The wall – nicknamed “the wall of shame” by some residents
FRANCE / DISCRIMINATION – 07/26/2017 ‘Anti-migrant’ wall that divided French town comes tumbling dow!
In the middle of the night from Sunday 23 to Monday 24, a group of locals in the southern town of Séméac quietly constructed a concrete wall around the entrance of a disused hotel in protest against plans to turn it into a shelter for migrants. The wall – nicknamed “the wall of shame” by some residents – became a symbol of anti-migrant rhetoric, and divided opinions in the small town, before it was eventually demolished on Wednesday morning. About 30 protesters in the “Collectif Séméac” (the Séméac Collective) built the wall, which measured 1.8 metres high and was about 20 metres long, across the entrance to the Formule 1 hotel in the dead of night. When locals discovered the wall in the morning, it generated quite a buzz in the Pyrenean town and across France, and shed a light on how smaller, more rural French towns are dealing with the arrival of migrants. A photo published on Facebook by an inhabitant of the town. They captioned it, ‘However they justify their act, these “builders” in the shadows are insulting this country of human rights.’ Posted with permission. The caption reads: “Thank you to the “Séménac [sic] Collective” for giving such a disastrous image of their region and their country across the whole world. A reminder: the Formule 1 Hotel is supposed to urgently welcome 80 people, including 40 children, who asked the French state to protect them and want to request asylum as they are allowed to do by law.” The protesters say that they are not against migrants per se, but against the opaque way in which local authorities have gone about setting up the migrant centre. The hotel previously belonged to the AccorHotels group and was sold to Adoma, a company that manages social housing. The town says that 85 migrants are expected to arrive in August – around 40 of which will be children – and locals are worried about how the town is going to cope with the added strain on infrastructure. One member of the collective, who preferred to remain anonymous so we have given him a pseudonym, firmly rejected insinuations that members of the Collectif Séméac are racist. ‘The wall was symbolic – not anti-migrant’ Loïs H. See profile The wall was symbolic. It wasn’t against migrants. It was a symbol for the state, to tell them that you can’t just sell off a building like that without talking about it first, without reassuring locals and telling them what’s going to happen to it. There was a huge lack of information, and that’s what we’re protesting against. This is not xenophobia. We’re not scared of foreigners, we’re just scared of what’s going to happen. People are writing on Facebook that we’re racists, and it’s not true. Politically, this is a left-leaning town [Editor’s note: In the 2017 presidential and legislative elections, Séméac came out with strong support for far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon and for centrist, now-president, Emmanuel Macron]. I don’t think people are scared of migrants, but it’s not the same culture – it’s more a worry about cohabitation. The collective was careful to stay entirely within the law when building the wall – even going to the length of renting the parcel of land in front of the hotel and sending off a request for planning permission, which was granted within 24 hours. But other locals expressed their disgust on social media at what they perceived as a racist provocation, drawing comparisons between the West Bank barrier in Israel, the Berlin Wall and even US President Trump’s proposed border wall between Mexico and the United States. Catherine, a resident of the town who lives near the Formule 1 hotel, said that there has been a lot of discussion in the town about the wall. “It’s going to shake up the town, that’s for sure, but I’m not against that”