Churches are helping to feed hundreds of migrants displaced by the razing of a migrant camp in northern France on Monday night (10 April).
The local mayor’s office asked pastors Robert Desprès and Lydie Granger, leaders of churches in Dunkirk and St-Omer, to fund and distribute emergency meals for around 300 of the estimated 1,500 former camp residents today and tomorrow (Good Friday).
“The camp is definitely closed, and the mayor has no choice,” Mrs Granger told World Watch Monitor.
The authorities want to empty the gymnasiums where the migrants were given temporary shelter, separated by ethnicity and family status.
They are offering to take them to Welcome Centres (Centres d’Accueil et d’Orientation, or CAO) where they can apply for asylum.
However, registering there means the end of their dream of reaching Britain, and many migrants have disappeared, possibly to avoid having to apply for asylum in France.
Caroline Cottet, one of the co-ordinators of the camp’s Women’s Centre, which escaped the flames but is now inaccessible, said there was speculation that some migrants would form a new makeshift camp, akin to the so-called “Jungle” in Calais, which was shut last October.
However, Mr. Desprès said the formation of a new “jungle” was not desirable, and the authorities had a responsibility to act quickly to prevent that from happening.
Mrs Granger said she wanted to launch an appeal for funds to buy a safe house for 16 migrants who do not want to go to one of the Welcome Centres. On Monday night, the church members evacuated 19 Christian converts from the camp to the safety of a hostel near Calais, owned by Jeunesse en Mission (JEM, the French arm of Youth With A Mission). But Mrs Granger said the Christian migrants could not stay more than a night or two at the JEM hostel and that she needed “a miracle” in her search for long-term accommodation for the Christian migrants because the local area was a stronghold of the National Front. She added that the church “would be very careful” in keeping the location of any “safe house” secret to avoid it being targeted by other migrants.
Mrs Granger’s Dk Live church had been offering hot meals, clothing and pastoral support to the camp’s handful of Christian converts – mainly from Iran – for 18 months. World Watch Monitor interviewed Mrs Granger last month about her church’s ethical dilemma – of choosing to help the migrants, despite knowing that many of them wished to enter the UK illegally.