Saturday 31st December 2011
Cambridge Action Network spent some time in Calais this month with a mobile kitchen. This is a report of their experiences
There is a food distribution centre here where many of the migrants normally get food. They run lunch and dinner on most days. Surrounded by metal fencing that gives the impresssion of being caged in the distribution centre could be mistaken for a prison, the migrants have to line up to receive the food and there are no tables or chairs. Two charities take it in turns to provide meals. However, they do not serve food every day, and they don’t reach all of the different
migrant communities in Calais.
Last night we served our first meal as the Cambridge kitchen collective in Calais. We were taken to a patch of woods 45 minutes drive outside of Calais where roughly thirty migrants – mostly from Afghanistan – are living. So far outside of Calais, few of the charities who usually serve food to migrant communities reach them. The need for secrecy also increases their isolation, because they are hesitant to reveal the location of their camp to outsiders.
As we pulled down a muddy lane between a field and the woods, we were welcomed by the migrants who lived in the ‘jungle’. They showed us the way into the woods that they had made in their home – tarpaulins stretched over frames made out of branches created dry spaces for eating, talking, a mosque, and several sleeping spaces. Despite the thick mud on the ground, everything was tidy and homely.
We had spent the afternoon cooking a mushroom, cauliflower and chickpea curry, rice, and red lentil daal (which the Afghan migrants we ate with said tasted just like Pakistani lentils – we assumed that was a compliment). The food was served from the makeshift mosque, and we ate together round the fire. The community there – almost all young
men – was extremely hospitable. We were promised that after the food there would be singing and dancing, and after a few minutes of teasing each other to see who would start off the singing, they launched into a series of songs accompanied by clapping and drumming on water butts. Some of the songs were traditional Pashtun songs, and others were songs about making the crossing to England. As the evening passed by, the rain came down harder and it became windy, but the atmosphere remained vibrant and warm.
Sat around the fire, a man from Afghanistan told us of his journey. He told us that because of the violence and dire economic situation back home, his family had sent him to Europe in the hope that he would find a better life. He gestured at his surroundings and smiled sadly as he said “but look at how shitty my life is now”. He had been through Italy but left because he could not find work there and wanted to travel to England where he had heard there was work.
Another man, from Iran, told us how he had left beacuse he had been burnt, intimidated and put in prison by the state for refusing to join the army, because to join the army would mean fighting his own community.
We have heard many stories like this before, but found it so upsetting to meet these people who had come to be here only because of where they had been born. It made it so clear to me that the systems of asylum and the UK’s supposed commitment to human rights did not apply to the people who need it the most. It seemed like most of the people we met came from areas of the world where UK military, political and economic involvement had a devastating effect on people’s lives – yet the UK does everything it can to stop these people from crossing over the Channel. Because of UK law, crossing illegally into England is the only way to make an asylum claim for the vast majority of asylum seekers.
Many of the people we spoke to had been in the UK before, they knew how hard it would be for them there, and yet trying to make the crossing was still their best option.
Each day we are here, we discover another hundred lessons that we need to learn, and stories that we want to hear. Being here, in practical solidarity with the migrant communities struggling against state violence, racism and economic oppression, is an incredibly powerful experience.
Thursday 22nd December 2011: DEATH OF ISMAEL
Calais has killed a person, a young Ethiopian man, who has spent some time Calais and is known to a lot of people here. He was found at the bottom of a bridge in central Calais in the early hours of Thursday 22 December.
The reason for Ismael’s death is not clear, what happened or why. The police immediately tried to close the case as suicide, treating his death as insignificant. There has been no autopsy and further investigation has been refused. His friends have been denied permission to identify the body, they have tried twice at the central police station because it is very important to them, but have been met with threats that the border police (PAF) will be called if they do not leave. Only a person from Calais has been allowed identify him.
Clearly the police don’t find it important enough to investigate a death, but would rather spend time continuing to harass ‘foreigners’, both those with and without papers. On the same day that people found out this man died the police continued to raid these people’s homes, as normal. So what is the police’ work? To prevent death, or create death? A rhetorical question.
This fascist state of Calais with its pristine parks gives more water and health to its flowers then to people. This is not the first time a person has been killed by the border system, and as long as it remains it will not be the last. A vigil was held with many people at the site where he died on Sunday evening.
Sunday 25th December
C’est quoi avoir froid? A partir de -5 degree? Arrete cacher la clef! Tous les jours c’est froid!
Now it is winter in Calais and the weather is cold. Many people are living in decrepit houses without heating or in self-made shelters. There is however, the BCMO, a cold weather shelter. It’s a building run by charity organizations and controlled by government representatives. They say that this building will host people and protect them from the cold, but it stays empty pretty much all year-round. The shelter only opens when it is colder than -5 degrees in the night, so now it is closed even though it is freezing outside. Even when the shelter is open it can be shut down again at short notice and the people staying there are not allowed to use the toilets inside.
A banner was dropped last night on the cold weather shelter: What does it mean to be cold? Is it when temperatures drop to -5 C? Stop hiding the key! Every day is cold!
Tuesday 20th December: Activist served 1 month suspended sentence and banned from Calais
At around 7.30 am one CRS police van and one CRS police car turned up at the university squat. These were shortly followed by two arrest vans. They ran into the property, and four policemen forcibly removed a whistle from around one activist’s neck and violently took him to the ground.
They snatched a camera from another activist who was filming and immediately, and deliberately, snapped the sidescreen.
Four No Borders activists were then surrounded by 10 officers and taken into one of the buildings so that they could not see what was happening, whilst police rounded up and ID’d the people without papers who had not already got away or were sleeping in the other buildings. They arrested 6 migrants and 3 No Borders activists. Throughout the process police were desperate to segregate the No Borders activists from the other people there. Most people were released in the afternoon and two activists were released in the evening.
During their detention the police constantly attempted to intimidate and humiliate people, making noises whilst waving toy pigs at people, making obscure religious comments, laughing and joking around like it was a game.
One activist was held for 24 hours, charged and then taken directly to court the next morning at Boulogne-Sur-Mer having had no contact with a solicitor and also denied contact with anyone outside. A policeman had alleged that the activist had assaulted him by spraining his finger, which never happened, and three officers fabricated the same story as witnesses.
The police destroyed the footage on the camera so it could also not be used as evidence. The activist was convicted and has been banned from the Pas-de-Calais region for one year, and was given a one month suspended sentence. This person also has a court hearing in February to determine the fine he must pay as compensatation to the police officer.
Even despite the fact that No Borders activists were acquitted from a string of false charges earlier in the year, which were also clearly aimed at intimidating, deterring and imprisoning activists working here, the police not only continue to act with impunity but are now also fast tracking the judicial process, which has resulted in a conviction for a ficticious assault on police. It is CRS unit 45 from Lyon that is operating in Calais at the moment. And of course the same old PAF (border police).
Sunday 18th December
Police raided the university buildings at about 9pm. Everyone who was there got away, so no-one was arrested. Over the weekend it has been extremely stormy and cold here.
Visits to Ostende
CMS have been in Ostende twice, where we have talked with migrants and local activists – there is a new No Borders group there.
We also did two deliveries of clothes and sleeping bags, together with the local activists. From next week, there will be more deliveries and we are going again tomorrow.
We heard of police chasing people with dogs, people bitten by dogs, people being left in cells for 12 hours without water, sometimes without clothes. We heard reports that they strip search people and put in freezing cold cells in their underwear…and these cells have only 3 walls and a gate.
There are only men and teenage boys of 16/17 years old, the conditions apparently too hard for women and children.
There is a day centre, CAW, open to migrants 4 mornings a week, they get food, advice, showers, some medical care. Up to 60 migrants a day attend the centre, but there are many more who don’t go there because they want to escape the police surveillance which is very invasive and extensive in the areas beyond the centre.
The port area has been fortified with barb wire and high security. Crossing has become increasingly difficult.
During the day the migratns mainly hide or walk the streets alone or with a friend, trying not to be noticed. The park where they used to hang out is regularily visited by the police and very few people go there. Most people sleep in many abandoned buildings in the port area and industrial areas.
We visited some of the squats, where up to 100 sans-papiers from various Arab countries sleep. When the police find them they destroy their possessions and even have the finesse to piss on their blankets.
Wednesday 14th December
Today one CRS and one PAF unit came to the area of the University squat around 8.30. They went over to the house which they attempted to demolish yesterday, but didn’t because there were people inside. There were around fifteenth cops in the area, looking at the building without entering. After a while they seemed to decide that the situation was safe enough and the house which had been peoples home were demolished to the ground.
Tuesday 13th of December
Early in the morning demolition workers were working on the ground of one of the old Africa house squats. Around 8.30 am one bulldozer went in to the area of the current Africa House with out taking any notice of the people living there or giving any indication of what they were planning to do.
They started demolishing a building where people where sleeping and only stopped because people intervened telling there were people sleeping there.
No one died, and all blankets got collected.
Friday 9th of December
The night between Thursday and Friday Palestine house got raided at 1 am. Since most people living there have papers no arrests were made. In the morning CRS and PAF raided Africa house. Everyone got forced into one room to be ID’d and searched. Around 10 people got arrested, with and without papers.
Five people got released from Coquelles in the afternoon after being arrested in the street twice in one day, with a gap of 10 hours in between.
Sunday 4th – Wednesday 7th December
On Sunday morning, Iranian migrants reported that their camp had been flooded by the river. All tents, sleeping bags and blankets were soaked and damaged. Many have now moved to another place after two sleepless, wet nights. Our last tents have now been handed out.
Police have been very active around the university buildings. On Tuesday and Wednesday morning, they visited around 7.20am. On Tuesday migrants reported 3 arrests. On Wednesday the PAF came at around 7.15 and arrested 4/5 people, this was then followed by a lengthy visit from the CRS, half an hour later, who again checked everyone’s papers.
With the combination of continual police visits and a visit from the demolition team who came to calculate the costs of the operation, we are now on high alert for the university buildings. With temperatures dropping significantly in the past few days this could leave many people yet again on the streets.
Migrants in Palestine House have also been subject to more police harrasment, on Monday migrants reported two visits: 9am and 3.30pm with 2 arrests of sans papiers.
Hazebrouck and Dunkerque
Activists have visited migrants in the jungels in both Hazebrouck andNorrent Fontes this week end and the two jungles near Dunkerque on Tuesday. In Hazebrouck and Norrent Fontes the situation is steady, there are many women from Eritrea/ Ethiopia and the police only go there once a week to count peopele, though in Hazebrouck is reported there is some heavy harassment from local people. The jungle has subsequently changed place.
With the police station closed in Dunkerque (St Paul) we are seeing many migrants who are arrested there being brought to Coquelles and left in Calais without anything/anywhere to sleep. Police raids and arrests in the two surviving jungles near Dunkerque – Teteghem and Grande Synthe are very frequent, on Tuesday 10 people had been arrested in Teteghem early in the morning.
There are supposedly 20- 25 people in both jungles, surviving in pretty desperate conditions. There are only men in Teteghem, and in Grande Synthe there is a family with a baby. All are from Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Southern Iraq, Pakistan. The Vietnamese seem to be gone. According to the charities who help them, there could be more people in the areas, hiding because of fear of the police.
We are low in numbers again, please come if you can!
Friday 2nd December
The police went 4 times to the cabins belonging to the University where most of the ex-occupiers of Africa House are sleeping, at 10.30am, 2pm, 7pm, 7.30pm. They arrested two or three people, most ran away. They are also arresting people with papers, as many asylum seekers have had their applications refused recently, they take them to the police station to check their papers.
Palestine House was also visited by the police, but they only checked people’s papers and no arrests were made.
English and French classes have restarted in the University cabins, but for how long?
Thursday 1st December
Migrants report three raids having occurred this morning. Palestine House was raided once at 7am by PAF officers, who quickly looked at people’s papers, then left. Then the CRS showed up, and remained for what seemed like ages, before finally leaving. They then attacked the university buildings at around 10 am. Most people managed to run away. Those who remained had papers and did not fear deportation. One person was arrested anyway.
As two activists were bringing a new stove they had made, with help from migrants, to Palestine House, they found 3 CRS vans parked in front of the entrance, plus one snatch van. It was CRS compagnie 7. They tried to intimidate activists into not filming them, on the grounds that the property they were filming from was private. In point of fact, the activists were on the sidewalk, the camera placed on a hole in the board of a window, and this was enough to upset the officers. “I gave you a warning. Next time I come back, I will confiscate your cameras,” said the CRS officer as he walked back to join his comrades, looking for who knows what. As he was going away, we heard a crashing noise, and one activist emitted the hope that no one was hurt from whatever the CRS were doing out of sight from anyone whatsoever in the very private Palestine House where officers may enter at will any time of the day and night. The CRS left shortly afterwards. Later conversations with residents of Palestine House revealed no one was arrested; only papers checked.
Wednesday 30th November
Early in the morning, a small camp of 6 tents inhabited by people from Albania was raided by 5 vans of PAF, CRS and Police Nationale. People couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. Everyone was arrested. It appears the police used extra intimidation, and questioned the arrestees as if they were part of a ring. The reason probably was the camp’s location, after the port and the terminal’s parking lot, near the defunct hovercraft port. Everyone was released.
It appears the CRS have blocked the entrance of breakfast distribution, systematically checking everyone’s ID, and therefore stopping people without refugee or asylum seeker status from having breakfast just like everyone.
Thursday 24th November
This morning the policed raided the Iranian jungle. All tents got destroyed and people lost their sleeping bags and blankets. Still no one got arrested in the raid.
Last evening around 9.30 pm PAF entered a new squat where people have been constructing and improving the living space. Most people could run away but still 4 persons got arrested. In the morning the police came back but no arrests were made.
The latest days the Afghan and Sudan jungle has been controlled by the police but without any arrests. The Eritrean squat got raided Tuesday and at least one person got arrested and had to spend 11 hours detained for identity check.
Friday 18th November
After the eviction of Africa House and the new squat many people are still sleeping under the stars, although some have found accommodation in other squats. Most squats have no fire and even in the jungles people don’t make fires because they say the police come if they see it.
The police still come and destroy the camps regardless, and while people usually just rebuild them, they remain minimal structures. The charities are complaining that there are lots of asylum seekers sleeping out, with nothing but a couple of blankets. It is already very cold and wet, and the cold weather shelter remains closed as it only opens when the temperatures drop below -4C.
Thursday 17th November 2011: TWO MIGRANTS KILLED IN A ROAD ACCIDENT NEAR DUNKERQUE
Two Egyptians were killed during Wednesday night-Thursday morning on the A16 near Dunkerque in a collision between an HGV and a car which was occupied with other migrants.
Seven people were found in the car, including five Egyptians without papers and two other people, “surely people smugglers”, according to the prosecution of Dunkerque. According to initial enquiries, the car of migrants had swerved when it was overtaking the Dutch HGV, and was then hit from behind. The three migrants who survived the accident, which occurred around 1am, were rescued from the side of the road. They have still not been spoken to by the investigators as they are awaiting a translator. The two presumed people smugglers, who were sitting in the front seats, fled the scene. The breath tests on the German driver of the HGV did not reveal anything abnormal.
Wednesday 16th November
The new squat opened for the migrants who were evicted from Africa House was evicted on Tuesday – illegally this time. The police forced their way in, arresting 7 migrants and 2 CMS activists. One activist charged with occupation. All were released after spending the night in the police station and some have bruises from being ill-treated while in custody.
A van from the charity La Belle Etoile collected the blankets from the squat and everybody is out in the streets again.
Wednesday 9th November 2011: Africa House, Eritrean squat evicted over 100 in the street once more; Iranian jungle destroyed again
Wednesday saw the eviction of the latest Africa House, an industrial complex right next door to a previous Africa House that had been evicted and demolished in 2010.
What has been interesting this time about the Africa House eviction is that the authorities made some efforts to do things by the book, possibly as a result of the public inquiry that was launched after CMS presented a dossier of evidence to France’s Human Rights Ombudsman earlier this year.
Eviction notices were placed on the property in advance – not that this makes the tiniest bit of difference to people who are about to lose their home ; people were ‘allowed’ to take their personal belongings instead of them being dumped in a trailer destined for the rubbish tip; and the residents were offered limited emergency accommodation elsewhere in France.
Calais Migrant Solidarity’s line is clear: regardless of whether administrative formalities are complied with, no-one has the right to deny people shelter, and no-one has the right to control freedom of movement – or can, for that matter.
The Iranian Jungle near the canal was destroyed for the second time this week, without even bothering to pay lip-service to the law.
A security team is now guarding the empty Africa House 24/7, lest anyone dare seek shelter from the cold, while around 100 people are out in the street, the majority from Sudan (mainly Darfur), but also Eritrea, other African countries, and some Palestinians.
The people who asked for asylum in France and unaccompanied minors have been offered accommodation in some hostels in various towns across France but most don’t want to go in the middle of nowhere so they still in town sleeping rough. Activists and local charites have been distributing emergency supplies such as sleeping bags
The latest Africa House, a large squat inhabited primarily by Sudanese refugees, is due to be evicted imminently. Two CRS units are in town at the same time (#4 & #16), and police visited the property this morning to inspect the site with a view to carrying out an eviction. They were accompanied by a lawyer who pinned eviction notices on the doors.
The notices say, ‘Disons, vu l’urgence, cette présente ordonnance exécutoire sur minute’, which means that the order takes effect immediately and that eviction could happen at any time, rendering dozens of people homeless.
