France bars aid convoy trying to reach desperate Calais refugees

France Manifinterdite Migrants

France Manifinterdite Migrants

French authorities on Wednesday banned a massive aid convoy headed to Calais to help desperate migrants camped out in the northern port town, citing concerns over disruption to the “public order”.

The 250-vehicle convoy was expected to reach Calais on Saturday after months of planning, according to organisers.

As many as 5,000 refugees and migrants have arrived in Calais as they try to reach British shores, living in squalid conditions in area that has been dubbed “the Jungle”.

Pas-de-Calais police prefect Fabienne Buccio said local authorities had “serious reason to believe that the June 18 event will lead to severe disruptions to the public order,” in reference to the convoy’s arrival.

The Convoy’s organisers decried a last-minute ban by French border controls at the British ferry port in Dover, calling on Prime Minister David Cameron to intervene in the affair.

“Aid has been collected from every corner of the UK, from Dover to the Shetland Islands. A 38-tonne truck is to head up the aid Convoy to Calais,” organisers said in a petition launched on the website Change.org.

“This is an undemocratic and authoritarian decision, we demand that the British government tell the French authorities that this is unacceptable and that we should be allowed free passage,” they added.

Busy policing football

In explaining the decision to block the convoy, Buccio said a previous event with “many British activists” on October 17, 2015 led to “the invasion of a group of 650 people” at the boarding area for ferries. She said that during the incident projectiles had been thrown at police, injuring one officer.

She also cited an “insufficient number” of police in Calais as security forces are mobilised to the city of Lille for a Euro 2016 match between France and Switzerland over the weekend.

For these reasons, “any demonstration in connection with the migrant issue is illegal,” as well as “any convoy in public spaces” are banned on Saturday, Buccio said.