during a protest to show support for asylum seekers, and to denounce police violence and an unwelcoming policy towards migrants in France, after clashes sparked when French police cleared out a new migrant camp at Place de la Republique in Paris, France, November 24, 2020. REUTERS/Gonzalo Fuentes/File Photo

PARIS (Reuters) - French Interior Minister Gerald Darmanin on Wednesday expressed support for the Paris chief of police after clashes broke out during the dismantling of a new migrant camp in the French capital this week.

French police opened a probe after photos and videos on social media showed police officers hitting demonstrators as they moved to clear out migrants' tents late on Monday. Darmanin had called the images "shocking".

On Wednesday the minister told France 2 television that police officers who had behaved unacceptably during the operation would be punished.

But he added: "I reaffirm my confidence in the police prefect (Didier Lallement)... I am not going to blame all police officers who intervened in this square, nor the prefect of police for the actions of a few of them."

Protesters waving flags and placards staged a demonstration on Tuesday evening against police violence and in support of the migrants.

Like many other European countries, France has taken an increasingly tough stance on illegal migration, especially since a massive inflow of refugees and asylum seekers, mostly from Muslim countries in the Middle East and beyond, in 2015-16.

The issue has driven support for far-right leader Marine Le Pen, who is likely to be President Emmanuel Macron's main opponent in the next presidential election in 2022.

(Reporting by Matthieu Protard and Henri-Pierre Andre; Editing by Gareth Jones)

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