Travelers set up camps in 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 tent erected for masses and prayers. From May to the end of August, rural evangelical missions cross southern France. Under a burning sun, immersion in the heart of a camp planted behind the golf course, to meet one of these groups of travelers.

From a car that circulates on the edge of the camp, on this Thursday morning, July 21, malevolent cries break out. “Thieves! Out!” shouts the occupants of a car registered in 66. Pastor Mathew is no longer aware of 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 though, mentalities are starting to change a bit.”recognizes the evangelist.“But too slowly”according to his taste.

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Arrived as a family on Sunday with his wife Allisson, who peels 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 around the world. Here, the number plates of the caravans evoke a real tour of France in the regions.

The evangelist refuses to defy the law

Artisans for the most part, they travel every spring on an evangelical mission in the south of France to rediscover the pleasures of the traveler’s life all summer long. Mathew Lambert, this priest of the Vie et Lumière church, was quickly overtaken by “forty to forty-five caravans of members of our community”, he estimates. Not to mention those already installed before them, brought by Reverend Tony Médou or his colleague Michel. “We are aware of being on private land, but since there is no place to receive us, we settle in this place as in others, which are never empty in the season”, Mathew justifies. 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: “Every beginning of the year, in January, we send a request recommended to the town hall, because here to Saint-Cyprien, and in return we systematically receive a refusal stamped with a categorical “no”, people do not do not want us. And as soon as we get there, they cry, it’s illegal”, he regrets. So much the more bitter “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 priest. Furious, therefore to suffer “constant pressure from elected officials. Last week they shut off the water completely around 7pm. treat us like dogs”, criticizes the spokesperson for the convention. 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 us their produce. They are happy and so are we. We are not anarchists.”pleads Mathew Lambert, a single desire attached to the heart: “Leave us alone.”

Stay ten more days on the spot

Peace cooking in the morning while the kids cool off in inflatable pools while the men change 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 conditioner, grill on the grill and listen to music. Maybe it bothers the local residents a little, but we don’t understand whywonders Florès on his side, busy cleaning the family’s caravan in anticipation of an imminent departure. “We arrived from Carcassonne a fortnight ago, and in principle we will travel to Agde on Sunday. We will follow the instructions of our priest Michel.”confesses the mother of the family upon returning to work.

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

“It’s not about going to the high traffic area, it’s either busy or dirty”

Pastor Mathew is formal. “We refuse to go to the high-traffic area of ​​the Saint-Cyprien sector because it is either occupied or it has been left dirty by previous travelers and no one is cleaning it”. Every year these members of the Vie et Lumière church invest the same fields with fallow green grass. “We know they’re private, but we’re not doing anything wrong”attests the spokesman, who recognizes the connections on the electricity poles and on the street fire hydrants, but opposes the payment of thirty euros per week. caravan.

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

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