While the far-right, anti-immigrant party led by Marine Le Pen continues to lead in French election polls, a mayor of a French city is attempting to institute her own anti-Muslim efforts by making it illegal to distribute food and other assistance to migrants within the city limits.
In Calais, a port city in Northern France, it is now illegal to distribute food or give other assistance to migrants, a mayoral rule that is being implemented through posted warnings and patrols. Already, charities devoted to assisting immigrants in these unsettled areas are being told not to give food out, but many say that they intend to carry on their efforts nonetheless.
Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart banned the distribution of food to migrants in order to discourage the formation of another tent city after one was cleared in recent weeks.
Bouchart was unsympathetic to appeals to care for the migrants, saying that she would stand by her decision, “even if it is difficult . . . on a human level.” Bouchart argued that large-scale food distribution efforts posed a threat to security and peace of the area.
Those who are committed to assisting the migrants say that the city’s crackdown on food distribution and showering of migrants means that the lives of those migrants in the area are deteriorating quickly.
Elsewhere in the city, refugees are being detained by police when they try to shower at the Secours Catholique center. Though the center offered their showers to the migrants, city police have arrested two teenagers just this week for taking advantage of the resource.
Though refugees fleeing from Syria are the most popular talking-point in anti-immigrant sentiment, the majority of the migrants taking advantage of meal services are from Eritrea, Sudan, and Ethiopia.
Renke Meuwese, one of many in the city who are trying to feed the migrants, says that police are most concerned with making the refugees disappear.
“They are trying to make the refugees invisible, so they make it harder to distribute in town than the countryside. We can’t distribute at day so we have to do it at night. They are trying to push them out of sight.”
National officials oppose the idea of preventing any meal services from being provided, but Bouchart has defied that stance by pushing back against charities attempting to help. What the mayor expects the many refugees already in the city to do is a mystery – but she likely doesn’t much care as long as they become someone else’s problem, not hers.