The mayor of Calais has banned the distribution of food to migrants as part of a campaign to prevent the establishment of a new refugee camp as hundreds of people return to the port three months after the original one was demolished.
Natacha Bouchart, from the centre-right Les Républicains party, said she would implement policies “to prevent the distribution of meals to migrants”, and legal documents setting out the restrictions were put up in the vicinity of the camp on Thursday. Officials have already obstructed attempts by local charities to open showers for teenage migrants in the town.
Food distribution volunteers said they had been forced to do so in secret because of a heightened police presence. Refugee charities said they would ignore the ban but were taking legal advice.
The mayoral decree, dated 2 March, said the “regular, persistent and large presence of individuals distributing meals to migrants” in the area around the site of the former camp posed a threat to the peace and security of the area. It banned any “repeated, prolonged gatherings” in the area, in effect making food distribution an offence.
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.”
Sarah Arrom, who has been helping to distribute food with the charity Utopia56 for the last four months, said police had fired teargas to prevent volunteers from giving breakfast to about 30 teenagers in a field near the motorway outside the city on Thursday.
Christian Salomé, the president of the Auberge des Migrants charity, said a ban would be catastrophic for 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.”
France’s interior minister, Bruno Le Roux, said during a visit to Calais on Wednesday that the opening of any new migrant reception centre would attract more people to the city, but added: “We will not prevent the distribution of meals.”
Read more: The Guardian.