French government to relocate migrants to countryside, local residents and leaders protest – video
The national leadership's decision to transport the homeless and migrants from the capital region to the countryside has generated serious tensions, with the mayors and residents of recipient cities opposing the move. The situation is compounded by the fact that illegal immigrants are not being effectively deported from the overseas island of Mayotte to the Comoros Islands, so these people are also likely to end up in mainland Europe.
France has been exposed to an unprecedented flood of migrants, according to data published by the INSEE statistics office at the end of March, 10.3 per cent of the population are immigrants, which means 7 million people. The statistics for the years 2020 and 2021 show that the proportion of immigrants in the capital is much higher than the national average, 20 per cent of the Parisian population, or a fifth, are migrants, this proportion is 11 per cent in and around the second largest French city, Marseille, and 13 per cent in the agglomeration of Lyon, the third most populous city. Nationally, the largest proportion of migrants are located in the Paris-adjacent Seine-Saint-Denis department, where nearly a third of the population, 32 per cent, are immigrants. To view a larger administrative unit, the Ile-de-France region, which also includes Paris and the surrounding departments, takes the lead with a 37 per cent migrant proportion.
Another problem is that among the immigrants in France, the number of illegal migrants – those entering the country without any documents and bypassing the designated border crossings – are growing and causing serious headaches for the authorities. Accommodating thousands of homeless migrants is no small task, and due to the overflowing reception centres, migrants are being housed en masse in gymnasiums and hotels. The latter, however, is problematic, as the French capital will host the Rugby World Cup in the fall of 2023, as well as the 2024 Olympic Games, which will predictably attract vast numbers of tourists, but with many hotel rooms occupied by immigrants, it is feared that there will not be enough space to accommodate visitors. According to press reports, nearly 5,000 hotel beds have been lost due to the lack of emergency accommodation, and hotel owners understandably would rather fill their rooms with paying hotel guests than homeless people and migrants.
In order to solve the situation, the government is now in the process of removing the homeless migrants living in the capital and its surroundings, as the minister responsible for housing, Olivier Klein, spoke about in the RMC program at the end of May. The minister highlighted that the situation in the Ile-de-France region around Paris is particularly tense and there simply aren’t enough apartments to meet the needs of the homeless.
La forte pression sur le parc d’hébergement en Île-de-France rend impossible de répondre á tous les besoins des personnes sans-abri.
Les dispositifs en région offrent aux personnes un hébergement et un accompagnement plus dignes et adaptés. pic.twitter.com/tvMYin6yim
— Olivier Klein (@OlivierKlein93) May 25, 2023
Klein drew attention to the fact that 200,000 people a day are being placed in purpose-designed accommodation around the country, half of these people, are housed in the Ile-de-France region around the capital. Paris and its surroundings are therefore extremely saturated, but on the other hand, according to the politician, it is possible to accommodate the homeless in decent conditions in the countryside. According to information from the 20 Minutes news portal, the government is planning to establish ten 50-bed centres in ten regions of France. Philippe Cremer, Besancon’s municipal councilor responsible for accommodating the homeless and supporting migrants says that the government’s plans state that the city should receive 600 people per month.
However, this territorial distribution of migrants poses a problem not only for Besancon. The mayors of several rural settlements are also protesting the government’s plan, according to the Le Figaro article. Christian Batailly, the local representative of Saint-Jean-le-Vieux, a small town near the Swiss border, condemns the government’s unilateral decision to force the less than 1,800-strong community to sacrifice the local cultural heritage castle and turn it into a reception centre. Leaders of other settlements are also worried about the measure, Philippe Salmon, the mayor of Bruz, a town of 18,000 near Rennes, objected that the government presented them with a fait accompli, bringing the decision without consulting the settlements, even though they were open to discussing it.
Le Figaro gained access to the document containing the ministerial instructions sent to the prefects in March. Although neither the upcoming Rugby World Cup nor the 2024 Olympics are mentioned in it, the text clearly states that it is a large-scale administrative police action, in the framework of which the prefects must first systematically examine the individual situation of the persons to be placed in the shelter, and then they have three weeks to offer them suitable accommodation. According to the text, all but two regions of the country must accept migrants from the vicinity of the capital. One of the exempted regions is the Hauts-de-France in the north of the country, where there are already vast numbers of immigrants heading for Great Britain, and the other is Corsica, where, due to the characteristics of the island, it is feared that the foreigners transported there would cause problems of public disorder.
