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Travelers have set up camps in the Pyrénées-Orientales: “We are always treated like dogs”

On private grounds in Saint-Cyprien, Montescot or even Saint-Nazaire, hundreds of immaculate white caravans surround a marquee erected for masses and prayers. From May to the end of August, the evangelical missions in the countryside criss-cross the south of France. Under a blazing sun, immersion in the heart of a camp planted behind the golf course, to meet one of these groups of travellers.

From a car circulating on the edge of the camp, this Thursday morning, July 21, cries burst out, malevolent. “Thieves! Out!” shout the occupants of a car registered in 66. Pastor Mathew pays no more attention to it. He and his family are vaccinated against these recurring insults. “It’s always the same, everywhere we go we are unwelcome and we know it. Thanks to our behavior, mentalities are however starting to change a little”recognizes the evangelist.“But too slowly”to his taste.

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Arrived as a family last Sunday with his wife Allisson who is peeling potatoes under the awning equipped with a makeshift sprinkler, and who stops to kindly offer us a small bottle of fresh water, also accompanied by their children Isak , 14, and Isaya, 8, as well as cousin Delson, the Toulouse native joined missionaries from all over. Here, the license plates of the caravans evoke a real tour of France of the regions.

The evangelist refuses to defy the law

Craftsmen for the most part, they leave each spring on an evangelical mission in the south of France to rediscover the pleasures of traveler life all summer long. Mathew Lambert, this pastor of the Vie et Lumière church, was quickly overtaken by “forty to forty-five caravans of members of our community”, he assesses. Not to mention those who were already installed before them, brought by Pastor Tony Médou or his colleague Michel. “We are aware of being on private land but as there is no location to receive us, we settle on this site as on others which are never empty in season”, justifies Mathew. The evangelist refuses to defy the law.

We are not thieves, we pay 30 euros per caravan and per week at the town hall for water and electricity

Proof : “Each beginning of the year, in January, we send a request by registered mail to the town hall, for here to that of Saint-Cyprien, and in return we systematically receive a refusal stamped with a categorical “no”, people do not don’t want us. And as soon as we’re there, they cry it’s illegal”, he regrets. All the more bitter that “We pay for energy, water and electricity. We pay thirty euros per caravan and per week to the town hall. It is Delson who collects the money and takes it to the municipality”, says the pastor. Furious, therefore, to suffer “constant pressure from elected officials. Last week, they cut off the water completely around 7 p.m. treat us like dogs”, criticizes the spokesman of the rally. Gypsies from France who nevertheless appear warmly welcoming. “We are civilized people. Ask the vegetable farmer and the baker who come to the camp to sell their products to us. They are delighted and so are we. We are not anarchists”pleads Mathew Lambert, a single wish pegged to the heart: “Leave us alone.”

Stay another ten days on the spot

Peace of cooking in the morning while the children cool off in inflatable pools, while the men remake the world by pulling on a big perfumed cigar. Quiet to go to the beach in the afternoon, enjoy the sea, and come back in the evening “shower on the air conditioning, grill on the barbecue and listen to music. Maybe that bothers the local residents a little, but we don’t understand why“, wonders for his part Florès, busy cleaning the family caravan in anticipation of an upcoming departure. “We arrived from Carcassonne a fortnight ago and in principle we are leaving for Agde on Sunday. We will follow the instructions of our pastor Michel”confesses the mother of the family by getting back to work.

In this camp where several communities and their respective pastors rub shoulders fraternally, cleanliness seems to be essential. In rows of vehicles parked as far as the eye can see, not the slightest paper this Thursday is lying on the ground. “We are vigilant, we don’t break anything, we don’t dirty anything and we clean everything before leaving”, assures Mathew. He plans to stay another ten days there. He will see cousins ​​leave, uncles arrive. The evangelistic campaign lasts every year from May to August 15th. “And if sedentary people want to join us under the marquee to pray, everyone is welcome, our gatherings are free”, promotes the pastor, sporting a broad smile. Rider.

“There is no question of going to the high-traffic area, it is either busy or dirty”

Pastor Mathew is formal. “We refuse to go to the high traffic area in the Saint-Cyprien sector because either it is occupied or it is left dirty by previous travelers and no one cleans it”. Thus, each year, these members of the Vie et Lumière church invest the same lands of green grass fallow. “We know they are private but we are not doing anything wrong”certifies the spokesperson who recognizes the connections on the electric poles and on the fire hydrants of the street but opposes in exchange the payment of thirty euros weekly per caravan.

As for cleanliness, the two garbage containers located at the entrance to the campsite located behind the Saint-Cyprien golf course are almost full. “Every day, families put their garbage bags there”attests a young man who puts his own in one of the two dumpsters provided for this purpose.

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