Two slums evacuated in eight days, associations are dismayed

There is nothing left, this Wednesday, of the Zenith slum, in Montpellier (Hérault). At dawn, police, CRS and mechanical shovels dismantled this camp, illegally installed on communal land. An operation that comes eight days after the evacuation of another slum, that of Mas Rouge, on August 31.

These expulsions, the associations do not understand. First, because they are “unnecessary”, confides Damien Nantes, coordinator of Médecins du monde in Languedoc-Roussillon. “The people who lived there will go to other slums, build others or experience crossings on the street,” he notes. “The Celleneuve camp, for example, has been evicted three times, and has only gone down the same street each time,” adds Catherine Vassaux, director of the Area association, which works with the inhabitants of the slums. from Montpellier. And it still exists. “

“This stop of the prefect is incomprehensible”

And if the associations are angry, this Wednesday, it is also because an eviction manu militari, at dawn, is, of course, “traumatic” for the inhabitants. “Children, expelled a few days before the start of the school year… Some have left with their school bags. It’s not nothing, ”laments Damien Nantes, who mentions the case of Mas Rouge.

The associations are all the more dismayed as they have been working with residents for years. Associations, city and metropolis and even state services had engaged in support, to get these people out of the slums, find them long-term housing, work and training. To draw a line on the illicit camps. “The State supported this road map! This stop of the prefect is incomprehensible ”, regrets Sylvie Chamvoux, director of the foundation Abbé Pierre in Occitanie. The prefect, Hugues Moutouh, in office since July 19, “set fire to all this work, protests the regional coordinator of Médecins du Monde. It thwarted the work of associations, and even of its own services ”.

“We can’t take the risk any longer”

For his part, the representative of the State in the Hérault evokes, to justify the evacuation of the Zénith, precarious sanitary conditions, and which can prove to be dangerous. As for the Mas Rouge. Rats, “garbage” in homes, the presence of animal carcasses, and the storage of rubbish and gas canisters. According to Hugues Moutouh, firefighters have intervened 167 times in this slum since 2014. The last time was on August 31. A “major fire” had “threatened the populations” living on the site. “We cannot take the risk any longer to put families to sleep in such precarious conditions”, he confides.

This evacuation also intervenes, assures the prefecture, within the framework of a court decision, without further details. The city, owner of the land, assures however that it did not ask the State to dismantle the Mas Rouge and the Zénith. Not the team of Michaël Delafosse (PS), elected in 2020, in any case. The city “remains outside these operations initiated by the prefecture, in application of a court decision and on the basis of a request formulated under the previous mandate”, she notes.

A roof for all?

This Wednesday, according to the prefect, 75 people, mainly of Romanian origin, were evacuated. “All the occupants of the camp, as for the Mas Rouge, in a regular situation, will see and have been offered accommodation, in priority families with children, and vulnerable people”, indicates Hugues Moutouh. A roof for all? For associations, it is “a lie”. “Last week, about half of households were sheltered in hotel rooms, not at all adapted to family life,” says the director of Area. But a hotel room, we don’t know for how long. The others are with relatives, in other slums, or in the process of building a new one. And some have no solution. “

There are a dozen slums in the metropolis of Montpellier. They house, in total, between 800 and 900 people. The prefect of Hérault did not hide, this Wednesday, that he set himself the objective of absorbing them, and invited all the associations to sit around a table, to discuss them. An exchange that promises to be tense.

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