In addition to the above-mentioned settlements, serious problems have developed elsewhere as well. The leader of Saint-Lys, a small town of barely 10,000 near Toulouse, says the state simply despises those settlements and mayors where the prefect wants to establish reception centres for migrants. A nursing home is being converted to accommodate homeless immigrants, and according to the original plan, the centre was scheduled to be opened in September, but the government unilaterally decided to accept migrants much earlier, from June. The town’s mayor, Serge Deuilhe, explained in a statement to CNews that the government is forcing decisions on them that they are being compelled to comply with.
— CNEWS (@CNEWS) June 3, 2023
The mayor also objected that the state is not cooperating with local authorities, is not supporting the city management, and did not even inform him about the plan; he learned about the government’s plans from the local opposition representatives. The original plan was changed at the last minute, and no one informed him about it. Mr Deuilhe says the French government simply despises the existing residents. According to the local newspaper La Depeche du Midi, the Saint-Lys mayor sent a letter to Emmanuel Macron, reminding the head of state that he did not keep his promise. In a firm tone, the mayor demanded that the French government keep its commitments, especially regarding the deadline for the implementation of the project and the number of people to be accepted, which, in the case of Saint-Lys, is about 100 people. The city leader called on President Macron to change his approach and regularly notify local leaders of all new elements related to the program. He added that in order for the centre to function properly, all persons to be transported there must be housed in a satisfactory environment. According to Serge Deuilhe, if the responsibility is constantly shifted back and forth indefinitely, the project is doomed to fail.
Not only the mayors, but also the residents were outraged by the government’s plan, many protest against the resettlement of homeless migrants in the countryside. Ladislas Polski, the mayor of La Trinite, a small town bordering Nice, was shocked to learn of the interior minister’s plan to turn the building intended by the local government for the gendarmerie into an administrative detention centre to be used by the authorities.
The mayor launched a petition signed by 2,000 of the city’s 10,000 residents to counter the measure. The residents of La Trinite want physical, economic and cultural security, which are increasingly coming under threat. The municipality has already taken a fair share of the collective effort by taking in dozens of so-called unaccompanied migrant minors.
At the end of May, the La Trinite mayor told CNews about how he considers it cynical that the government wants to establish a reception centre in a settlement where the residents are already fully exposed to the difficulties and consequences of the migration flow. He added that it is necessary for the population to preserve the republican and social model.
— CNEWS (@CNEWS) May 23, 2023
The countryside is therefore concerned about the French government’s decision, but the problems don’t end here. On the island of Mayotte near Madagascar, the relocation of illegal migrants from the neighboring Comoros Island is also causing a lot of problems. The French government has started deporting these people, but the process is marred by difficulties, so a member of parliament suggested that the illegal migrant minors be transported not to the Comoros Islands, but to mainland regions of France, reports Le Figaro. The authors of the 75-page report, two local representatives, Estelle Youssouffa and Laurent Marcangeli, explain in detail in the document that, in their opinion, France should also take its share of the territorial distribution of the migrants who have flooded the island of Mayotte, arguing that the 50,000 illegal immigrants on the small 374- square-metre island have simply created an intolerable situation, but that in France they could be easily distributed. Some 6,000 minors are among the migrants on the island.
French MEP Gilbert Collard’s Twitter reaction to the proposal: It cannot be considered economically feasible to transport the migrants in question to Europe, as the distance between the Comoros Islands and Mayotte is only 100 kilometers, while the continental territory of France is 8,000 kilometers away.
Mayotte : un rapport parlementaire recommande le transfert des clandestins vers la métropole.
Pour rappel :
Mayotte- France métropolitaine : 8 000 km
Mayotte-Comores : 100 km
A première vue, ce n’est pas la solution la plus écologique…https://t.co/O1AWWPWwJz
— Gilbert Collard (@GilbertCollard) May 31, 2023