PARIS (AP) — The mayor of a small French town whose home was set on fire amid a bitter battle over bringing in migrants is resigning from his job of overseeing an increasingly divided community.
Yannick Morez, a doctor who became mayor of Saint Brevin-les-Pins in 2017, said in a letter to the prefect of western France’s Loire-Atlantique region that he made the decision to step down because of the March 22 fire and a “lack of support from the state.”
“Neither my wife, nor my three children want me to continue after the attack,” Morez told French radio network France Bleu. “We could have died.”
The early morning fire, which lapped at the mayor’s house and destroyed two cars out front, remains under investigation. But it followed months of acrimony over a plan to set up a center for asylum-seekers in Saint Brevin, a coastal town with a population of about 14,000.
French anti-racism group MRAP denounced the reactions of residents who oppose welcoming migrants.
“Their sordid project that rejects everything that is ‘the Other,’ their identitarian delusions of the ‘great replacement,’ are frightening for each of us and for our entire society,” the group said in a statement Thursday.
The “great replacement” refers to an unproven theory by which native populations will be replaced by migrants from other religions and cultures, destroying their way of life.
A group backing the anti-migrant movement, Coordination Partout Callac, rejoiced at the planned departure of the “ardent defender” of the plan to put a center for asylum-seekers near schools in Saint Brevin. The group organized four protests against the plan.
“Even if all migrants are not dangerous individuals, it could be that (one), is and parents refuse to take the least risk for their children,” a Wednesday statement by the group said.
Still, the group worried what will become of the asylum center plan, which will be in the hands of the municipal council until a new mayor is elected.
Saint Brevin has housed migrants in the past, with no known reports of problems.