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Paris: Boulders block migrants from sleeping, prompt debate
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PARIS (AP) — Boulders placed under a Paris bridge are preventing migrants from setting up camp in an area that has been a magnet for people fleeing war and poverty around the world, aid groups said Thursday.
City officials said the boulders were relocated from another site because of upcoming construction work and not put under the bridge to deter migrants.
City Hall insists it's doing all it can to care for the hundreds of migrants who sleep in the streets of Paris every night. A migrant center set up by city authorities has taken in 5,200 people since November.
Achraf Ourghemi barely managed to find a spot for his sleeping bag Wednesday night between the granite boulders the city council moved under the bridge in northern Paris.
The 17-year-old Tunisian said he arrived in Paris four months ago after spending some time in Berlin, but that Wednesday was his first night at the rather grim improvised sleeping area.
Ourghemi said he hopes to complete his training as an IT programmer and get a job.
"I'm not here to sleep in these conditions, and eat food handed out by NGOs," he told The Associated Press.
Local non-profit groups accuse authorities of deliberately using the rocks to prevent migrants from settling there.
In a neighboring area, the city also installed barriers along a large avenue and below the metro line where migrants regularly set up makeshift camps.