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The complaint had been withdrawn before the trial, and Secours Catholic stood as witness conceding that the initial damage to the door was overestimated and the complaint had been made in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.
On Friday March 1st after Belle Etoile served their final meal the building which they had been using to prepare the food was occupied by No Borders and people from different communities. This was done in an effort to ensure that the cooking facilities that had been used for feeding Calais’ migrant population for many years would continue to be open and accessible to them in the future.
The intention was to open the space and allow the remaining food and gas inside to be distributed and used by the various communities to feed themselves rather than make this the responsibility of some charitable volunteers. The building would also serve as a social center, however, the Dioses of Arras and Secour Catholique were not as enthusiastic as others were with this idea and made a formal complaint to the police regarding the occupation, which resulted in a morning raid the following Monday that delegates of Secours Catholique were on hand to witness.
The CRS and PAF entered by force at 8:45 AM arresting the four occupants inside; taking two people (one Afghani and Sudanese) to Coquelle while taking the other two to the Hotel de Police. All four were released later that day with the two people taken to the polcie station being charged with ‘degradation’ and face court in May.
In the afternoon three vans of CRS Compagnie 53 were roaming the streets making many arrests in town. During an ID control of new arrivals from Northern Africa, including four women, CRS surrounded the group against a wall in the main street whilst making humiliating comments like ‘oh look they are cold’, also joking and laughing because they couldn’t understand French, before arresting them all.
Another new squat was closed last night.
… with a dozen bikes and a van full of sleeping bags, blankets and tents. All have been distributed already.
In the night the shelters by the lighthouse (or White House) was raided and many people arrested. The police are coming here regularly, often every hour throughout the night, flashing their headlights, harassing people and making jokes keeping people sleep deprived.
People are being ID controlled and arrested from the streets a lot.
In the early hours of this morning, about 6am, a Sudanese jungle was raided and destroyed. 19 people were arrested and held in the police station all day. Three people were put in the detention centre and face deportation to other European countries. The others were released in the night. No-one was allowed to take their sleeping bags or blankets and their tents and shelters were demolished. The camp had built up amongst a woodland out of town after the African squat by Auchan had been destroyed three weeks ago, and now this new camp has also been totally cleared, just piles of shattered wood remain…
Yesterday the squat by Palestine House was closed locking everyone’s belongings inside. Police threatened people with imprisonment if they return.
Another new squat in town was also closed.
At the moment many new squats are opening all the time – but are being closed again rapidly. People are constantly having to move, losing all their belongings and many people are spending nights on the street or amongst bushes, down alleyways or under bridges etc.
The Pashtu jungle has grown to 50 people.
It is raining a lot and getting colder.
Tents, sleeping bags, blankets and tarps still very much needed.
This morning the police visited the squat of the Eritreans. There are 16 people living there. They told them to take their bags and stuff and leave and that the house would be closed soon. It is not evicted yet but we expect it will be tomorrow.
All the houses squatted the night before last were closed yesterday by the police but have been re-opened, but will again be closed soon as police are sitting in cars outside of them.
Any people who tried to enter the place of food distribution last night were pounced upon by police who waited in the car park opposite all night. Many people were unable to sleep last night and walked all night in the rain looking for somewhere they could stay.. We distributed all our tents yesterday – also Medicin du Monde gave everyone plastic and Salam distributed blankets again.
There are many people in detention in Coquelles, including one minor who the police refuse to believe is under 18. Yesterday 16 minors were arrested in the raid on the Afghans. There are four children under ten here at the moment.
The people detained have the usual complaints about Coquelles – poor conditions, bad food, racist and humiliating behaviour from the police – for example, the officers have been holding their noses when people walk past in the hallways, implying that people smell. Many people inside have no idea of their legal rights, although France Terre d’Asile work inside Coquelles many people we have been visiting and speaking with have never heard of them. The police are deliberately trying to stop communication between the different sections of the prison – people are rushed to the hall for eating and moved out again very quickly so as they do not talk to each other. The rooms are full – up to five people in each.
Many people inside were people arrested in the big raid on the place of food distribution – the police took their bags and are refusing to give them back to people now in detention – always saying “tomorrow, tomorrow..”
People are unable to change their clothes. One man doesn’t even have any shoes as he was refused by the police, when they arrested him, to retrieve them from his bag – so he was walked barefoot to the arrest van and into the police station..
With the constant heavy rain and crazy numbers of police on the street people don’t know what to do with themselves. Nowhere is safe, nowhere is dry and people are so tired.
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.
Yesterday at 8am the police evicted Africa House where 30 to 40 people had been sleeping. There were no arrests, but the police would not let people remove their personal belongings or bedding. As usual, these possessions were taken to the town dump, although much of this has now been recovered.
With no where else to stay, many of those who had been staying at Africa House were forced to stay in or around Salam. There is no space under any shelters in Salam, meaning that the new comers from Africa House (and others) had to sleep without cover from the heavy rain last night.
All the Associations are back from their summer break, so mealtimes at Salam have started again. With the exception that there is no longer anyone providing breakfast.
At the moment there are about 50 people sleeping inside of Salam and about 30 people outside of Salam, next to the building on the other side of the road. Because people have been there for so long, without being disturbed people have become quite settled, putting up blankets and matresses.
About 10 days ago the Mayor asked the police to remove the people sleeping there and on Tuesday last week the police came and kicked everyone out in the middle of the night. Nothing was removed and the people were able to go back inside once the police had gone.
A couple of days ago there was a meeting in the Town Hall about the issue of people sleeping in Salam. Again the Mayor has asked the police to remove the people sleeping there, which makes it pretty likely that in the upcoming week there will be an eviction of Salam, leaving 50-80 people with no where to stay.
As well as requesting the removal of the people, the Mayor is also attempting to change the agreement that the Associations have with the Town Hall. The Mayor wants a new agreement which says that if people are sleeping inside of Salam that it can be closed down. They also want to include in the new agreement that people from No Borders will not be allowed inside of Salam at all. At the moment we do not know how the Associations are going to respond.
Africa House is also still awaiting eviction having received eviction papers about a month ago, we have no idea when this might happen.