Ahead of Paris Olympics, police oversee evictions, leading to charges of 'social cleansing'

French police oversaw the eviction of hundreds of migrants and homeless people from an abandoned building in a suburb of Paris on Wednesday, the latest move in what one local charity has called "a social cleansing" ahead of the 2024 Paris Olympics.

French news outlets reported Wednesday that roughly 300 migrants were ushered out of an old office building in Vitry-sur-Seine, a southern suburb of Paris, and onto buses that would transport them to other cities in France. The group was majority male, according to Agence France-Presse, though there were also several young mothers with children.

The eviction came exactly 100 days ahead of the start of the Paris Games, which run from July 26 to August 11.

Utopia 56, a non-profit that supports displaced and homeless people in France, is among several organizations in Paris that have monitored and criticized the evictions − which, according to news reports, have been ongoing for months.

"Utopia 56 observes a clear increase in expulsions from camps where exiled people survive, which systematically give rise to regional movements, without a lasting accommodation solution for some of them," the organization said in a news release in February.

"The people affected by the social cleansing provisions are numerous, the need for access to social services and support is constant. If Paris wants to be magnificent this summer, this cannot be done to the detriment of the most precarious."

A spokesperson for Paris 2024 told USA TODAY Sports in an email that the organizing committee takes issues of homelessness and emergency social care "very seriously and with a lot of humility" and is working with relevant government entities.

"The pressure on emergency housing capacity in the Paris region is unfortunately not new and has been increasing independently of the Games context," Paris 2024 said. "The Housing Ministry has reminded everyone that the temporary programme of emergency accommodation currently being implemented outside the Paris region has nothing to do with the Games."

In response to a request for comment, the International Olympic Committee said only that homelessness in Paris is "clearly outside the remit of the Games organisers."

The Olympic and Paralympic Games are not just a massive, weekslong sporting event, but also an opportunity for host cities like Paris to bask in a near-unprecedented global spotlight. And hosts have historically gone to great lengths to clean up their image before hosting the Games, from building shiny new facilities or revamping public transit networks to relocating poor and homeless people near venues.

Ahead of the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, thousands of homeless people were moved to the outskirts of the city from more touristy parts of downtown, according to news reports at the time. In a 2007 academic report on relocation efforts ahead of the Games, the Swiss-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions reported that more than 1.25 million people in China were displaced as part of urban redevelopment efforts ahead of the 2008 Olympics, while 720,000 people were evicted in the leadup to the 1988 Seoul Games.

In December, Reuters counted at least 60 squats, or homeless and migrant encampments, that were shut down last year in Seine-Saint-Denis, which is home to several Olympic and Paralympic venues, as well as the Olympic village. At least 3,000 people were impacted, the news agency found.

French government officials have previously said it is necessary to relocate migrants and homeless people to other parts of France due to a fear that there might not be necessary resources in Paris to accommodate them.

Contact Tom Schad at tschad@usatoday.com or on social media @Tom_Schad.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: 2024 Olympics bring charges of social cleansing of homeless in Paris