updates january to april 2012

7th April

Noise demonstration in Solidarity with Hunger Striker
Today a noise demonstration was held outside Coquelles detention centre in solidarity with an Iranian person inside who is entering his 3rd day of hunger strike. He is refusing both food and water in protest against his detention and immanent deportation to Hungary, a country he has never set foot in.

People banged pots and pans, blew whistles, and rattled the fence so that the people inside could hear. Slogans were shouted, including messages for the person on hunger strike. People inside shouted back and made noise.

The hunger striker has spoken with people from Calais Migrant Solidarity. He spoke about his time in detention likening it ‘to the same mental torment as experienced in prisons in Iran’. He has now been in detention for over 20 days . If deported to hunger it is likely he will be put straight into detention as almost all people seeking asylum or deported to Hungary are immediately detained.
After the noise demonstration at the detention centre the group moved to the shopping centre to give out leaflets about both the detention centre and also the hunger strike. The police followed the group around the shopping centre until they left.

Thursday 5th April

Yesterday the Calais Migrant Solidarity group staged a demonstration in the local shopping centre calling for solidarity with those without papers. Around 20 demonstrators gathered in the afternoon and staged a flash mob in the middle of the shopping centre, carrying banners and demonstrating police violence towards migrants using theatre. Migrants in Calais are regularly subjected to brutal police violence, and have little protection against this. Many members of the public stopped to watch the demonstration and protesters handed them leaflets asking them to support the migrants. Police arrived towards the end of the demonstration but protesters let peacefully.

Thursday 4th April

Today 15 people with and without papers held a noise demonstration outside Coquelles detention centre. People banged pots and pans, blew whistles, and rattled the fence so that the people inside could hear. People also held banners with messages of solidarity, including a telephone number that people inside could call if they wanted to speak about their situation.

People on the demonstration managed to speak with those detained through the windows. After 5 minutes the people inside called the telephone number on the banner, they said that there is currently ‘over 40 people are inside the centre from many different countries. All of us are facing possible deportation’.
Very quickly the police moved the people detained away from the windows and into another part of the detention centre so they could not see the demonstration.

After 15 minutes around 15 PAF officers (the border police) used batons to violently remove the demonstration away from the detention centre. More police arrived shortly after.
The demonstration then moved into a nearby shopping centre. People shouted slogans of solidarity with the people inside the detention centre.

One person was briefly detained outside the shopping centre on his way home.

Coquelles centre is just one part of the international network of racist prisons. End all detention.

Recent update – 29th to 31st March.

Thursday 29th March and the surrounding days have seen a shocking and rapid escalation of police harassment, arrests and brutality against people with and without papers in Calais – far beyond the normal level and in what seemed to be a premeditated assault on the migrant communities and their supporters.

This coincided with the visit of a UK ambassador to the city to meet with officials on Friday 30th to discuss the matter of port security in the run-up to London’s Olympic Games, and appears to be part of an ongoing offensive against migrants. This city is coming under the spotlight as part of the Olympic project as international sports teams are training in the Pas-de-Calais region, and the UK and French governments have promised a joint effort to strengthen the border regime this summer.

Early in the morning on Thursday, a large squat housing mainly Eritreans was raided and two people were arrested during ID controls. However, the police’s energy was focussed in the evening. Multiple ID controls took place, in what one person described as the police ‘swooping into the streets’, as people travelled to and from the food distribution area for their evening meal. Another group were stopped by CRS officers near the Town Hall. Four people without papers were taken in to custody.

Around the same time, two people from No Borders* were attacked by CRS officers as they walked down a quiet street, pushed against a wall from behind and asked for identification. The police violently arrested one, forcing her onto the floor of the CRS van, whilst pushing the other to the ground before driving off. The activist arrested was not told the reason for her arrest, but was released 24 hours later on bail charged with outrage.

The wave of violent repression continued into the evening as several vans of CRS police descended into one of the city’s parks at around 8pm and began ID controlling men congregated there. They made around five arrests. A group of activists present challenged the police’s behaviour. The activists and a man without papers were chased in the park by police before being pinned to the floor and beaten with batons and fists. The beating continued against the five in the police van, as they were handcuffed, and in the police station, where one was repeatedly kicked as he lay on the floor. The arrested people were released 48 hours later on bail, charged with violence against the police. Several received injuries requiring medical attention.

One person arrested stated that ‘the police in Calais can do what they like. Beatings by the police in custody, including during interrogation is a daily occurrence and happens with impunity’.

A small squat housing 10-12 Iranians was evicted at around 11pm, but no arrests were made as the men had already left. After the eviction of the main squat, known as Africa House, many people with and without papers have been depending on smaller squats for shelter to avoid sleeping on Calais’ violent streets.

The previous evening, Wednesday, an ID control at one of the largest squats, ‘Palestine House’, resulted in a group of men being taken into custody. Another small squatted building housing around 12 people was evicted by police during a raid at 1am. On Friday, the constant circuiting of the city by vans of CRS, PAF, Police Nationale and undercover cars has continued, ID controls have been conducted in early morning visits to remaining squats, and activists have been followed in their vehicles by CRS vans.

The crackdown is set to continue as the local news reports that the authorities are to demolish Palestine House in the coming weeks, which they say is for redevelopment.

