PARIS/NANTES, France (Reuters) - Shots were fired at a planned migrant center in the French seaside resort town of Saint Brevin overnight, an attack the housing minister called “an act of extreme racism”.
Bullets smashed windows in the building on France’s western coast, one of a number of properties across the country where the government is planning to rehouse people moved out of the crowded “Jungle” refugee camp in Calais, officials said.
Shots were also fired on Wednesday night at a building in Saint-Hilaire-du-Rosier in southeastern France where migrants are also due to be housed, according to a police source.
In another sign of resistance to the rehousing plan, the mayor of the southern village of Allex sought to hold a local referendum on whether to accept its government-imposed quota of 50 migrants. Regional officials blocked the vote in court.
As record numbers of people flee war and strife in countries such as Syria, Afghanistan and Sudan, public concern over a big influx of migrants has intensified in several European countries including France.
With presidential and legislative elections in the second quarter of 2017, the Socialist government is under pressure to strike a balance between humanitarian duties and voter concern.
The main conservative opposition party, Les Republicains, has launched a petition against a plan that it says will merely shut the Calais camp and replace it with dozens of mini-Calais sites nationwide.
Housing Minister Emmanuelle Cosse condemned the shooting in Saint Brevin.
“We can’t just stand by and leave these people in the street and the mud when it is a matter of the right to asylum,” she told Europe 1 radio.
A local group campaigning against the planned migrant residence condemned the shooting, but also attacked the central government’s decision to bypass local authorities on the rehousing project.
“Imposing the migrants on this area without any form of consultation ... is also a form of violence that must be condemned,” said the group, which is planning a street protest on Oct. 8.
Reporting by Guillaume Frouin and Brian Love; Editing by Andrew Callus and Andrew Heavens