Friday 31st December (New Years Eve)
Thankfully it was a quiet day for the Migrants as there didnt seem to be any police around, no such luck for CMS activists though as they ran round in circles organising that evenings party. Salam did a special evening food distribution with fireworks and afterwards everybody was escorted to Africa House for a spectacular New Years Party. CMS and Africa House residents cooked together and a huge fire was built to sit and eat around. After everyone was full, warm and happy the music and beer was rolled out leading the way to some incredible dancing. Moments of joy are very rare in Calais but well savoured and the night seemed to roll on forever as Sudanese, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Kurdish, Afghani, French, American, Italian, Finnish, British, Danish, Dutch, German, Palestinian, Moroccan, Austrian and Iranian people danced, sang and laughed together. As the countdown was shouted around Africa House people jumped back and forth through the fire and fireworks were set off in the courtyard. It was truly a New Years party without borders.
Thursday 30th December
8.20am – PAF and CRS raided Africa House. CMS activists on morning watch were able to give a wonderfully advanced warning as the officers were very slow in clambering from their vans. Finding nobody in the main warehouses PAF officers broke through the barricaded door to the rooms upstairs only finding four Migrants. Peoples bedding and possessions were thrown around and trampled upon as the police tried to intimidate those present with pushing, shoving and the all time favourite – torches pointed into eyes. After 13 people had been rounded up, all CMS activists bar one (who refused to leave) were removed from the building and controlled for passports in the courtyard. Seven of the detained Africans had sufficient documents and were placed to one side for release, the six others were searched. One man had a seriously injured leg and required the use of crutches to enable him to move but the police made no allowances for this. His crutches were removed and he was searched very roughly, once finished they refused to give the crutches back. The activist who was still in the building kicked up a fuss and finally a female officer gave in and handed the crutches back to him. The activist was then placed under arrest, moved into a corner and surrounded by four officers. Outside, the other activists were being amused by an overheard conversation between several CRS and PAF officers. It seems that Unit 46 of the CRS had some new, young recruits and they were having be reassured by an older PAF officer that everything was under control and that this was just a routine raid. The activists found it especially interesting to hear the PAF officer comment that he should never have joined PAFand this “was not how he expected his life to turn out“. Apparently he wanted to be a real police officer and not spend all his time “doing this and hunting Roma“.
One of the new recruits was also heard to remark that “The migrants were surprisingly clean“. Once all the Sans-Papiers had been searched, they were loaded into the arrest van handcuffed to each other, the man with the injured leg was pushed and shoved from the building as the police got bored with him being “Too slow“. The activist under arrest was released once she had her papers checked, making it six arrests in total.
That night a No Border and Sans-Papiers friendly bar was used as the venue for a pre-New Year party. The Wildkatz from Brighton played and several other acts followed including Kurdish and Welsh performers. People were escorted from the BCMO cold weather shelter and Africa House to the bar. There was a great turnout despite the fact that the CRS were stalking through town picking up people on their way – four arrests were made outside of Africa House and it ended up that most people had to run through the back streets to get into town without harassment. The CRS turned up towards the end of the evening but were seen off when a huge group of CMS activists practically climbed into their van telling them to leave.
Once the party had ended people were beginning to be escorted in groups back to their respective camps and squats. It was then that the police decided to attack and a Sudanese migrant was run down by a police car. Activists and Sans-Papiers ran to help as the injured man was handcuffed. Police National and PAF appeared in considerable numbers and after a small scuffle in the road the man was loaded into an arrest van and driven away. CMS activists desperately tried to reform and get people back to their beds safely but unfortunately the evening just got worse as the CRS turned up and made this an impossible task. Activists blocked them in the road while chanting “SOLIDARITÉ AVEC LES SANS-PAPIERS“. People came out of bars onto the street and watched as the CRS leant out of their van doors and repeatedly pepper-sprayed everybody until the all activists were completely blinded and practically vomiting on the road, after they were satisfied with their work the CRS drove away – thankfully not bothering to arrest any migrants.
Wednesday 29th December
A new Unit of CRS is in town – Unit 46 . Finding their feet pretty fast, arrests were already being made at 10.30am. Three Sudanese Migrants were the first to be picked up while walking back to Africa House from morning food distribution.
The CRS then spent the rest of the day driving round in circles with paper booklets seemingly trying to work out what they were meant to be doing.
Tuesday 28th December
The CRS have been very active today. In the morning they arrested 10 people in the park, others in the street. During lunch an arrest van drove by the food distribution place.
The new Palestine House was raided at 5.30 by PAF, 5 arrests were made; the PAF then went to the old Palestine House and arrested 11 more people, at 8.30. Most people have been released after a 5-minute ID check at Coquelles police station: another example of totally pointless arrests done just to upset and harass people. PAF were seen by activists around the new Palestine squat yesterday.
Sunday 26th December (summary of the past few days)
‘Christmas has no borders/ Jesus had no papers’
Direct action on Christmas eve
On the morning of Christmas eve, we set up a mock jungle in front of the Town Hall, using some damaged or incomplete tents. We displayed a bannerreading ‘Christmas has no borders/ Jesus had no papers’ and put donated hats and scarves that had been discarded by migrants over the heads of the Six Bourgeois, the famous Rodin’ s statue that is the symbol of the city. A dozen No Borders activists from various parts of Europe attended, as did about a dozen+ refugees from Afghanistan, Palestine, Kuridstan etc, and some volunteers from local charities.
The police intervened sequestering the tents (as is their habit) and the banner. No arrests were made and no borders activists marched down Boulevard Jaquard shouting ‘no borders no nations stop deportations’ and ‘solidarité avec les sans papiers’; we had an improvised demo in front of the shopping centre, then marched inside despite a couple of security guys trying to stop us, just to remind the shoppers that Christmas and consumerism happen alongside people sleeping out and living in the most appalling conditions, due to governments’ policies.
In the evening 10 migrants from Palestine and Africa were reportedly arrested, and had to spend Christmas in a police cell. All are released by now. After that the police went on holidays, saying to some activists who were standing by Africa House that they would be back on Monday. Wish they had holidays for 365 days a year.
On Christmas day we had a big party. We cooked a big meal with migrants and some volunteers from local associations. It was a beautiful party and everybody enjoyed themselves for once. There was good food, drinks both alcoholic and not, music from a little sound system, singing and drumming around the fires, everybody dancing, communities mixing and a great atmosphere. Long live the amazing spirit of the migrants in Calais!
Wednesday 22nd December
Africa House was raided this morning but only two arrests were made.
Friday 17th December
There was no raid on Africa House this morning.
English, Dutch and French lessons are continuing in Africa House, Palestine House and some other Jungles.
The home of a family with a 11 month baby in Téteghem.
In the jungle of Téteghem, life is still hard in the cold weather. The people living there tell us that the police have raided early in the morning multiple times over the past few weeks.
For one and a half weeks now a youth from the jungles of Téteghem has been lying in coma in the hospital in Lille. He hit his head badly after falling from a truck that was heading to England. When the border gets harder and harder to cross, people take greater and greater risks.
Thursday 16th December
A very sudden but small raid of Africa House was conducted by PAF officers just before 7.00am. Unfortunately for them, 6 Calais Migrant Solidarity activists were able to alert everyone inside, and no arrests were made. One PAF officer got very frustrated at this and threw an activist to the ground while swearing at another. When the officer was challenged he started shouting and complaining that he was unable to do his job as CMS were “ALWAYS” there..
Sandwiches were made and distributed along with trays of dates and some pastries to different squats, camps and jungles throughout the day. In the afternoon a sound system was taken to Africa House and everybody warmed themselves by dancing to some Sudanese tunes.
Wednesday 15th December
10 CMS activists were at Africa House on watch all morning, but thankfully no police showed up. Bread, vegetables, tea, sugar and pastries were distributed.
Tuesday 14th December
PAF officers and the new unit of CRS (Unit 4) raided Africa House at 7.45am. They removed the barricades and drove up into the courtyard, arresting 10 people, including one Polish man. Only two CMS activists were there on watch which meant the CRS officers were able to be incredibly intimidating and physically violent, pushing and hitting with their batons. The ten people arrested were handcuffed to each other and driven off to Coquelles Detention Centre. After the police had left, the barricades were rebuilt.
Friday 10th December
There were some arrests (at least three) in the morning, on the road between the BCMO and the food distribution. These are the spaces that have been legally conceded to the associations to give shelter and food to migrants, and police should not arrest people there, or on their way, but they do it all the time.
Thursday 9th December
Africa House was raided again at 7 am, where 6 arrests were made.
Wednesday 8th December
One person was arrested at 6am in front of BCMO.
Tuesday 7th December
There were two arrests at the Ethiopian squat at 2am, also known as ‘Paradise House’. Lately it has been raided very often, and at random times.
Monday 6th December
Africa House was raided again this morning.
Yesterday we did another delivery of clothes and food to the camps at Grande Synthe and Téteghem.
Police harassment remains very high. Téteghem jungle was raided by police again the day before yesterday the migrants say, and police in plainclothes keep going to the camps to count the numbers of migrants, usually when the local associations go there to give food. The associations have complained about it, as they do not want to be seen as accessories to police repression, but the police keep doing it. People have been missing their meals for fear of the police.
