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French mayor tries to evict Syrian refugees

Ben McPartland · 15 Sep 2015, 12:36

Published: 15 Sep 2015 12:36 GMT+02:00

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Robert Ménard, the mayor of Beziers in southern France, has become a household name in France since being elected in May last year, thanks to his inflammatory acts.

The latest incident to provoke a storm and strong criticism from both the public and politicians saw him visiting Syrian refugees living in his town telling them “you are not welcome in this town”.

One French newspaper described it as “the hunt”.

Ménard is seen surrounded by police and other elected officials entering the homes refugees are allegedly illegally occupying, where, with the help of an English language interpreter, he tells them to leave.

The scene was captured on video and uploaded to YouTube by the official account of Beziers Town Hall. It has since clocked up more than 160,000 hits.

The far-right mayor, who won support of Marine Le Pen’s National Front party, is angry that the refugees appear to have broken into the lodgings and are not paying for electricity or water.

“You are only welcome if you respect the laws of this country,” Ménard shouts, telling them they can go and live in other towns in France.

He repeatedly shouts at one refugee that "you don't enter by breaking the door" while he tells another "you respect nothing".

Only those people who respect my town will be welcomed, Ménard says.

His attempt to expel the refugees from the housing block was halted when members of an association turned up to remind him that evictions can only be ordered by a court.

Ménard’s stunt comes just days after he was accused of stirring up fear when his Town Hall magazine’s front cover featured a doctored AFP photo of refugees in Macedonia with the title “They are coming”.

The town's name "Beziers" had been added to the train's window, see picture below, together "3,865 kilometres". On another of the train's windows, the words "Free schools, accommodation, and benefits for all" were added.

AFP announed on Tuesday that it had launched a law suit against Menard and the Town Hall in Beziers for wrongly using the photograph taken in Macedonia to falsely rouse fears of a migrant invasion.

AFP said it, along with photographer Robert Atanasovski, had sued the city of Beziers and Menard seeking 30,000 euros ($ 34,000) from each in damages for misusing the photograph.

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France has declared it will accept 24,000 refugees over the coming two years, but they will only be relocated to those towns willing to open their doors.

Beziers is unlikely therefor to see any influx of refugees, and its likely the refugees themselves would prefer to avoid the town given the stance of the mayor.


Ben McPartland (ben.mcpartland@thelocal.com)

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