The irony is that the property ajoins another of the run-down and abandoned warehouses and factories that define the post-industrial landscape of Calais: a former Africa House (Squat Paniez), which was home to dozens & dozens of people and which was destroyed in an utterly pointless operation in 2010. The empty site next door was left standing, and was subsequently squatted by these refugees in dire need of shelter against the cold coastal weather and the harassment and violence of the police.
Come to Calais prepared to support the residents of Africa House! If you have spare tents and blankets they will be in particular need if the eviction goes ahead, and in any case are needed for other migrants in Calais. If you have a car or van then please bring one – a vehicle would be very useful as we currently do not have one.
Tuesday 11th October – General Update
Perhaps due to the recent big police operations in Dunkerque, Oostende and other coastal towns, the number of migrants in Calais has risen suddenly. We are now seeing growing communities of people who have had a small or non existent presence in recent months – such as Pashtun and Somali.
The weather has been very unpleasant in few past days with wind and rain. It’s particularly unwelcome to those with little or no shelter, and with a shortage of tents many people have been forced to sleep in doorways and under the eaves of buildings to escape the rain.The police are still their usual unpleasant selves. Stopping people in the street based upon racial profiling, raiding squats and jungles and sinking again to the lows of stealing/destroying peoples personal possessions.
Bikes continue to be sabotaged with knives stabbed into wheels and recently two men had their phone chargers “confiscated” from them during an ID check. There has also been a noticeable rise in racist behavior from the local population, it’s quite common now on evenings – especially weekends – for people (considered to look like migrants) to have stones thrown at them by youths. Just yesterday one CMS activist was followed all the way across town by a car, for 30 minutes, as she walked back to the CMS office from a migrant squat.
News from outside Calais: On Friday some CMS activists went to visit the jungles in St.Omer and Steenvorde. In St. Omer, where they dropped off a car full of blankets and winter clothing, the jungle remains as disastrous as it has been in the past months and years. There are about 30 people living in makeshift shelters, that are not at all constructed to resist a cold and rainy winter. At the moment there are two families with several very small children.
In Steenvorde there is a hall open all day, that Terre d’Errance Steenvorde provides. People can have hot drinks there, cook, use a washing machine, play games or simply take a rest without the damp cold of the outside. Due to the very high security at the parking, where people try to get into trucks, the jungle in Steenvorde has recently been more crowded than the usual. After visiting the hall the CMS activists were invited to have a delicious dinner in the jungle and enjoyed the pleasant atmosphere, chatting to the people living there, until late into the day.
07/10/11: Round up of the past weekAfter a relatively slow start, CRS Compagnie 18 have finally started to show their true colours and the past week has been a blur of police vans and arrests. Numerous arrests have been made on the streets, in bars, parks and in migrant squats and jungles with people being held up to 24 hours in custody.
Last night, CMS activists were run ragged round Calais following countless CRS and PAF (border police) vans. One CMS activist was hit by a PAF van while trying to stop them hunting for people through Parc Richelieu, but instead of being at all apologetic at what they had just done the officers driving made derogatory comments about her appearance and commented that another activist had had his hair cut. Blowing kisses from the window the police left the park and the activists continued on towards the train station where two vans of CRS were making some (as usual UNLAWFUL) arrests.
One activist tried to block the van from leaving while demanding to know the reason for the arrests. No answer was given and the officers just dragged her out of the way and carried on through the streets of Calais hunting for sans-papiers.
This morning two vans full of PAF officers were seen patrolling through the shopping centre, though no arrests were made. Two activists were at Coquelles this morning and witnessed the arrest vans returning from their mornings hunt – all empty.As the weather starts to get colder, life in Calais will slowly get more and more difficult for those living on the streets. We have already been getting requests for hats, gloves and scarves – especially in small sizes for the many children in the camps at Dunkerque.
Friday 30th September
Africa House was raided this morning by PAF and CRS, and over 10 arrests were made.
Thursday 29th September
CMS activists were asked for blankets this morning, after being informed that one of the Afghan jungles was destroyed in the night.
Wednesday 28th September
At 3.30pm, PAF were seen in Parc St Pierre asking people for their papers. Fortunately, no arrests were made.
Police in Dunkerque have been carrying out some large raids recently, and are using Coquelles Detention Centre to fingerprint those arrested. Once they finish this though, instead of taking people back to Dunkerque the police are simply dumping them on the streets of Calais. CMS received a phone call late tonight from a CRS officer who wanted us to find shelter for a family of seven sat waiting outside the train station. All the children were under 6 years old, hungry and very tired. We were able to find them a place to sleep and prepare them some dinner. Unfortunately none of the other families with children were able to be located and we just hope that they managed to find somewhere safe to sleep.
Tuesday 27th September
A new unit of CRS has arrived. Compagnie 18 have come to Calais all the way from the historic town of Poitiers. They seem pretty relaxed and are spending most of their time asleep or playing on their phones in front of the train station.
Monday 26th September
At just past 8pm tonight the PAF were in Parc St Pierre asking people for ID. After making no arrests, the officers spent quite some time peering into hedges with their torches and making jokes. CMS activists, who were present at the time, followed them from the park and down the road to where several arrest vans were parked. Thankfully all the vans were empty and after doing a bit of jeering and horn beeping at the CMS activists, the police drove away.
Friday 23rd September
The French have a saying. “Pas de nouvelles, bonne nouvelle.” No news, good news. A quiet day today. One CRS van was sighted driving up the main road towards the theatre. Activists cycled around town in the morning, but did not see any police in or around squatted areas. Palestine House residents report that they have not seen any police for a whole week, and feel like they’re on a blissful holiday. One man reported that he had been detained for 46 days in Coquelles, which is 1 day longer than the new legal limit allowed by the Besson law.
Monday 19th September: Tribute to Marie-Noelle
Our comrade Marie-Noelle Gues, who also used the name Zetkin, died of cancer early in the morning of Saturday 17 September. Marie-Noelle was the original “No Border” of Calais. For some years before the Calais No Border camp of 2009, she fought alone here, patrolling the streets with just her camera and her enormous courage, intervening single-handedly against the police attacks on migrants, documenting and exposing their dirty work, rupturing the invisibility and apathy on which repression feeds. Neither the countless trials and sentences of the French state, nor the harassment she received from local flics (cops), nor the death threats from fascist scum, did anything to halt her momentum and energy. Out on the streets, in the squats and jungles of Calais, filming, writing, arguing (e.g., against any moves which she saw as diluting the political struggle in Calais with “humanitarian” work), shouting (“Petain! Revient! T’as oublié tes chiens!”), singing (“shit, it’s hard to find new rhymes for Sarkozy”), inspiring so many.
Here is a personal memory of Marie-Noelle from one comrade:
“I struggle even to use the past tense.
“Independent and fearless, Marie-Noelle was a great role model to activists. She knew that to truly realise a more just society, you’re going to upset those an interest in the status quo. Yet she was never afraid to do this; police officers, government officials, and charity workers, who were content to maintain their own privilege rather than confront the flagrant injustice of border controls; she never shyed away from speaking her mind.
“When I first went to in Calais in July 2009, I was amazed to find what seemed to be a kind of one woman FITwatch. Marie-Noelle would regularly go out by herself to the old Pashtun jungle at night, which was then a much more intimidating environment. She would chat to people, and confront and photograph the police when they raided.
“In spite of the intimidating climate, this small-framed woman with a huge personality fearlessly confronted the authorities, often alone; something that led to continued police harassment and court cases. Her prizing of justice over public perception is certainly something more people could learn from.
“Yet she was also a great role model to women. She had the courage to enter and fight in an incredibly patriarchal environment; male refugees, held in higher esteem than their female compatriots – and therefore selected over their women to make the journey to Europe; the male mafia, exerting their influence over the area for even more power and money; the male CRS (French riot cops), using threats and violence to protect a patriarchal state; and more recently, violent male fascists who sent her death threats.
“Like Clara Zetkin and other Communists who inspired her, Marie-Noelle gave me strength to confront the authorities when I first started out in Calais. Let the spirit of resistance live on in her memory.”
Marie-Noelle herself described her work on the streets like this: “it’s important to be able to show that I am always here. And when they do something I want to be present. I want to give them this fear.” (C’est important d’être capable de montrer qu’on peut être toujours là et qu’on peut être présent quand ils font quelque chose. C’est cette peur la que je veux leur donner.” MN speaking in the film “L’Exil et Le Royaume”.)
She also regularly reported on police and official activity in Calais, using Lille Indymedia and her personal blog. Marie’s nom de guerre Zetkin was a homage to the german communist and feminist Clara Zetkin. The last blogpost from 15 August once again compares the repression in Calais in 2011 to the deportations of 1942, condemning not only police but the “collabos” (collaborators) working for the SNCF (national railway) who inform on migrants at the train station. Marie was clearly totally undeterred by a recent court case in which she was (for the nth time, we have lost count) convicted of “outrage” or insulting state officials, this time for calling them “collabos”.
Here are some of her videos. You can see her here in action, filming alone, in full “outrageous” flow against the cops.
Here in Calais we remember Marie as our friend, comrade, and inspiration. We have been singing the “Chant de Partisans”: “Amie, si tu tombes, une amie sort de l’ombre à ta place”. (“Friend, if you fall, a friend will come from the shadows to take your place”). Comrades from all over Europe have been sending messages remembering and celebrating Marie. We call on all friends and comrades of Marie-Noelle to celebrate her in action.
Sunday 11th September: A young man DEAD in Steenvoorde
Yousuf, a young Sudanese man of 28 was found dead last Wednesday on a motorway parking lot near Steenvoorde. Terre d’Errance is the main humanitarian organization working there, and contacted his mother, who wishes to retrieve her son’s body. They are asking for financial help, as repatriation costs a lot of money. If you want to help, you will find their address on this document. As the border regime tightens up, more and more such tragedies will occur, and they will be blamed on the victims’ naivete. The circumstances surrounding this tragedy are unknown as of now, but we’ll update this entry as soon as possible.
12/9 Update:It seems Yousuf died from his injuries after he fell from a truck. There are no news pieces about this yet.
Saturday 10th September 2011
This morning, Salam did not serve breakfast AGAIN — this is the second time this week. And again they did not make an effort to sufficiently inform people about this. A bit over 10am, around thirty people were waiting in vain for the meager morning meal that Salam usually provides them. With heavy police presence on the streets of Calais last night, many people had an exhausting night, and due to a general lack in many squats of fire wood and other materials to make tea, they tracked all the way to the food distribution area, to be met with another disappointment. We tried to react quickly, and went to buy some tea and bread and brought provisional breakfast to the park by the railway tracks where the No Borders kitchens were distributing food when Salam was on official holidays during the summer. There were about forty people there and the atmosphere was pleasant — even though we felt resentful for having to do the work of the humanitarian organisations yet again.
Friday 9th September 2011 At 7.45am, 30 PAF and CRS officers raided Africa House. They ID controlled everybody, arrested everybody without papers, 12 people in all. Thursday 8th September 2011This morning, the CRS arrested two people at the university buildings behind the recently demolished Africa House, they kept them 15 minutes at the police station. Later on, at around 8.40am, they arrested one person at the African house and after that, two people at the Palestine House. During the day, most activists on the ground went to Boulogne-sur-mer, to support two people, who were taken to court for witholding identity after the 2nd of July blockade of the Coquelles detention centre. The prosecution’s case was misinformed and weak, the translator inadequate and police disproportionately present — and our lawyer was fantastic! The decision about the outcome will be reached by the 22nd of September.
Wednesday 7th September 2011
Salam decided not to serve breakfast today. And even if it’s worth criticising, since this leaves people hungry for a couple more hours, it would have been not as bad, if they actually bothered to tell anyone. Unfortunately, they didn’t. This resulted in the people who came to eat being rounded up by a dozen CRS and PAF vans without a way to escape. They only took 1 person though, which might be signs of a new strategy. In the day they mostly arrested people who looked Iranian when ID’ing mixed groups. Tuesday 6th of September 2011At around 8am, 7 people were arrested in the destruction of an Iranian jungle close to the Gendarmerie station. The police took all their tents and personal possessions, including a passport of a Tunisian, to the “déchèterie” (the town waste disposal facility). Due to negligence and a complete lack of care, the things were destroyed, despite all the efforts made to get them back.
Except for the kitchen work Calais has been relatively calm recently. The number of migrants has decreased over the past few weeks and so has (seemingly) police oppression. The CRS still roam the streets to perform racist controls, but raids on squats and jungles have decreased in quantity. Nevertheless people get arrested by the police – for instance 9 Africans during an Africa House raid on Thursday. Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep track of all police activity, as communities live dispersed in small groups and we can’t be everywhere at once every time.
Saturday 3rd September 2011
The last weeks have been very busy for CMS activists on the ground. The two associations serving food to migrants decided to take a break subsequently, so first we needed to fill in for Salam, then for Belle Etoile, who left the people with one meal a day for two months. And we did it! It’s been a very stressful time, we were constantly watched and harassed by the police, had some minor organisational problems and didn’t sleep enough for most of the time, but at the end of the day we were able to serve two tasty and nutritious meals a day in an atmosphere far more compelling than the barbed-wired prison-like space people are usually forced to eat in. Thanks to all the people, who have been involved: the cooking crews, the people who donated food, those who gave us a place to cook and everyone else who invested their time to help us. We couldn’t have done it without you – you again show us that everything is possible if people work together. Thank you.
Tuesday 30th August 2011: Eid Party!
Tuesday marked the end of Ramadan, which we took as a reason to throw a party in the park. The were snacks, all kinds of beverages and a lot of good music from a sound system. And as everyone could play DJ and connect their mp3 player or mobile and play the music of their choice the musical span reached from Pashto songs to American rap. To put it short: everyone was having a good time. That is, until about a dozen of police cars arrived…They told people to throw away their beers, complained about littering on the grass (meaning full packs of crisps and plastic cups for the drinks) and produced a warrant, which forbid all parties in the park due to public disturbance. But in the end the warrant proved to be invalid, as it had another date on it and the police left after hanging around aimlessly for a couple of minutes. The party then continued with people dancing, talking and laughing for a couple more hours.
Thursday 11th August 2011.
The police are continuing to harass the efforts to continue to provide regular food to san-papier in Calais. On Tuesday, they continued to watch the piece of waste ground that was established as a Food Distrubution. After allowing breakfast to be served for around 20 minutes, PAF officers turned up in force, meaning that most people left the area. A new space to distribute food from has been established, but it takes a few days for people to become familiar with it. The police, so far, remain watching the new space at each meal time.
CRS, PAF continue to tour the town, particularly the tourist areas, watching out for people who don’t quite fit in, and controlling and arresting them. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, they raided a squat, mostly inhabited by Sudanese / Darfuri migrants and arrested 15 people. This is the second time in a week this squat has been raided; last Thursday 13 people were arrested. The continuing, repeated raiding of squats is very normal for Calais, but once again shows the determination of the Police to carry out a policy of inhumanly forcing people from their homes.
Activists who have visited the detention centre at Coquelle note that it is now full, whereas until recently there were few people held there. We continue to visit regularly, to bring tobacco, to chat, and to find out if people’s legal rights are being respected. It appears that some of the detainees are not in contact with France Terre d’Asile, who are contracted to do the legal representation.
Friday 5th August
Yesterday police arrived at morning and afternoon food distribution in the park, apparently with the intent of evicting the site. However a European summer camp of teenagers was present doing various outdoor activities and circus skills. The police didn’t seem willing to raid in front of the group and left again, though one activist caught alone with PAF officers was violently controlled and had his face repeatedly smashed against the side of a police car. The officer involved was present at Monday’s successful de-arrest and seemed to be venting his personal frustration.
This morning with tourists gone police were waiting in the park before breakfast and blocking the area so that distribution could not take place. They are fully aware that this is the only chance of homeless, displaced people to eat and drink- there are no other options for sans papiers. This kind of torture is simply part of the tactics of what the police seem to regard as a game.
Breakfast and then lunch were successfully moved to yet another point, back alongside the river. They progressed well, with music and a friendly atmosphere despite lurking police.
Let’s be clear what has happened here: the authorities are contradicting themselves, and are denying migrants (with or without papers) access to food. Denying people the right to eat purely on the basis that they are foreign (disregard for the fact that many amongst them have papers means that this is what it essentially amounts to) surely constitutes a new low in Calais policing.
Police essentially told us that we had to leave the first food distribution place (area between the two railway tracks) because it wasn’t a park. The next day we moved to Parc Richlieu. Despite the fact that we were now in a park, the police clearly hoped to disrupt food distribution again, but were prevented from doing so. The following day ,when it was less embarassing to do so, the police intervened again, blocking access thus preventing food distribution from happening.
Thursday 4h August 2011.In the early hours of the morning Police raided a squat, mostly inhabited by Sudanese migrants and arrested 13 people.
Monday 1st August
After morning food distribution 3 CRS vans and an arrest van arrived on one side of the tracks, with three vans of PAF and another arrest van on the other. They were slow to make any moves and everyone without papers got away so there were no arrests. However the police stayed at the food distro area on guard and lunch (which the kitchen have taken on as an association are now providing the evening meal though lunch has stopped) had to be moved to the park in the centre of town. Police watched sporadically but made no attacks there, and the food distribution went well.
It is not surprising that the harassment tactics will be stepped up during Ramadan, which began today. They certainly have been in previous years. Threats have been made to migrants over the last few days concerning evictions this week- this could be true or just fear-mongering which is abhorrent enough in itself.
