Today the court hearing for a squat housing sans papiers, asylum seekers and documented people who are without shelter in Calais is adjourned until 2nd July 2013.
Here is an open letter to the court written and signed by occupants of the building, from Sudan, Chad, Somalia, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Albania and from countries across Europe :
If there was a place for new migrants to stay it would give people a better chance for a better future. In Calais there is no-where for migrants to sleep.
If we are kicked out of this house out we have no-where to go. We are without family in Calais and do not have other places to stay.
This house gives us a chance for people from different countries and different cultures to stay in one place together off of the street.
If we are given a chance we want to live together with people in Europe.
All people living in this house have run away from problems in different countries. We did not leave our country for nothing.
And this is the only home we have now.
If you can help us, give us more time, more space and more chance.
The people living here do not have any money, and it is not life here.
No money to rent a house. And we cannot rent anywhere without papers.
This is the only place we can stay.
We live in a little hole right now. We are like mice running from cats. Don’t close this hole.
We thought Europe would be a paradise, but don’t change paradise to hell.
It can be a long day in Calais. There is too much cold outside and inside the house. The weather is difficult and there is no-where to put our head. We sleep on the floor, underground and aboveground.
And inside us we have too much problems.
Here there is water, a toilet but no shower. Before there was electricity but now we use candles at night.
We buy a can of tomatoes for 250g and cook it with pasta or rice to make food for everyone everyday. But it is not enough. There is not coffee or tea or sugar for the people. Only water.
We live our lives in a queue, everywhere. For food, for shower, for toilet, for prefecture, for everything.
France is a big country and has a history that says they know human rights for people from Third World countries. Where are the human rights?
We want people from France to care about us and about our problems and help find a solution for our life and troubles.
And to give us emotions and happiness for our lives.
People can fall into crime if you don’t care about us.
If people do not give a hand to us we will fall deeper into problems.
We are all people. Everyone should have a good life and a chance in life.
Our life is not over but it is not easy. We tried to leave problems and we find more problems. There is no justice.
We need people to open a new gate for a a new family in Europe.”
And the call out for the court :
THE SCANDAL OF EMPTY HOUSES
The UK and French government have been trying to ‘free’ Calais of migrants for years through a strategy of tight surveillance at the border and relentless harassment by the police in town.
In Calais undocumented people, asylum seekers and refugees sleep wherever they can find shelter : in abandoned buildings, under bridges, in parks or the jungles in and around town. Evictions are frequent, leaving people of all ages to sleep rough.
Border and riot police constantly conduct raids and ID controls ; arresting and detaining people, destroying their shelters and vandalising their belongings and blankets.
The city is full of empty houses, and full of people living on the street.
For years the police and the City have been systematically evicting squats illegally, breaking an entry into buildings, evicting people without a home, without authorisation from the owner or a court order.
In February 2013 people open a new home for people with and without papers in Calais. To shelter from police harassment on the streets and the harsh weather of a long winter.
The City try to evict but they can’t get in (see : http://calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com/page/4)
Occupants force the City who own the building, derelict and empty for many years, to get a court order if they want to evict.
It works, and for 5 months – so far – the police have not been allowed to enter.
People take rest there from many countries; Sudan, Chad, Somalia, Egypt, Syria, Palestine, Afghanistan, Iraq, Albania and from countries across Europe. And also people under-age who are left street homeless in Calais.
Tea or a meal is shared. It is a place for exchange : language classes, asylum information, detention support. People cook together, play cards and get to know each other.
But the mayor of Calais builds a case against the occupants : she is determined to make sure empty houses remain empty, and the homeless remain on the street.
And now there is a trial, the Mayor wants to expel.