It has been a time of extreme cold. People who called the emergency number 115 for a place in the night shelter were told there were no spaces. A middle aged man found a place in hospital after developing bronchitis, but was dismissed after only two days and returned to the jungle. Some of the families with young children are indoors now, but only thanks to local volunteers. However, there should soon be some places available for the night. The authorities have decided to open two emergency shelters, one in Téteghem and one in Grande Synthe, and on Friday at 6 pm called the associations to tell them to get the migrants there by 7. 30pm! They refused, as theysay they cannot do everything.
Images from the jungle at Teteghem
People are suffering terribly in Téteghem andGrandSynthe. Not only are people suffering from cold-related illnesses but also from depression and mental health problems, and they keep saying that someone will die. I never thought I would see refugee camps like that in 21st century Europe, with local volunteers struggling to guarantee the mere survival of the people who are stuck there. Adding to the usual hardships, the last two Winters have been much colder than usual, which renders the living conditions almost unbearable…
Saturday 4th December
Africa house was not raided, for the second consecutive day!
And the Palestinians have a new squat! The police went to raid the old squat this morning… and they found nobody.
Friday 3rd December
The police keep arresting people who arrive or leave the BCMO. The association Salam, that manages the BCMO, has issued a complaint.
The French State grants 100, 000 euros for the improvement of the BCMO
There were some 140 migrants – packed like sardines – in the BCMO (a disused gym), over Wednesday night, after an intense period of cold weather.
Many people have moved there from Africa House, partly because of the constant raids by police. Most of the Pashtuns too have moved there from the jungle, including some very young teenagers – the youngest being only 12 years old. According to the law, minors and those who apply for asylum should be given proper separate accommodation but there are not the places.
In the BCMO the migrants sleep on cardboard, there isn’t so much as a single tap let alone showers. There is a single chemical toilet, outside, where the police have been arresting people. We wonder how such a structure can be ‘ameliorated’, and how are the 100.000 euros going to be spent. The money is going to be handed to the Council after the 10th of December and will be therefore in the hands of the racist mayor Natacha Bouchart, who has been very proficient at solving the ‘migrants problem’ by destroying jungles and squats and closing them in the ghetto more and more.
Africa house was not raided this morning! Three PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) officers in plainclothes turned up to see ‘ that everybody is OK’, so they said.
Interestingly, an employeee from the Sudanese Embassy turned up to see if people wanted assistance in returning to Sudan. The Sudanese say that they left because of the war and because they had serous problems with the government, and do not want to go back.
Thursday 2nd December
There was a big raid on Africa House at 8 am. PAF and CRS came in large numbers, and with ladders. They were rather aggressive both towards the migrants and the CMS activists present. At least six arrests were made, but we were evicted from the building at the beginning of the operation. Everyone else was ordered to leave the building- in the cold and snow – but re-entered after the police left. One man was taken in an ambulance to the hospital after falling from the roof while running from police. However he was not in serious condition and was soon released from hospital.
‘Paradise House’, a squat inhabited by Ethiopians, is now getting raided on a regular basis, and at random hours during the night. A few people usually get arrested each time.
Palestine House, a squat inhabited by Palestinians and other Arabs also gets raided very often, and at random times.
Wednesday 1st December: Africa House raided three times in the morning
…Only two people were arrested though, thanks to warnings by CMS activists, and the CRS being rather slow… however worse things may be still to come. A worker in white overhalls and engineer have been searching the building – probably for asbestos.
“We only have a bit of a roof, why do they want to take it from us?”
The BCMO will remain open until the 7th December at least, since the prefect graciously (!) extended the opening due to the extremely cold weather predicted for the coming days. The BCMO (a minimal shelter for sub zero temperatures which cannot accommodate all migrants in Calais) is held in a disused gymnasium and mananged by Salam association. The other associations withdrew in protest this year, as the place does not meet any standards: people are sleeping on the floor with just a cardboard for mattress and a blanket, there is no water, no toilets – only ONE chemical toilet outside for a place that is meant to host up to 150 people.
The place closes at 9 am and remains closed until 7pm, so people are sent off to wander in the cold for the day.
30th November: Brief summary of the latest situation in Dunkerque
Levels of police harassment at the camps of Téteghem and Grand Synthe near Dunkerque remain very high, with the police raiding every day. Loon Plage jungle no longer exists. Half the migrants from Téteghem are now in the deportation centre Lille Lesquin, but some have been released.
There are 20 bed spaces for the extreme cold available in Dunkerque.
– There are over 40 migrants in Téteghem without counting those in deportation centre, including families, one of which has an 8 month-old baby and some women. One woman is 8 months pregnant (she was offered accommodation but refused). They are currently enduring snow and temperatures of – 5C at night. Supplies of blankets, warm clothes and shoes have slowly arrived, still more shoes and clothes are needed and the migrants keep asking for blankets because in this weather everything gets wet. In Téteghem the association Salam, and other local volunteers supply food each day, although the quantities seem to be insufficient. The volunteers also bring firewood, water etc. We brought lots of blankets, warm clothes, shoes and about 150 kg of food to cook, yet more is needed.
– There are around 30 migrants are in Grand Synthe, in conditions even worse than Téteghem… more mud and the place is even more isolated.
Tuesday 30th November
Four vans of CRS (unit 3) arrived at Africa House at 8.45am, arresting one man who was trying to brush his teeth. He resisted arrest and asked if he could just finish washing. Three officers responded to this simple request by dragging him onto the street, slamming his head into the police van window and kicking the backs of his legs repeatedly.
One activist was pushed about as she tried to film and then harrassed over her “unsatisfactory” identity documents.
The routine of sans-papiers being beaten by police was plain to see in the conversation that followed between a resident of Africa House and a CMS activist.
H – “The police, they beat M******d?”
A – “Yeah”
H – “Why?”
A – “He wanted to brush his teeth”
H – “Aaah”.
The CRS then gathered up everybody they could find with papers and moved them out onto the street, informing them in french that they could not stay in Africa House because it is a squat and that they should be at the BCMO (cold weather shelter – a place some migrants are permitted to stay at night only).
Midday saw a raid on another African squat by a small group of PAF. Two arrests were made.
English, French and now Dutch classes are continuing to be well attended at the African and Palestinian squats.
Monday 29th November
Africa house was raided by CRS at 8.00am, barricades were shifted and 5 arrests were made. Not half an hour later everyone was caught off guard while warming round the fire as PAF pulled in and conducted a very sudden, violent raid. As people ran to escape onto the roof, CMS activists linked arms and blocked the stairs behind them managing to stop police following. This infuriated the officers who then decided to take out their frustration by using violence.
One activist was chucked by his coat but managed to dodge the fists swinging for him, another wasn’t quite as lucky, receiving a fist to her face and then being thrown to the floor. The third activist was so violently shoved that she almost ended up in the snow. Batons and voices were raised as whistles were wrestled out of fists and CMS was dragged from the building. One activist managed to stay inside, witnessing doors being kicked in and seven sans-papiers having handcuffs slapped round their wrists. Once PAF were happy with their search they dragged those arrested onto the bus and drove away, leaving behind a warning to the activists that the migrants were dangerous people and that they should “take care” staying in Africa House. Once PAF were well and truly gone, the barricades were re-installed as usual – to make it just that little bit harder for the police to conduct their ‘job’.
At 8.00pm, Africa House raided again by the CRS. No arrrests.
Then at 9.45pm – CRS raided Africa House yet again, arresting two people without papers (one of them being a CMS activist). Apparantly very pleased with themselves, the police entered the building singing “I want to dance…disco, disco, disco…” dancing, smiling and waving cans of pepperspray about.
The activist who had been arrested was taken to Coquelles detion centre and held for 14 hours. Every hour she was taken from her cell and questioned/photographed/insulted and threatened. She refused to speak or give her identity even when threatened with jail. Half way into the night the police took her into a private room and showed her a book with photographs of CMS activists questioning her on their IDs, wherabouts, actions and their reasons for being in Calais. At midday the next day she was released after 14 hours of no food, no sleep and a pointlessly cruel experience.
Sunday 28th November
Police were roaming around Calais all day but to our knowledge no arrests were made. Africa House had a well deserved break from police and ended the evening with another party around the fire.
Saturday 27th November
SNOW! Snow has been falling on Calais all day, covering the city in a very beautiful but very unwelcome icy coat. The BCMO cold weather shelter has finally opened its doors as a place to sleep at night. But with no toilet, no running water, only a piece of cardboard and one blanket to sleep on and the constant threat of police once they step out of the door many people have decided to stay in their own squats and camps.
Africa House was raided by police this morning, five vans of CRS made six arrests. The officers were very rough searching people, CMS activists surrounded one officer who was being particularly rough and with all the sudden attention he soon started to behave himself. One man arrested had an injured foot – he was on crutches with no shoe or sock on the foot – he was made to walk over an hour back from Coquelles detention centre in the snow.
After dark, CMS activists brought instruments to Africa House and a small party was started around the fire with singing and dancing. Others were a little more interesting in playing outdoors and so a giant snowball fight took place between No Borders and Africa House. Snowmen, snow crowns and snow barricades were built and for a while everyone forgot that they were in Calais. Once everyone was well and truly soaked through we all gathered around the fire to dry off and were treated to some traditional Sudanese singing and performance poetry. Nothing could spoil the mood, not even the CRS vans lurking in the snowy haze.