Police were also seen counting people at the largest squat today, often done in preparation for a big raid.
We win some small victories though. Today CMS activists were able to prevent the arrest of a migrant in the park who would otherwise have been taken to have his fingerprints taken or checked.
At dinner some American Folk music was provided by two musicians and there was plenty of singing and dancing.
However, later in the evening 2 CRS vans and a snatch van turned up outside the Salam distribution point. As a result CMS activists, migrants and Auberge de migrants members organised a mass exit of around 35 people to prevent a raid, and were accompanied by a couple of CRS vans the whole way, in a not-so-subtle attempt to intimidate.
Whilst this tactic worked the police are clearly still not abiding by the agreement, made between charities and the state, that migrants will not be harassed or arrested on their way to and from food distribution.
Late night persecution and chases: activist arrested
After arriving on the scene of more police activity (it’s been a busy day for them) we intervened when one migrant who was sitting minding his own business in a public area by the town hall was being told to ‘get lost’ and ‘go away’ by three PAF officers. He replied by saying that he actually had no where to go as he was homeless and living on the streets of Calais. (It seems the cops expect otherwise even though they themselves destroy the shelters people use).
The man asked that as the police they should help him, to which one officer replied that he wasn’t there to help people like that (ie; people in need). The police were crowding and intimidating him so after challenging their abuse (when no laws could be seen to be broken), they didn’t like it when the guy undermined them by slipping away and making it across the tracks. The pushing and shoving that followed resulted in three activists getting gassed, one was hit directly by the canister of pepper spray in the face (and this stuff stings like nothing else we’ve felt!) and another was arrested but it was unclear exactly what for.
Not content with this, the police stopped and arrested three more migrants trying to carry water to their shelters and then went to the park where they arrested three more, one of whom has papers. Having filled the arrest van they headed out of town presumably towards Coquelles, but you can never know when they are done for the night.
Sunday 31st July
The police have been quiet over the weekend as usual; the CRS preferring to spend their time out drinking on Saturday night until early morning, enjoying themselves and partying on the same streets where they regularly chase and harass anyone of the ‘wrong’ colour.
Meanwhile the wonderful kitchen from Ghent have been providing the evening meal at a time actually suggested by the migrants instead of forced upon them, and been very well received, as they have been for weeks now. It is amazing how on a much smaller budget than the charities and with limited resources food is being served in great variety, instead of just repetitive slop. That being said, humanitarian organisations should not just be abandoning their responsibilities for weeks and assuming someone else will sort it out.
English, French and Spanish lessons are being carried out outdoors every day, and people seem to be enjoying them a lot and finding them useful.
As usual in Calais, SIM cards are much in demand, especially O2. If anyone can claim a few free ones and send them over that would be great!
Wednesday 27th July: Raid on camp near food distro in the morning
Three vans of CRS along with PAF officers arrived at the sleeping area near the food distribution just before eight o clock in the morning. CMS activists sleeping there alerted the group and about ten activists arrived on the scene very quickly, which seemed to confuse and worry the police. One activist was grabbed for trying to pass officers on a public path, not even headed towards the vans or the arrests. He was brutally restrained and kicked whilst in restraint, arrested and held for five hours, and released without charge but with a caution for ‘rebellion’.
Seven migrants were arrested from the camp and whilst the activist was in Coquelles he saw about twenty five held overall. It seems the police have been busy today. PAF at the raid were heard discussing how many people they needed to arrest, presumably for a quota, highlighting again how irrelevant individual cases are to the police’s behaviour and to policy.
Philippe Migonet, an aide to mayor and a well known figure in harrasment and abuse of migrants, was present at the raid, and went straight to the town hall to shake hands and be congratulated afterwards.
Workers moved in and cleared out the camp afterwards, destroying and removing tents, sleeping bags and other possessions. CMS activists were able to salvage some which can be returned when their owners are released. The police had left before morning distribution time and breakfast was held as normal.
Kitchen reminder: we still urgently need people and supplies as explained in yesterday’s post. Please consider coming if you fit the bill!
Tuesday 26th July
By sunday the current kitchen will have left Calais. The charities don’t seem to see this as serious enough to step back in and there is a period of at least a week or maybe more where we are lacking food and people to cook it. Some people here are transferring their energies to this but not enough: we urgently need more people with cooking and kitchen co-ordination skills and donations of food or money to buy it. These are currently the most needed things in Calais.
Action at the beach for Prefecture visit
Prefecture of Calais visits CRS to conduct an award ceremony on the beach, commending them on their work both on the streets and in the Channel Crossing waters. No Borders interrupted the proceedings with banners, whistles, chants and speeches telling the truth about the work of the CRS under the command of the Prefecture. The ceremony was forced to retreat from the balcony inside, and activists were pushed away into the car park out of site. Activists without papers were threatened with arrest but the threats turned out to be empty. Ever since his nomination to the position of Pas-de-Calais prefect, the destructions of shelters, attacks on water sources, use of tear gas and pepper spray to disperse people, attempts at collective deportations, nd the disregard for protection of minors have been amplified; aiming to stop the crossing of political refugees to England and make life unbearable in Calais. Trampling on the Geneva Convention, the French State through its prefect, de Bousquet, organizes the racial profiling in the streets of Calais and covers all the police violence periodically used by the CRS and the PAF officers of Coquelles, with the complicity of the Calais town hall. Saturday 23rd July: ‘Welcome to Fortress Europe’ action at City Europe This afternoon over a dozen No Borders activists blocked both vehicle entrances into the City Europe compound, stopping shoppers and screening those trying to enter with rules almost as arbitrary as those used at real borders… checking the colour of their cars, stopping people wearing hats or glasses or with too many people in the car, seeing as Fortress Europe was getting full. While people shouted ‘contrôl frontière ici’ vehicles refused entry were directed to Coquelles detention centre on the street opposite. After only several minutes some people trying to enter became very irate at the inconvenience this mock border control was causing to their afternoon shopping. However many people were receptive to the demonstration and its purpose and lots of leaflets explaining the situation in Calais were distributed, with people taking on board the point of the action. Security and police arrived soon after and removed the barrier at one gate. Activists in high-visibility jackets continued to control and direct traffic for half an hour before being forced into the car park. This fake ‘control zone’ demonstration mimics the farce of ID and border controls that segregate and persecute people because of their race, nationality and income. Immigration and border controls are forcefully making people homeless. In Calais every place people move to, to eat, rest or sleep, has been subject to mass raids and constant harassment, leaving people with literally nowhere left to go. No Borders denounce the compliance of the police and the municipal services with such barbaric orders and denounce the complicity of those who witness this and yet remain unquestioningly silent. We are all human. We must challenge the hypocrisy and segregation that border controls create. Friday 22nd July Three CRS vans were patrolling around Calais this evening, racially profiling people and stopping those who look ‘foreign’ to check their ID. Many people did in fact have papers, but this does not stop them being constantly harassed. An officer from CRS compainge 111/9, who was controlling two migrants with papers in the park, spewed racist comments, saying to female No Borders activist ‘you will cry when you have to start wearing burqas’, whilst laughing and smoking his pipe. Thursday 21st July Police told people staying in a warehouse that they would not raid so long as No Borders did not stay there, as an attempt to try to fracture relations between us and get us out of the way. On Thursday morning 3 vans of police raided anyway, arresting 5 people and taking them to Coquelles. Tuesday 19th JulyOne of the jungles was destroyed today by the police, peoples tents and personal belongings were taken and put in the dump.
Thursday 14th July: Banner drop
Bastille Day was marked by activists in Calais with a banner unfurled along Rue Royale, the main entertainement street in Calais and one which is situated on the official parade route.
The banner read “The Bastille has fallen, but not Fortress Europe”, and its unfurlement was timed to coincide with France’s national celebration of the revolution and commemoration of the sacking of the Bastille prison fortress. The police spent a long time thinking about how to remove it, before calling the fire brigade.
Wednesday 13th July
In July and August, the charities in Calais operate a scaled-down service because it ‘s the French holiday period. As such, each year, migrants in the area live off a meal a day, something which no doubt makes the tough and strenuous existence in Calais all the more difficult. If you are in a police cell when food is served you have lost your chance to have a meal, and the walk back to Calais is long and tiring.
Last year, despite our lack of access to proper cooking facilities, we operated a mobile kitchen for the jungles and prepared collective meals over a fire at (the now evicted) Africa House.
This year we have coordinated a grassroots activist catering collective operation, who will be visiting Calais on a rota to provide material support to the sans-papiers community.
Since the 6th July, on a site near the town hall, a Swedish collective has been distributing breakfast and a hot meal each day to supplement the meal given by the charities. Music provides some entertainment and light relief from the recent crackdown. Although this is an ‘unauthorised’ distribution, the police have simply been watching us rather unsubtlely from an unmarked car (pictured).
However, we will need help transporting the food and cateirng equipment over the next two months – if you have a vehicle and some spare time, please get in touch!
Tuesday 12th July: Activists acquitted
The charges came after a police attack on the Africa House squat at 9am in the morning on 21 April. As usual, a No Borders patrol was keeping watch at the barricades as 5 vanloads of border police (PAF) and CRS riot cops appeared. The watch gave the alarm so that residents without papers could escape onto the roofs, and then filmed the police activity with two video cameras. Just another regular morning in Calais. That morning the police appeared particularly riled up: this was the first big raid since No Borders had released the “videos of shame” showing police harassment and humiliation tactics in Calais, which had been widely viewed across France and attracted national TV and radio coverage. It was noticeable that on 21 April the cops violently targeted the two people filming. Police officers smashed the activists cameras and erased the footage, dragged one person across the floor, smashed another’s face against a knee, and pounced on a third person taking her down to the floor.
The two comrades filming, and one other who went to their aid, were then arrested and charged with rebellion (violence against the police), as well as “illegal occupation” of the building, and then also with resisting being fingerprinted in the police station.
Six officers gave carbon copy replica false statements with a complete opposite version of what happened, claiming that they were beaten by the three activists. None of the police officers involved turned up to court. They also claimed the cameras they were wearing during the raid were disconnected. So with absolutely no evidence the No Borders activists were discharged, both from ‘rebellion’ and ‘illegal occupation’. They were found guilty of resisting fingerprints, but with no penalty. The trial took place in the court at Boulogne-sur-mer, a town along the coast from Calais. Around 20 supporters came to show solidarity.
The trial follows another recent courtroom victory last month, in which three residents of Africa House were also acquitted of “illegal occupation” of the squat. These court judgments on “illegal occupation” may be significant for the future, as they seem to block an attempt by the state to criminalise the migrant squats in Calais. That court case also brought attention to the state’s abuse of its legal obligations to refugees under “human rights” legislation: many of the migrant squatters in Calais have claimed asylum in France and are legally entitled to accommodation, which the state fails to provide. The last Africa House is now in the process of demolition, but migrants will keep on coming to Calais to cross the border, and keep on needing places to sleep and shelter.
Over the last several months the police have attempted to land activists with a whole range of charges to see what they can get away with and to try to deter activists from intervening and exposing what is happening in Calais. Their strategy will not work.
Tuesday 5th of July: River camp Evicted
In the afternoon, a large group of PAF and CRS raided a migrant camp on a disused railway siding opposite the BCMO. Many migrants were staying there after having been evicted from their squats, sleeping in tents and in the open. After blowing whistles to alert the migrants to the arrival of the police and in some cases using their bodies and a bike to stop the police vans, No Borders activists were “controlled”, being searched and having their identities checked. When asked what legal powers that the police were using, one CRS officer replied “I am the law.”
Three migrants were arrested, while a PAF boat patrolled on the river to detain anyone who attempted to escape by jumping in the river. Activists tried to save as many of the migrant’s possessions as possible, in some cases breaking free of police control and outrunning the CRS with armfuls of sleeping bags. After controlling the activists and arresting migrants, the activists were pushed back and a municipal cleaning crew wearing hazards suits and hygiene masks moved in to destroy the camp.
Whilst pushing the activists back, the police used choke holds and tear gas with absolutely zero provocation, tear-gassing a by-standing asylum seeker. Due to the relatively central location this camp, by this point French bystanders had gathered, with a handful of them horrified by what was going on. Migrants and activists could only watch as invaluable personal possessions were removed to later be thrown into the rubbish. Whilst this happened, the CRS were roundly abused in English, French and Arabic, being compared to the agents of Vichy France and being told that “there are no police in Egypt.” As the CRS departed they deployed their sirens and blue lights for no apparent reason. A French news crew was present throughout the raid, talking mostly to the police.
The removal of personal possessions such as tents and sleeping bags which are vital for migrants who are forced to sleep rough is a gross violation of human rights, and as well as causing suffering amongst the migrants in the ever varying weather of a coastal area. Furthermore, none of the correct legal processes that are needed for a eviction were carried out, making it an illegal act under French law.
This latest eviction is another in a row of systematic assaults on the rights of migrants that have been happening since the eviction of Africa House on Monday the 27th of June, designed to make life here unbearable for them. Videos of the eviction and assaults on activists here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrmEhXG3YIc Monday the 4th of July: Eviction of the food distribution area
Following the eviction of Africa House squat on Monday the 27th, many of the migrants have been sleeping in the food distribution area. A barren area by the docks, enclosed by a fence topped with barbed wire, it offers little in the way of protection from neither chill, rain nor the glare of the summer sun. The charity association Salam, who are entrusted with the distribution of morning and evening meals have began a month long holiday leaving nothing in way of provisions in their absence. This means there is currently only a lunch meal provided by Belle Etoile.
No Borders activists have been assisted in ameliorating the food situation through the contribution of volunteer kitchens. As No Borders has not been state approved for this, we are technically not allowed to do this. Police from PAF, BACS and National divisions have been constantly monitoring the distributing area since the eviction of Africa House, with activities ranging from raids to officers creeping in at night and waking migrants to ask them “friendly” questions in a continuation of the psychological war being waged against those in transit. On the evening of the 3rd of July, the volunteer kitchen distributed a meal to approximately 60 migrants.
No sooner was the meal finishing up than officers from the National Police and PAF arrived on all sides of the compound, almost outnumbering the migrants in nearly a dozen police vans and cars. They declared they were making no arrests but numerous migrants prudently scaled the roof of the two kitchen buildings in the compound. The police then announced that as the distribution area was city property, it was illegal for people to gather or sleep there outside the government-approved times and only then under approved agencies. Everyone had to leave immediately and anything left behind was to be seized and taken by the police. Migrants and activists who tried to take large armfuls of possessions, some taking those of people who were not in the area at that moment, so as to be able to give it to them later were prevented by police and only allowed a degree of possessions deemed adequate by some unexplained police rationale.
Migrants who scaled the roof were induced to come down with the threat of the loss of their meagre possessions, and the eviction of men, women, and children (one individual without even shoes) seemingly in no way troubled the “forces of order”. When challenged as to the reason for eviction, individual officers either ignored the question in English or French, or suggested damage (though he was subsequently unable to show a single damaged item in the area). The PAF “coordinator of the operation” even threatened an activist that he should be careful or they would make him “eat the concrete”. Questions as to the logic of protecting the city of Calais and its property by turning people out to sleep scattered across the entire town were equally met with blank stares or professions of “only doing my job”, the self-justifying preservation of many a collaborator, and one that should still be despised in an area where survivors of Vichy rule still live.
Activists removed their kitchen equipment and salvaged as much of people’s possessions as they could, repatriated some with their owners and took the remainder to the garage to keep safe for people who weren’t present during the eviction. All remaining clothes, sleeping bags and personal effects were thrown into a city council lorry for removal to the dump.
Monday the 4th of July: Later Events
Following the brutal eviction of Salam tensions were running high. People running from the police with all their worldly belongings in their arms dispersed, seeking safety in the jungles or in space spaces across the city from churches that offer sanctuary to under canal bridges. Some congregated by the benches between the railway tracks when suddenly two groups of Eritrean and Sudanese began arguing and violence broke out with roughly ten migrants on each side attacking each other with stones and fist-sized rocks taken from the rail lines. Activists tried to intervene between the groups and where possible disarm them. Both sides sustained several cuts and head wounds before they disengaged. There has been a history of conflict between these two communities in Calais. Migrants described the root cause being access to the parking lots that are run by the various mafias. As border controls are increasingly stringent these kinds of groups become more powerful, able to determine who passes through their designated territories.
Clearly border controls exacerbate conflict between communities. These conflicts are by no means inherent as there are small squats currently occupied by people of both communities and good relations are evident, many people frequently speak of being united as brothers and how proud they are to be Africans.
During the fight there were several police cars present who at no point attempted to intervene. The violent outbreak was entirely predictable as a result of a more relentless than usual systematic persecution and generating such fights are an important part of any imperialists ‘divide and rule’ strategy. If maintaining the peace was the true aim of the authorities, the discrepancy between their response to a group of migrants trying to eat and sleep in an isolated area literally fenced off from the rest of Calais and the voyeuristic response to a provoked rock fight in the middle of town betray the hypocrisy of those guardians of ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ in the 5th Republic.