TRIAL : Tuesday, June 18 at 9am
The court of Calais (Place Crève Coeur)
COME WITH US AND DEMAND :
* The right to a roof for everyone
* The right to requisition unused public buildings
* A housing solution for everyone
* Stop evictions and destruction of squats and people’s means of shelter
* Freedom of movement and settlement for any and all people
On June 6th more than a 100 cops over 2 hours surrounded Barbès in Paris, conducting raids across 4 districts – Gare du Nord, La Chapelle, Château Rouge and Antwerp – forcing identity controls and arresting thousand+ undocumented people. These areas are popular to sans papiers, a hang out place for people living on the streets in Paris and a meeting place for friends passing through.
More than 40 people arrested during the raid are now in detention centre Vincennes!
A testimony from inside the deportation prison :
“The cops treated us like terrorists. They tied us up with plastic handcuffs, which were really tight. We still have scars. We will soon see a doctor and ask for a certificate.
They shut Barbès in and made racially profiling controls, every arabic and black people…They were very nasty and unrespectful. They arrived in Barbès at around 2 p.m and yelled at everyone in the street. Some people have lived there for 10 years and never seen a thing like this. I was leaving the hairdresser when a civil cop/ a cop in plain clothes arrested me.
It was like Guantanamo. What does it mean ? We are arabs so we are terrorists, what’s the point ? We have risked our lives on a boat, sailing to Lampedusa and here, there is no freedom. At some point, we thought we were in Tunisia. We don’t have any problem with the people here, the only problem is the police. Then, they took us to a police station in Clignancourt, 40 people in one cell, we could not breathe. When protesting, the cops would yell : “shut up ! Why did you come here ? Go home !” There was also an old moroccan tourist jailed with us, his family brought some evidences and he was soon released. What a welcoming travel !
In front of the police station, Some women who did not agree with the situation were shouting for freedom. The cops hit them. We must be around 40-50 people from Barbès at the detention center (CRA). Even in Tunisia the prison is different. Here, nobody eats. We decided to make a hunger strike next week. Prison is better because here, you don’t know what will happen to you the next day. There is no way out. If we go by the Ramadan here, we will burn the centre.”
A small Sudanese squat, home to about 14 people for the last three months, was evicted aggressively, and illegally, this morning.
A person taking pictures with their own phone was pushed around heavily and threatened with a raised baton that he would be beaten if he did not stop.
No-one was arrested, most people staying in this squat have claimed asylum in France and have temporary papers.
The squat was secured and closed, without a court order or evidence of authorisation from the owner.
Council workers came and cleared the place of peoples blankets and took them to the dump.
Later in the evening, after many of the people expelled from the squat had built a new shelter outside in the jungle, a van load of CRS visited them again, conducting ID controls of the same people for a second time in one day.
And also threatening arrest of one European person, for refusing to answer their questions. When asking what offence they were intending the arrest, the common answer, we’ve heard an uncountable amount of times :
‘You are in France, I am police, you do as I say or you will come with me ok’.
Late in the afternoon a derelict warehouse near the port, shelter to people mainly from Sudan and Chad for the last 6 months+, got a visit from Police Municipal who entered the warehouse, sized it up and took pictures of the structure and people living inside.
Coming at 5.30pm, just before the time of food distribution, they were swiftly told to leave – and reminded that they are supposedly prohibited from ‘obstructing humanitarian aid’ during the time when people go to and from food distribution (at 6pm). When asked if they’d heard about the Human Rights Defender… they responded ‘I do not care about the rights defender, I am defender of the law’. Classic.
On Monday 27 May an hour long ‘copwatch’ documentary was aired on a canal+, a national French tv channel, linking monitoring of police brutality in Paris, Lille, New York and Calais.
The investigation ends with Calais; profiling some of the years of footage No Borders have documented of police harassment and abuse in the streets and squats; arbitrary and repeated raids, ID controls and arrests of undocumented (and documented) people.
It gives insight into the aggression, violence, threats, intimidation, sexual propositions, insults and sadistic behaviour of policing in Calais, which is very much the norm against sans papiers, asylum seekers and refugees – as well as against those who document or intervene. Including examples of cops’ consistent attempt to stop people filming by smashing their cameras.