Friday 26th November
A rather violent raid of Africa House occured this morning at 7.45am. CMS activists were pushed and shoved out of the building, one female activist was knocked to the floor twice and dragged across the ground by three officers, another female activist who was taking photographs had her throat grabbed and an officer made a rough attempt at wrestling the camera from her hands. Whistles were ripped from mouths and smashed under boots. The female activists came under fire from the CRS officers who took pleasure in calling them “dirty whores”, “bitches” and commenting on how “ugly” they supposedly were. One man with papers was arrested after receiving a beating from some officers – he refused to get out of bed to show them his papers so they forcibly dragged him out and kicked him repeatedly injuring his arm and ribs. He was driven to Coquelles detention centre where he showed his papers and was released a few minutes later, to make the long walk back to Africa House. CS gas was used on bedding and in and around some of the buildings but after being aired out everything was fine to use again. Everyone was given a nice goodbye from one police officer who leaned out of the van window and shouted “Fuck You! Fuck You! Fuck You!” as they were driving away.
Four people were arrested outside of food distrobution at 9.15am.
CRS vans started roaming around the roads near to Africa House at about 8.30pm finally stopping to make an arrest on the road outside of Africa House at 9.45pm. A chase unsued as CMS activists took off after an officer hot on the tail of a Migrant. After a small encounter with the officer, CMS activists were able to stop him and let the man he was chasing, get away. No arrests.
Thursday 25th November
Africa House was raided at 9.00am this morning by CRS Unit 3, PAF and a small group of Police Municipal. A representative from the mayors office was also present. Most people without papers were able to get away due to the early warning recieved from CMS activists. Ten people were arrested, almost all with papers. CMS activists were pushed and dragged from the building by PAF officers and told that they were the “loser” as they hadnt stopped them arresting people. All those arrested were driven an hour away and dropped off in the middle of nowhere, by the time they had walked back to Africa House they were tired, soaking wet and had missed breakfast. Two Municipal officers were left behind inside their police car, parked in the courtyard of Africa House until 5pm.
Africa House was raided again at 11.00pm by the CRS. 5 arrests were made.
Pashtun Jungle raided during the night. No arrests, but all the water containers were destroyed.
Africa House was raided again this morning at 8.45am. The police had informed Secours Catholique that they intended to raid, so by 8.30am a small crowd of charity workers and journalists (including some from the Nord Littoral newspaper) had formed to watch and take photographs. Four people were arrested for having no papers, including one CMS activist, but everybody else managed to get away after the whistles were blown. With the help of a JCB, council workers were successful in removing the barricades to Africa House and after an hours work left the entrance open for police to drive in without hindrance. Everyone arrested, including the CMS activist, was released several hours later after having their morning wasted in Coquelles detention centre.
At 2.00pm Africa House was visited again by the CRS who made no arrests as everyone was at food distrobution. PAF came just after the CRS left, blocking the entrance with a van and five officers to make sure nobody could get back inside. As everyone arrived back from lunch we were informed (by the ever growing police presence) that we would be let back inside soon.. After an hour of waiting in the cold and being filmed by police we were told that the council would be working inside the building for the next ten days from 8.00am til 5.00pm putting up fences. The notorious female PAF officer explained that the fences were to stop people “entering the private property of the neighbour”. CMS distributed hot tea and at just before 5.00pm the police and council workers withdrew leaving Africa House free to enter once more.
Africa House was descended upon yet again at just gone 9.00pm. Two vans of the new CRS unit (Unit 3) drove up and caught two Migrants. As the arrest van tried to get down the road to pick them up, four CMS activists got in the way chanting “Solidarité avec les Sans-Papiers”. Passers by stopped to watch as the police released the two apprehended men in Africa House, left the building and drove up the road to meet their detained arrest van. A small stand off occured as the activists refused to move and for a few minutes nobody was really sure what was going on. The police eventually got back in their van, reversed up the road and drove away. The four activists managed to get back to Africa House before the police and by that time everybody inside had had plenty of warning meaning no arrests were made.
11.00pm saw another raid on Africa House. Three vans of CRS Unit 3 split into two groups, some climbed in over the fence at the back and some drove up to the newly barricaded front gate. 6 arrests were made, including one injured man. A small scuffle broke out on the road when the police tried to wrestle a bike off a CMS activist. Another activist was hit round the head with a torch. There were smiles all round though when one officer fell into a drain and got human poo all over his shoes…
As the weather continues to worsen people are finding life in Calais increasingly more difficult and dangerous – it has now been confirmed that an Afghan man has been admitted to hospital with hypothermia.
Teteghem update (Wednesday 24th November)
Many migrants in Teghem moved out after being threatened by police, and destroyed their own houses. Maybe 35 to 40 people were left. They had been promised by police that if they reduce the numbers in the camp they will be left alone. The police went to Teteghem jungle on Sunday morning, around 10 am, to tell people they will destroy the camp if they don’t reduce their numbers. Resulting in people running, often without knowing where to go. Some people have gone to Paris, some to Calais, some we don’t know. There were many unaccompanied minors in the jungle, many have left and I don’t know where they have gone. It is always the youngest and the most vulnerable who are affected most. I am very happy local volunteers put some the families with small children in safe houses – there were three babies aged 7, 8 and 9 months in the jungle, living with their families in the cold and rain and terrible hygienic conditions, and some very young children. Some women decided to stay, including one woman who is heavily pregnant.
The police (PAF) returned Monday 22nd in the morning, at dawn, and arrested 8 people, including one woman – all were released by 7pm; they did not destroy anything and were unusually polite; a dozen volunteers from Terre d’Errance, Salam, one no borders (me) a journalist and a photographer from La Voix du Nord were present, soon other press arrived from Channel 3 and some people working for MdM, later other media, TV1…
Unfortunately the story does not end up here: the PAF returned Tuesday morning shortly before 9 am, arresting 6 or 7 people, including people with papers; I was in the camp and saw the arrests; some volunteers from Terre d’Errance were there too but they were at the main entrance, the police arrived from the side of the petrol station. Later MdM arrived, Salam, others. I left around lunchtime and the refugees in the camp were very upset and worried, the police have been threatening them to return and arrest them, put them in deportation centre for two weeks, and deport them back to their countries. More people were thinking of leaving. This time they have started taking people to deportation centre Lille Lesquin, where they may spend the next two weeks.
The regional tv was there, and interviewed a man from Sudan named Ahmed who said that he would stay there “no matter what, and if the police arrests me, then that will be a shame for France, cause it is here that the notion of liberty was born, 200 years ago.” Later Ahmed was detained and ‘disappeared’, we fear he may have been deported to a third ‘safe’ country.
The break Africa House received from police raids was short lived as they were hit with a huge raid at just past 8.00am this morning. No stone was left unturned as four vans worth of CRS (Unit 7) searched every room in every building arresting 21 African Migrants. CMS activists were on watch and alerted people inside with whistles and shouting, unfortunately – most likely due to the incredible rain – many people decided against running away. One arrest van was filled past capacity and four people had to stand. Activists commented on the overloaded bus but the police responded with shrugged shoulders and smirks. While waiting for the next arrest van to arrive, hot tea and pastries were distributed to the hungry migrants (by CMS) who would be missing there breakfast sat in the police cells.
The ‘deputy mayor’ with PAF at Africa House
Two African and two Pashtun Migrants were also arrested, before the raid on Africa House, while walking through town.
Not satisfied with their mornings work the CRS decided to breach the “”agreement” made with the associations and visit lunchtime food distribution hoping to make more arrests. They were sorely disappointed after charity workers and CMS activists gathered to block them and they were made to leave empty handed. The same arrest vans then made their way up to the train station and around the parks hunting for people to harrass and arrest to fill their quotas.
Africa House was visited again at 11.30pm by the police but no arrests were made. Photographs were taken of the newly constructed barricades and one officer got out of the van to make a closer inspection of some graffiti reading “CRS = CRIMINALS”.
On the brighter side of things the arrival of a small group of musicians has lifted everyones mood as guitars, violins, trumpets and a drum are lugged from squat to squat filling the cold buildings with music, singing and laughter.
As usual, English and French classes are continuing to be well attended in Africa and Palestine House.
As far as we know, none of those arrested this morning have been released yet.
Africa House was spared the usual big Monday morning raid.
Last Friday, the town hall held another migrants council. Somehow they forgot once more to invite the migrants themselves. Testimonies from charities seem to indicate that the meeting mostly consists in the mayor telling the associations what’s gon’ happen ’round here. From the name I initially thought this was a sort of brainstorming session among the most important players of Calais to find out what can be done. This time, Natacha Bouchart announced she would dismantle Africa House, and wall everything up if people are still found there after the destruction has started. She said it wasn’t humane to leave them to sleep in there. A participant asked where migrants would go afterwards, she merely answered: ‘That’s not my problem.’ There’s never been more dignity and humanity in France since the authorities realized they could fuck people over with those alibis.
