The story of a former National Front (FN)supporter who fell in love with an immigrant in Calais is to be immortalised in a novel entitled Calais Mon Amour.
Béatrice Huret, 45, the widow of a police officer and former National Front supporter met Mokhtar, an Iranian immigrant, in February 2016 and she felt “the flash of a veritable thunderbolt”.
Huret lived with her adolescent son and her mother around 20km from the infamous “Jungle” migrant camp in Calais, northern France. She explained how, even when she was being paid by the National Front to distribute fliers in 1995, unlike her husband, she was “not really racist, but frankly worried about all these foreigners, who were so different, and were getting into France”.
Her life would change beyond recognition when, on her way home from work one day in 2015, she decided to break the habit of a lifetime and pick up a hitchhiker who asked her to drop him off at the migrant camp. For the first time she saw for herself what the conditions were like in the camp that had been on her doorstep all along. “As soon as the migrants were no longer just a word, an abstraction, they were no longer frightening. Unfortunately, I was not able to take everyone there, which probably explains Marine Le Pen’s results!” she told French publication, Liberation.
What she found was “an unknown world…seven hectares of misery but also of life”. “Before, I pitied these poor people from afar when reading the newspapers and wondering what they were doing in our country,” she said. Béatrice returned to the camp with family members several times to bring food, clothes and blankets.
In February 2016 she first laid eyes on Mokhtar, 34, a former Persian teacher who had found himself in the migrant camp in Calais. What attracted Béatrice to Mokhtar was, she said, “the gentleness of his gaze”. But even basic communication between the pair was an obstacle. Béatrice’s English consisted of “hello, thank-you and good luck”. Thanks to a translation application on her phone, the pair were able to communicate. Béatrice’s friends said she was “oblivious” and begged her to “stop the circus” but by that time she had only one thing on her mind and that was Mokhtar.
Béatrice told Liberation about their first night together. They enjoyed an “electric kiss” and said they loved each other but Beatrice was under no illusions about her lover’s goal. Mokhtar had already made several unsuccessful attempts to get to England and he was about to try a change of tack. He and two friends bought a boat with which to cross the channel and Béatrice was going to help them.
On June 11, 2016, Béatrice towed the boat with her car, and the trio of immigrants set sail at around 4am. By late afternoon, with their small boat in danger, the three Iranians were rescued by the English coastguard. Their trip was successful.
On Friday, 17th June, Beatrice left to join Mokhtar in Wakefield, West Yorkshire, via the ferry, after work. She meets her lover one weekend out of two in Sheffield, where he now resides. They keep in touch every day via webcam, sometimes chatting into the small hours of the morning. Béatrice said: “At best, I sleep four hours each night.” But her English is getting better. Unfortunately for her the story does not end there.
On 18th August, 2016, police officers arrested Béatrice at her workplace. She was taken into custody at the very police station where her deceased husband had worked. She was charged with “helping the passage of illegal organized gangs”. Once released, she was placed under judicial supervision, and now must report to the gendarmerie close to her home once a week.
“It’s clearly to make sure I don’t go to Syria,” she joked, apologising for her “stupid humor” before adding, “because Mokhtar must be a terrorist, that’s the only reason I can see, and so I must represent a danger to the state.”
In the first round of this year’s presidential election, Béatrice voted for far-left candidate Jean-Luc Mélenchon. On Sunday, she voted Emmanuel Macron. “Obviously, to block Marine Le Pen.”
Liberation asked if she plans to live with Mokhtar in France if he can get papers. “We have no plans,” she answered. “When they are made, and they do not succeed, it hurts…I owe him my most beautiful love story. It is already a lot. If [the relationship] has to stop, it will stop. But I am sure of one thing: I will never experience another like it. “