An order published Thursday by the prefect of Pas-de-Calais forbids associations not mandated by the State to distribute food to migrants living in Calais. L’Auberge des migrants and Utopia 56 insist on such a measure which they consider “shameful and scandalous”.
A new tug-of-war between migrant aid associations and the authorities in Calais, northern France. In a decree published on Thursday, September 10, the prefect of the Pas-de-Calais, Louis le Franc, announced a ban on “any free distribution of drinks and food [in about twenty streets, quays, squares in the city center] to put an end to public disorder and limit the health risks associated with undeclared gatherings.
“Non-compliance with distancing measures”
Insofar as the State has mandated an association, la Vie active, to provide “four daily distributions of meals”, that it makes available to migrants 38 water taps 5 days a week, including “22 accessible 7 days a week” and that water is distributed during meals, the prefecture considers that “the set of services provided makes it possible to provide migrants with sufficient humanitarian services with regard to the needs of this population, particularly food”.
In particular, the authorities believe that the meals distributed by associations not mandated by the State are “characterized by the failure to respect measures of social distancing in the context of the fight against Covid-19, that they create nuisances and that waste is left on site”.
An order welcomed by the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart. “The Minister of the Interior told me that special attention would now be paid to the city center to prevent the creation of fixation points (…) and prohibit the distribution of meals organized in a totally anarchic manner,” she said in a statement.
A “scandalous” decree according to the associations
The associations, on the other hand, are outraged by such a decision. “This decision is scandalous,” protests François Guennoc, of the Auberge des Migrants, contacted by InfoMigrants. “It’s a shame,” added Antoine Nehr of Utopia 56, also contacted by InfoMigrants.
“The arguments put forward are totally exaggerated, we’re not going to let it go! When we let people live on the street, it is obvious that social distancing cannot be respected”, adds Antoine Nehr. For François Guennoc, this measure is counterproductive. “Thousands of migrants are going to pile up at the distributions of the Active Life, so the distancing measures cannot be applied”, thinks the activist. According to the associations, about 1,400 migrants are currently present in Calais.
“This measure is, once again, part of a policy of exhaustion and non-acceptance of migrants in France, and especially in Calais,” Antoine Nehr deplores. The associations are going to consult their lawyers to find out what action they can take in court. In the meantime, “we will try to distribute food outside of the areas prohibited by the decree”, says François Guennoc.
In October 2019, the town hall also issued a similar decree. But the text was annulled in court in December of the same year. The administrative court of Lille had indeed judged the city hall “incompetent” to take orders to prohibit in certain places the distribution of meals to migrants, as it also did in March 2017. “The police being state-owned in the commune of Calais, it was only up to the prefect to take such decisions,” the court concluded.
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