This is a report from a bunch of us who were in Calais this weekend. We spent our days there distributing firewood to the squats and ‘jungles’ around town, hanging out and drinking vast amounts of tea and coffee. The police were generally conspicuous by their absence, but not afraid to get a bit handy now and then.
The Cronstradt hangar is open again and we used it to organise from. One major change we noticed was the airbrushing of the food distribution area. This is where people are given a bag of random food and toiletries at lunch time and in the evening – right next to the docks, it is also in view of any ferry-bound tourist on their way from Calais town to the docks.
There is now a double fence, with hedge plants in between to mask the whole food distribution area. This also makes it easy for the police to pen people in – there are now about 250(?) migrants in Calais, who could all effectively be penned in at the distro. On Saturday the CRS (riot police) turned up to grab some people outside the BCMO cold weather building and shove some of the Salam volunteers about. Activists turned up and the police chuffed off, but the new fenced in food distro area is certainly vulnerable.
One of the most useful things we worked out we could do was to distribute firewood – to the Sudanese, Egyptians, Hazaras, Africa House (a long standing squat housing many people). We also dropped off some food, water and relevant clothing. Footwear is an ongoing need here, obvious really if you think about the distances people cover and the weather.
It was damn cold, and you could tell it had been a lot colder recently. Snow was on the ground in places – how people have been surviving outside beggars belief. The BCMO cold weather shelter was open while we were there, but rumour was it would shut again in a few days when the temperature went back UP to -2c. People don’t really get a lot of sleep in the shelter as it’s rammed and everyone’s chatting, but it’s better than sleeping out in the open… and the police don’t come inside the shelter.