There has been a decrease in police activity in Africa House: this morning a CRS van and an arrest van went there but they were not keen, and made only one or two arrests. In a change of routine, yesterday evening they did not go, yesterday morning they did not go, (the Africans were happy and saying they were having a holiday), Thursday morning they did not go, neither did they in the evening – however the CRS turned up early in the afternoon and made a few arrests. Yet the general presence of CRS in town remains very elevated and visible. They went twice to the Egyptian/Palestinian squat, arresting a few people, and continued to bother people in the streets or in the parks where they hang out.
Some activists visited Teteghem camp near Dunkerque, where around 150 people have gathered following the destruction of Loon Plage jungle, and the eviction of some squats in Dunkerque. More people moved to Dunkerque to escape police repression in Calais. In the camp there are some Kurdish, Afghan and a Sudanese families with small children , as well as unaccompanied under age Afghan and Kurdish boys. People living there said that the police raided the camp every day, usually early in the morning, and arrested people, ( a huge increase in the level of police activity there since when we visited Tethghem in the Summer, that than was than only a small camp of about 50 people). That is ‘normal’ when they want to reduce the numbers, but particularly worrying for the presence of families, unaccompanied kids some very young and women, one at least pregnant.
In addition, having been driven out of Calais by the police, and evicted from other camps nearby, the lake side camp is in a rural location, close to Teteghem village – although various associations do visit and give food. However, we found that people were lacking of everything: blankets, clothes, food they can cook, pots, nappies, etc. One group of 22 Palestinians were sleeping with only one blanket for 4 people; the Afghan boys had about the same amount of blankets between them, kids were walking around with no jackets, no socks, and shoes that are too big or too small…and the weather’s getting very cold to be sleeping outdoors. We went back to Calais and filled our van with everything that we had still left in storage and brought as many blankets as we could to … it was an improvement but certainly not sufficient for all. Satrurday however Medicines du Monde and local associations will do a big distribution of sleeping bags, clothes, tarpaulin.
The local Mayor has just said, “Provided there are fewer than 50 people [in a camp], we can manage it. Now I’m ringing the alarm bell”. The local associations fear a destruction of the camp may be imminent but there is no information, and a meeting of the associations with the Mayor has been cancelled or postponed. One wonders what exactly that will lead to. Yet another destruction? Will people manage to mobilize to save it ( – and for how long…?). Watch this space.
Africa House raided in the morning 8 am, 8 arrests. No raid in the evening.
Tuesday 16th November
Africa House raided 7.30 am and again shortly after 9am. 15 arrests in total.
Monday 15th November A raid took place on Africa House this morning shortly after 7am.16 people were arrested. In the evening they came 3 times, twice they raided arresting approx 10 people, the last time (1 am) they just drove round the courtyard to wake people up, did not try to arrest anyone. Last night there was raid there at 11.30 pm, resulting in the arrest of 11 people. Two men ran away at the last moment before being put in the arrest van and are not counted amongst those arrested. On both occasions 3 CRS vans and one arrest van came via the front of the building.Three CRS vans went to the squat known as Palestine house yesterday at about 8.30 pm. There were 5 arrests.
Sunday 14th November
The CRS went twice to Africa house last night, arresting 22 people, and again this morning, when they took 9. This is a daily occurence so if you are keen on helping defend Africa House please come forward! Other squats are also still getting raided very often, with people being held for 12 – 24 hours. Others are held in Coquelles detention centre for 2-4 weeks.
Three people (two Europeans, one African) and a dog were arrested in the night between Sunday and Monday around 1.30 pm, for making graffiti. They were held in garde-vue until Monday evening and liberated around 7pm. The humans are to appear in court the 13th January accused of vandalizing, and perhaps of insult to police officier but it seems the second accustion has been dropped after the person accused complained about a previous beating by police. There is an outstanding number of no borders graffiti in Calais, made by persons unknown.
Another raid took place on Africa house this morning shortly after 8 am, resulting in the arrests of 10 people.
Friday 12th November
The CRS raided Africa House at 8am. They caught one man whose girlfriend, another resident of Africa House, is in hospital and is about to have a baby. We informed the police but they refused to let him go saying that was our fault because we blew whistles(?!) (which we do to warn people so as to give them a chance to escape) . Shortly after they left, a police car drove into the courtyard at full speed, followed by three vehicles from the council. Council workers and the police simply chatted but they are likely to have been discussing the complete destruction of the buildings, which is slowly being carried out over the heads of the occupiers.
The trial of the men accused of carrying out racist attacks on migrants in Calais in September concluded today in the Court of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Two No Borders activists were present, as was a volunteer from the charity La Belle Etoile.
Four fascists were handed prison sentences for the assaults. According to the local paper, nine skinheads in all had been arrested on suspicion of having carried out the brutal attacks. Tears began to flow as they were told that they would be held on remand.
Then on Friday, four of the defendants were convicted of assault and sentenced to prison. – Christopher Foubet, 22 years old, from Blériot, was sentenced to 24 months in prison, of which one year is mandatory. He had previous conviction for assault. – Rémi Longavesne, from Fiennes, was handed the same sentence. – Jason Rougemont, a 20 year-old from Calais, was given a 20-month prison sentence, of which he must serve a mandatory six months. – Yann Harduin, 20, from les Attaques, was sentenced to 12 months in prison, of which half will be mandatory. Thursday 11th November
The CRS arrested 17 people in Africa house this morning. At first, they took 3 + 5 who were hiding in the garden, then they came back and arrested 9 more people; some of those arrested were released and turned up at food distribution but most are still missing.
There are currently quite large numbers of Sudanese and Arabs in Coquelles detention centre. We have been calling and visiting them. Some are supposed to be released the day after tomorrow if the judges do not give them more time inside. People are very often being held for long periods in the police station too (eg: 12 or 24 hrs).
Numerous raids and arrests occurred in most places (see incomplete list below), and a particularly nasty company of CRS were in town: several migrants and a CMS activist have been beaten or manhandled.
Friday 5th: At 6 am, 5 arrests were made at Palestine House, a mass raid on Africa House took place at 8 am and 3 people were arrested near the commercial centre at 3pm.
Thursday 4th: At 8am, 7 arrests were made at Palestine House. 3 people were arrested in the street at 10.30 (all of people with papers). Between 8.30 and 9.00, 7 people with papers were arrested in the park and one activist was beaten up by the CRS, even though he told them he has problems with his back . Some migrants were also hit, and one was accused of assaulting a policeman, which is not true – all he did was tell them that he had an interview for his asylum claim the following day, and instinctively tried to push away. One week on, he is still being detained, and missed his interview.
Tuesday 2nd: At 8 am, PAF officers raided Palestine House, arresting five people. All were later released. Five further arrests were made at midnight, when the police raided the Pashtun jungle.
Sunday 31st: A midnight raid by PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) was made on Palestine House. Everyone was arrested, and three detained.
Friday 29th October
There was another mass raid on Africa House this morning at about 9am, 16 arrests were made and by 5pm those arrested still hadn’t returned – they are being detained in Coquelles deportation centre.
The CRS are back in town this morning – one CRS van drove into Africa house twice, but made no arrests. Five African migrants were later arrested in front of the food distribution place, at or shortly before 9.30 am
In the evening, the CRS raided Africa House at around 8.30pm, where they arrested four people.
The CRS have been gone from Calais for a few days, due to the general strike, protests and riots and 50 cops in hospital across various locations in France…
Instead, the PAF have been extraordinarily busy harassing migrants in their camps and squats, in the streets and on their way to England; a large number of injuries have been sustained by migrants such as bruises, cuts – often requiring stitches – broken fingers, damaged knees, dislocated wrists and ankles — the usual. One man had the skin of the palms of his hands peeled off after being dragged down a lorry by port security.
Africa House has been particularly targeted, withtwo big raids and several small ones.
On Thursday 14th PAF arrived 7.30 am, arresting nearly everybody who was in the squat. People living there say 40 arrests were made, but we were unable to count because they evicted us from the building.
Another big PAF operation took place on Friday 22nd at around same hour. We witnessed around 15 arrests. One activist was threatened and assaulted by cops because she would not leave the premises. The usual.
Several vans from the council arrived at 8am to carry on with the cleaning operation. Essentially, they are slowly demolishing parts of the buildings over the heads of the occupiers. No blankets were taken this time, though the Deputy Mayor and the owner of the building made an appearance. The police also smashed the glass in a room where people are sleeping.
The previous morning, there was a smaller and less well-organised raid on Africa House by the PAF (Police Aux Frontieres – border police) with about 9 arrests made. The PAF turn up every day in the morning and again in the evening – sometimes to arrest, or sometimes just to harass and make people run – they seem to have fun as they often laugh and sometimes play loud music in their vans and it may be the case that they are high on drugs…but this is just a supposition, there is very little doubt however that they are sick in the head. Similarly, in the park where migrants hang out (not having a place to go to), in the streets, and in every other squat and jungle, and at any time, they continually arrest at random. They are also still arresting people outside the PASS clinic where sick people wait to be seen, and at the food distribution place where there is and agreement with the local charities not to make arrests.
In the night between the 21st and 22nd , the PAF raided Palestine House. They only arrested two people but held them for 12 hours. Then on the morning of the 23rd they took nearly everyone.
The Sudanese jungle also receives frequent visits by police and is now all fenced up.
BAC, the criminal investigation police, identified and followed three No Borders activists on the street on the night of 22nd Oct. Considering that the majority of the migrants in Calais are refugees from some of the most dangerous war-torn countries in the world and most of those present in Calais at this moment come from Darfur, I really don’t know what it takes to wake up French public opinion.
