In a decree of September 10, the Pas-de-Calais prefecture banned, until the end of the month, “Any free distribution of food and drink” which would be carried out by an association not mandated by the State in the center of Calais, a city emblematic of the migration crisis of 2015. The authorities invoked, in this text, the health risks in the context of Covid-19 and public health.
Migrant advocates seized, Wednesday, September 16, the administrative court of Lille to request the “Immediate suspension” of this prefectural decree which bears “Serious and clearly illegal infringements (…) to several fundamental freedoms ”, estimate twelve NGOs and associations, including Secours Catholique and the Federation of Solidarity Actors, in an appeal consulted by Agence France-Presse (AFP). A summary judge is due to examine their request on Friday.
The decision, officially motivated by “Non-compliance with social distancing measures” as well as estimated distributions “Sufficient” on behalf of the association mandated by the State, Active Life, had aroused a wave of indignation.
“The acceleration of policies of eviction of land, forced transfers far from Calaisis and daily harassment since July 10 is concomitant with a restriction of access to vital services such as water, food, etc. ‘hygiene and care’, further denounce these organizations, estimating between 1,000 and 1,500 the exiles present in the region.
Attack “to the right to dignity, to the principle of fraternity”
The prefectural text is “Offensive to the right to dignity, to the principle of fraternity, to the possibility of helping others, and ends up prohibiting, in practice, all distributions and donations in town centers, including those of ordinary citizens”, comments Patrice Spinosi, lawyer representing the requesting organizations. For him, the decree is all the more serious as it could create an oil stain: “We know that the city of Calais functions as a laboratory for migrants” and that this “Solution could be taken up by other cities”, he fears.
The Minister of the Interior, Gerald Darmanin, denounced Monday a “Dishonest caricature” of the measure taken “At the request of the mayor of Calais” to end “Anarchic meal distributions”.