Following the altercation those Eritrean migrants left and the Sudanese moved to join a mixed group of migrants who had settled on a flat area by the canal. Activists provided them with tents, sleeping bags and jackets and assisted in erecting a site for around 25-30 migrants. Police presence at several potential squat sites and a general heavy presence across town prevented activists from being able to open a squat in aftermath of the eviction. By the time shelter and warmth was provided for everyone present it was after 1am. A watch of activists was set up in three-hour shifts to cover the night and early morning. The night passed uneventfully and it was 8am before a Police National car came to the camp to inform us that it was illegal to camp here and we must go. Again, questions of where could people go were stonewalled. The volunteer kitchen provided breakfast and tea at the camp at 10am, while other activists alerted those arriving at food distribution of the location of the food. During the lunchtime Belle Etoile distribution, migrants were reunited with some of their possessions saved from the night’s expulsion.
Saturday 2nd July: No Borders blockade Coquelles detention centre and police station
On Saturday morning around thirty people blockaded the main gates and entrances to Coquelles detention centre and police station in retaliation to the mass evictions and arrests of migrants in Calais and the ongoing abuses resulting from French and European migration policies.
At 7am two concrete barrels were rolled outside the main gates of the compound, four people locked-on while others chained together the front doors of the police station as well as the pedestrian gate. No Borders activists also surrounded the concrete barrels interlinked in a human chain. Attempts to barricade shut the front doors of the Tribunal were unfortunately scuppered by an early intervention of several police officers who happened to be outside smoking by those doors.
After an hour and a half of the blockade, the first thing the police decided to do was and ID check of all the demonstrators; threatening to arrest people without papers (… of course this is what they do everyday in Calais). Afterwards the police began to break up the human chain formed around the concrete barrels protecting people locked on. They aggressively prized people apart one by one and dragged them away to a separate area. Two people who withheld their identity papers were arrested, and later charged with non-compliance. No other arrests were made. Symptomatically the only charges were against those who, in solidarity with people without papers, did not give their ID.
Police attempt to damage relations between migrants and activists
Police have been employing tactics to create suspicion and discord between migrants, and us, including the use of whistles when they raid (usually our method of alerting people); and at times raiding and simply asking if there are any No Borders activists present – the inevitable and intended result being that people start to associate us with the police (even though when we are present, the purpose of their raids are to arrest migrants, not us).
With a constantly changing migrant population, very good reasons to be mistrustful, and the lack of common language, it has been very challenging to build and maintain a relationship of trust. Yet in the circumstances we have done very well – we do not need the added complication of continual dirty tactics on the part of the police.
Thursday 30th June: Mass arrests at food distribution and Dunkirk.
Following the evictions of Africa, Global House and the whole camp of Teteghem in the matter of a couple of days, more than 80 migrants, left with absolutely nowhere to go, resorted to trying to sleep in the fortified site of food distribution last night. This indicates real desperation since there is no exit route and it is in a highly visible and prominent location.
As expected, at 9.50pm, several CRS vans from Companie 60 and arrest vans were seen heading in the direction of the food distribution. We followed on to find dozens of people lined up against arrest vans and the police going through peoples’ belongings. A few people had managed to escape onto the roof of the Salam distribution kiosk from where the police tried to goad them down.
The police left with 35 people; all of whom allegedly had no papers. They warned the remaining fifty or so (who had papers) that if they slept there they would return to arrest them.
When we were finally able to enter the compound tensions were sky high. Deeply frustrated people were asking where they are meant to go if they are chased and arrested at every location. One man, who had been beaten by the police seemed to lose it, walking round and screaming “fuck the police!” again and again. People are despairing and countless migrants say they are being driven mad by the systematic efforts to stop them from sleeping or finding a space to sit in peace.
This continual harassment, humiliation and sleep depravation is a form of psychological warfare, the effects of which cannot be adequately illustrated here. If you are an unaccompanied child; you have escaped severe repression, torture or conflict in your own country; or you have spent years being hounded by European police and immigration officers, as is the case with many people here, the policy being played out in Calais is going to have serious consequences for your mental health.
We had a meeting with lots of people about the various options for places to sleep, which will continue today.
There was a mass arrest in the jungle in Dunkirk today. 40 people were arrested and taken into detention. The makeshift camps, sleeping bags and belongings were all completely destroyed or stolen by the police.
Wednesday 29th June
Last night, Tuesday, police visted the university buildings. They made no arrests but instead told people it would be safe to stay there for ten days. More people moved to the buildings due to this, but no one was so trusting that they were shocked when a raid took place this morning and about 30 people were arrested.
The tactic of arresting people for no apparent reason other than to give them a long walk back from Coquelles continued today, with a small squat near New Sudan House being raided and two people being taken to the station but immediately released.
New Sudan House/Old Africa House was evicted today. This is the third eviction in as many days with no sign of legal justification or a strong response from the associations or government.
Police have visited food distribution two nights in a row, disturbing people’s sleep, counting people, and asking questions about nationality and numbers of people sleeping there. This may mean a raid here is imminent, driving people into completely vulnerable situations on streets and in parks, where many already are.
This huge increase in evictions may be a sign of a serious new attempt to make life in Calais unliveable. When borders get stronger, so does No Borders! We need all the people on the ground we can get- please, bring your energy, ideas and skills. Or even just some tents!
Monday 27th June update continued: ‘AFRICA HOUSE’ AND ‘GLOBAL HOUSE’ EVICTED
At 6am four vans of PAF (Police Aux Frontières) officers, accompanied by city workers and plain clothes police, raided Africa House. They ran in, but to their surprise, most people (mainly those without papers) had already got away with all their belongings. About 30 people, (almost entirely people with papers) decided to stay in Africa House. The PAF immediately forcefully removed activists inside supporting people who chose to stay, also snatching their camera and throwing it into bushes outside. Then one by one the people living there were forced out the back of Africa House out of sight of journalists waiting at the front. One person was arrested.
As a result of being evicted from Africa House, the shelter and home of around 100 people with and without papers, many people moved to ‘Global House’ a big empty factory 20 minutes walk away, only to be forced out on the street again that same evening. Private security ‘LSG’ surrounded the factory with dogs, accompanied on and off by Police Nationale and PAF, letting people leave but not re-enter. During the day most people went to Distribution to get food and water but found when they returned afterwards they could not get back into the squat or get their belongings. The security refused to allow food and drink inside, but activists managed to smuggle bits in. Later in the evening at around 9.30pm the private security finally evicted everyone. Those left inside managed to take everyone’s things with them but many people’s bags, clothes, blankets are not yet reunited with their owners.
Overnight people had to sleep dispersed in different places – outside under makeshift shelters, in the Jungle, in the parks, under bridges or in other more vulnerable abandoned buildings.
MORE INFO ON AFRICA HOUSE EVICTION – they don’t even listen to their own rules…
The eviction of Africa House was illegal under French law. No legal justification was given and the police refused to produce documents or to follow correct procedure. When evicting people in France they must be informed beforehand, notices placed in City Hall and on the building in question, and people are allowed to contest the decision (how to do this should be included in the notice). The police must show the judgement when making the eviction. None of these practices have been observed. Notices must be placed on the building and in city hall before demolition works, which there has been no sign of either, but machines have moved in and begun destroying the place.
Asylum seekers in France are entitled to accommodation. For months and years, many people have been ignored and denied this, which is why many have been living in Africa House. Recently three Sudanese men were accused of ‘illegal occupation’ of Africa House, but were found not guilty. Those with papers in Africa House were offered some accommodation when they were evicted but for how long or where was not made very clear to them, some were offered just 24 hours accommodation out of town. Some people had appointments regarding their cases or humanitarian aid in the next couple of days in Calais, and the accommodation they were offered was a long, expensive journey away, making it very difficult for them to actually take up even this meagre offer of help without it jeopardising other things. Although the eviction for those with papers was illegal in many ways, for those without papers the law is even less help. Where it is legal to make people homeless, treat them like dirt and leave them destitute and subject to police violence, it is still completely morally wrong. No amount of law can make these things acceptable and the constant treatment of migrants in Calais is one of systematic and institutionalised abuse. Where it also contradicts law this shows just how acceptable and condoned by authorities this has become, and what disregard the people involved have for any form of restrictions. The more challenges that can be made against this the better, including in support of those who happen to fall out of the law’s protection. They are in no less need of aid, and often their situation is more desperate. MEETING WITH HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER- On the same day that private security was threatening homeless men and women with dogs and police (some of these just barked and looked ugly, the others were on leads, being dogs), and PAF patrolled the outside of the home of around 100 people to allow demolition machinery in, a meeting was being carried out in Paris. This was between France’s new ombudsman for Human Rights, and various associations and No Borders activists who were presenting the dossier compiled by CMS activists on police violence in Calais. A lot of interest was shown and the next step is for some of the officials to begin some enquiries.Monday 27th June update: AFRICA HOUSE EVICTED; ‘GLOBAL HOUSE’ UNDER IMMINENT THREAT
This morning Africa House was evicted. A large number of people moved to a new place, called the Global House. However, not tolerating any shelter for migrants, it now looks like the Global House is going to be evicted TOMORROW. At the moment, there is security in front, allowing people to leave Global House, but not allowing anyone coming in.
We really need as many people on the ground as possible, so if you were thinking to come to Calais, COME NOW!
Monday 27th June – Africa House eviction, now.
5.00am showed the start of the eviction and destruction of Africa House. More information will be published when available.
Thursday 23rd June
This morning the PAF raided the university buildings outside the back of Africa House, four people were arrested.
At around 10.30am two suits came into Africa House accompanied by PAF, wondered around sizing up exits. Later in the afternoon at around 5pm ten workers turned up accompanied by one CRS van and one PAF van and began looking around all of the area in Africa House and the university buildings whilst taking notes on the structures of the place. It seems likely this is all in preparation for an eviction/demolition.
Meanwhile some GOOD NEWS: Today three Sudanese men were found not guilty for ‘illegal occupation’ of Africa House, as well as one no borders activist who, on a separate occasion, was accused falsely of assaulting a police officer during a raid.
*22/6/11 BREAKING NEWS: Africa House threatened with eviction over the next few days*
The Mayor Natacha Bouchart announced yesterday to the Council of Migrants that Africa House is going to be evicted in the next few days.
We are not sure if this really means the next few days or more like the next few weeks given the history of false alarms on this subject. This is why this is not an ’emergency call-out’, but IF YOU HAVE ANY TIME TO SPARE, whether in the next few days OR in weeks to come, we could really do with more people on the ground, either for defending Africa House or
for searching for and opening new squats. This will depend on the wishes of people in the current Africa House- CMS is working to discuss the near future with the migrants. If you can come, the most important thing to bring is YOU, but second to that tents, tarps, blankets and anything to make shelters are essential right now (and it is festival season…). Pots and pans and the usual are also useful if there is extra space.
Wednesday 22nd June
In Paris today there was a press conference for the release of the dossier on police violence and systematic repression in Calais, produced over the years Calais Migrant Solidarity have been a presence. Held at the office of Gisti in Paris, it was attended by many human rights organisations.
The dossier will be presented to France’s new ombudsman for human rights, for an investigation into the human rights abuses and how high up the system they are condoned, on Monday. No Borders activists attended the conference and spoke about police repression and violence, and the system’s inherent problems which cannot be addressed by reform. Newspapers in attendance included the AFP Press Agency, Rue 89, Nouvel Obs online, Nord Littoral and l’Humanite.
***The dossier of human rights abuses which we have compiled can be downloaded (in French for now) here.
Meanwhile in Calais PAF carried out a raid accompanied by plain clothes police, and made six arrests. CMS activists were quickly controlled in a building and prevented from taking footage.
One activist was also arrested today. Attempting to peacefully film police making an arrest in an enclosed space, she was grabbed and put in a high-stress hold. Alone with five male officers, she was forced to the ground and gagged to keep from shouting. One officer pinned her down with pressure on her chest and her neck whilst others ripped at her clothes, having removed the camera to delete the videos. She was taken to Coquelles but released after less than half an hour with no charges. Two migrants were arrested at the same time, just as arbitrarily, and released at the same time.
Tuesday 21st June
Half a dozen PAF officers came to the back of Africa House and began to run inside. When activists blew whistles they laughed and slowed to a walk, mocking the migrants and activists, having disturbed people’s sleepwith yet more fear. They checked IDs but made no arrests.
English and French lessons continue in Africa House daily and are well received. With the weather slightly better many people are keeping their spirits up playing ball games outside in the courtyards.
More stress was piled on today though with the outbreak of a dangerously large fire in one of the many piles of rubbish throughout Africa House, which wouldn’t be an issue if the local authorities collected it. The fumes alone were highly toxic and hurt to breathe and there was adanger one of the upper sleeping spaces could catch on fire. The Fire Brigade arrived with Police Nationale and had to break down the barricade to enter. PAF joined them and wasted no time in getting a truck to haul many of the barriers away. The barricade was rebuilt in no time though.
Monday 20th June
On the road near Africa House this morning three people had their ID checked and two were subsequently arrested.
Last night at about midnight an activist on watch at the rear of Africa House was stopped by the police as he was cycling. They were approaching Africa House with an arrest van and seemed to be intending to quietly make some arrests, until they saw they were being observed. They ID’d him, and when he showed them a driving licence they insisted on seeing his passport as well because with only the licence “he might be Morrocan” (?!) They hunted for a reason to give him trouble, and in the end told him to go to the town police station the next day to be fined eleven euros for not having the right lights on his bike. When he went there this morning he was greeted with blank stares. This was just more threats with some
racism thrown in.
Sunday 19th June
Today is the start of International Refugee Week. After lunchtime food distribution music and partying started and carried on well into the afternoon. Tables and chairs were set out, a band played and then Ethiopian and Sudanese music was played over the PA to much dancing. The crowd included children, who played happily, as well as many of the migrants, charity workers and CMS activists, and the food distribution area was decorated with different flags.
Though postponed today due to people being at the food distribution much longer, English and French lessons are currently taking place every day in Africa House and are well received.
The CRS continue to harass and make arrests on the way to and from food distribution. Yesterday bike patrols saw someone new to Calais arrested on his way to food early in the morning.
The man who resisted violence and tried to explain he had papers during the raid on Friday was released later that day with an injured arm which the police doctor had strapped up. The police acted very nicely while he was in the station, and told him he should not file a case against them for their use of violence as it would take a long time and delay, or go
against his asylum application. It is not their place to advise him, and shows knowledge of their guilt in abusing their power and fear of more people hearing about their actions.
Friday 17th June
Today, CRS Unit 49 and PAF came to Africa House, arriving fast and shoving activists aside violently as they ran in to make as many arrests as possible. Many people got safely onto the roof or ran away, and many also had papers and were let free today.
They made nine arrests, including one man who has papers and was trying to explain they were in his jacket in a different building as two cops violently suppressed him, another hitting him. Another man tried to run as others were being arrested, and he was chased and pushed back into the building with his arms held up behind his shoulders. He was pepper sprayed in the head. Activists were ‘controlled’ (ID’ed), and a video camera which was not concealed in time was violently removed from one activist by three CRS officers.
Tuesday 14th June
Nine people were arrested in a raid on Tuesday morning, and two people were picked up yesterday on the bridge down from food distribution site. More arrests inevitably take place, but with few of us on the ground at the moment we can’t record or intervene in all of them. Come to Calais if you can!
Wednesday 8th June
A large raid was carried out with about 30 CRS and PAF officers, making 18 arrests.
Monday 6th June
The French Interior Minister and Theresa May from the UK Home Office held a conference in Calais on tightening border controls yet further… According to the mainstream media, there was a specific request on the part of May to clampdown on illegal immigration even more in anticipation of Arab Spring refugees. CMS activists observed but were singled out to be kept away by police and then physically restrained with no explanation for an hour. Their bags were searched and only reluctantly returned.
Aminullah Mohamadi: The life and death of a young Afghan refugee
Aminullah Mohamadi, a 17-year old Pashtun asylum seeker in Paris, hung himself from a tree in Villette Park fearing deportation back to Afghanistan.
His story bears strong similarities to that of many of the refugees living on the streets of Calais.
According to his brother Abdallah, the family had moved around constantly to flee the violence in Afghanistan, seeking refuge in both Pakistan and Iran before being sent back. The family raised 14,700 euros from the sale of their orchards to fund Aminullah’s journey to a more secure destination.
However, once he reached Turkey, Aminullah was detained.
Aminullah, who would have been around 14 years old at the time, then spent four months in prison in Ankara before being deported once again back to Afghanistan.
Weeks later he made another attempt and reached Greece. There he endured arrest and was forced to work illegally to finance the remainder of his journey to his target destination, Norway. On his third attempt, he exited the country hidden on a lorry seven months later.
Since his eventual arrival in France in November 2009, Aminullah had been living in a mixture of care homes, hotels, and on the streets. His friend Haroun says that Aminullah was told that on reaching 18 he would be deported back to Afghanistan.
Yet says that Aminullah, who had now learnt French and had aspirations to become a plumber, had insisted that he never wanted to go back; “If I kill myself, Do not take my body in Afghanistan. Even in death, I do not want to return.”
A quick glance at the situation in Igoumenitsa, Greece
Calais is no exception for undocumented migrants. The situation for migrants in other European countries, in particular, Greece, is notorious. The same war of social cleansing is being played out at various foci of repression along migrants’ routes; and the same tactics being employed.
What follows is a callout for solidarity in Igoumenitsa, Greece, issued on 23/05/11 in anticipation of eviction of the jungles there currently occupied by 500-700 migrants. Spot the tactics used in Calais…
“There have been around 400 arrests during the last weeks and the police announced to arrest the (as they say) 300 remaining migrants.