English classes continue in Africa House and Palestine House with a great rate of attendance.
How to organise a secret festival
“Dwelling, moving about, speaking, reading, shopping, and cooking are activities that seem to correspond to the characteristics of tactical ruses and surprises: clever tricks of the ‘weak’ within the order established by the ‘strong’, an art of putting one over on the adversary on his own turf, hunter’s tricks, manouverable, polymorph mobilities, jubilant, poetic and warlike discoveries.” Michel de Certeau, “The Practice of Everyday Life”
“Everything is possible if people work together — even stopping Calais from being Calais.” Arnaud Borderer.
We actually did it: No Borders Calais organised a successful week-long music festival in Calais (6-12 September 2010), one of the shittest towns in Europe, in the teeth of the French police and the local authorities, with no publicity at all, a few hundred euros, and little of what you could call organisation. And some of us say it was just about the best party we’ve ever been to.
It’s safe now to let the cat out of the bag: anyhow there’s a crop of videos up on YouTube already, and a few references to “Hafla bila Hudud / Festival Without Borders” have scattered themselves across the web. At the time, though, there was every need of secrecy. In February, when No Borders legally rented a warehouse (the “Kronstadt Hangar”) as a social and sleeping space to be shared with undocumented migrants, it was raided and closed down twice in two days by French riot police. The immigration minister Eric Besson appeared on national television denouncing No Borders as “violent left extremists” and repeating his vow to make Calais a “migrant free zone”. We knew that any public event would be met with gendarmes and batons, so the festival was announced only by word of mouth and on closed email networks.
Even so, around 100 international supporters came from all over Europe, from Ireland to Poland, to join migrants and local Calaisiens for a week of music, art, and festivity. Since last November the number of migrants in Calais, trying to cross the channel, has fallen to perhaps less than 200. But if anything the number of police has increased: there is still the permanent presence of the notorious CRS (Compagnies Republicaines de Securite) riot police who make constant raids and patrols against migrants, and the PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) border police have become increasingly active alongside them. The grim everyday for Calais sans-papiers goes on: raids, beatings, arbitrary arrests, bedding and belongings destroyed and stolen, teargas in the water, pepperspray in the sleeping bags, etc. etc.
In Calais a party, a night out, a simple gathering of friends, is much more than just hedonism. A party in Calais is something extraordinary. A music festival is an insurrection. We held concerts in the park and in some friendly local bars, as well as at the camps (“jungles”) and squats where people live. The first night in the park we were sniffed at by undercover police: but when they saw our numbers they had to back off, and through the week our numbers grew. Internationals and locals with papers stood in the street outside events ready to form protection rings around migrants if the police moved in to snatch. CRS looked on bemused — where had all these pesky No Borders come from? — and drove past empty handed. And that is what solidarity means — that is what we can do when we simply stand together.
In Calais, cooking and sharing a meal together is an act of rebellion. The routine: philanthropic associations hand out tasteless food, truly reminiscent of Dickensian gruel, in a bare yard surrounded by barbed wire, overlooked by undercover cops, council inspectors, and racist charity bosses. The festival took place at the end of Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month, a particularly hard time in Calais with hunger and thirst compounding fear and exhaustion. And through Ramadan the police customarily raided at sunset to catch Muslim migrants gathering together to break their fast with heated-up charity slop. For the festival, the Dutch activist kitchen Rampenplan came to cook nutritious meals at lunch and sunset. We ate the evening meal together in the park, in the town square, and in the open space opposite the official “food distro” point. People with and without papers, sharing food with music, banners, laughter, comradeship.
Just a few highlights. The massive Eid (end of Ramadan) party in Africa House (the squatted ex-factory which is the home of mainly Sudanese migrants), which brought together all the migrant communities of Calais — Sudanese and Eritreans and Pashtuns and Hazara and Kurds and Iranians and more, eating and dancing together. Saturday night’s final party in the park with Pashtun dancing and Kurdish singing, followed by a parade up the main street to a bar for sets from Combat Wombat (Australia) and WildKatz Project (Brighton). Rebel recording sessions in the jungles, and in our short-lived new No Borders squat which for two days became a cauldron of sound and visual creation. The “Food not borders” stall in Place D’Armes. Taking over the food distro yard for weekend picnics with klezmer music, football, and multilingual chalking everywhere. “For a few days,” said one sans-papier, “I felt I wasn’t in Calais.” Yes, it was only a few days.
The next monday, the biggest police raid seen since February fell on Africa House, this time particularly targeting No Borders activists in a “revenge” attack. Since then, the daily grind of raids and brutality continues — back to normality. But in those few energetic days we won something longer lasting: not just a vital breather, a glimpse of life beyond state repression, sweet sustaining memories, but the creation of new links of solidarity that we will continue to build on.
That brief breathing space brought Calaisiens, visitors, and migrants from different, sometimes mutually suspicious, communities together like never before, creating new connections and relationships, deepening trust, knitting together our resistance. Not to mention: we learnt how to organise a secret festival. What next?
See also ‘Hafla bila Hudud‘, a video the Festival without Borders
Wednesday 13th October
There was a massive raid on the squat known as Africa House early in this morning. CRS and PAF (Border Police) arrived with five vans and a car, followed by at least three arrest vans, at around 7.30 am; numerous arrests were made – up to 40 according to the inhabitants of the squat. CMS activists were present but were evicted from the squat at an early stage.
On Friday 8th October, four skinheads appeared in court in Boulogne to stand trial for their alleged role in attacks on migrants. This follows a series of racist assaults against migrants in Calais over the past month, in which primarily lone African migrants have been set upon with bottles, metal bars and tear gas (?!). The trial is adjourned to the 12th November, and three defendants have been remanded in prison, all of whom cried when told they would have to return to prison. The fourth was released in the custody of his parents, under judicial supervison. Three skinheads who are still free, and three girlfriends, went to the tribunal to support their friends. Five minors have been also arrested and will appear in front of a judge for juveniles.
On Thursday 7th October, two racists unrelated to the skinhead gang tried to burn down tents under the bridge where some migrants sleep. The tents are mainly home to a few Afghans, but also to one or two Africans, and an underage Afghan boy of 15 who has been in Calais for over two years and somehow failed to integrate… his tent was destroyed by fire. Two other tents survived as one of the inhabitants returned and caught the assailants, who were very drunk; he held them down and two police officers on motorbikes stopped and asked what was happening. The two racists were taken into police custody, where they remain. CMS activists gave the migrants a new tent and blankets.
Then on Tuesday 12th October, Grégory Dalibon, a 30 year-old from Calais, was condemned to 8 months in prison for burning the tent. A charity worker was also assaulted because he helps migrants, by yet different racists, who work for a security firm. He has been charged with assault, despite the fact that he is the one who got attacked!
Saturday 9th October
Raids on Africa House continue, especially around 8am when people are trying to brush their teeth…at the same time the diggers arrive to clean the place from ‘toxic waste’.
There were two major raids there this week:
– On Wednesday 6th, three CRS vans came from the front of the building shortly after the workers moved the barricade put in place by us. They were followed by two cops in civilian clothes. Nine people were arrested.
– Then on Thursday 7th, three CRS vans, plus PAF officers, came from the back of the building with ladders. 15 arrests were made.
The Kurdish jungle was also raided on Thursday, but the police didn’t manage to catch anyone. The Sudanese jungle has been fenced up and police roam about there in the evening. We went and drank tea with the inabitants yesterday, but the shelter where they gather has been destroyed and very few trees remain… Four PAF arrived, on foot and hoping to surprise the migrants, but the Sudanese saw them coming and hid. The police searched the jungle but without success, and left empty handed. Conditions have however deteriorated, it’s cold and rains a lot and people are without proper shelter. Park Richelieu, where many migrants spend their time, gets raided regularly. Those without papers, if caught, are always arrested – although they still arrest people who have papers too.
Friday 7th October
Three people were arrested at food distribution at 8.30 am. Four others were arrested at a roundabaout at around 7.40 pm.
Tuesday 5th October Works on Africa House
Until now, all personal belongings of the Africa House residents had been left alone, but in the end they said they have to clear everything out. We talked to all the inhabitants of the house so that they know what’s going on and so that everybody puts their blankets into one room where hopefully it won’t get taken away. We are doing morning and night watch on Africa House every day – there has only been one arrest in the past two days. The new CRS unit in town is number 38. Two arrests were made in one of the squats.
Monday 4th October
A big raid was made on the Palestinian squat shortly after 5pm, with 8 arrests made.
Police went twice to Africa house, but made no arrests. Clean-up work on Africa House has now started – workers are staying there all day and are throwing everything out the buildings, although for now they are not touching people’s belongings. It will only be a matter of time until people are completely evicted, their possessions taken to a rubbish dump, and their home destroyed – as we have seen happen to so many other communities here.
Saturday 2nd October
The police raided Palestine House four times, and 8 people were arrested on one occasion.
Friday 1st October
The Pashtun jungle was raided at around 12.30 at night – three people were arrested, two of whom have papers.
