Mayor Natacha Bouchart (L) visits the site of former refugee camp, with Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux (2nd-L) in Calais, France, March 1, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
The mayor of the northern French city of Calais has banned local aid groups from providing food to the refugees gathering at the site of a former camp in the hope of crossing to the United Kingdom.
Mayor Natacha Bouchart on Thursday issued a warning to local charities to stop food distribution among the refugees, citing concerns over “peace and security,” local newspaper La Voix du Nord reported. Bouchart also said she issued the ban to prevent the accumulation of refugees and the formation of new camps in the area.
Back in October last year, French authorities completely demolished the camp that used to exist at the site, known as the Jungle, near the Channel Tunnel — the undersea passage into the UK. They resettled the residents in centers throughout the country, where their applications for asylum in the UK and France were expected to be processed.
The refugees, who used to live in appalling conditions in tents and temporary shelters at the camp, however, are still returning to the area to find a way to continue their journey to Britain. New refugees, fleeing war or poverty, also continue to arrive in Calais.
French authorities demolish Calais refugee camp in northern France, October 27, 2016. (Photo by AFP)
Posters explaining the new rules were seen around the area, but local aid groups said they would continue to feed people and vowed to fight the new regulations.
Tear gassing volunteers
“We are not going to let these people, including lots of children, starve to death. They already live outside,” said Gael Manzi from a humanitarian aid group, Utopia 56. “We have handed out food both day and night for two months, and we will continue to do it for a simple reason: people are hungry.”
According to the group, police on Thursday fired tear gas at volunteers as well as the refugees, who were standing in line to get food.
Sarah Arrom, who has been helping to distribute food with the charity group for the last four months, said police prevented them from giving breakfast to about 30 people in a field near the motorway outside the city.
French police check the identity documents of refugee in Calais, northern France, February 14, 2017. (Photo by AFP)
“They wanted to stop the distribution and they wanted to stop people from sleeping in the area,” The Guardian quoted her as saying. “There has never been teargas before when we’ve been trying to hand out food.”
Police also detained teenage refugees twice this week at a center where refugees were offered showers by charity groups, according to Arrom.
She explained that the authorities had made conditions “more and more problematic” for the people living there. “They don’t sleep, they can’t take a shower; they are more and more tired. We are really worried about their future.”
French Interior Minister Bruno Le Roux said during a visit to the city on Wednesday that no new refugee camps would be opened in Calais.
The former camp in the city was home to as many as 10,000 people before it was dismantled.

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