Igoumenitsa is the second largest exit-port for migrants from Greece to Italy. Around 500-700 refugees from all war-zones of the world (Sudanese, Eritreans, Afghans, Saharaouis from Morocco, Iraqis, Kurds and Maghrebinias) are living under inhuman and degrading conditions in the mountains close to the port, waiting for their chance to leave Greece and find a safe haven in the North – “the real Europe” as they say. There are quite a lot of migrants who stay in Igoumenitsa for many months now. Many of them made it already several times to the Italian ports but were deported before being able to leave the port or apply for asylum. A lot of people have been deported from European countries before due to the DublinII Regulation.
They are living in small huts without water or electricity or any sanitary infrastructure. Most of the sans-papiers have totally run out of money. They can not afford to buy food. Every night you see people searching for food in the garbage. They are starving from hunger….
…the police opened a new hunting-season by arresting great numbers of sans-papiers every day, thus, hindering them from entering the city and imposing an embargo of food on them. Most of the people arrested in Igoumenitsa are transferred into prisons and detention centres far away from Igoumenitsa. After being released they will have to make all the way back by foot. The ones who strand here are the ones who have run out of money…
…The police already evicted settlement sites at the seaside and inside the city. The migrants from these places are moving to other jungles, building new huts there. It is very obvious that police will try to evict also these places. Like in former times they will most probably destroy the huts, the small pieces of privacy, the few clothes and personal things that the refugees could save for them and arrest as many people as possible.
The situation is escalating and the sans-papiers need support and solidarity!
They ask for support from inside and outside of Greece by activists and journalists.
They want their problems to be heard and their struggle to be supported.
It would be important to have a changing group of people here during the next weeks and months to observe the situation, document cases of police-violence and of continuing police raids.
People who have the interest and time to come NOW and support the sans-papiers and the local solidarity structures in their fight for their rights can contact us:
Note: We also need more people in Calais – see the emergency callout, below
The CRS (compagnie 7) raided Africa House this morning. Arriving around 7.30am at the front and back of the buildings. Again they only seemed to make a half hearted attempt to be fast entering the compound, a small chase followed and one man managed to climb half onto the roof before an officer grabbed his foot and tried to pull him down. On the order of another officer he was released and managed to get to safety on the roof. One other man was caught and arrested.
The CRS who were raiding the university buildings at the back had had more luck and 12 arrests were made – this time including the three year old boy and his mother. There were very mixed attitudes to this from the police. Some officers were (almost apologetically) trying to make excuses for why they were doing their jobs, “I have a family and children to feed” etc.. but others found the situation very amusing, joking that arresting a child really filled their quota for the day and that they were going to get off work afterwards to drink a beer.
One officer in particular was exceptionally disgusting making a continuous stream of racist and sexist jokes and whistling the tune to “The Animals Went In Two by Two” while he was loading people into the arrest van. CMS activists desperately tried to get the mother and child released but after pleading proved fruitless they blocked the arrest van from leaving, slamming fists on the bonnet and demanding that the child was let go. A small scrum followed as officers dragged the activists out of the road letting the arrest van speed away.
This wasnt the end of the raid as another eight people were gathered up by officers and held in one place to wait for the arrest van to come back. During the wait, CMS activists were verbally abused by officers, the women called tarts and prostitutes and told that the only thing they did for the migrants in Calais was to sleep with them. Once the van had come back all the arrested were loaded inside and then in an apparent backwards system had their papers checked in the van – after their arrest! Seven of the eight had papers and were then let back out of the van, only one man being taken to the police station.
The child was released later that day.
Three PAF officers entered the university buildings this morning searching for a particular person or persons unknown. No arrests were made.
The CRS (compagnie 7) arrived shortly afterwards and made a very slow attempt to raid the main buildings of Africa House. Before they had even managed to get into the compound everyone was on the roof. After taking a look around, to confirm there really was nobody left, they arrested one man with papers on the street outside of Africa House and left. CMS activists followed in a car. The new unit of CRS then proceeded to get lost on the way to Palestine House (where most likely they hoped to make more than one arrest this time). Unfortunately no such luck as CMS activists were already sounding the alarm. No arrests were made and so the police moved on to the next target, leaving one van behind to block in the car. Eventually the van moved and CMS activists were able to catch up with the other officers who were now searching the park for sans-papiers. Whistles were blown and one Sudanese man managed to get away. Again, no arrests were made. This time the police decided to hunt No Borders instead and chased the car of activists up a one way street with sirens and lights blaring. Pulling the car over they controlled the driver, checking her license, insurance and ID. After finding nothing to complain about they let the car go.
Later on in the afternoon, PAF returned to Africa House to continue the hunt for this particular person or persons unknown. One man was arrested and another managed to escape. CMS activists tried to give the arrested man one euro to get the bus back from Coquelles but officers refused this, threatening an activist – “Do you want a smashed in face?“.
PAF raided the university buildings this morning at just past 8.00am. 10 arrests were made. Fortunately though a mother and her three year old son were spared the trip to Coquelles, unlike on previous occasions when PAF have had no problem with arresting unaccompanied children (refer to 13th May).
Four police national vans arrived at Africa House at 12.30pm accompanied by a “Ville de Calais” truck with ten city workers. The roof was cleared of all tents, sleeping stuff and personal belongings. Also, the ladders people use to get up onto the roof were taken. The city workers commented to one CMS activist that they didnt enjoy the job, answering “obligé” when asked why they still did it.
Three people were hospitalised today as four fights broke out between the different communities in Africa House. No one was seriously injured.
This afternoon around 150 people took to the streets of Calais in a demonstration against the brutal repression against migrants in the French border town.
The march started at 2.30pm from the “food distribution” cite on Rude de Moscou where sans-papiers are handed their daily gruel, through the main square Place d’Armes and the thoroughfare Rue Royale, ending at the Mairie (Town Hall). At the town hall a wedding party was still going on and blended with the demo’s sound system, while cops blocked the doors of the building and riot police were seen waiting inside. With the presence of many undocumented migrants on the march no one was looking for trouble, and the police stayed calm for once in this town. It was a rare chance for migrants in Calais to make themselves seen and heard, occupying the streets, shouting and waving Banners and hand-made placards in many languages.
The demo was part of a French national day of action against racist immigration policies. It was called by a new collective called “D’ailleurs nous sommes d’ici” (rough translation: anyway we’re from here”) of people involved in solidarity work with migrants in the town, and supported by No Borders Calais as well as trade union members (SUD and CGT), Lille anarchist group, leftist political party NPA, and others. The “official” migrant support organisations such as Salam also supported the demo at least in name, though few of their members were seen on the streets.
10.00am – One man with papers was arrested by PAF in the Hazara Jungle. 26th May: PAF raided the building opposite Africa House this morning, arresting one person. They then entered Africa House but made no arrests. The police returned later that day and made 3 arrests in the university buildings. 25th May: Some footballs, goals and football bibs were brought to Africa House and three different football games then proceeded, carrying on all evening. Art equipment was also brought, for those not playing football, and some beautiful pieces of art were created. (Pictures to be uploaded soon) English and Arabic lessons also occupied most of the day. 24th May: This morning saw the long expected mass raid on Africa House. PAF officers (accompanied by CRS compagnie 4) stormed the complex of buildings at 8.00am. Most people managed to get up to safety on the roof with the alarm given by CMS activists but unfortunately for many others the police were too thorough and 39 arrests were made – including five women and many young Afghan boys. CMS activists were rounded up by CRS officers who, after violently ripping the cameras off them, held the four activists against a wall until the raid was over. The cameras were given by the CRS to a PAF officer who took them out of sight, smashed them and then returned them to the activists. Two CMS activists were arrested for having no papers, handcuffed and loaded into the packed arrest van. The PAF officers who were driving the vehicle thought they would have some fun and, putting on the sirens, sped through the town centre, taking corners like a racing car and occasionally slamming on the brakes. For the people in the back of the van (in handcuffs and without seatbelts) this meant ending up on the floor. After arriving at Coquelles most people were released almost instantly, some without even giving fingerprints, to make the long walk back to Africa House. The CMS activists were held on a bench for several hours before being told to leave with a cheery “À Bientôt!” A man fractured his heel while attempting to cross to England by train. 23rd May: Three PAF officers arrived at the back of Africa House, greeted the CMS activists by name and then, just as the officers had done the night before, looked about – counting the number of people sleeping in the university buildings and blue cabins. They seemed to find it amusing when people woke with a shock, seeing police in their room, and just laughed saying “C’est bon, C’est bon!” (Its good, Its good). 22nd May: A new unit of PAF came to Africa House in the night to look around. They entered the university buildings and, with very poor quality torches, proceeded to count the number of people. No arrests were made and the officers left after commenting down the radio that there were many people sleeping. 20th May: A seriously ill man was taken to hospital by ambulance from Africa House. Again it took an extremely long time for paramedics to respond to the call, leaving the almost unconscious man to wait over half an hour, even though the hospital is on the street opposite Africa House. 19th May: Iranian killed trying to cross the border
Yet another fatality has resulted from this barbarous border regime when an Iranian man hiding in a lorry bound for the UK died as he tried to shut the vehicle’s doors when it was in motion.
A quiet morning with the new CRS Compagnie 29 seems like the calm before the storm. For the last two days Police Aux Frontieres officers have come to Africa House specifically to scout the building, and No Borders activists have seen high profile political figures and senior police officers parked at Africa House this morning. In light of recent information that local police have received a three day training on the eviction strategy for Africa House, Calais Migrant Solidarity believes that the eviction is imminent, and will take place within the next few days.
We also have information that the police are planning to clear and evict migrants who sleep at the Salam food distribution area within the next day or two.
There is an urgent need for activists on the ground in Calais, to guard against serious abuses and brutality, and to non-violently resist eviction where possible. Please come to Calais and lend whatever time you can!
PAF arrived at the back of Africa House around 7.30am but couldn’t drive their vans in because of the new barricade. They knew that we had alerted the residents so they took their time, looking around the abandoned university buildings behind Africa House, and then entered at a slow walk. They checked a few papers and half-heartedly tried to eject activists from the site, but seemed more interested in wandering around, checking the place out. One cop made some comments to one of the female activists (“you have boyfriend in the jungle?”) but the PAF wandered slowly back out without further incident.
About 8.00 or shortly after, three vans of CRS 5 turned up with an arrest van and just parked on the street for 10 minutes, looking unsure. Most of the refugees were already sitting in high places well out of reach, and the cops drove off with no arrests.
At 15.48 an activist was almost knocked off his bike by two PAF in a police car registration AA712YN. As he was cycling across a turning the car crossed the road and accelerated sharply towards him so that he had to dodge out of the way. Then the cops came tearing up behind him and swerved into the cycle lane with a screech, missing his handlebars by a few centimetres.
The food distribution was raided at about 7.40am by Police Aux Frontieres, who arrested around 25 Iranian and Kurdish refugees and left only the two people scheduled for deportation. No Borders activists were called by one of the refugees, and arrived on the scene minutes after the raid began. PAF ejected them from the site immediately so they took positions behind a fence to document what was going on. The man who phoned CMS was taken behind a van and beaten up by the police after asking what would happen to his stuff, and whether he could take some things with him. He later reported a second assault at the CRA detention centre in Coquelles, and that the police knew he was the one who called us to the scene. This clearly indicates that migrants are sometimes attacked for associating with activists, in an attempt by the police to break down the strong ties of solidarity, trust and mutual respect which threaten to make life here a little more bearable. It’s sad and ironic that those fleeing political oppression in countries such as Iran can be subject to politically motivated attacks by European police forces. But that is the daily reality of Calais, a war of attrition fought by making people’s lives unliveable, in order to make a political point.
English lessons resumed today after two days off. The class at Africa House was lively and well attended, but came to a close when someone yelled ‘Police!’ and ran for the door. Two PAF officers were wandering around the courtyard but left when activists emerged from the classroom with cameras. As if on cue, the activists who had just been teaching a lesson on body parts and injuries found themselves treating a nasty infected wound sustained whilst running from the police last week. This is how it goes.
Lastly, CMS activists have been appalled by news of a fascist pogrom against migrants in Athens. The tragic murder of a Greek on 10th May in which the suspects are “dark skinned” has prompted a huge number of brutal revenge attacks and murders by Greek neo-nazis against refugees and migrants including families and young children. Police are present but seem complicit. Read about it here. Photos here.
CRS 5 turned up at Africa House again at about 8.15 this morning. Today they mostly left No Borders alone, stampeding straight past us to catch the refugees before they could escape onto the roof. Activists got the impression that the cops were trying to do this more or less by the book for the benefit of our cameras – no-one was beaten up and none of the activists were assaulted. A few ladders were kicked over and some of the five arrests they made this morning were still fairly rough, with one guy being pinned to the ground and another being arrested and led away without any shoes across a courtyard covered in broken glass (the shoes were returned to him before he was driven away). This morning also saw some passive-aggressive attempts by CRS to stop activists from filming, including two officers filming an activist on their phones from centimetres away from his face in an attempt to intimidate him. The CRS commander then pleaded with the activist to stop filming ‘because we have families’, which presumably means that either the officer himself, or his family, is ashamed to have his face and actions publicised. Needless to say, he received a lecture on human dignity, specifically how the refugees he terrorises also have families, loved ones, and a need to go about their lives peacefully and without harassment.
In a later incident at the Hazara jungle four activists arrived just in time to deter a possible raid by one van of CRS Compagnie 15, who lurked for about 15 minutes and then decided they had better things to do.
After some sporadic police activity early in the week, the Police Aux Frontieres and CRS Compagnie 5 returned in force to perform a big Africa House raid this morning. At around 8am two vans of CRS and one of PAF stormed the front gate of Africa House and ran straight for the makeshift wooden ladders to stop people climbing onto the roof. Very few of the residents were caught out, however, due to a quick response from No Borders activists who alerted the refugees with whistles and began filming the spectacle. The police turned their attention to forcing the activists into one room and stopped them filming, in one case by jumping on the individual and trying to wrench the camera from his hands. Then they returned their attention to the migrants, most of whom were sitting on roofs or the thin edges of ceiling left when interior structures had been torn down in the past.
Undeterred, the cops rounded up about 20 people and placed them under arrest, whilst their colleagues set about destroying four ladders used by the refugees to climb to safety – and to get down again safely afterwards. Three of the arrestees today were young Ethiopian children, aged between about eight and 13. They were arrested and taken to Coquelles without their mother, who was extremely upset and panicking for the safety of her kids. When confronted, the senior PAF officer on the scene shrugged, smiled and replied that the mother had papers and the children did not. Luckily Secours Catholique were there with their van, and one of their people gave the PAF an earful down the phone before taking the mother to Coquelles to get the children released.
Today the police brought with them the owner of the Africa House site and several guys from a construction company called SCT Chaudronnerie, who were briefed to seal up three skylights in the ceiling of Africa House but were hindered by No Borders who kept turning off their generator and tampering with their van. You can contact SCT regarding their complicity on (+33) 03 21 82 14 51.
Once this task was completed and all police and contractors had left the scene, everyone went back into Africa House and pitched in together to undo most of the work that had been done. Four strong new ladders were made and a great feeling of cheerful solidarity was enjoyed by all. Later in the day there was a spirited game of football, and French and English lessons were put on in the afternoon.
Also all through the week there has been delicious Sudanese food cooked by people in Africa House.
At around 4pm 5 people who were collecting water from a pump near the river were surrounded by 3 police vans and aggressively arrested. All were taken to the police station and made to leave their water containers behind. Afterwards others managed to retrieve the containers and return them.
In the evening some out of town French activists held an info event about the Italian mass peoples revolts in the 60’s – 70’s in the cinema, reading testimonies and screening footage from a time where social struggles across class, gender, race came together in force against the state.
At 11.50pm police entered through a broken gap in the fence around the Food Distribution area, waking every person who was sleeping there and making them produce their documents. The police randomly arrested 9 people, some with and some without papers. People with papers were released from the police station shortly after, those without were made to stay longer.
There was no breakfast in the morning at the Food Distribution area. At 8.30am however the border police (PAF: Police Aux Frontieres) came to arrest people who stay in the area, again people with and without papers, 3 men were taken to the police station.
At the same time, around 8.30am, the CRS raided Africa House, chasing after people who are trying to escape. One man chased by police out of the back exit fell hard on concrete and rubble. The police immediately arrested him and one other. The rest of the people got away.
In the afternoon No Borders activists held a instrument making samba playing workshop in Africa House, using bottles, cans and whatever else was lying around to make some sweet rhythm and beats.
Later in the day the front entrance to the new Africa House was blocked with stone to try to stop people who live there from being able to enter, however shortly after, with a bit of effort, it was dismantled allowing people to stay there again.
At 2am in the morning while people were sleeping at the Food Distribution area a police van turned up arresting people with and without papers. In total 7 people were taken to the police station.
Overview of latest events
The last few weeks have seen a stepping-up of the struggle in Calais, after No Borders activists released video footage of police raids and harassment to French national media on 10 April (^1). With TV and radio attention turned on Calais, migrants got a breath of calm as the border police (PAF: Police Aux Frontieres) seemed to take a week off. But they were soon back with a vengeance with a major raid on 21 April which led to over two dozen arrests, including three No Borders activists who were brutally arrested and now face serious charges.