Thursday 30th September
The police really were out and about on Thursday. At 7.30 am, they raided the railway tracks where Pashtuns are living. They slashed plastic, which only two nights previously, we had used together to cover the windows the police had recently broken (see ‘Weekend Roundup’, below). That the French authorities do not even allow migrants a bit of plastic to keep out the cold is illustrative of the barbarity and inhumanity of their immigration policies generally, and the policing in Calais in particular.
At approximately 3.45pm, the police pulled up at the grassy area around the PASS clinic. This clinic provides free treatment for sick or injured migrants, and lots of people with broken or sprained limbs who may not be in a position to run from the police tend to loiter outside until their turn or as they wait for friends. As such, its an easy target for lazy police looking to meet their arrest quotas. 11 people were arrested.
At about the same time, a raid was being made on Africa House. We are unsure if anyone was arrested. Several arrests were made in the park over the course of the evening.
One man was also taken at the bridge near Africa House at 9.15pm.
Wednesday 29th September
Another day, another raid on Africa House. This time, a small number of CRS officers entered the site at 8.30am. Whistles were blown, most people ran but 3 were arrested. These individuals are thought to have had papers, making their arrest most probably unlawful. However, this practice remains widespread in Calais.
At 9.40pm, CRS raided the Sudanese jungle minutes after a couple of No Borders activists had arrived. The activists saw the police and were able to raise the alarm; everyone ran bar one man with Italian papers. However, this was clearly not enough for the CRS who arrested him regardless, claiming the ID was false. Sleeping in the jungles, amongst other things, gives us an insight into how uncomfortable and cold nights can be there. We have been distributing plenty of essential sleeping materials and tents which had been collected by volunteers from festivals in the UK over the summer.
Monday 27th/Tuesday 28th
Yesterday the police attention was quieter. Four Eritreans were arrested in the park whilst trying to enjoy the supposedly peaceful public space.
The Police aux Frontieres (PAF) also visited Africa House again; four officers wandered around the premises. Everyone ran away which left the English lessons low in pupils. However, we did have many supportive comments and conversations with Calaisiens as we monitored the police, with people encouraging us to continue our work.
Approximately 12 Iranians were arrested in the jungle and elsewhere that night.
This morning, the PAF made two raids on Africa House, with larger numbers than the previous day and the intention of arresting as many as possible. No Borders activists present alerted people before they entered at 9.10am, and many were able to hide or escape. However, they still arrested nine Sudanese migrants. Activists were ‘controlled’ (I.D’ed), but not arrested. The PAF decided that displaying their dirty work publicly would look bad, and drove the vans around the back of the squat so that the Sudanese could be put into the vehicles without people on the street having to see. The PAF then returned at around 11am – but due to the almost incessant nature of the police harassment, we were unable to be present at the time, and are unsure as to whether any arrests were made then.
The Kurdish jungle was then raided at around 2pm. Tents have been slashed by the police rendering them unusable; No Borders activists provided residents with replacement shelters.
11 people were also arrested at the Sudanese jungle at midnight.
It has been relatively quiet in policing terms. Around five people were arrested during a raid on the Egyptian squat at 8pm on Saturday, and around five more people were taken shortly after midnight raid on the Pashtun jungle.
There was also a large raid of Africa House on Saturday night but thanks to the fast legs of the migrants and the overweightness of the CRS they only managed to arrest five people, who were released after a few hours. Still, a walk home from Coquelles can take several hours in the rain. The weather has been a double-edged sword. The torrential rain has made life more uncomfortable and unpleasant for those sleeping outside, (the majority of migrants) but has ensured that the police don’t bother to raid, lest their uniforms get wet.
The Pashtuns have been getting visits from the police almost every night, usually just after they fall asleep or in the early hours before they wake up. One night about a week ago, the CRS attacked a hut in which a number of migrants live. Despite the hut being only approximately 2.5 x 4.5 squared, with migrants, including minors, asleep in the small space at the time, the police smashed all the windows in with their batons as people attempted to shield themselves from shards of glass. One man received a facial injury from a large fragment and was required to get medical attention from the clinic. Also, several migrants report that they were attacked by local fascists, they managed to get away without injury.
Thursday, 23rd September, 2010: GENERAL STRIKE
A quiet day for most people. There was a General Strike all across France, many trains and bus services were shut and the CRS were busy in other cities dealing with demonstrations. People here took the opportunity to sleep and relax, catching up with needed rest to survive.
Wednesday 22nd September: ANNIVERSERY OF THE JUNGLE DESTRUCTION
The day that Besson was supposed to arrive started with a bang. The Police aux Frontieres (PAF) raided Africa House early and forcefully arrested four No Borders activists and around 12 Africans, mainly Sudanese and Eritrean. They brought everyone to CRA Coquelles and interviewed the activists about why they were in Africa House. When it became clear that no-one wanted to comply with the questions they became and angry and resorted to insults and when that didn’t work they angrily threw the activists out. It was clear to activists that many migrants had been arrested that morning. People cheerily called out to each other in the corridors and the police realised that No Borders had built up strong relationships with the migrant communities of Calais.
Later that day No Borders activists from many countries including France, Germany, Britain, Poland and Finland descended on the statue of the Bourgeois outside of the Town Hall to carry out the subversive act of placing banners in commemoration of the anniversary of the Pashtun Jungle destruction. Many large banner were unfurled on the lawns and statues and hundreds of leaflets given to passers-by. Many journalists arrived and people were interested. However the Police Nationale and Municipale didn’t feel that such freedom of expression was appropriate around this topic and decided to steal our banners. Many activists holding banners were violently arrested, they were wrestled to the ground for no crime other than holding a banner in a public space. Such is the liberte and egalite in Calais. The Police brought tasers and ‘flash-ball’ guns to control a very small crowd of people, which showed the many onlookers what the Police are capable of. There was also a large number of undercover BAC police who assisted in violently arresting the activists. In total four activists were arrested but later released with no charges. The official marking of the jungle destruction was a ‘circle of silence’ called by the associations working in Calais such as Belle Etoile, Salaam and Secours Catholique. Around 50-60 people attended.
Afterwards the evening became more joyful with music and many Pashtun, including some who had lived in the Jungle the year before. There was dancing and laughter in the bittersweet evening. Meanwhile the CRS compagnie 5 attempted to raid Africa House again, however No Borders activists were present and alerted people to the raid. The CRS didn’t manage to catch anyone but controlled the activists. We were told later that they raided again that night but still couldn’t catch anyone.Tuesday 21st September 2010. ‘They treat us like horses. They feed us just enough so that they can chase us’.
In spite of the arrangement that the Police will not harass people visiting the food distribution, this morning the Police visited the distribution compound during morning breakfast and then arrested 4 people immediately outside of distribution space.
The inhabitants of Africa House are extremely tired today, constant night visits mean that people have no sleep and no rest. They raided again several times today, arresting at least ten this evening. The PAF (Police aux Frontieres) were also out checking empty buildings on the same street ensuring that people are not sleeping anywhere else.
Again people were harassed in the park this evening, the CRS attempted to arrest some Pashtuns but they avoided the police by staying on top of a high wall.
The CRS then moved on to Africa House and Palestine House, raiding a space where a three year old migrant and his father sleep.
The newspapers today have been full of lies and distortions. Articles about one after the jungle destruction include such untruths as ‘not one blow was struck during the eviction’ and that ‘No Borders was to blame for people losing their bags because they insisted on migrants fighting the eviction’. The Prefecture in the interview also blamed the Mayor of Angres as being irresponsible simply for providing water and toilets for a Vietnamese jungle. In the same breath he praised the destruction of the Pashtun jungle as a ‘humanitarian act’. The language of double-speak in Calais is alive and well. The quote at the top is in reference to a conversation we had with a group of Sudanese. They told us about being chased by the police, and that they have been chased by the police until they are too exhausted to carry on and then the police, laughing, let them go. They feel like they are horses, being fed enough to run for sport.
As for the good news: Africa House English lessons continue to go well, revision of time and explanation of past and future tenses was well received.
Monday 20th September 2010: SLEEPLESS IN CALAIS
Following a relatively quiet Sunday, people were expecting police operations to step up on Monday morning. From about 7am Activists followed 5 CRS vans around the town. Two arrests were made. Before 9am the CRS had raided Africa House, approaching on foot, presumably to foil any attempt to warn people staying in the building. Activists were present and no arrests were able to be made.
The CRS attempted to steal cameras from activists and threatened to smash them. Film footage was stolen and others were recorded over. Next time we will gently remind the CRS that one of their colleagues recently paid 650 euros in damages for breaking a CMS activist’s camera.
However determined we may be to stop the CRS though, they are more determined to stop the Africans from sleeping. They returned soon afterwards to make arrests and harass. The PAF were also present during this raid which lasted many hours. They left just before evening food distribution but returned at 10.00pm and arrested one person, and then again at 1.00am. This was simply to wake people and ensure that they sleep elsewhere and don’t sleep in Africa House. On a brighter note, English and French lessons are continuing in Africa House with regular attendance. People are enjoying the space to learn and prepare themselves for the journey ahead in the UK.
Sunday, 19th September, 2010
The summer definitely ended in Calais over the weekend, with the weather becoming increasingly cold and showery. Many people have been forced from the semi-permanent, sheltered squats onto the streets of Calais, by constant police harassment of fixed living spaces. The CRS’s first action early on Sunday morning was to act to intimidate those sleeping by the railway tracks around the canal basin. Two people were caught.