The film also gives homage to our missed comrade, Marie Noelle, one of the first people in Calais to document, confront and disrupt the police head on.
Here in France it is illegal to publish footage of cops without their consent. It is of course in the interest of the authorities to keep the reality of policing hidden and control information; to keep a hold on the propaganda machine as mouth piece to sensationalist reporting that legitimizes their xenophobic policies.
And by keeping the brutality of border regimes out of sight and out of mind of the public it is easier for them to uphold the myth that they are acting for the ‘security’ and safety of the masses…
But despite their threats and draconian measures to control people and information, people continue to expose, intervene and subvert their regimes. Persecution of people will be met with resistance, and will not be silenced.
Calling all persons who face the severe repression of the immigration and asylum system to join together in solidarity, people came from Calais, Dijon, Lille and Paris. The demo began at La Chapelle at 1pm and ended outside the Court at 5pm.
A handful of Chadians entered the Court, with documents detailing the brutality of the Chadian regime and the suffering of its people. And the numerous ‘administrative’ frustrations people have in the asylum system in France. After rejoining the demonstration and relaying the information to the crowd waiting outside the Court, the Chadians and their supporters pledged this is only the beginning !
This is their text :
We, Chadian refugees, call to demonstrate against the situation we are maintained into by the French services of immigration.
Indeed, at the time being, a great majority of asylum seekers from Chad are rejected from the OFPRA (French service for the protection of refugees and stateless persons), the CNDA, (national court of asylum seekers), and even after the re-examination of their files.
We are told that our country is a democracy and freedom is endorsed there, that it’s not a country at war and so there is no reasons to grant us the protection we are looking for through our exile.
We testify of the persecutions we have lived and that our fellow countrymen are still living in our country of origin, and of its dictatorial characteristic: pursuits, disappearance and murders of regime’s opponents, arbitrary imprisonments, violation of the human rights…
Recently, two brothers who accepted the voluntary return with the OFFI (French office of the immigration) have been jailed their airport’s arrival without even be able to see their family, another one went missing as soon as he came back to the country….
We can’t come back in a country at war in which our lives are threatened.
We are in France to ask for asylum because we are chased away from our country. We don’t have the right to live there anymore and we hope to find here the freedom we are denied at home.
We ask for a fair treatment of our asylum’s applications and independent from the French foreign policy with Chad. We denounce the refusal, almost systematic, of Chadian’s refugee’s files.
We are also aware of the difficulties that all the migrants meet no matter where they are from and where they go, in France or in Europe.
We meet each other regularly, in the waiting lines in front of the prefectures, during demonstrations, in our living spaces (CADA (center to welcome asylum seekers), squat), in the street, and we know the difficult course that each one of us must do in front of the administration, police oppression, daily lives problems, the impossibility to find an accommodation and to live with dignity.
So, we invite all of the asylum seekers, migrants and support to join us to express their confusion and their anger in front of the unfair situations we have to live into here, and to claim for dignified conditions of receptions and hosting.
Demonstration Wednesday 29 may 11h00- Place de la Chapelle
Departure : 13h00- Arrival : in front the CNDA.
Two people facing charges of ‘degradation’ after squatting a kitchen in Calais previously used by Belle Etoile were acquitted this morning at the court of Boulogne-Sur-Mer
Belle Etoile, a local association serving lunch time meals for 10 years, decided to stop distributing food as of 28 Feb 2013 – refusing to continue to work as a prop for the authorities whilst conditions for people get worse.
So on March 1st, people occupied the empty building so that the space, as well as the remaining food, gas and equipment could be used by communities themselves autonomously.
But another local association Secours Catholic and the Bishop of Arras, who are responsible for the building, and filed a complaint against the occupants which resulted in a speedy and aggressive eviction on March 4th and arrest of everyone inside, including people with and without papers from Europe, Sudan and Afghanistan.
