At a meeting Wednesday night, residents of Saint-Denis-de-Cabanne reacted angrily to news that migrants are to be housed in a waterfront castle that serves the French town as a holiday centre.
The meeting followed a leaked document which revealed that, with the so-called “jungle” camp at Calais due to be demolished, the French government is planning to disperse migrants across the country.
Between 50 and 100 migrants, none of them families, are due to arrive in the town of less than 1,300 people in November. Residents of Saint-Denis-de-Cabanne, near Roanne in the Loire, were informed of the arrangements via a letter from the commune’s mayor, René Valorge.
In the letter, Mr Valorge told recipients he was given no choice in the matter of accepting the migrants as the news came in the form of “information and not a consultation”, as the government had issued a “decision without appeal”.
In his letter to the residents of Saint-Denis-de-Cabanne, Mr Valorge had also anticipated people would be unhappy about the migrants being housed in the town’s holiday castle, which is perched on a hill and has a swimming pool and sports fields.
Around 500 people attended the meeting seeking explanations from government officials, Mutual Aid Pierre Valdo — the organisation which is to manage the migrants, police and the municipal council.
Mutual Aid Pierre Valdo’s chief, Walter Monnet, assured the room that there will be 24 hour security, and said there will be eight staff members attending to migrants.
Mr Monnet also promised to ensure that there will be police presence, with officers conducting regular patrols of the neighbourhood when migrants arrive in Saint-Denis-de-Cabanne.
Rather than reassuring people, France Bleu reported that the migrant agency’s statement just fuelled further questions and discontent in the room.
“Our kids can hang out in the street, they do not risk anything? I’m afraid of robbery, rape … Who will satisfy their sexual needs”, a number of residents reportedly cried.
Another local present at the meeting exclaimed that the migrants are dirty. Speaking of the building marked for migrant occupation from November, she said: “It is a nice castle, which is made for kids. What will they do up there, these men?”
When Sarah Brosset, responsible for the Front National in the Roanne region, tried to speak she was immediately cut off by Mr Valorge. The Union for a Popular Movement mayor refused to hear from people representing political parties, fearing the fact that 35 per cent of the canton voted for anti-mass migration Front National in the second round, at the last election.
The National Assembly member for the area, Yves Nicolin, was pursued by the powerful French “anti-racism” lobby in May after he announced that Saint-Denis-de-Cabanne would accept a number of refugees on the condition that they are Christian or Yazidi.
Mr Nicolin explained he wanted to give priority to persecuted minorities over economic migrants. Soros-funded SOS Racism lodged a complaint that the mayor’s remarks constituted “incitement to racial discrimination”, but this was thrown out by the prosecutor.