Later in the evening, the CRS returned in force with 5 vans of Police raiding the park area and arrested at least 2 people. Activists were nearby and were able to witness and film the continuous harassment, happening in public in the middle of a busy Sunday evening in Calais. Afterwards we were able to quickly to visit and warn other permanent spaces in the town. We understand that at least 2 people were later arrested at ‘Palestine House’.
Saturday, 18th September, 2010
The CRS raided Africa House again, at about 11.00am. They smashed windows and glass, threw tear-gas and used pepper spray on people’s bedding. They scrawled graffiti across windows and doors including the hilarious “yes borders”. They didn’t arrest anyone but simply attempted to intimidate and harass. They also poured chemical solvents, varnish and pepper spray in the No Borders room in Africa House.
Later in the evening No Borders activists watched unmarked police vans patrol the park demanding papers from everyone who wasn’t white. They did not identify themselves as to which force they are from, the CRS, PAF, Police Nationale. It was impossible to tell. They drove off whilst we watched them. Finally, activists brought extra water to the people in Africa House. A day of running from the cops left many people without water. One migrant said, “tonight we sleep thirsty”. As unacceptable as the situation is, a situation without water is inhuman. Simply providing water in Calais is now part of the struggle for people to survive.
Friday, 17th September, 2010
The pressure on the migrants continued with at least two full CRS / PAF raids on the Africa House and a morning raid on the Palestine Squat. In addition the PAF disrupted the French and English lessons, to control and check people’s papers and to temporarily clear the site. This was to save visiting council officials the distressing sight of meeting homeless Sudanese and Eritreans, whilst they inspected the derelict building complex. The Police pursued people into the streets of central Calais, even arresting those on the way to the afternoon food distribution. Later, throughout the evening, CRS unit 5 supported by PAF, toured the town centre parks. They worked relentlessly, returning from the detention centre at Coquelle, to continue filling their arrest bus.
WEEKLY ROUND UP
The pressure and harassment continues in Calais this week, there is a new fear in the air with the potential arrival of Eric Besson, the French Immigration Minister. There are many rumours flying around about jungle destruction and clearances.
As a quick round-up, there has been a huge jungle destruction in Dunkerque, the threat to Africa House has grown and people are being pushed further out of Calais due to consistent harassment. CRS compagnie 8 has changed and compagnie 5 has taken its place. Their tactics seem to be different. They spend many hours in the evening driving around in force, in four or five vans, circling the parks and squats and roads in order to arrest as many as possible, making it impossible for people to sleep. Many people now refuse to sleep until late and then get up as early as five just to avoid being kicked awake by the CRS. The threat to Africa House continues with several guys in suits wondering around the property during a police raid complaining about Health and Safety. The police tried to remove the barricades in order to let the arrest vans into the courtyard.
The harassment continues to deprive people of sleep and health, raids have increased from the morning to every couple of hours, morning, afternoon and evening.
Also the safer place of the park has been under increased attack, with Africans and Vietnamese being arrested late into the night. The migrant jungle in Dunkerque has also been destroyed, it is unclear at the moment how many people that has made homeless but we do know that the camp contained women, children and families. It is in the tradition of France’s and Besson’s racism that these people have been forced out onto the street simply for not having ‘papers’.
No Borders members visited Lille to attend a meeting about the new migration law that Besson is pushing through in October, the law includes changes such as a blacklist for those who fail asylum in France, a ban of two years with a view to extend this throughout the Schengen area. The meeting was well attended and called by many associations across Northern France. However interesting the meeting was though, the attitude of many was desperation with many people asking, “what can we do?”. While focus of the meeting was very Besson orientated, we want to remind people that there is not one person to blame but an entire system of racism and xenophobia.
ESCAPE FROM CALAIS
For many people, both with and without papers, this last weekend rounded off a really different experience of Calais: with music, art, good food and solidarity together we successfully transformed a place of misery and repression into a scene of life and celebration. Musicians continued to arrive and play at the Ramplenplan kitchen’s food sharings, in the streets and squats, and at further parties organised each evening.
On Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes No Borders and Rampenplan took over the wasteground opposite the council’s food distribution cage for festive picnic lunches of 150 or so people each day: a massive contrast to the usual prison line scene at the regular food distributions run by the officialised state-funded “associations”.
On Saturday evening we held what some commented was perhaps the best party ever seen in Calais. It began in Parc Richelieu with food, acoustic performances leading to a great dance circle with Pashtun dances and singing in Kurdish, Dari, Arabic and other languages. As darkness took hold we then walked up the road with newly made banners to a nearby bar where the night continued with more Kurdish singing as well as a klezmer band, another storming set from Combat Wombat, and finishing up again with freestyling on the mic. The bar was packed and the crowd and music spilled out to take over the street as Calais partygoers joined us. CRS vans cruised past, sometimes two at a time, but given our numbers and energy all they could do was look on forlornly at the sight of people enjoying themselves without fear. There was nothing they could do to spoil this night – a vivid demonstration of how, after all, the force of the state bullies is nothing against the power we have when we just stand together.
On Sunday night, after saying goodbye to Rampenplan, we ended the week with a chilled celebration to the music of the Wildkatz project from Brighton. Altogether it was a great week in Calais. That is, a week in which with art and music we created the the kind of situation many of us are used to taking as normality: a space to breathe, relax, enjoy, play. Set against the state of repression in this town, just being out to go out and make music together can be a remarkable act of struggle here. People said: “this week I thought I wasn’t in Calais”.
Unfortunately, I was back in Calais on Monday morning – with a vengeance. Africa House bore the brunt of probably the biggest police raid in Calais since the eviction of the Cronstadt hangar. They came with not just the full complement of CRS (around 20 in 3 vans) but another 30 or so Police aux Frontieres (PAF), the French Border Police, many wearing riot gear. This was something big and something special: given the way that they seemed to be specifically targeting CMS activists, it appears to have been a revenge attack for the success of last week’s events. They were unusually violent and injured many activists with batons and violent pushing.
One activist was handcuffed on the roof and made to jump down to the floor without the use of his hands. All 12 activists present were arrested. According to what officers said later in the station, the arrests were under the 322/4/1 of the French penal code, which is against people using public property as a living space without permission, usually used to target Roma and other travellers. Everyone was taken to Coquelles CRA (detention centre) and placed in custody.
Inside the Detention Centre the violence and humiliation continued, and reached a particular low when one female activist was sexually harassed by CRS. When her comrades came to her defence the 20 or so police present in the corridor rushed us. Four male cops dragged her away alone to the cells, the others attacking activists with full force, including grabbing some activists’ and smacking their heads against the wall. Activists, including three with head injuries, were illegally denied access to a doctor during custody. One activist was targeted because she had a child in Calais and was told she was a bad mother and that she would be deported and her child taken into care by the French.
Despite the violence in the police station, our morale stayed extremely high: with plenty of singing and drumming on the walls, we reprised last week’s “party in the police station”. No one was seriously hurt.
Meanwhile at Africa House police boarded up buildings with metal plates resulting in a migrant being trapped inside the building with no way out for many hours, until journalists heard him banging against the metal plating and helped release him. Arrestee support was waiting outside the detention centre for most of the day with food and beer for those inside. They were targeted by police as well and told to move on several times. Eventually the police decided to get out the Law book for Traffic Offences and sat with it going through every page checking everything on the vehicle. Eventually they decided to fine activists 45 Euros for having a Dutch number-plate which does not conform to French standards, despite the proliferation of other vehicles in the car park with similar number-plates. All activists except one were released early evening; the remaining activist was released in the morning. Despite this repression everyone is in good spirits and healthy and happy. Repression brings many people closer and the ties between activists and migrants are still very strong, activists have recorded songs with many migrants which will be placed on the blog soon.
But still the madness continues, many people are arrested every night at the Kurdish Jungle and driven many hours away from Calais to have to walk back.
Saturday 11th September
L’Auberge Des Migrants, one of the organisations that distributes food in Calais, are on holiday for the weekend. No Borders stepped in to make lunch. Although we requested permission to use the official food distribution area (aka barbed wire prison canteen) this was turned down and we were not given a key. Instead we turned the patch of grass outside the area into a mini festival for the afternoon. Lookouts were posted around the periphory to keep the forces of ‘law and order’ at bay, while inside Rampenplan served up another delcious meal accompanied by Pashtun dance tunes, balkan style band with violins and accordians and later the plaintive sound of classical turkish music drifting over the football game. An unmarked police car and two CRS vans circled but with several dozen No Borders on Security, did not attempt to enter.
This morning there was a raid on the Sudanese jungle at about 7 30. Activists were on lookout at the front and back, and shadowed the CRS as they walked through the jungle. There were 2 vans, one at each end. Their search was not thorough, and there was only one arrest — a man with papers. Then they went to the Pashtun jungle. An activist van was on patrol and witnessed the arrest of 10 migrants. However, the migrants said that it was Eid and a holiday and they had to go to the mosque, and (unheard of!) the CRS complied and released them. Some migrants went to the Mosque out of town in the morning. One car of PAF visited Africa House later in the morning, but made no arrests.