The complaint was supposedly against some damage of two screws in a door frame – however the result of the complaint involved cops smashing in the whole door. And the charge of ‘degradation’ then made against two of the occupants!
The prosecution near enough asked for the two to be acquitted, because of lack of evidence.
The complaint had been withdrawn before the trial, and Secours Catholic stood as witness conceding that the initial damage to the door was overestimated and the complaint had been made in haste with the feeling that it was manipulated by the police.
The complaint had also been against ‘illegal occupation’ – but the charge did not stick. Maybe at last the cops give up on the ‘illegal occupation’ charges, which *every time so far* people have won in the context of the brutal forced homeless of so many in Calais.
An Egyptian squat was evicted this morning and demolished instantly.
The squat has been home to about 30 people for the last 6 months+, with sometimes 50+ people living crammed together during the winter period.
This was the last remaining squat amongst a demolished street by old Africa House on rue Descartes. It is no longer just a matter of raids and evictions… now systematic demolitions are becoming the norm.
It seems these demolitions must be part of a wider centralised planning effort by the town hall, as a more systematic attack to eradicate people’s means of shelter.
On the surface evictions have a friendlier face, and are not as frequently aggressive as they were in the past because of the pressure that’s been mounting against policing in Calais [see this border kills-]… but whether by employing physical aggression or not, Calais’ gatekeepers are still hell bent on making life unlivable for ‘unwanted foreigners’ in the city, now it seems focused on totally obliterating living spaces, demolishing them altogether more frequently, leaving no chance for people to re-enter, making people constantly having to move and tiring people down.
But, of course, people will not give up easily. The journey this far into Europe is long, people have escaped the brutality of many regimes and will continue to resist this one. People did not get here by lying down. So no matter how hard they try to cleanse this city… their fences will be jumped, their controls will continue to be evaded and when they destroy one home… another will be occupied.
The police are again racially profiling, harassing and arresting more and more people in the parks, walking around by Salam food distribution, by the train station, and just generally on the streets.
They are also arbitrarily stop and searching people a lot.
The ‘jungle’ is still being hit hard and raided by the police regularly.
Many people picked up through ID controls and raids are now being held in cells for 16 hours before they are released.
Many are also taken to the detention centre and deported; a lot of Afghans were deported to Italy recently.
The detention centre is full, and with a new boss with new rules… visitors are not allowed to bring in food or tobacco any more.
Police harassment of migrants in Calais noted by the Human Rights Defender
Unacceptable denial by the Minister of the Interior
The reaction of the Minister of the Interior to the decision of 13 November 2012 by the Human Rights Defender concerning police harassement and human rights violations to which the migrants in Calais have been subjected for several years has been made public: after four months…..
The Human Rights Defender, after an investigation which took over a year, noted:
- repeated identity document checks, arrest and detainment at brief intervals of the same person at the police station in Coquelles [seat of the PAF – French border police – which is located five or six kilometers from Calais, a distance that must be covered on foot to get back to the city];
- police interventions in the vicinity of the meal and health care areas;
- transport to Coquelles by means of police vehicles of groups of people including legally resident foreigners, such as documented asylum seekers, acts which constitute infringements to the right of freedom of movement;
- repeated visits at any time of the day or night to living facilities, as well as provocative or humiliating behavior toward migrants by individual members of the police corps ;
- destruction of materials provided by humanitarian groups as well as of personal effects ;
- illegal expulsion of migrants from their shelters
The response of the Minister of the Interior seems to consider that this permanent harassment, which has been going on since the Sangatte camp was destroyed in 2002, is only in the minds of a few people – us: “The points set out in your decision”, he objects, “are based essentially on declarations made by representatives of associations which quote non-verifiable statements concerning events which took place some time ago which cannot be supported by any objective facts today. In addition only a minority of the organisations which were associated with the inquiry are effectively present and actively working with the migrants in the region of Calais”.
