No borders and SoS sans papiers announced last week that they had legally rented an empty hangar in Calais for the purpose of creating an activist and migrant space. The mayor of Calais was said to be fuming at this intervention. In their PR-obsessed immigration politics, the French ordered the immediate closure of the space through an illegal eviction, as they believed it would go against their gain of repression and driving sans papiers out of town.
Up until Saturday migrants had not been informed of the space and the police had kept a closely guarded watch on the hangar saying that no migrants were allowed into the space and would be arrested if they did so.
On Saturday evening we told migrants about the new space and invited them to come if they wish to do so. Following food distribution about 100 migrants from Afghanistan, Iran, Kurdistan, Eretrea, and Ethiopia went to the hangar. The police sealed off all the roads leading to the hangar with cars and men. Shouting “freedom! Freedom! Freedom!” migrants and activists confronted the police blockade and managed to push through lines on both sides of the hangar allowing all the migrants to run inside the hangar.
The elite Robocop crs police re-inforcements immediately arrived and surrounding the hangar. The sous-prefecture also arrived and ordered all migrants to leave immediately. They said no. Although it looked likely, no immediate forced raid came although the blockade remained throughout the night. Tea, blankets, sleeping bags, basic mattresses were provided and a safe, secure, although chilly night was had by all.
In the morning the police played it cool with a strategy to starve the migrants out. Throughout the morning a slow trickle of migrants left the hangar, crossed the police lines to go and collect food donations from Salam. They were then blocked from returning. As the numbers began to dwindle, more and more police arrived. The remaining migrants were told to leave or be arrested. All left. Some activists and members of the associations went with them to make sure they were not assaulted again. After the migrants had left, riot police threatened to smash their way in to the building after completely surrounding it, and blocking the view of the media by using two large vehicles.
The activists agreed to negotiate with the police, but when they began negotiations they were immediately assaulted and the riot police smashed the door to the hangar. All the activists who were inside the building were then arrested and the building was illegally evicted. One British activist received 10 stitches in hospital. Many of the migrants including children received bruises from batons. Most migrants went into hiding as things calmed down, although activists witnessed more arrests later that day on their way to the food distribution.
Since there is now no place for the migrants to sleep, they are once again suffering from the effects of the cold and wet conditions of living on the streets. The centre has now been welded shut. A legal challenge is now in the pipe line. Calais Migrant Solidarity are today regrouping and deciding what to do next.
THINGS YOU CAN DO: Go to the demonstration in London tomorrow held by No Borders London and Brighton 9th Februrary, 12:30pm French Consulate, Cromwell, SW7 2EN Stock pile donations of clothes, blankets, sleeping bags, tents etc Donate money (details on CMS website) Euronews short video of some of police actions