At 1 o’clock, at the same time and place as Belle Etoile’s distribution, Rampenplan also distributed (infinitely nicer) food. There was a real holiday atmosphere with much music and dancing, everybody all together. There were football games and chalk drawing on the floor from both activists and migrants. We remained in the space until 3 pm, offering some much needed time for everbody to relax a bit. After lunch some activists leafleted Calais local reisidents while elsewhere the festive atnosphere spread through the town with musicians visiting migrants’ spaces and jamming, playing and recording music. Look out for forthcoming tracks produced in Calais!! There was also a football game on the beach: the score was Hazaras 100, No Borders 2 (according to a completely unreliable source)
At 7 there was a big No Borders food sharing in the park — people with and without papers walked there and ate together. Again there was music and delicious food, followed by a live gig in a bar which many people attended. Those not completely danced out for the day continued in style!
Thursday 9th September
The last day of Ramadan and the beginning of a relatively quiet patch in terms of police action, though not of activist action. The only arrests reported occurred just down the road from Africa House at 8 30 am. People were on watch at the front and back of the squat, but no activists witnessed the arrests. It was reported that 5 migrants were arrested. At lunchtime there was a ‘Food not Borders’ event where we shared food and information with migrants and local residents on the main street by the Place D’Arms. Musicians and jugglers entertained while Rampenplan kitchen and other activists distributed food and information leaflets to the inhabitants of Calais. 2 police nationale turned up on motorbikes and watched from the sidelines but didn’t interfere. See the article in the local paper here .
There was a big Party for Eid in Africa House in the evening. Activists and migrants walked together from food distribution. Rampenplan made delicious food, and many migrants from all the jungles and activists came together for singing, dancing and eating round the fire. It was a great success and to our suprise (we had many people on watch and were ready for a visit from the police), we were not interrupted. Eid has fallen at a time when there are many activists in Calais (including lots of new ones!), and so it has been possible to hold many events and actions.
This series of social events is aimed at providing relief from the boredom and misery of daily life for sans-papiers in calais, which is marked by tough living conditions, daily arrests, and humiliating treatment at the hands of the authorities. Perhaps more importantly, it is a brilliant opportunity to work with migrants by sharing information and providing as many tools as possible for migrants to build their own resistance to this subjugation; whether that be in the form of protest, preparing their own meals, or simply having a good time in defiance of deliberate a policy to keep them in a position of dependency and powerlessness.
Wednesday 8th September
The morning started with a big CRS raid at the Africa House. As often police come only from one side to enter the area, this time they came from several sides and also climbed the roof. They arrested about 7 people without papers and 17 No Borders activists with papers, who had been there doing the morning shift. Two activists were pushed to the ground, everybody got ID checked and after giving back passports and being told by the police to go, they forced the group to leave the area. One activist who had an injured hand in a bandage was grabbed by the CRS, who twisted her hand, which has now caused her another injury. When other activists tried to intervene, the police became even more violent. All were arrested, including activists standing away from the scene. They were taken to Coquelles, interviewed, and held in several cells until the evening. So for once we managed to outnumber migrants in the PAF police cells in Coquelles!
While part of our group was there, other activists held a meeting in one of our squats which had been raid by the Police Nationale and the CRS at midday. This was a legal occupation – ie; people had been living there since Friday night (well over the 48 hours required by French law), and as such a warrant from court is needed to evict the property. The police had no such warrant and of course, refused to listen when they had their legal position read out to them, saying that they didn’t care about the law.
The police proceeded to break down door and arrested six activists. The whole scene was witnessed by journalists from the local TV channel “TV Calais”, who filmed the incident. Other activists standing outside had their ID checked, then sang a round of “A las barricadas“…. The activists who had been arrested from the two buildings were threatened with charges of ‘illegal occupation’ and ‘criminal damage committed in a group’. However in the end, no charges were brought and all were released early evening — presumably to free the cells for the CRS’ evening roundup. Activists thanked the police for the chance for a good rest on a day of heavy rain in Calais, and with 17 of us inside Coquelles nick took on a festive atmosphere with singing, percussion jams, and exercise classes. Slogan of the day: “No Borders, No Nations, Party in the Police Station!”
That night, there was another peoples’ kitchen in the park. The CRS regularly patrolled the area in order to scare the migrants as they ate eating, two of who were arrested. After the dinner, the film ‘Titanic’, with Arabic subtitles, was screened in the bar for anyone interested.
On Tuesday night No Borders activists, sans-papiers, and many Calais locals had a party together with live music at a local bar. Two members of the Australian rebel sound crew “Combat Wombat” opened the night with beats recorded from around the world, and then held anopen mic session for visiting MCs & anyone who had something to shout about. Raps in Arabic, Amharic, Farsi and other languages with plentiful chants of “No Borders – No Nations” as well as prolific expressions of people´s sentiments about the police, who cruised slowly back and forth on the street outside through the night. When they stopped to hassle migrants taking air outside the bar, activists with papers forced a human safety cordon around them and the CRS went away empty handed. A great night, and everyone got home safely.
Tuesday 7th September
Last night CMS and migrants held a party in the park. Dutch activist kitchen Rampenplan provided delicious vegan food and there was drumming and a sound system playing African beats, reggae and Arabic music. Everyone had a good time though a few of the migrants were scared off by the early appearance of Police Nationale and two BAC undercover cops, who didn´t try to catch anyone.
The party continued until about midnight and gave lots of people a chance to have a good dance and let off some steam. BAC officers kept cruising around for most of the night but were seen-off by activists when they tried to enter the park a second time.
This morning there was a big raid at Africa House. One van of CRS arrived at around 8.00 and were surprised to find themselves inhibited by the presence of 12 CMS activists. The activists kept a close eye on them, following each individual cop very closely as they searched the warehouse, making sure that no damage was done.
They went away without finding anyone to arrest but raided again after some of the activists had left, and decided to arrest one guy who showed them papers. Then they noticed some of the Ethiopians on top of the office inside the warehouse. The Ethiopians made no attempt to run away, but instead taunted the cops and challenged them to climb up and get them. This enraged the CRS, who made an unsuccessful (and extremely funny) attempt to move some shelving units to help them scale the structure, as the Ethiopians stood above them and laughed. The CRS soon retreated to their van at the gate, feeling impotent. Tempers flared as one of the cops grabbed one of the activists by the face and snatched the whistle out of his mouth. Two more vans of CRS turned up, plus an arrest van. They blocked the remaining activists at the gate and stormed back into Africa House. There were shouts and crashing noises. At this point one of the activists tried to get back into the compound, but she was quickly caught, punched and slammed into the wall by three cops. Soon afterwards the CRS came back out of Africa House with one guy who was bleeding from the leg, with a dusty boot mark on the back of his jacket. He was put in the arrest van. The cops tried to steal one of the activists’ bags, and attempted to intimidate another activist filming the scene. All the while, Calaisiens drove past on their way to work. Business as usual in this town.
We later discovered that the cops had poured cooking oil all over the stairs, inside migrants’ bags and over their sleeping bags. Worse still, they found a Bible written in Tigrinya (language of Eritrea), tore pages out of it, covered it in oil and threw it in the dirt. One of the activists spent all day cleaning it with swabs and taping the pages back together. Between the two raids at Africa House four guys were arrested under the bridge and two on their way to food distribution. This morning No Borders activists joined a several thousand strong march called by trade unions in protest against the Sarkozy government’s cuts programme, along with a one day general strike. We leafleted, and marched side by side with Calais workers — including many who work in the port and on the tunnel — with the message that French workers and migrants have a common cause, a common enemy and a common struggle. At one point the demonstration stopped for a while outside the office of the UMP (political party of Sarkozy). Here demonstrators showed their disgust at the ruling politicians by covering the office in eggs and rubbish, then breaking open the letter box and pouring the contents of various rubbish sacks through into the inside of the office, with rousing cheers and a festive atmosphere.
At 20.30 at the Sudanese Jungle five CRS arrested two guys as they ran away. Also tonight at around 22.00 an activist managed to block a CRS van near Africa House as it chased someone, thus preventing an arrest.
__________________________________________________________ Older updates can now be found under the ‘News’ category.
This morning at the food distribution, held in a prison-like area, we were all greeted by a strange sight. The barbed wire surrounding the area was gone. A defiant message had also been painted on the walls of the two distribution buildings, reading: Tear down the fences, Tear down the walls, Tear down the borders, Tear down the barbwire. This is not the first time this has happened. The last time the barbed wire was removed about one year ago. We were informed that it cost 8000 Euro to replace it – it was sad that money to keep the prison-like atmosphere up seemed to be so easy to find. It was taken from the budget that was given to SALAM to open the BCMO (cold weather shelter). We'd like to remind of the circumstances of the autonomous people s kitchen in summer – when about 400 Euros had to last all summer to cook for about 200 people, constantly hassled around by police, when the organisations had their summer break. SALAM, one of the organizations giving out food, accused No Border people last time and are doing it again this time. The energy spent on looking for a culprit seems to be more important than confronting themselves with the grain of truth in the messages. If the bosses of this organization wouldn't want a food distribution that looks like a prison, they could push for it. But they do not - as far as we know (please correct if mistaken). It is important to give out food – as nourishment is the basis of surviving. The amazing work done by volunteers to ensure this is greatly appreciated by people eating there. Barbed wire is part of turning the providing of a basic need into a humiliating experience.