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.
We have a piece of writing about who we are that has already been translated into Pasto and Dari. We still need some other languages, especially Arabic, Persian and Kurdish. B and I headed down to the “Palestinian Jungle” to say hi and hopefully make some contacts there.
As with all the Jungles I have visited, the people sitting around makeshift structures in the port were friendly and pleased to see us. We brought them candles and some oranges, which they shared with us.
We chatted to a weathered-looking man from Sudan who told us he has been living in Calais for the past eight years, in the structure nearest to where we were sitting. B and I were both shocked. Eight years is by far the longest any of us has heard of someone living in the Jungle. I asked if he was trying to get to England but he shook his head slowly, pointed to his hair, his knees, his tattered clothes. “I am fifty-seven, nearly fifty-eight. I stay here in Calais.”
We spoke with some of the other men, mostly from Sudan, one from Eritrea. Most spoke reasonably good English. There were no Palestinians in sight and I have since discovered it has been mis-named, although some people report having met at least one Palestinian there previously. This is the most international of the Jungles with a mixture of different nationalities living together.
After three games of dominoes in which the winner was unclear (I never did understand the rules of that game), the CRS police suddenly showed up. Some of the men got up. Some shouted, some ran away and were chased by police with truncheons. One man hid behind the sofa we were sitting on. The remaining men stayed where they were sitting and laughed at the others being chased by the cops. This was obviously such a familiar scene that it had become a source of some amusement. To us it came as something of a shock. B went over to the police to confront them. I was on my way to back him up when I saw them check his ID Shit – I still don’t have my passport! I backed off and went back to the guys still sitting around the dominoes table. Some of the others were standing near to the waters edge, pretending they were about to jump whenever the cops came near. It seemed to work really well. The police obviously weren’t too keen in jumping in after them. The men by the dominoes table thought it was a hoot! Eventually I managed to figure out that I had our emergency phone number in my pocket and after a couple of botched attempts I succeeded in remembering the French code.
Within a few minutes around ten activists were on the scene on bikes, some with cameras – filming the cops filming us. The CRS were clearly not very pleased to see us. They were checking IDs and photographing people, sometimes a few cm’s away from people’s faces, an intimidation tactic familiar to me from experiences in the UK.
To my shame I stayed well back, fearful of arrest without any ID. The migrants have to put up with this everyday – sometimes more than once a day. Yes, I am a coward. But I am getting better. At least I am here in Calais.
The police left without arresting anyone, but unfortunately returned later when most of us had gone and took three people.