Hoteliers backlash over police email


Warning about rising organised crime and sex trafficking in Montpellier leaves city's hotel owners fuming

TENSION is mounting between police and hoteliers in Montpellier, after an official email apparently requested all visitors from Eastern Europe should be reported to authorities.

The email from the Regional Service of Judicial Police (SRPJ), seen by the Languedoc-Rousillon regional broadcasting arm of France 3 asked hoteliers and restaurateurs to “report the arrival in your institution of individuals, groups or families from Eastern Europe”, including, if possible, the licence plates of their vehicles.

Jacques Mestre, regional president of the Union of Hospitality Trades and Industries (UMIH), claimed that the email effectively asked him to discriminate against visitors from Eastern Europe and warned that it amounted to “racial profiling”.

He said: “Imagine customers paying a large sum in cash. Do I have to find that suspicious?

“What if I’m wrong and these people find themselves in custody without having done anything wrong? We can not afford to discriminate. It can turn against us. I cannot take the risk.”

He said he has demanded a meeting with police to discuss the matter.

Police have defended the email, saying that sex-trafficking and organised prostitution is on the increase in Montpellier.

The email warned hoteliers to be aware of young women - often from Bulgaria or Romania - staying in their hotels for a week, before moving on.

“This is a phenomenon of organised crime, against which we must fight,” an SRPJ official said.

Bruno Bartocetti, of the police officers’ union SGP added that the email was simply a request for owners and staff at hotels, campsites and restaurants to be vigilant.

He said: “This is not racial profiling. They are being simply asked to be responsible.”

The monthly crime-prevention email is routinely sent to all hoteliers and restaurateurs in the Mediterranean city.

Photo: Jerome Bon