The Minister of the Interior seems to be especially attached to “respect of the law by the agents under his authority”, “implementation of judicial decisions” and particularly attentive “to the quality of relations between the police and the population”; and, in addition, from now on, “the police invite the associations to join expulsion operations to assist the migrants”.
Thus, not only is the inquiry carried out by the services of the Defender of Human Rights insignificant and biased, but the twenty-some organisations which called for the investigation by the Defender of Human Rights in June 2011 are also guilty of making untrue statements? Others are also probably guilty as well, such as the Commissioner of the Council of Europe Human Rights , the authors of documented reports of the French National Commission for the Right of Asylum [Coordination nationale du droit d’asile (CFDA)] , the Migreurop network , as well as those who undertook the joint investigation of the Euro-Mediterranean Human Rights Network (EMHRN) together with the European Association for the Defense of Human Rights, the International Federation of Human Rights Leagues (FIDH) and the Antiracist Group for accompaniment of foreigners and migrants (GADEM)  ?
Unless, in his dedicated battle to “effectively” fight illegal immigration and to stop “reconstitution of squats and unauthorised camps in the Calais region”, the Minister of the Interior – who goes so far as to dare to suggest that it is the foreigners themselves who might be responsible for the reported abuses such as repeated identity check which are only due to the fact that they keep moving around on the same day ! – has chosen close his eyes and to deny an unacceptable reality.
The report of the Defender of Human Rights, particularly devastating for the police, is worth more than a whitewash inquiry by the Inspectorate-General of the National Police (ICPN) and an indignant response by a director of the cabinet of the Minister.
The situation of these migrants, who are only here because they have fled war and insecurity in their countries and come in search of protection, merits more than a few humanitarian arrangements of pure appearance.
A few meetings or a deontological code which is having a hard time getting written will not stop the police abuse in the Calais region. It is the duty of a Minister of the Government to do everything is his power to cast light on the malfunctioning denounced by the Defender of Human Rights and to ensure that the values of our democracy prevail in every circumstance.
Paris, April 12 2013
Organisations signataires :
– Association européenne pour la défense des droits de l’homme (AEDH)
– Auberge des migrants (Calais)
– Calais Migrant Solidarity
– Collectif de soutien des exilés Paris
– Fédération des associations de solidarité avec les travailleur·euse·s
– Fédération internationale des droits de l’homme (FIDH)
– Fraternité Migrants bassin Minier 62
– Groupe Accueil et Solidarité (GAS)
– Groupe d’information et de soutien des immigré·e·s (GISTI)
– Itinérance Cherbourg
– Ligue des droits de l’homme (LDH)
– Marmite aux idées (Calais)
– Mouvement contre le racisme et pour l’amitié entre les peuples (MRAP)
– Réseau euro-méditerranéen pour les droits de l’homme (REMDH)
– Salam Nord/Pas-de-Calais
– Syndicat de la magistrature (SM)
– Terre d’errance Norrent-Fontes
– Terre d’Errance Steenvoorde
 Thomas Hammarberg, letter à Eric Besson du 3 août 2010 https://wcd.coe.int/com.instranet.InstraServlet?command=com.instranet.CmdBlobGet&InstranetImage=1964767&SecMode=1&DocId=1622312&Usage=2
 CFDA, La loi des ‘jungles’ http://www.gisti.org/IMG/pdf/hc_cfda_rapport2008-exiles-manche-nord.pdf,
 Migreurop, ‘Calais et le Nord de la France : Zone d’errance, porte de l’Angleterre’ in Les frontières assassines de l’Europe http://www.migreurop.org/IMG/pdf/Rapport-Migreurop-oct2009-def.pdf, octobre 2009
 Calais, la violence de la frontière http://www.euromedrights.org/files/CalaisRapportFR_882408267.pdf, 2011