‘We don’t want them’: Mayor leads hundreds of French villagers as they take to the streets to protest against the arrival of migrants from the Calais Jungle
- The Jungle in Calais will be demolished by the end of the year, says French president Francois Hollande
- Calais officials said bulldozers could begin work on the site by October 17
- Hundreds taking part in protests in Pierrefeu and Forges-les-Bains
French villagers are protesting the arrival of migrants who are being dispersed around the country as the government shuts down the slum-like camp in Calais that has become a flashpoint in Europe’s migrant crisis.
Competing rallies were being held Saturday in Pierrefeu in southeast France.
It comes after Calais officials say they will be starting the process of bulldozing the sprawling camp within nine days.
Several hundred residents have marched through their town, led by the Mayor, against the plans to house about 60 migrants from the jungle there
Left-wing activists are holding a smaller rally to welcome the migrants. Here, two activists hold boards reading: ‘Borders kill. Regulate undocumented migrants’ in Pierrefeu
Left-wing activists hold a banner reading: ‘Yes to solidarity and welcome to migrants and refugees’ in Pierrefeu.
The mayor led several hundred people on a protest against a government proposal to house migrants in an abandoned wing of a psychiatric hospital while they apply for asylum or study other options.
Left-wing activists held their own, smaller rally to welcome the migrants.
The morning gatherings were peaceful. The far-right National Front plans its own anti-migrant protest later in the day.
The National Front is urging mayors to resist the Calais relocation plan and is organizing or taking part in protests across the country this month. Resistance to immigration is central to the campaign platform of National Front leader Marine Le Pen in her bid for the French presidency next year.
Residents hold a banner reading: ‘Plan Imposed from Above = Mounting Anger’ as they demonstrate in Forges-les-Bains
French villagers are protesting plans to disperse residents of the Jungle camp in Calais across several locations in the country
A woman holds a banner reading ‘Not Against Migrants, but Against the State’ in the Forges-les-Bains protests.
National Front politicians were also at a protest Saturday in Forges-les-Bains south of Paris. About 200 people marched through town, past the farmers’ market, school and town hall to protest the arrival of about 40 Afghan migrants relocated from Calais to an unused building in town.
On October 6, shots were fired at a planned migrant centre in the French seaside resort town of Saint Brevin overnight and at a building in Saint-Hilaire-du-Rosier in southeastern France where migrants are also due to be housed.
President Francois Hollande has pledged to close the Calais camp before winter and relocate as many as 9,000 migrants living there to 164 sites around France while their cases are examined.
The Calais camp has been an embarrassment to the French government and symbol of Europe’s failure to find solutions to the migrant crisis.
French far-right Front National (FN)’s supporters wave the French flag in the Pierrefeu-du-Var protest
Members of the far right Front National were holding a protest in the afternoon against the plans to deal with the Calais camp
Residents of small towns are angry at plans to house some of the migrants from the camp in Calais in their villages
French far-right National Front (FN) party member Wallerand de Saint-Just stands next to a protester holding a placard which translates as ‘Stop the ongoing project’ in Forges-les-Bains
A protester holds a placard which translates as ‘Stop the ongoing project’ in Forges-les-Bains. The Calais jungle could be dismantled by the end of October.
Pierrefeu residents hostile to the migrants say they fear the newcomers will threaten their security, and worry about potential tensions with psychiatric patients.
Mayor Patrick Martinelli said: ‘Even if we can understand the dismantling of Calais… our small towns are not the solution for this dismantling. We are too small to host so many people.’
The government is considering sending up to 60 migrants to this town of 6,000 for up to five months.
The pro-migrant residents called for solidarity.
Pierrefeu resident Laure Paul said: ‘I am ashamed because we repress the poorest. They need us, the people who are coming from abroad, and are dying in the seas. We have everything here, we are a rich country, we have a rich village.’
In Forges-les-Bains, villagers largely say they are not hostile to the migrants themselves – they just don’t want them in their towns. Posters at the march read ‘Not against migrants, but against the state’ and ‘Plan imposed from above (equals) mounting anger.’
Even children are brought to the protests in Forges-les-Bains as residents mount in anger against the plans the use their communities for migrants