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Calais mayor outlaws food handouts for migrants

David Martin
March 3, 2017

Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart has introduced new laws banning people from gathering near the former "Jungle" camp site. The new rules effectively make it impossible to distribute food to migrants still in the city.

Frankreich Abschiebung von Asylsuchenden
Image: picture-alliance/NurPhoto/J. Pitinome

Calais Mayor Natacha Bouchart introduced new policies preventing charity groups from handing out food to migrants at the site of camp known as the "Jungle," according to a report in the local newspaper "La Voix du Nord."

The new directives, she said, were "against gatherings because these lead to law and order issues as well as security and waste problems" rather than against the distribution of food. "I took this decision to make sure that no permanent base or squat is created around Calais," added Bouchart, a member of the Republicans party.

Local aid groups, however, denounced the laws, saying the new policies prevent them from setting up food kitchens and showers for migrants who still remain in the northern French city, many of whom are reportedly children left behind after camp was demolished in October.  

France: Survival in the legal grey zone

The camp housed as many as 10,000 people before it was cleared. Most were moved to shelters across France. The laws come as hundreds of migrants have reportedly begun returning to Calais.

French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said on Wednesday there would be no new camp during a visit to the cleared Calais site. But he also stressed that the distribution of meals would not be prevented.

Groups under pressure and refugee numbers rise

Two local migrant aid groups have vowed to fight the directive in court.

"We are not going to let these people, including lots of children, starve to death," Gael Manzi from the group Utopia 56 said. "They already live outside."

Renke Meuwese, who works with Refugee Community Kitchen and Help Refugees aid groups, told the "Guardian" newspaper that food kitchens in the city were preparing around 400 meals per day, up from just 50 last month.

The president of the Auberge des Migrants charity, Christian Salomé, told the same newspaper that a ban on food handouts would mostly affect refugee children. “Adults will always find a way to buy food in the shops, but for minors it will be a real problem – they have no money at all,” he said.

Britain, the desired destination for migrants in Calais, had vowed to allow hundreds of vulnerable migrant children to apply for asylum. However, France's ruling Socialist Party has accused the UK government of reneging on the deal, while lawyers have accused it of breaking its commitment to the children. In February, the UK  Home Secretary Amber Rudd announced the closure of scheme to bring child refugees to UK after only 350 were taken in.