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Calais Mayor Bans Migrant Food Charity

woman and kids stood at a road with backs to camera

The mayor of Calais has banned the distribution of food to migrants.

Natacha Bouchart has called the handing out of meals a security threat, during a time when the city is trying to prevent a new migrant camp from being established.

Food Distribution Banned

The mayor of Calais has decided that, in order to prevent the establishment of a new migrant camp on the site of the old Jungle, food distribution to migrants should no longer be allowed. This will be a huge barrier for the numerous charities which are working in the area, who had already faced problems after the Jungle was demolished.Vegetables in a crateFruit and vegetables in a crate

Bouchart is from the centre-right Les Republicains party, and wants to implement new policies soon. Legal documents about handing out meals to migrants were put up around the camp this week, with officials now also obstructing some charitable attempts to open showers for the teenage migrants in Calais to use.

Food charity volunteers have already complained about needing to distribute food in secret, because of a ramped-up police presence in the area. Refugee charities have said that they are seeking legal advice and hope to be able to ignore the ban. Those who had thought of getting work experience in supply chain or food preparation by volunteering may have to think of another option, or risk an arrest going onto their legal record.

The ban specifically cites the “regular, persistent and large presence of individuals distributing meals to migrants”, and bans “repeated, prolonged gatherings” – of the kind needed to organise a food distribution effort.

New Police Efforts

Sarah Arrom with the food charity Utopia56 has had first-hand experience of the new attitude towards charities. Her group of volunteers were attacked by police firing teargas when they attempted to provide breakfast for around 30 teenagers who are staying in a field near the city.

“They wanted to stop the distribution and they wanted to stop people from sleeping in the area,” she said. “There has never been teargas before when we’ve been trying to hand out food.”

This also followed detentions of teenagers taking showers in the Secours Catholique centre. “Conditions are becoming more and more problematic for the migrants. They don’t sleep, they can’t take a shower, they are more and more tired. We are really worried about their future,” Arrom added. “We have less and less to give them; donations are almost non-existent.”

Most of the recipients of food from Utopia56 are between the ages of 13 and 22. Last month, the charity was distributing 250 hot meals a night. Food recruitment is an ever-increasing issue, as volunteers are told they cannot continue to contribute and donations run low.

Christian Salomé, the president of the Auberge des Migrants charity, has further concerns. He said, “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.”

Renke Meuwese with the Refugee Community Kitchen says that the kitchens are making around 400 meals a day. “They are trying to make the refugees invisible, so they make it harder to distribute in town than the countryside. We can’t distribute at day so we have to do it at night. They are trying to push them out of sight,” he said.

The interior minister of France, Bruno Le Roux, had said that the government would not be preventing the distribution of meals. The mayor began her new campaign just one day later, adding that “even if it is difficult to say so, on a human level”, food supplies had to be stopped.