Residents of Villars-les-Dombes have reacted with anger to news that migrants will be settled in the picturesque French village thanks to the ‘secretive’ purchase of a hotel by a migration NGO.
The Association for the Protection of Children and Adults (ADSEA) bought the only hotel for sale in the whole commune, Mayor Pierre Larrieu told reporters, stressing that the purchase was made “in unacceptable conditions — behind our backs”.
It was only in mid-November that the mayor received a phone call informing him that the Ribotel in Villars-les-Dombes — situated just 100 metres from a major tourist attraction — was to be transformed into a reception and orientation centre (CAD) for migrants, 90 of whom would be arriving on December 4.
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On Thursday, a public meeting to discuss the shock development was attended by around 400 of the commune’s 4,500 residents who responded to the news with “fear” and “hostility”, according to French media, which reported that “even local officials” were unhappy about the situation — and the lack of transparency in how it came about.
Residents at the meeting voiced concerns over how the centre would impact crime and personal safety in the French village, with a number of people warning it would spell disaster for tourism due to its proximity to the Bird Park which — housing nearly 3,000 species of birds — is said to be the “largest and most important ornithological park in Europe”.
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In Britain, NGOs are now implanting refugees in tiny towns and rural locations thanks to the “community sponsorship” scheme launched by the government in July last year.
With a population of just 2,000 — one-third of whom are Welsh-speaking — Narberth is one of the towns in which refugees have been placed under the scheme, along with other small towns including Fishguard, Llandrindod Wells, and Cardigan.
Like in France, an NGO working to resettle refugees throughout Malvern — a civil parish in England, the centre of which is a historic conservation area which lies at the foot of designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, the Malvern Hills — revealed that private landlords are essential in the fight to establish migrant communities in rural Britain.
“Houses in Malvern have been offered to us, by private landlords, not by local authorities, and that is an important step forward,” said Sue Wolfendale, from Malvern Welcomes, who claimed that the group’s ability to secure premises for migrants shows the endeavour has “backing” from the local community.
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