The conservative mayor of Calais — the French coastal city famously close to England — has sparked outrage from local aid groups after issuing an order on Thursday forbidding charities to distribute food to refugees and migrants on the former site of the notorious ‘Jungle’ camp, which was dismantled last October.
Mayor Natacha Bouchart said in a statement on Thursday that “regular, persistent and large presence of individuals distributing meals to migrants” around the late Jungle, which used to house 10,000 migrants at its peak, posed a serious threat to peace and security.
Posters explaining the new directive, which prevents any “repeated, prolonged gatherings” in the area—effectively outlawing meal distribution, were plastered around the site.
Bouchart said that while she understood the situation “on a human level” the ban was necessary to prevent new makeshift camps from springing up in the area where the squalid Jungle used to be located.
“It’s not a directive against the distribution of meals, but against gatherings because these lead to law and order issues as well as security and waste problems,”the right wing mayor told AFP.
“I took this decision to make sure that no permanent base or squat is created around Calais,” Bouchart added.
Local groups which help refugees with food and shelter said they would resist the police and fight the decision in court.
“We have been distributing food both day and night for two months, and we will continue to do so for a simple reason: people are hungry,” Gaël Monzy from Utopia56, a volunteering organization supporting refugees in France, told La Voix du Nord.
Until the March 2nd decree, Utopia56, had been up giving away around 250 hot meals a night to young people, the great majority of whom are between 13 and 22, according to the Guardian.
Although the Calais Jungle was officially dismantled in October and thousands of its inhabitants relocated to asylum centers dotted around France, a large number of them — mostly minors — have remained in the city and still hope to reach Britain.
French daily Le Figaro estimates that 400 immigrants are still living on the streets of Calais, with dozens more arriving each day.