How One French Town Combines Welcome for Migrants, Ecology and Social Emancipation

June 22, 2016
Posted in Blog
June 22, 2016 Editor

How One French Town Combines Welcome for Migrants, Ecology and Social Emancipation

Wednesday, 22 June 2016 00:00
By Olivier Favier and Translated by Leslie Thatcher, Basta! | Report

photo above: Volunteers work at the refugee camp in Grande-Synthe, France, on May 11, 2016. (Photo: OSCE Parliamentary Assembly)

an excerpt:

Grande-Synthe, in the north of France, is one of the very few French towns that welcome hundreds of migrants with dignity and respect. Despite 28 percent unemployment of its active population and a third of households living below the poverty line, Grande-Synthe is also a place where ambitious environmental and social policies are conducted. Mayor Damien Carême and his team support a popular university in the service of the town’s residents, have created the first renewable energy stadium in France and are building an eco-neighborhood accessible to the poor. Their political resolution is compounded by solidarity with refugees en route to the United Kingdom, making the experience of Grande-Synthe’s refugees very different from the fate reserved for migrants in Calais’ nearby seedy shantytowns.

Up until recently, Carême was much less well-known than his hard right Calais colleague Natacha Bouchart, an associate of former French President Nicolas Sarkozy. However, like Bouchart, the environmentalist mayor of Grande-Synthe has had to manage the arrival in his community over the last year — and in comparable proportions — of a significant number of migrants who wish to go to the United Kingdom. For the most part, they are Iraqi Kurds. The migrants comprised 10 percent of the local population — 21,000 residents — in December 2015. The humane and determined response of Carême and his team in the face of a humanitarian crisis unprecedented since World War II terminates any comparison with Calais right there. The town of Grande-Synthe has created the first French camp that complies with United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees’ norms. That highly publicized episode — the creation of the camp — has, moreover, revealed a town pioneering in its territorial planning, which endeavors to combine ecology and the fight against social inequalities.

Please click on: Grande-Synthe

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Wayne Northey was Director of Man-to-Man/Woman-to-Woman – Restorative Christian Ministries (M2/W2) in British Columbia, Canada from 1998 to 2014, when he retired. He has been active in the criminal justice arena and a keen promoter of Restorative Justice since 1974. He has published widely on peacemaking and justice themes. You will find more about that on this website: a work in progress.

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