On 16 March more demonstrations were called to demand “shelter for all” across several cities in France… Rouen, Calais, Tours, Lorient, Nantes, Poitiers, Paris.
In Calais we were about 25 of which a majority of Afghans who played through the streets with our beautiful samba drums.
We put up posters calling for : “requisition, a roof for everyone” on empty buildings across town : the ‘White House’ (evicted at the end of last year), DPOs empty building Moscou street, the BCMO (only open when its -5degrees), the clinical Thames (empty for at least 5 years), the former hospital (a massive building recently derelict yet fortified with security fences and alarms).
And distributed leaflets across the city as we made a lot of noise with drums, sirens and whistles… to make visible our demands as we chanted through the streets.
Yesterday morning at 6am many many police – PAF and CRS – arrived at the place of food distribution and kicked everybody out in the rain. A lot of people were arrested, around 50 people, and everyone was not allowed to take their blankets or sleeping bags with them (which had just been distributed two days before by Medicin du Monde) though they were able to take some personal bags.
People were released throughout the day – though not everybody, some still remain in the detention centre.
After the food distrobution by Salam at 6pm more blankets were distributed. Many people from the associations gathered in the distribution place and it was decided together by many communities that they wanted to make a road block in protest to the eviction that morning.
It was very beautiful to see, maybe 100 people or less sat and stood in the road to the port and blocked traffic. Plastic sheeting was brought and people made makeshift tents over the road. Cardboard sheets were written on with slogans like “where are our human rights?” and “we are not criminals!”.
Chanting and singing and dancing made the atmosphere a bit like a surreal party. There were many police – Nationale, PAF, BAC – who stood and watched for a couple of hours at a distance, directing traffic. A huge storm came over the demonstrators with thunder and lighting and terrible rain – people held out in the road in the rain until it was totally dark before dispersing to find places to sleep.
This morning at 6.30am the police came again in HUGE numbers. PAF and CRS. They evicted the area outside of the food distribution and arrested everyone. They were not very violent but really unpleasant.. They woke people by cutting the tents from over their heads and stamping on the plastic, with people sleeping inside. It was very cold and the CRS found it amusing that so many people were shivering and wrapping themselves in blankets.
The translator they brought with them did not speak Pashto or Dari – only Arabic. 95% of the people arrested were Afghan and so the woman walking round screaming in Arabic that everybody must go to the police station to show their papers and could take there bags, was not understood.
In the police station people were divided into language groups, Pashto/Dari/Farsi/Arabic/Urdu and put into cells. The police were calling the porta-cabin where most of their cells are, “la maison Afghanistan”.
We are unsure at the moment how many people are left inside – but it seems most are released. The last person from “la maison Afghanistan” was released today but we are still not sure about the other police cells.
It seems somewhat like a bad joke here at the moment. With the constant rain and now what seems to be becoming an eviction trend the days are very long and uncomfortable. We desperately need more tents/sleeping bags/blankets/waterproof coats etc.
It has been a quiet few weeks here in Calais. The end of the Olympic Games in London saw the departure of the Gendarmerie and additional security forces.
On 09.08 there was an offical visit to the abandoned Douane building (where people are sleeping under the eaves) by high ranking Police officers, accompanied by two unknown civilians – possibly landowners. Officers went inside the building and looked around, leaving shortly afterwards.
Last week Africa House received papers for eviction – stating reasons of hygiene and structural dangers. It is now at constant risk of eviction.
19.08 – A small noise demonstration took place outside Coquelles detention centre. It was well received by those inside who shouted out in response to the demo. Tennis balls filled with sweets and sugar were thrown over the fence into the courtyard, where people are allowed to smoke.
Those detained in Coquelles complained of racial and religious insults from the PAF officers and other forms of oppression – such as denial of sugar for tea.
Last night saw the end of of Ramadan, Eid. No borders marked this occasion by organising a party on the beach. A generator was brought, allowing music of many cultures. Food, drink, dancing and friends made for a memorable Eid. Ques Katir.