One video, which received thousands of online views in a few hours, showed border police driving into Africa House (the deserted factory complex lived in by around 100 Sudanese, Eritrean, Afghan and other migrants) in the early hours, dancing and joking as they blasted loud African music from squad cars with lights flashing.(^2) ) Other footage showed police hitting activists and smashing cameras, as well as sexual harassment. But these videos really indicate just the tip of the iceberg of the systematic repression taking place in Calais. Many of the worst incidents of police violence against migrants are unlikely to ever be captured on film. Nor can a few video clips make clear the crushing reality of this harassment that goes on every day and every night: constant and repeated ID controls, arrests, raids, beatings, destruction of shelters and possessions, contamination of food and water, and acts of humiliation and psychological warfare. All as part of a deliberate policy agreed by the French and UK governments to “clear” undesirables from the border zone by making life unlivable.
No Borders have been living and working alongside migrants in Calais since the June 2009 No Border camp, and an important part of their work during this time has been filming, monitoring, and documenting police raids and attacks. Activists have collected maybe hundreds of hours of film, as well as photographs, written testimonies and more evidence. There are plenty more “videos of shame” which could be published in future. At this moment activists are in discussions with lawyers about the best approach to take with presenting this evidence, perhaps as part of a legal challenge against the French state.
Africa House, currently the largest migrant settlement in Calais, is attacked by police pretty much every day, sometimes numerous times in the same day or night. So having a whole ten days off from raids was a real material benefit to residents. CRS riot police did make a small incursion at the back of the squatted complex on the morning of the 13th: but when they found out a Radio France journalist was on patrol with No Borders that morning they soon scurried off, even releasing one migrant without papers whom they had been about to detain. The recent French press coverage has been overwhelmingly positive (a surprise for English activists used to the anti-migration rants of the Daily Mail et al.), not only spotlighting the activity of the cops but giving migrants a rare chance to tell their own stories on national media. Such as one Darfuri friend who told how: “I left my country because of war, expecting to find freedom in Europe, and instead I have found another war.”(^3)
Of course the holiday didn’t last long. On 21 April Africa House was raided by five vanloads of CRS riot cops as well as a number of PAF border police, who attacked the building simultaneously from both sides at just after 9 am. More than 20 people without papers were arrested. But in this case the violence was mainly directed at the No Borders activists on the scene — particularly those carrying cameras. Activists were brutally grabbed, dragged on the ground, manhandled and injured. One camera was smashed, another taken and its memory card stolen. Four activists were arrested and held in custody for nine hours. Three of them now face trial on 12 July for charges including “violent resistance in a group” and “illegal occupation”. The former charge is similar to something like “violent disorder” in the UK.
Despite regular No Borders interventions in police raids, if the trial does go ahead it will be one of only a few times the authorities have tried to prosecute activists for serious offences following a squat raid. Such charges have often been threatened, but rarely reached court, perhaps because the police have more to lose themselves from such a trial. Many of these raids, and certainly much standard police conduct during them, are likely to themselves be illegal. With two years’ worth of evidence to make the point, a high profile court case around an Africa House raid could seriously backfire on the “forces of order”.
As one No Border activist commented in a press statement last week: “this trial is no more than a manipulation strategy to try and destroy the image of No Borders, and above all to try and scare us and discourage us from continuing to film and expose the reality of Calais and of its repressive system. We are not afraid: we are ready to go to the courts and seize the opportunity to win this latest political trial.” (^4)
As well as this new trial, two other No Borders activists are currently facing charges of “outrage” (insulting a police officer) and assault on a police officer, from separate incidents. These comrades also need solidarity and support, particularly if there are fines to pay.
Meanwhile, with or without media attention and coutroom battles, the struggle in Calais continues. Whether it’s direct action against the border, or simple acts of everyday solidarity such as sharing a cup of sweet tea by the campfire, the No Borders presence in Calais is getting stronger. As our numbers and networks grow, so do our skills and experience, and we become ready to face new challenges and take new steps to move our struggle forwards. New hands, eyes and minds are always welcome: come and join the resistance.
Tuesday 19th April
A new unit of CRS arrived in Calais today. CRS compagnie 2 spent the morning getting lost and confused on the one way systems round town -but after stopping at the tourist information to get maps they found their feet fast and made four arrests of people walking to morning food distribution.
Monday 18th April
Three Iranian men were arrested walking to food distribution this morning. There was a small altercation between the police and some activists who tried to film the arrests. One officer hit out at the camera, trying to stop it filming.
Sunday 17th April
Two people were arrested while walking to morning food distribution.
Saturday 16th April: Sharing information from Sudan
English lessons over the last couple of days have featured updates from the ground in Sudan from a UK activist focussed on solidarity work with Sudanese people, and discussions on No Borders ideas & how they relate to Sudan in the context of a new national border between North & South Sudan.
Most migrants at Africa House are from Darfur but many have not had access to good information on the political situation since they left – in some cases two years ago.
Thursday’s lesson included an update and discussion on the situation in Abyei, based on the analysis here. Friday’s lesson included updates on the state of various rebel groupings & recent events/conditions in specific geographic areas in Darfur. Materials in English were also given out.
In the future, it is hoped materials in Arabic can also be circulated, and better links can be fostered between the well-organised Darfuri community in the UK and Darfuri migrants based at Africa House.
Three people were arrested while walking to food distribution.
Friday 15th April: More media coverage of the situation in Calais
Over the past few days, the work of Calais Migrant Solidarity has received attention from various French media outlets. A radio interview with No Borders activists can be found here.
In other news, the CRS have continued their strategy of arresting people outside the food distribution site. Yesterday (14/04/2011) a well-known Afghan minor who is claiming asylum in France and who has documents , was arrested after breakfast time. The CRS also continued their routine of racist practices last night: A white activist was stopped with two other migrants, one African and one Afghan. None of them – including the white activist -had papers. They were all ‘controlled’ (ID checked), but only the non-white activists were arrested & the European activist was released. This is the stark reality of life here.
CMS VIDEO BREAKING NEWS ACROSS FRANCE!!
After initially breaking on Rue89, the French media Channel TF1 has just released a video composed of several clips from the work of CMS.
The police are shown pepper-spraying people, being violent, abusive and unprofessional. This video combines several already high-profile clips including the police playing loud music whilst raiding Africa House at night ,and the PAF punching an activist holding a video camera. A CMS activist talks to a radio interviewer about working on the ground in Calais and the use of video cameras in de-escalating violence towards migrants. A police spokesperson also attempts to claim that the police are highly professional whilst a clip of them playing football during a squat raid runs in the background.
CMS is glad that the systematic repression and violence towards migrants in Calais is getting is now widely known throughout France. For new readers please check our archives for more in depth information on police brutality, alternatively please consider joining our work in Calais or donating towards the cause.
Wednesday 13th April
Three people were arrested in the park tonight at 8.30pm. Even though they all had papers they were held in Coquelles overnight, being released the next morning. It seems it is illegal to be in Calais if you are not white.
Monday 11th April One van of CRS visited the university buildings behind Africa House at 6.45am. No arrests were made. The bikes at Palestine house were found broken again. The tires slashed and wheels bent. This is now a common practise of the police at Palestine House (refer to – Monday 28th March).
Friday 8th April
PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) raided the university buildings behind Africa House this morning, kicking down doors, and searching very thoroughly. Activists were roughly removed from the grounds. Officers kicked, pushed and pulled, trying to take cameras off two of the activists – without success. After approx 20 minutes of searching they left, arresting 5 people.
At 9.00am the same group of PAF came to the Hazara Jungle. Two people were woken up, they were told go away and come back again in 20 minutes. No arrests were made but after the police had gone someone noticed that €320 had been stolen from their coat hanging in the communal space, also, a pair of sunglasses. Two PAF officers visited the Hazara jungle again at 10.00pm. Catching one man they handcuffed him to one of the officers – leading him round like dog on a leash. The police then asked the man to call for his friends, when he didnt comply they picked a name at random – calling out “Ali! Ali!“. A CMS activist arrived in the jungle at the same time, witnessing this. Only one arrest was made.
Thursday 7th April
Africa House was raided this morning at 7.15am. Both PAF and the new Compagnie of CRS (Unit 47) ran in from the front and the back entrances of the grounds, in huge numbers, managing to arrest just under 20 people, including one activist.
3 vans of CRS were spotted at the park at 7.40pm. Activists arrived with a camera and were immediately controlled and told to stop filming. 3 people were arrested and after a lengthy wait on the side of the road an arrest bus arrived and took them to Coquelles.
Police took a stroll around Africa House at 10.30pm shining torches and looking about but not arresting anyone.
Wednesday 6th April
No raid on Africa House this morning but a car with two possible undercover police stopped to take photographs of the activists on watch, leaving in a hurry when one activist walked over to get a better look at them.
PAF raided Palestine House at 8 this morning, and arrested 2.
The CRS stopped and controlled three people walking to the Hazara Jungle. One person was arrested.
Tuesday 5th April
PAF raided Africa House early in the morning, at 7.05am. They searched the back buildings of the university grounds, and arrested at least 5. Activists were removed from the building and threatened with arrest, if they were found inside again.
Around 6.40pm, 3 PAF officers parked around the corner of food distribution and arrested 2 people with papers.
Monday 4th April
A PAF van drove slowly down Descartes St. this morning, and officers took a stroll inside Africa House, assuring everyone that they were just here to look. Activists blew their whistles a few times anyway. As people went to sit by the fire to wait out the visit, PAF carried out ID checks on the activists, including on a white homeless person from Eastern Europe whom they mistake for an activist.
One activist refused to present ID, and was arrested, handcuffed, and taken to Coquelles police station. A French person who also happens to be homeless, and who has been to food distribution because he was very poorly fed at his shelter, walked in as he saw a police van parked at the entrance, and was subsequently also ID-checked. Police were quite rough with him as well, telling him, among other things, to shut his mouth “or I’ll shut it for you.” He could not quite understand what the fuss was about. He later said to activists he had never faced so much verbal abuse and aggressivity in his life.
PAF did some strange things in Africa House, in the afternoon shortly before 4pm. As well as the usual stroll around, they also kicked the football a few times with the migrants, and climbed one of the ropes. A female officer had a friendly chat with one of the Roma people who are temporarily homeless. On top of everyday harassment consisting in numerous arrests and releases, PAF activities have led to numerous incidents in the past few months, some quite extreme, like when a man drowned after being chased in the dead of night, on February 22nd. We suspect they have an interest in fostering trust among migrants, and it may be the aim of those incongruous tactics.
3 people were arrested at the new building they were staying in, around 9am.
Sunday 3rd April
Very late at night, around 2am, 6 PAF officers infiltrated the university grounds and arrested 5, with a car and a van. Three have been released soon afterwards, but some were not back yet, by 8am the next morning, when we received this report.
PAF raided Palestine House at 6pm and arrested 6, one being released shortly afterwards.
PAF conducted two late night raids on a newly squatted building. The first time, at around 11pm 3 people were arrested, the second time, at 3.30am from 2 to 3. The inside of the building is very dark at night and it is very difficult to make out what is going on. Activists were checked for ID the first time, but got no such harassment on the second.
Saturday 2nd April
CRS drove around Africa House a lot in the morning, but only carried out 2 fake raids, forcing activists to blow their whistles but getting back to their van. No one was arrested. 5 people were arrested at night, around 10pm, in the university buildings behind the back wall of Africa House.
At 11.30pm, 5 were arrested by PAF at Palestine House.
Friday 1st April
After the destruction of people’s living spaces in Africa House, and of a way to get on the roof, people used the wood beams of rubble piles, and other materials, to build an enormous barricade at the front and back. Very early this morning, at 6.30am, PAF furtively raided the back buildings on the university grounds, and arrested 10 people. CRS vans were prowling the streets, they stopped four times at the front, not leaving their vehicle, but laughing at the barricade anyway. Nearing the end of morning watch, people reported many arrests on the way back from food distribution, near the bridge.
Thursday 31st March Rooms destroyed and belongings lost in piles of rubble at Africa House, for safety reasons
This afternoon around 2.30pm, large numbers of police evicted everyone from Africa House in order to allow a bulldozer in. Activists arriving on the scene attempted to block the bulldozer, but they were too late, and police managed to grab them. Although activists were initially getting arrested for that, police decided it was a better use of their time to stand inside Africa House, behind the barricade.
The bulldozer destroyed people’s sleeping spaces, inside the two main buildings, and turned everything into huge piles of rubble. The concrete structure of the building was untouched, as urban planners need it for the ‘eco-neighborhood’ they wish to create. Needless to say, many had no idea this would happen. People have belongings, and some their essential ID and papers, lost in the 3 or 4 mountains of stuff now lying about in Africa House.
All this was carried out because the authorities wanted to stop people from being able to get on the roof. The roof is ‘too dangerous,’ they said. Many have climbed onto the roof of Africa House, many times, for months and months, and we are unaware that a great number of people injured themselves all this time. A very few people did. All of them in the context of a stressful and violent police raid, on Africa or Palestine House (see the updates of Wednesday 9th and Thursday 10th February, as well as that of Friday 28th January, amongst others). This seems to indicate police presence and violence is the issue, rather than access to roofs and semi-secure possessions and living/sleeping spaces.
Wednesday 30th March Mass raid, activist grabbed by crotch
At 8 am, PAF and CRS unit 8 carried out a raid on Africa House, storming the squat simultaneously from front and back, with around 30 officers. 14 people were arrested. The usual flurry of special people came along to look and discuss, including mayor adjunct for sustainable development, Philippe Mignonnet, who tried to hit an activist on Friday 18th March. As activists were lined against a wall for a full search, they tried to defuse the tension by making some jokes and having a laugh. A CRS officer did not enjoy this breach of protocol, and grabbed a person by his crotch as he was searching him, lifting him off the floor.
The activist who was arrested on the 28th for failure to produce identification maintained her decision not to give any identity documents. She was detained for two days, and released this morning. She is being sued for failure to give her fingerprints whilst in detention, even though police have no idea who she is.
We received several testimonies that little kids are harassing Palestine House in the afternoon by going there, throwing little rocks and shouting various things in English and French, such as ‘Fuck Palestine!’ and other racist slurs.
A Hazara jungle resident confirmed that a group of French people have been threateningly following a group of migrants and activists on their way back from Africa House’s party on Saturday 26th March, looking for a fight.
Tuesday 29th March
The villa near Africa House suffered a raid early this morning, around 7.15am. Some 6 PAF officers left the university grounds with 2 people.
A man was chased by CRS at the roundabout leading to Africa House, at 9.15am. They managed to catch him. One officer swore “Bastard! I hate it when they run away!” A single activist leaving Africa House watch stood on the other side of the street from the scene. CRS made the man sit down on the ground, his back to the wall, his legs stretched on the ground, and then asked about his papers. He said they were in Africa House. Not believing him, they arrested him anyway.
Monday 28th March
A CRS raid in Africa House at 8.05am resulted in the arrest of one activist who refused to show any ID. She has spent the day in detention. Again, the homeless white person was believed to be a No Borders activist. No migrants were arrested.
2 people were arrested at Palestine House in the morning. People suspect PAF officers have twisted the wheels of 2 bikes and made them unridable. This stealthy sabotaging practice isn’t new, as activists have already had to repair knife-punctured bikes at the beginning of the month (see Thursday 8th March). Twisting wheels sets a new low in police malfeasance, as it is much harder, impossible truly, to fix such a thing.
Saturday 26th March
At 8.15am at Africa House, a single CRS van parked at the front gate. The activists were lined against a wall inside a building on the left. One minor was arrested, purportedly in order to ‘get him to safety.’ A CRS officer claimed activists were ‘ridiculous,’ that it was dangerous for people to stand on the roof, and everyone would be released four hours later anyway, so it was useless to whistle. The CRS officier didn’t seem to have a sense that people had a right to be free to move. They tried to worm out how many other underage were staying in Africa House, walked around the squat and university grounds, lectured the activists some more, and finally left. Some people on the roof spat on them from above and everyone laughed as the CRS used a lying blanket to wipe his shoe.
Palestine House was raided twice that day. 3 people were arrested at 8am by CRS, and again at midnight, 3 other arrests took place, again CRS work. All were released in the hours that followed.
A night-party was organized in Africa House, with a sound system, a huge fire, lots of drinks and much dancing.
Some rumors circulate that a band of threatening French people have been following a group of migrants and activists as they went back to the jungle, that night after the party. We plan to double-check on this, because fascists have been active and the far-right has been advancing electorally.
Friday 25th March
In Africa House, a late morning PAF raid resulted in 7 arrests: 6 migrants, 1 activist. The activist was arrested for possession of a third-grade weapon. A pen-knife. He was released soon afterwards, but the other migrants weren’t.
At the former distribution area, the wasteland following the train tracks, CRS arrested a person around 9am, whilst he was on his way to food distribution. 4 were arrested on their way back, after food distribution, whilst heading towards Africa House. We received reports about the arrest of 6 other people, in the streets of Calais, during the day.
PAF also raided the Hazara jungle around 8am, but found nothing and no one. A similarly unsuccessful raid on Palestine House occurred at 7am.
The Pedal to Palestine folks organized a critical mass this afternoon, going through the town without any police presence or protection. No one was arrested, and no one was hurt. Reactions from the population were mostly cheerful and cyclists even received supportive honks from motorists.
Thursday 24th March Activists pepper-sprayed, one activist subjected to pressure-point
This morning at around 7am, 2 PAF vans, one marked and one unmarked, parked on the wasteland opposite Africa House’s front entrance. 10 activists were standing around the barricade to block the 7 police from coming in. Police walked slowly up to the line, went beside the right pillar, and started to push the gathering crowd back. When they were not moving much, they used pepper-spray, and later pushed over the activist who was holding the camera. One activist was held by his thumb in a technique that allows the holder to break it at a moment’s notice, and led to the front entrance. Police walked around the courtyard for a few minutes, and left without making arrests.
