As France Accepts 24,000 Migrants Béziers Mayor Tells Syrian Squatters: “You are not welcome”

Only some 600 French mayors out of 36,000 invited, committed Saturday to a government appeal to house and help the 24,000 migrants Paris is required to take under the EU’s obligatory quota system.

Béziers Mayor Robert Ménard tackles clandestine Syrian squatters (Screen grab)

Béziers Mayor Robert Ménard tackles clandestine Syrian squatters (Screen grab)

This less than enthusiastic response reflects the sharp division of opinion in the country over how to deal with the illegal smuggling of migrants now overrunning Europe.

Meanwhile a day earlier Béziers Mayor Robert Ménard and some of his Councillors visited a block of municipal housing in the Mediterranean city to get tough with clandestine Syrian squatters.

The video clip shows the Mayor — founder of Reporters sans frontières, a non-profit organisation which defends the freedom to be informed and to inform others — visiting flats in a local neighbourhood, which he says have been repeatedly broken into by migrants. These people have he says, been brought to the town by people smugglers “who are not acting out of Christian concern and charity”.

In the video and through an interpreter he tells some of the squatters: “You are not welcome in this town. You came into this apartment, breaking the door, stealing the water. People have to pay for this water, but you are just stealing water and electricity. It is not allowed in this town to just come in to an apartment and to live in it without permission. So I say again, you are not welcome in this town. If you had behaved like a decent person, you would have been welcome. You might be welcomed acting like this in big cities, but I’m not ready to do that here. You act like we have no choice but to accept you.”

He added that his town has two reception centres for asylum seekers but both are now full.

Elected in 2014 as an independent in collaboration with Marine le Pen’s rightwing Front National, Ménard is one of the 14 FN mayors who has rejected a government call for French mayors to welcome migrants. Some mayors of other political persuasions or none have said they will only accept Christian migrants from Syria, remarks that drew an angry condemnation from Socialist Prime Minister Manuel Valls.

A YouGov poll published September 12 by the leftwing Libération newspaper showed that despite the emotional outpouring following the images of a dead Syrian infant washed up on the Turkish shore, public opinion in France remains firmly anti-immigration.

The pollsters asked a representative sample of just over 1000 people the same question before and after the photo was published: “Should France follow Germany’s example in welcoming all Syrian migrants”. Before the image, 37% of respondents were in favour. After the photo this rose marginally to 38%. But the number of people opposed soared from 44% before to 49% after.

France like Europe is deeply divided over the critical issue of what to do about an uncontrollable migrant flow engulfing the continent.

In December the country votes in regional elections and the anti immigration Front National is expected to make further significant gains thanks to the smuggling crisis.

The video below shows Julien Sanchez, the Front National Mayor for Beaucaire and the only FN Mayor to attend Saturday’s meeting at the Maison de la chimie in Paris, heckled and shoved by fellow mayors for asking government why it was sanctioning “a programmed invasion of the country”. Responding to what the Mayor later admitted was a  provocation, Prime Minister Manuel Valls strongly condemned the terms used.

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2 Responses to As France Accepts 24,000 Migrants Béziers Mayor Tells Syrian Squatters: “You are not welcome”

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