France’s government vowed Sunday to expel foreign football hooligans, saying their violence during the European Championship is distracting police from the fight against terrorism.
Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve said he instructed local officials to issue expulsion orders for “all foreign supporters whose behavior disturbs public order.”
“Their actions distract the police from their primary mission, which is to protect our country from the terrorist threat,” he said.
The Interior Ministry said in a statement that 116 people had been arrested since Friday in incidents connected to the tournament, with 63 of them still being held in prison and the rest released. Three people had been expelled from France and five others barred from entering France, the ministry said.
France is hosting the 24-nation tournament while still in a state of emergency following terror attacks that killed 130 people in Paris in November.
A man is arrested by police officers in downtown Marseille, France. (AP)
Cazeneuve said he also asked for restrictions on the sale and consumption of alcohol in Euro 2016 host cities after three days of drunken violence in Marseille, largely involving Russian and English hooligans and fans.
Alcohol restrictions could apply on the eve and the days of matches, in public spaces, bars around stadiums and stores that sell alcohol for consumption off the premises. Local officials will be allowed to decide which areas would be dry.
Lens, in the north, has already banned sales of bottles of hard liquor in the town center and restricted other alcohol sales. In Lille, authorities have asked police to sanction bars that sell alcohol to people who are drunk.
Russian and English hooligans could again cross paths in Lille this week. Russia next plays Slovakia in Lille on Wednesday afternoon. The following day, England meets Wales 30 kilometers (20 miles) away in Lens.
Authorities are bracing for trouble.
“We know it will be complicated,” said Philippe Malizard, a senior official for the northern Nord/Pas-de-Calais region, speaking in a telephone interview with The Associated Press. “We suppose that we will have a lot of agitation in Lille” on the evenings of Wednesday and Thursday.
Two people were slightly injured in Lille on Sunday during violence involving supporters from Germany and Ukraine, authorities said. An Albanian arrested Saturday for fighting with a visitor from England was questioned by Lille police and ordered to leave the country.
Another 25 people were turned away at France’s northern border with Belgium, including some on police lists of identified hooligans.
“We are doing everything we can to stop hooligans from coming to Lille for these matches,” Malizard said.
In Paris, police also reported 15 arrests on Sunday related to the tournament but refused to give details.
For Wednesday and Thursday, Lille will be reinforced with an extra company of 80 riot police officers, Malizard said. That will come on top of the 480 police officers and eight companies of riot police already planned for match days in the city, which is hosting six games and is easy for fans to reach, with direct trains from London, Paris and elsewhere.SHOW MORE