PAF also raided Palestine House around 7am, making no arrests because people managed to escape their grasp, and also due to the CRS raid of the night before.
An activist cycling in the port area was followed by a PAF van, driving alongside the cyclist for about five minutes, and thereby creating a traffic jam for the sole purpose of intimidating someone. As the activist reached the distribution area, he could see that 2 people were being arrested there, if not more.
Wednesday 23rd March Violent raid on Africa House, activist screams as she’s handcuffed
At 8.05 am, 2 dozens of police arrived from the back, PAF and CRS, to carry out an important raid. Aside from arresting people without papers, they were looking for activists blowing their whistles. They wrote a statement and gave a 68€ fine to one of the activists. The charge is public disturbance and disobedience to an order from police. However he was not issued with any proper paper or description of crime.
As activists were lined against a wall, a white-skinned and homeless person with papers, who sleeps at Africa House because he has nowhere else to go, was also checked and searched properly like the rest of the activists. Police assumed that he was a No Borders activist on the basis of his skin color.
A female activist was strangled by a female PAF officer, who said to her ‘Who do you think you are?’ It is the second time this particular officer loses her nerves, goes into a power-trip, and uses violence on people, for no other reason than they are not submissive enough in her eyes.
We counted 7 arrests, but as we were pushed against the wall, we cannot vouch that it is the whole of it for this morning. Police then led the activists, as well as the homeless person, out of the premises. A stand-off occurred as activists were standing behind the line of the front entrance.
One activist was taken out of the group and back into Africa House violently and smashed on the ground behind a PAF van parked inside Africa House. As she was behind the van, we were unable to see anything. We heard her scream in pain twice. She was then led, handcuffed, inside. The van left, and as it passed the entrance, activists could see she had bruises on her face from being smashed to the floor. She suffered a split lip and twisted arm. The arrested activist showed strong spirits and smiled to us as the van drove away. She was released at 4pm this afternoon, and charged with assaulting a police officer.
2 people were arrested by PAF on the train today.
CRS raided Palestine House at 11pm and made 3 arrests.
Tuesday 22nd March
PAF raided Africa House twice this morning, but only counted. No one was arrested. We believe police try to secure trust with migrants by promising not to do anything but count, and doing so repeatedly. It is unclear whether anyone is fooled by this.
2 people were arrested by a van of CRS outside morning food distribution. A new company is in town.
Palestine House received a visit by PAF officers at 9pm. They didn’t ask for anyone’s documents. They only came to inquire about where No Borders activists were.
PEDAL to Palestine arrived tonight and set camp somewhere in Calais. They have decided to help with CMS activism, and also, to organize workshops and skillshares, such as barber and bike workshops, and to help people having fun, bringing music and films to Africa House.
Monday 21st March
Shortly before 8.30 am, a PAF van parked near Africa House. 3 police officers told activists not to blow the whistle. Because they supposedly were only here to count. Unaware of a reason why it’s legitimate to count people for a future raid, activists decided to blow the whistle anyway. PAF left after some walking around the squat and no one was arrested. Officers shouted from their van that they would be back later to do more counting.
Around 10 am, police raided Palestine House, and made 2 arrests. Palestine House was raided a second time around midnight by the CRS. Three were arrested, and released soon afterwards.
As the weather gets better, people are hanging out in Parc Richelieu again, and so does PAF harass them there. 3 people, who were sitting on a bench in front of the entrance, with an old white guy, were checked and arrested, with handcuffs too. The white person was able to leave without showing any ID.
At half-past midnight, a furtive raid was carried out by PAF at the back of Africa House. 4 were arrested, including 3 underage kids. They were not released by lunchtime the next day.
Saturday 19th March
One person was arrested by police around 8am, at the train station. The rest of the day was very quiet, even at Palestine House. A party was organized at Africa House this night. More details to follow.
Friday 18th March Mass raid at Africa House
Shortly after 8am, more than a week after their ultra-violent raid, PAF and CRS once again conducted what more and more appears like the ‘raid of the week.’ The assault started on both sides simultaneously, all activists being pushed out quickly, so the hunt could start properly. Police once again destroyed last week’s door (repaired by good willing individuals in the meantime.) Some 30 people were arrested, and we believe they were released later in the day.
This one raid saw some ‘special people.’ Philippe Mignonnet was here. He is the mayor’s adjunct for transportation and environment, and running for regional elections on Sunday. A frequent visitor of Africa House during raids, he seems in very good terms with some of the PAF officers, and has no issues with the repression.
Following and filming Mignonnet as he left the squat to exert social pressure on him, an activist dodged a jab Mignonnet threw at him as he was reaching the door of the administrative centre of Calais. Mignonnet entered and no one was hurt.
Thursday 17th March 2 arrests inside food distribution to ensure that barbed wire is ‘repaired’
PAF conducted two mock raids on Africa House this morning, at 7.20am and 7.40am. The first time, a single van drove through the university grounds at full speed and abruptly pulled up near the back entrance. Activists were induced to blow the whistle, but stopped when they realized the officers were staying inside their van. PAF then drove away slowly, stopping to snoop around the back buildings of the university. They did the same at the front of Africa House, talking to the activists there before leaving again. The same van came a second time 20 minutes later, parking at the back, but this time getting out to walk around Africa House, saying to migrants nothing was wrong, that No Borders activists were waking them up for no good reason. They left without arresting anyone.
A short time before 9am, another PAF van parked in front of the distribution area, and the gate was opened for the officers to get into. Council workers were seen talking to police before the officers left their van. Two people were subsequently arrested by PAF. They had slept on the floor, inside the food distribution, with a few blankets. We suspect Council workers called the PAF on them, for “safety” issues.
A Council representative presented the setting up of new barbed wire as “repair work.” (Readers may remember the barbed wire was taken out by unknown individuals on the 2nd of January.) In the little more than 2 months since this occurred, the distribution area has been “functioning” well, and we have heard of no incidents that occurred as a result of the absence of barbed wire. The representative left as the two migrants were taken away by PAF.
Some ten minutes after this happened, tens of people came for the breakfast distribution, as they do every morning. Council workers were able to operate without any issues of safety from this big crowd.
Wednesday 16th March
Migrants report a daytime raid on Palestine House in which 5 people are arrested.
Tuesday 15th March
A little after 9am, Palestine House was visited by 4 CRS who did not check the papers of the residents. They left without doing anything, save give everyone a free dose of stress.
Monday 14th March
Palestine House was raided at 3am by CRS. 2 people were arrested. PAF came around at 8am, without arresting anyone.
This morning at food distribution, the opening in the fence next to the front gate was fixed. By some coincidence, PAF started to harass people there again, and arrested 3 outside distribution. Another person was arrested at night distribution.
The people who were arrested in Africa House, at 4am the other day, have only been released today, and report beatings from police.
Tonight, a Salam volunteer who discriminates against activists asked migrants, with a threatening tone, if they were “sure no borders is good for them.” They had complained to her about the treatment she gave to some No Borders activists.
One person was arrested by CRS at the petrol station behind townhall around 9.30am. PAF arrested 3 people at the train station, around 7.40pm.
An activist was followed and filmed by a CRS van driving slowly right next to him, with the window lowered. A militant was recognized and named by a PAF officer.
5 PAF prowled the shopping mall in the middle of the afternoon. They were checking the papers of anyone who looked foreign, and didn’t bother the lighter skinned shoppers/youth.
10 people were arrested on the streets of Calais in the evening. They have not been released yet.
Saturday 12th March
This morning at around 4am, a police raid occurred at Africa House. For some reason, possibly insufficient numbers, police seems to have focused on the back buildings and left the rest of Africa House alone. 6 people were arrested.
At Palestine House, 10 CRS officers went into the squat at 7am to check the papers of a mighty group of 3 people. One person was arrested, and released some hours later. Another raid happened at midnight, 2 people were arrested, including the person arrested in the morning.
At Africa House, people were able to play football and learn French in the afternoon, without police harassment. A party without borders (but with a sound system) was also organized tonight for someone’s birthday.
Friday 11th March
The Hazara jungle was raided by two PAF vans this morning. One person was arrested, among the three who were present.
Thursday 10th March Mass raid at Africa House, migrants and activists with papers arrested
A joint PAF and CRS raid occurred at Africa House around 8am. 20 migrants were arrested, as well as all the activists present there, save one who had just arrived. The operation involved some 30 police and 5 arrest vans. Stopping at nothing to hunt people down, police used a crowbar and sledge-hammer to destroy a door and make some peoples’ living space uninhabitable.
It seems most of the arrested migrants had papers. We suspect the authorities may try to charge them with illegal occupation of a private area.
Update: A source having spoken to the duty solicitor informed us that 37 people were arrested, 27 migrants and 10 activists. Activists who have returned later in the day said most migrants had been released almost right away. As we suspected, they were “reminded of the law,” being charged in this case with occupying a private area with the intention of making it their home. The court paper says the magistrate decided not to do anything this time, but if within three years another offence is committed, people will be taken to court. All activists have been released.
Palestine House was raided twice in the same night. Once at 8pm, where PAF arrested 7 people, including one person with papers. CRS arrived at 11pm, but didn’t arrest anyone.
Wednesday 9th March
A new unit of CRS arrived in town, unit 61. Around 8.15am, a lone CRS van parked near the front entrance, and the 3 police inside started for a raid, amid a profusion of whistling. Standing near the barricade, they realized the futility of a raid in those conditions, and left. No one was arrested.
Residents of Palestine House seem to be the recipients of particular hatred, as we discovered in the afternoon that their Palestinian flag was torn down and reduced to shreds.
Tuesday 8th March
The Hazara jungle was raided by PAF in the morning. Two people were arrested and released only an hour later. Their fingerprints were taken.
At lunch distribution, Belle Etoile volunteers warned that if people continue to use the small opening in the fence right next to the front gate, the mayor may send the CRS inside the distribution area.
Residents of Palestine House pointed out, to an activist come in the afternoon to do bike-repair, that some of their bike wheels had been knife-punctured and stolen.
Africa House received an afternoon visit by a PAF police car, around 4pm. The object seems to have been counting, once again. Associations continue to distribute pallets and wood everyday. French and English lessons are continuing.
Monday 7th March
Africa House saw no raid this morning. An undercover police was parked some way across the street, and took pictures of the activists. PAF parked twice in front of the entrance to intimidate and mock people, but left shortly afterwards.
A PAF police car entered Africa House in the afternoon, shortly before 4pm, driving inside the main building, and counting the number of people there. They also stated to the migrants they would be back in the night, to play some music again. Charities (Salam, then Secours Catholique) have entered Africa House to distribute pallets, and put down the carefully built, police-blocking barricade to avoid the labor of bringing the stuff on foot.
Elsewhere in town, a migrant with papers was arrested near the train station around 11 am. As he got inside the van, he saw that two others had shared his bad luck. The person with papers was released shortly afterwards, and had to walk all the way back, for more than an hour. We do not know if the other two have been released.
At 9.30pm, a PAF van came into Africa House to play loud music, as they had announced they would.
Saturday 5th March
Once again, PAF raided Palestine House very late as people were about to sleep, sometime between 11pm and midnight. They initially didn’t find anyone, but they eventually found their hiding place and arrested 6 people. Some of them were back by lunch time the next day.
The CRS made three arrests near the shopping mall, including of a person with papers, who was released almost immediately afterwards.
Africa House received a very late visit from PAF around midnight – 1am. The routine intimidation tactic of driving into the courtyard was used, with flashlights on, before the car left. No one was arrested.
PAF chased people along the highway as they were heading back to the jungle after Salam’s food distribution. No one was arrested, but the highway is a very dangerous thing to cross whilst running away. A young woman died trying to escape from CRS in 2009, because she crossed at the wrong time.
Wednesday 2nd March
A mass raid on Africa House took place this morning at just past 9.00am. Both PAF and CRS pulled their vans into the university grounds behind Africa House and 6 vans worth of police came sprinting in through the back entrance, instantly detaining CMS activists who were sounding the alarm, before hunting high and low for sans-papiers.
The PAF officers were seemingly in a very bad mood – people were pushed and shoved about, one of the cameras a CMS activist was using got smashed in the scuffle. Over 20 people were arrested including one activist and many underage boys, one as young as 12 years old. Activists quizzed the police on whether they truly believed that arresting children was right – they all answered “Yes”
Most of those arrested were released by lunch.
After a lot of fiddling with cables, car batteries and our newly aquired projector, CMS activists set up a cinema at Palestine House. Popcorn was made in a pan and a white sheet hung from the wall for the first film night Calais has seen in a long while, we now hope to make it a weekly occurance. The evening kicked off well, with Spider Man 3 (subtitled in Arabic) proving to be very popular. The CRS made an appearance at just past midnight but after a small, unrelated, incident in the street they decided to move on, making no arrests.
In other news – English and French lessons are still continuing at Africa House and the place has been brightened up somewhat by the ever expanding collection of paintings on the walls, in and around Africa House.
Monday 28th February
PAF visited Africa House very early, around 6.15am, to flash their lights at sleeping people. No one was arrested inside Africa House. Reports from migrants mention arrests at the round-a-bout leading to the squat. We suspect PAF drive people out with harassment tactics, so the CRS can pick people up out on the streets.
Palestine House was raided twice in a day, at 6am where 5 people were arrested, and at midnight where 2 were arrested. One inhabitant remarked that it was the third time in three days that the CRS were raiding at midnight.
Sunday 27th February
There was a very late police raid at Africa House and 5 Eritreans were arrested.
Saturday 26th February
Police raided Palestine House at around midnight. 3 people were arrested. 2 escaped via the same window people that people fell from and succumbed to very serious injuries on 9th of February.
Friday 25th February
The new CRS compagnie 44 arrived in Calais on Wednesday. Despite the usual local difficulties of finding one’s way round a new town, they seem to be starting to learn the art of pointless discrimination and harassment.
This morning 2 vans of the compagnie were patrolling the streets of Calais town centre, stopping to chase and check the papers of anyone who looked like a migrant, i.e. people with a different skin colour to the average Calaisien. Four officers accosted and chased a young man at full speed hundreds of metres along a side street away from the town centre. Fortunately, despite his rucksack, he was just too fast, even for police fresh from a warm van.
A few minutes later the same van of CRS arrested 2 people on the bridge leading to the food distribution at about 08:30. In total at least 6 people were detained and removed by the two Company 44 vans ´touring´ the town centre.
Thursday 24th February
Palestine House was raided by the CRS at 4am in the morning, to target people whilst they slept. 6 people were arrested.
It was reported to CMS that 4 female PAF officers went to the squat known as Africa House at about 12pm and informed people staying there that they were ‘worthless’ and that if they had no papers they had no chance of remaining in Calais. This type of harassment, whilst seeming benign, is deliberately targeted to undermine the hopes of people already living in difficult circumstances.
Later in the evening CMS activists met journalists from Al Jazeera Tunisia at Africa House. This team is in Northern France for a week and has already visited jungles along the French Coast.
Wednesday 23rd February
Around 9.15am this morning, a joint raid on Africa House took place. 4 vans of CRS and a car of PAF arrived from the back of the premises. Around 15 people were arrested. A Council official was present, as well as 2 workers, one from the Council. A new CRS unit is in town: unit 44.
When the PAF van returned from Coquille Detention Centre at 10.15, there was a brief struggle at the entrance of Africa House during which one Sudanese man was arrested for allegedly kicking the van.
Tuesday 22nd February: YET ANOTHER DEATH AT THE BORDER
The mainstream press are reporting that a 24 year old Afghan man has died whilst being pursued by the PAF (border police) in Calais, following a vehicle check (contrôle).
The man was reportedly not living in the squats or jungles, but held an Italian passport and was driving a car through the town at the at the time of the contrôle. He was then said to have been chased by the police before jumping into the canal, where he drowned.
The corporate media are suggesting that the police suspected him of being a people smuggler.
2 Eritreans were also arrested inside the train station at 11am by Gendarmerie, who rarely, if ever, get involved with the work of their PAF and CRS colleagues.
Monday 21st February
The Hazara Jungle was raided for 1 hour today. No arrests were made. The CRS were looking for tents to destroy but couldn’t find anyone or anything…
Saturday 19th February
One police car was practicing its hand brake turns, using Africa House as its training ground and CMS as bollards. A PAF van drove into Africa House at around 7.30 followed shortly by the car; that decided to enter the main building with its lights flashing and booming shit-afro-pop through the speakers to the hilarity of the police and the discomfort of the sleeping inhabitants.
Tuesday 15th February
In recent days PAF and CRS have chosen to avoid stress inducing raids and confrontations at Africa house where it inevitably turns into a stand-off between those on the roof and the arresting officers. Instead they have taken to arresting people on their way in and out of food distribution as a regular tactic, despite the fact that they have made agreements with the associations not to do so. The associations have previously sent a letter denouncing these actions, yet still they persist. CMS have taken to walking people to food distribution in an attempt to ensure people are able to get access to food.
Friday 11th February: Another big raid on Africa house this morning, three arrests.
A large number ofCRS came from both sides, with three CRS vans in the front at around 8.30, surrounding the migrants from both entrances. However, most migrants climbed on the roof and the CRS only arrested five people. Despite this, everyone knows by now how dangerous is to escape via the roof!
