Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns

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The Local France/AFP - [email protected]
Calais migrants given mixed reception in French towns
Photo: AFP

As between 6,000 and 8,000 migrants get resettled across France, they've been given a mixed reception by the locals.


The Calais "Jungle" is in the process of being dismantled, with thousands of migrants being taken to 451 reception centres all over France
The move, which is estimated to last all week, has already prompted fierce opposition in parts of France, with some protesters taking to the streets to express their anger at the prospect of migrants being located in their towns. 
This opposition has continued as the resettlement continues. 
In the town of Chardonnay, famous for the grapes which share the same name, two dozen young Sudanese asylum seekers received a fairly luke-warm reception on Monday evening.
Locals watched from a distance as the men got off the bus in the village, which will eventually host 50 asylum seekers among a population of just 200 villagers.
"This massive arrival of migrants, it's inappropriate," said angry resident Joelle Chevaux, out walking her dog.
The map above shows how the migrants will be redsettled. 
Residents in Saint-Brévin-les-Pins, a coastal town in western France with a population of 13,000, were even clearer about how they weren't happy to be getting 50 migrants.
Around 600 people signed a petition against the migrants coming, a petition that was launched after an unknown assailant opened fire on the migrant centre earlier this month
"Fifty single men in a small town like this, that's quite a lot actually," one resident told France Info on Tuesday. 
However at the weekend some 400 residents turned out for a demonstration in support of welcoming the migrants.
Elsewhere, a migrant centre in Loubeyrat in central France's Puy-de-Dôme was torched on Sunday night and other similar acts of vandalism were carried out at centres in Arès in the Gironde department, and at Forges-les-Bains not far from Paris. 
Housing Minister Emmanuelle Cosse denounced these "violent incidents". 
"This is totally unacceptable behaviour," she said. "Everyone must support this worthy policy of reception and the implementation of asylum."
For every violent episode, however, there are stories of support. 
A pro-migrant rally in Paris on Monday attracted 200 people, who stood at the interior ministry chanting "Paris, Calais, solidarity!" 
There were also pro-migrant protests in western France's Nantes, where police estimated that around 250 people turned up to show their support.
Up to 200 people marched in nearby Rennes, holding signs saying things like "No human being is illegal".
Charities and local mayors have been welcoming their new guests as they arrive.
In the town of Mignaloux-Beauvoir in the Vienne department of central France, 16 Sudanese refugees were warmly welcomed by the mayor Gérard Sol as they arrived on Monday night.
Clambering up on to the bus, Sol told them: "We are happy to welcome you all. The residents here will come to your aid and we will too."
The mayor of north eastern France's Sainte-Menehould, Bertrand Courot, also welcomed the migrants on Tuesday. 
"We are among those to stretch out a helping hand, and we hope other towns can do the same thing," he told France 3. 
"It says Liberté, Egalité, Fraternité on the front of our town hall, these are the values we defend, and it's good to say it, but even better to do it."
Rafael Flichman, the spokesman for the La Cimade association helping migrants and refugees, says there has been an outpouring of support for migrants across the country - although he noted that it doesn't always make the mainstream media. 
"Unfortunately, most of the time, the French media seems to prefer to write about the racist demonstrations against migrants rather than positive initiatives," he told The Local. 
Flichman added that small towns in France have already seen positive affects as newly arrived migrants bonded with locals.  
In reality the welcome afforded the new residents seems to depend on each town there will be supporters and opponents everywhere.
President François Hollande and his government who took the risky move of dispersing the Jungle migrants around France will hope the French live up to their much-vaunted principal of fraternité.


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