Brutal raid at Africa House

Africa House was raided about 8 am. 25 Africans and 6 No Borders activists were arrested. Police were very brutal towards migrants and activists alike.

Around 8AM two CRS vans and one arrest van drove up to the front gate of the African squat. At the same time, 10-15 CRS and several PAF officers went in through the back and started going through the rooms arresting both people with and without papers. Upon being asked for a court order to evict the squat they replied they had permission from the property owner but failed to produce despite being asked several times. No Borders activists were asked to leave the property, two of them who said they would rather stay were cuffed immediately. While being forcefully removed and dragged on the ground, one activist was dropped, hit her head and lost consciousness for a brief moment. She was taken care of by fellow activists, as the police didn’t make any attempts to give first aid. Upon regaining consciousness she showed symptoms of a brain concussion, as she felt sick, dizzy and could hardly talk or walk. Still, the police refused to take her (or walk) to hospital (which is approximately 400m away from the squat) but insisted on taking her to the police station where, as they promised, a doctor would take care of her. They made attempts to shove her into a van, which wasn’t an easy task considering that she could barely stand on her feet. Two protesting activists were put into a headlock, dragged back and cuffed. The sixth person, which wasn’t involved into any direct confrontation, but documenting the arrests was cuffed and put into a van as well. Inside the van, PAF and CRS officers kept harassing activists and refused (despite being asked several times) to fasten their seat belts. The arrested Africans and activists were then driven to the PAF station in Coquelles.

Taking people to the remote station is a intimidation tactic used by the police – after being arrested and taken there, people are often let out immediately, which forces them to take up a 2-hour-walk, if they can’t afford the bus to go back.

Upon arriving at the station at about 8:45AM the activists were separated from the Africans and placed in the lobby where their pockets and bags were searched and their belongings put on the window sill. The things were left there even after people were taken away and were returned after a few hours. Abusive behaviour from the police continued, people were told they stank (there was indeed a excrement smell coming from one policeman’s shoes), a PAF officer made a show of removing a cap from an activist’s head and presenting his dyed hair to the other policeman, verbal violence went on as well. No medical help was given to the injured activist despite people asking for it continuously.

After about 40 minutes (and still no medical attention given to the injured activist) the group was divided into two groups of 3 people, one stayed in the lobby, the other were led to the office area, where they met the arrested Africans and about 12 people driven in from the Sudanese jungle. The activists were told, that they were being detained for illegal occupation of terrain and led into a arrest cell, where they met people from other communities, e.g. Palestinians, Kurdish, Pashtuns, Vietnamese and were held there for several hours. The injured person was still deprived from medical examination, it wasn’t until noon when she was taken care of. By this time, the police “forgot” about the fact, she hit her head and suggested, that she was just drunk and tired. Instead being seen by a doctor, she was taken upstairs and breathelised. While doing this, she was sexually harassed by the male officers, who told her to “be sure to blow really hard” etc. The test gave a negative result, obviously.

The activists were given a brief medical examination eventually (by a doctor, who is said to have connections to the French National Front), which consisted of measuring the blood pressure and a examination with a stethoscope. Fingerprints and photographs were taken and they were given the possibility to talk to a lawyer, who didn’t give any real advice or information going over advising them not to lie and giving the reason for detainment. Also, she was suggesting that people should talk, otherwise they may be held in for 24 or even 48 hours. They were once again stripped from their belongings, as well as of shoelaces, belts etc. (one person was even told to hand over his glasses, which were considered a “security risk”) and put back in the cell. Strangely, it was not a problem for the police to let them take their things into the cells the first time. Food was distributed, but demands for vegan meals were ignored and eventually everyone was given chicken curry, which left the majority of the people hungry.

Arrest went on for several hours during which time the activists were taken to interrogation one by one, where they were informed about them being charged with illegal occupation again. However, at about 18.00h all of them were led out of their cells to see the interrogation officer, who informed them, that no charges will be pressed after all and that they would be released after giving back their belongings.

Around 18:30h all of the activists were set free.

The repression the No Borders activists suffered is surely a scandal and in our opinion a violation of human rights. But for many people in Calais, who aren’t as fortunate to be European citizens and are considered “illegal”, it’s something which happens to them every day. Being of a “better” nationality than other people saved us from graver physical violence, psychical terror, or being detained for a longer time – a lot of people brought to Coquelles aren’t this lucky. On the other hand, these events show, that the state oppression can affect everyone, if the state only wants it to. We must oppose this by showing solidarity with the oppressed on every occasion.

Our passion for freedom is stronger than their prisons. Repression will not get us down. No matter what happens, No Borders will not give up resisting police and state oppression.

The injured activist was examined at the hospital on Friday. She is going to be fine.

In the evening, on the first day of Ramadan, 35 Sudanese were arrested in the jungle. The police surrounded them from all sides so they had no escape, just when they were about to start eating.