Thursday 10th February: ONE PALESTINIAN SERIOUSLY INJURED DURING MASS RAID ON AFRICA HOUSE
There was another mass raid on Africa House by CRS and PAF, resulting in about 20 arrests. Yet another man has been injured as a result of the police. The man fell – he did not jump as previously thought, and was rushed to hospital.
Two of us went to hosptial to visit the injured man, who is Palestinian. He has two injuried hands, one broken foot, two broken teeth and is covered in severe bruises. He also seems to be in a terrible emotional and mental state.
It seems like almost everyday now that somebody falls because of police pursuit and ends up badly injured, or have been beaten by the police – usually when no-one’s watching.
Wednesday 9th February: TWO PALESTINIANS SERIOUSLY INJURED WHILST RUNNING FROM POLICE
We went to the hospital to see two men who were injured after falling from the first storey of a building whilst being chased by the police. They have since been released and are back at Palestine House.
From what we can gather, the CRS raided mid-morning and were particuarly violent. Three people were immediately arrested and two more tried to escape by climbing down the guttering onto the street. The guttering broke and both fell, causing facial injuries. One of the men also broke an arm, while the other received a nasty head injury and bruising. He also has two black eyes and a broken nose but from what he recalls, that was from the police rather than the fall. An ambulance was called and they were taken to hospital.
The men who were arrested recieved a beating from the police. One underage boy had his hand injured by the police. He was released from custody almost straight away but then re-arrested later that night.
We went round to Palestine House in the evening for a few hours and made food because they missed all their meals that day. Everyone is seemingly doing ok but very angry and frustrated at the situation, and the two injured men are in a lot of pain.
Saturday 5th February
11.00pm: One car of PAF officers entered Africa House from the back of the building, waking people with torches. One arrest was made.
Friday 4th February
10.00pm: Police raided Africa House and arrested 5 people.
Thursday 3rd February: MASS ARREST AT FOOD DISTRIBUTION SITE
Police in Calais have recently been overheard saying that raids on squats where migrants stay is just not effective enough. In today’s joint PAF and CRS operation, they have displayed that what really works for them is carrying out raids on the roads surrounding the food distribution place before and after food is distributed.
This morning, CRS and PAF vans, cars, and arrest vans, pulled up at both ends of the road where the food distribution place is situated, effectively blocking any escape for the migrants. As migrants ran in both directions away from the food distribution center, police got out, grabbed, assaulted and shoved migrants into vans. Salam volunteers, who do the morning’s food distribution, shut the gates after everybody had left the compound, further blocking migrants routes for escape. Once all the migrants in the area had been caught or had run away, the vans moved off and began chasing down the migrants who had escaped. Groups of migrants were sprinting together in all directions and the police were chasing after them in their vehicles, then getting out, beating them with their batons and dragging them into the vans.
One group were chased onto the train tracks where one migrant collapsed with an injured leg. The PAF began beating him mercilessly, saying he was faking it. When a CMS activist arrived with a camera the police changed their attitude, acting as if they were helping the man. When their playacting got too much for their fascist souls, they then turned round and smashed the camera before continuing with their brutalizing, safe in the knowledge that their role as ‘state protector’ was secure. One migrant was lying on the ground moaning and screaming due to the beatings he had received but the police repeated that he was just faking and continued to beat him out of sight of numerous onlookers who stared from their windows. Car drivers wound down their windows to get a better look and asked the police if it was okay to carry on driving down the road. None of them felt impelled to do or say anything about the scene of police brutality in front of them. The man, now unconscious, was dragged into a van and repeatedly smacked around the face as he moaned in pain. His limbs kept falling out so that they couldn’t shut the door and this was apparently excuse enough to beat him again.
Vans have been seen heading towards Africa House squat where an unsuccessful raid was carried out this morning on behalf of CRS Compagnie 11.
Palestine house was raided around 7 am and everybody was arrested.
Four people were arrested at the train station at 7.00am
The Hazara jungle was destroyed during the night; several tents destroyed and two people arrested.
Wednesday 2nd February
PAF and CRS raided Africa House this morning. CMS were there and made sure that everybody had plenty of time to get away. This upset the officers who took out their frustration on the activists. People were thrown to the floor, punched and kicked in the face and then dragged from the premises. One PAF officer was particularly aggresive and so the activists tried to force his fellow officers to give his name and/or police details. This turned into a stand off as the activists refused to give papers until they had his name. It was never given and two people were threatened with arrest for withholding their passports during a police control.
Meanwhile, inside, the other officers broke down and then smashed up doors and staircases leaving people on the roof no way to get back down into the building. In total, two arrests were made.
Palestine house was raided by CRS at about 9.00pm. CMS activists happened to be there cooking a meal at the time and so were able to witness one arrest and prevent the CRS from continuing their habitual violence. Apart from the loss of one friend to the police it was a lovely evening of Morroccan cuisine cooked on an open fire, ending perfectly with the return of the arrested man, just in time to eat.
Monday 31st January
A Tajik boy of 12 lost a finger when jumping from a fence: the police were chasing him while he was trying to cross and a ring he was wearing got caught in the fence. His brother, who is 10, is also in hospital but uninjured. CMS activists have been visiting the boys and so far they are doing well. An almost identical incident occurred last autumn; again, the man lost his finger. More updates on this later.
Africa House was raided again morning. There were no arrests, although one person was arrested outside the premises. The PAF tried to run down three CMS activists with a police van. Luckily nobody was injured but the officers made sure to check that their vehicle wasnt scratched, not bothering to ask if any of the people were alright..
Saturday 29th January
The Hazara jungle was raided in the night. Two occupants were arrested and the police destroyed some tents.
Friday 28th January
This morning a Sudanese man from Africa House hurt himself after falling from the roof whilst running from police. He has been taken to hospital. More news will be given when available.
Thursday 27th January
There was yet another raid of Africa House this morning. CMS activists were there and made an early warning but the police broke there way onto the roof and unfortunately managed to catch 10 people. The female activists who were barred from the building were then sexually harrassed and insulted by the police.
Friday 21st January
There was a mass raid of Africa House this morning. PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) and the new unit of CRS arrived at the back of the building with six vans. CMS activists were immediately removed from the premises and could only watch as doors were kicked in, CS gas was sprayed and over 20 people were arrested. The officers were seen to be enjoying themselves while climbing about on the roof and kept posing for photographs with their guns. One officer remarked to the activists that it was all “just a game”.
Thursday 20th January
Still no news of the missing Palestinians. Instead, the PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) have been repeatedly raiding the Palestinians’ squat.
Cooking materials were taken over to Palestine House and a large communal meal was cooked between CMS activists and the residents of the house. Everyone had good fun with paint and decorated the walls with Arabic, English and French slogans of freedom.
A Palestinian man was arrested and interrogated by police about No Borders. He has now been released.
A new compagnie of CRS arrived this evening: unit 11.
Wednesday 19th January
PAF came to Africa House twice this morning; once at 5.00am and then again at 6.30am. No arrests were made but everyone was woken up by torches being shoved into their faces.
The police raided the food distribution place, taking tents that some boys had been living in. They also took all their personal belongings, like clothes and their ID papers.
A private squat was evicted – all people arrested. The house was then boarded up.
A sound system was taken to Palestine House. People spent all evening dancing and having an Arabic/English phrase swapping session. It was a beautiful night of incredible dance moves and the breaking down of language barriers.
Tuesday 18th January
PAF arrived at Africa House at 7.00am this morning and tried to batter their way in past the barricades. Once they discovered it was easier to get out of the car and move them by hand they were able to get in. At the moment it seems the police are enjoying playing games and so instead of even trying to arrest people they just drove about inside shining lights and disturbing those who wanted to sleep.
One man in Africa House was taken ill and an ambulance had to be called. At first they refused to come out but after the sixth call some paramedics arrived in a fire truck and took him to hospital. He was discharged later that day with a packet of pain killers even though he could barely walk.
Monday 17th January
PAF came to Africa House in the morning but made no arrests.
English and French lessons are continuing with great enthusiasm and attendance at Africa House. Todays lessons stretched on for hours – until it was too dark to see the board.
Sunday 16th January
Two young Palestinians missing while trying to cross
Two young Palestinians aged 16 and 18 went to try and cross to England via the Eurostar Tunnel. The two boys hid in a water pipe connected with the reservoir. Two other men who were behind witnessed the scene . One of these was arrested and held for 24 hours in police station, the other escaped. They say the security let the dog off the lead, the dog had a muzzle on and could not bite, but it may have caused the boys to panic and go further into the water pipe, where they may have fallen in and drowned. The fire brigade has been searching the bottom of the reservoir, but there is a grill in the pipe before it joins the it. The two Palestinians who were with the missing boys went to the police station yesterday, together with two volunteers from associations to provide information, but there is still no news. It has been three days since the two boys went missing. They had just arrived in Calais and not even the other Palestinians know their names.
A CMS activist was also ‘controlled’ in Carrefour.
Saturday 15th January
The PAF (Police Aux Frontieres – border police) drove into Africa House (a squat home to large numbers of African migrants) with great speed, scaring many people onto the roof, but they did not attempt to arrest anyone. Instead, they collected all the artwork that was drying in the corner of the warehouse, bundled it into their van and drove out again blasting music.
The Hazara Jungle was raided at 12.30am. Eight PAF officers made three arrests including one man with papers and one underage boy (who was then held in Coquelles for 24 hours).
Friday 14th January
Africa house was not raided this morning but the CRS went there three times pretending to go in, then when everybody ran they went back to their van and drove off. They kept prowling the streets where people use to get to the food distribution site and chased a group of Pashtun children on their way, although no arrests were made. Most of the people in Africa house missed their breakfast for fear of being arrested.
Thursday 13th January
At least five people were arrested at Africa House just before 8.00am. The police entered from the back of the building and conducted a small raid on the language teaching cabins.
PAF were doing their usual sweep of town, this morning, when they recognised and stopped a CMS activist in the shopping centre. One officer threatened him with a beating and then told him that the police ´Don´t want Migrants here´.
At just past 8.00am the CRS pulled into the train station and stopped four Vietnamese people who were waiting for a train. They were questioned for papers and then detained on the pavement outside for over twenty minutes while the police waited for an arrest van.
The squat known as ‘Paradise House’ was raided this morning at 10.00am. There are no confirmed arrests.
Wednesday 12th January
Africa house raided, mass arrests made.
Africa house was raided at 8am this morning by PAF and CRS officers. They arrived in 5 police vans and two cars with 2 arrest vans. They made an incredibly thorough search of the buildings with ladders, ripping doors from hinges and destroying the barricades to the upstairs rooms. At least 20 arrests were made; all those not arrested were made to leave, including CMS activists and charity workers who were present. Several blankets and the CMS tents were taken by council workers and they bulldozed the small barricade that was set up at the entrance to stop the police entering. After the police left the people returned and CMS activists helped to replace the doors and rebuild the barricades.
To lift the mood, paints, brushes and huge rolls of paper were brought to Africa House and some of the more creative residents painted beautiful pictures, wrote poetry and slogans of freedom and love.
The CRS have been roaming the streets arresting people at random, in the streets, at the train station etc. PAF breached the agreement with the associations and arrested one man outside the gates of evening food distribution. After a small scuffle with CMS activists and some of the charity workers, PAF drove the man away to Coquelles detention centre where he was held for 20 minutes, finger printed and released.
The Iranian squat was closed and boarded up, forcing all the residents to sleep on the streets, in the rain.
Tuesday 11th January
7.30am – Palestine House was raided this morning 7.30 am and six people were arrested.
They returned two times more during the day without arresting anyone.
PAF went to Africa house in the evening around 8 pm, apparently looking for Afghans who may (or may be not) sleeping there. They did not find any Afghans and went away empty handed after searching all the buildings.
The Iranians were arrested again and taken to Coquelles as soon as they went to their squat.
Monday 10th January
There was no breakfast provided this morning by Salam. CMS distributed pastries, bread and sandwiches but most people went hungry until lunchtime distribution.
The Kurdish Jungle was raided in the night, 5 confirmed arrests, maybe more.
The Iranian house was also raided twice in the night, everyone was arrested and taken to Coquelles police station, then, just after they returned to their squat after walking one hour in the rain, arrested and taken to Coquelles again – including a man who is sick with the flu. It seems sleep is a privilege only for those with papers.
Sunday 9th January
Hazara Jungle raided in the night, two arrests made.
Friday 7th January
It seems that the police have been spreading a rumour amongst the migrants that the UK is closed to refugees and that there is ‘ no more asylum to give’.
No raid on Africa House this morning but the Iranian house was visited by PAF and everyone was kicked out onto the street. The police are just roaming through the streets picking people up. Many Africans and Afghans, some as young as 10, are being constantly arrested and re-arrested all day.
Thursday 6th January
The BCMO – cold weather shelter has now closed because the temperature rose to above freezing today. The temperature has since plummeted with a lot of rain and wind but no sign of the shelter opening again. CMS and all the charity associations have been kept very busy desperately trying to find bedding, tents and waterproof clothing for the over a hundred of people now sleeping on the streets. CRS and PAF have also been very busy chasing them and arresting them when they are most vulnerable.
Wednesday 5th January
Africa house raided this morning, all CMS Activists arrested.
8.00am – PAF and CRS did a joint operation, entering the property from the front and back. Activists were immediately shoved into a corner and were searched thoroughly. Despite protests, males officers searched female activists. Everyone was then handcuffed and given no explanation for there arrest. The police seemed perplexed that there were so few activists on the ground that morning and asked after specific activists by name..
Before the activists were driven away to the police station they spotted seven arrests of Migrants and what looked like a full scale eviction.
Upon arrival at Coquelles detention centre CMS were almost the only people in custody but by 1.00pm the cells were full, with mostly African Migrants. By 4.00pm most of the migrants had been released but CMS still remained, ears ringing with police threats of jail. The whole operation in Coquelles was very unprofessional as interviews were conducted in busy offices. One activist was locked into a toilet and forgotten about. All activists were released around 7pm.
Tuesday 4th January
A relatively quiet day in Calais today for everyone. Not too many police on the streets, making only a few arrests throughout the day. CMS activists were able to catch up on the usual distribution of shoes, bedding and sim cards. A very well attended and lively english lesson was conducted at Africa House, (the subject today – irregular verbs) which involved much laughter as the activists had to mime all sorts of strange actions!
Monday 3rd January
Two cars of PAF officers arrived at Africa House this morning and decided that instead of conducting a raid on the Sans-Papiers they would beat up the CMS activists who were on morning watch, instead. Batons, fists, and boots were used as activists were thrown to the ground, slammed into walls and choked. A female activist was kicked in the stomach, hit round the head with a baton, thrown to the ground and strangled for trying to stop an officer hitting someone. Another two activists were kicked in the face and thrown into the road for blowing a whistle – the officer (once he had smashed the offending whistle) remarked that we blow the whistles and wake up everyone on the street every morning and that this was not good. He seemed to casually gloss over the fact that he comes to Africa House every morning to wake people up and arrest them, I guess it just goes to show the mentality of the French police – Migrants are not people in their eyes.
The CRS spent the morning roaming around and made several arrests of African migrants who were walking back to Africa House from food distribution. They then followed and tried to arrest people walking back to the jungles out by the ferry port, three people got chased on foot and so climbed the fence into the locked up food distribution area. The CRS followed and climbed the fences catching and arresting two, one guy managed to get out the other side and hide in a garden, the police drove by several times and didnt spot him but unfortunately he didnt get away as a passerby called to the police and showed them where he was hiding. One CMS activist also got arrested after trying to intervene in the peoples escape, he was released four hours later after a full ID check in Coquelles with all the other Sans-Papiers.
Sunday 2nd January
Everyone got a surprise – including us – when they got to food distribution in the morning to find that all the barbed wire (which usually covers the tops of the fences, turning a space for meals into a prison) had been removed from the fences and placed in the big wheelie bins during the night. CMS activists with the help of some athletic Afghan lads then decorated the fences with banners in English, Arabic and French, wishing everyone a Happy New Year – Free from Borders!
English lessons are still continuing strong in Africa House and they are now being joined by art sessions too. Being able to let go of everything in Calais is something very important and so the recent arrival of a portable sound system has been very popular, especially with the young Afghan boys who have delighted in showing everyone some of their dance moves. This evening the music was taken to the BCMO cold weather shelter where within minutes there were over twenty people clapping and watching in awe at an eleven year old Afghan boy and his enchanting dancing. The CRS made an appearance but nobody ran, they just clapped and cheered louder, sending them on their way.
Saturday 1st January (New Years day)
Lunchtime food distribution was served by L’Auberge des Migrants who decided to brighten the mood by taping paper table cloths to the tops of the bins. A Samba band from Germany also played some awesome tunes and got people dancing. After about a minutes notice from CMS the Samba band moved out onto the street and (with banners appearing from nowhere) it turned into a small New Years Day noise demo processing up through town to the shopping centre. The locals looked on with smiles and cheers and the small group of activists and migrants grew by one when a passer-by stopped her car and left her husband and children to join in the march – fist raised and chanting loudly! The peaceful, colourful and cheery gaggle of people stopped outside of the shopping centre and a banner was hung from the christmas decorations proclaming – HUMAN RIGHTS HAVE NO BORDERS! Within moments of the banner being hung the police arrived and officers were seen to be putting on riot helmets and pulling out batons. Everybody scattered and the police took chase. Two activists were cornered down an alleyway and choked by police, the banner ripped from them. Two others were controlled and released – nobody else was caught.