Why Did This French Mayor Just Ban Giving Food to Refugees?
Natacha Bouchart, the mayor of Calais, sees the distribution of food as the first step toward a potential terrorist threat to her city.
Photo via Flickr user malachybrowneFollow
Turns out, providing aid in the form of food to marginalized refugees fleeing war, persecution, and abject poverty constitutes a massive security threat that could endanger an entire region.
At least, that appears to the belief of Natacha Bouchart, the current mayor of the French port city of Calais. In an attempt to preemptively ward off the rise of a new refugee camp in the the city, Bouchart has signed an order banning the distribution of food to all refugees in Calais.
The mayoral decree, which was signed just yesterday, states that "regular, persistent and large presence of individuals distributing meals to migrants" around the former site of the now-disbanded "Jungle" refugee camp posed a severe threat to the peace and safety of the city. To that end, the decree bans any and all "repeated, prolonged gatherings" in the area of the site, effectively making the act of distributing food to the refugees there an offense.
Bouchart, who is a member of France's center-right Les Républicains party, explained to members of the press that she had implemented policies "to prevent the distribution of meals to migrants" and had ordered copies of the legal documents to be placed around the vicinity of the former camp. La Voix du Nord reports that Bouchart says she is "personally opposed, even if it is difficult to say so on a human level."
READ MORE: In the Restaurants of the Calais Jungle
A day earlier, another decree was signed banning gatherings at the site of the former "Jungle," with city authorities stating that gatherings brought about conflicts between rival groups of refugees as well as a general increase in ethnic tensions. In addition to the ban on distributing food, officials have obstructed repeated attempts by local charities to open showers in the area for teenage migrants.
According to Al Jazeera, seven aid groups have said they will continue to distribute meals in the area despite the ban. Volunteers are now stating that they have been forced to attempt to distribute food in secret thanks to an increase in police presence, with Francois Guennoc of Auberge des Migrants stating that his group has begun to change meal distribution points in an attempt to evade police and would continue to do so nightly if needed.
The Jungle is located near the entrance to the Channel Tunnel from France to England, and was until recently filled with refugees, including many young children on their own who are hoping to make it to the UK. The New Yorker recently ran an article featuring one 12-year old resident of the Jungle and revealed his heart-rendering—and as yet fruitless—attempts to be reunited with British relatives waiting for him. Calais' ban will only exacerbate the horrors of daily life for many dispossessed former residents of the Jungle refugee camp.