The violence perpetrated against people with and without papers during these 24 hours is aimed at sustaining an atmosphere of fear for those living with and without papers in Calais. For those facing the risk of deportation, the police threat of arrest and detention is a terrifying prospect – whilst the evictions have left tens of people without shelter. The repression seen over the past week is a part of the wider system of borders and state repression, restricting and controlling the movement of people.

Wednesday 21st March

The squat, close to the post office, was again raided at 9am this morning. No arrests were made but police searched peoples bags and belongings.

Tuesday 20th March

Those evicted on Monday try to find a new place to sleep for the night but are again woken up by police and kicked out onto the streets. None of the people were arrested, but this is the forth day in a row that people have been removed from their house.

Monday 19th March

People are kicked out onto the street again. At 12pm a new squat was evicted which had been sleeping about 30-40 people from Sudan, Iran, Afghanistan, Chad and Eritrea. All people inside, around fifteen at the time, were arrested. Most people could not take any of their belongings with them. Around thirty cops (three CRS vans Compaingne 23, three arrest vans, two PAF vans and a few cars) evicted the building along with staff from OPH, a farcicle ‘social housing organisation’ who own the building and also evicted people from the last squat. This time they refused to give any court papers to show it whether it was a legal eviction. Whether it is legal or not is of course irrelavent, people are still forcefully made homeless, again.

It is the third evictions in five days with many arrests. Many police ‘chiefs’ along with their foot soliders joke and jest with each other as they turf people out and carry them off in police vans, as if it is some kind of sick game. It is not a game, it is routine and systematic persecution, harressment, and abuse – racially profiling, imprisoning and removing the ‘foreigners’ who are too ‘undesirable’ to this babylon fortress.

Saturday 17th March

In the morning CRS riot vans hover outside a new squat along with staff from Office Public de l’Habitat de Calais (OPH). Many people moved to this new squat after being evicted from the university buildings and from the food distribution area over the last few days. This building is owned by the same social housing assocation who owned and evicted the last big squat, see : http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2012/02/492399.html

In the evening CRS raid Palestine House arresting fifteen people.

Friday 16th March : food distro evicted

Many people moved to the food distribution area to sleep after being kicked out the university squats. All night and all morning unmarked cars full of police drove up to the gates with flash lights scanning over and intimidating people inside. At about 10.30am one van load of police entered and told everyone to leave or they will be arrested. The police wrote down everyone’s names and threatened to stop the food distribution ‘deal’ if people don’t leave. By ‘deal’ they mean blackmail; threatening people not only with arrest but with closing the food distribution area permanently if they do not leave.

At 3pm about five PAF cars and two vans came turned up. Most people had already left for fear of being arrested. Nonetheless 25 cops with the local sub-prefect and a council van show up to remove the last hand full of people, violently dragging some people out, and putting all the sleeping bags and blankets, which people had to leave behind, in the dump.

In the evening four people were arrested in the park.

The police accompanied by the municipality have also been looking around and taking photos at Palestine House over these last days.

Thursday 15th March : University buildings / latest Africa House and the Villa have been evicted.

At 7.30am about 10 police vans, mostly CRS came with some PAF, blocking all the roads around the site and evicting everyone inside. People were not given much time to collect their stuff. About 60 people made homeless in one blow.

People with black skin, even if they had papers, had to leave while those with white skin, even if they didn’t have papers, were allowed to collect together some of peoples belongings, sleeping bags and tents. The police arrived with the sub-prefecture and municipality services, including the right hand man of the mayor. They proceeded to try and tell everyone to claim asylum as a bullshit attempt to make the eviction look reasonable.

Over these last weeks the police took people names and promised accommodation for 60 people after eviction. But only nine places were given, some dispersed far away in north of France. The rest are forced, again, to find somewhere else to hide.

Today was the first day that the ‘winter truce’ ends – the French law of trêve hivernale which prohibits evictions during the ‘cold period’ of 1st November – 15th March if the occupant of the building has nowhere else to go. It has been repeatedly ignored by the authorities in Calais, including for the eviction of the previous ‘Africa House’ in mid-November last year. They claimed they waited until until the winter break had finished is a complete farce. To the local newspaper they said ‘we could have evicted them earlier but we waited”, but to No Borders they gloat ‘everywhere people go they will be evicted’.

Friday 10th March

About 30 police came to the squatted university building this morning, CRS compaigne 23 and PAF border police. They were counting people again, taking names and seperating people with papers from those without. No arrests.

Friday 9th March

Nine PAF border police (one van, one car and an arrest van) raid a squat near the post office. No people were there. They climbed over the fence and went after the beds. Loud noises and bangs were heard from outside as cops were breaking things inside.

Thursday 8th March

A man was arrested walking from food distribution and is in detention facing deportation.

Wednesday 7th March

Over the past couple of days we have been thinking that the eviction of Africa House might happen because there has been increased police activity. This has not happened but people are still expecting the eviction; it is very unnerving to be like this every day. Yesterday police drove in the back entrance of the university buildings but no arrests were made, they seemingly came just to look around.

Tuesday 6th March

15 police again came to the University this morning to ‘look’ around. This is the third time in one week. No arrests were made. People were left wondering again when their house may be destroyed. People anxiously await the seemly imminent eviction.

Sunday 4th March

People gathered outside Coquelles for a noise demonstration on Sunday afternoon to show solidarity with all those being held in the centre. Music was played and slogans shouted to those inside. Police quickly removed the detainees from their rooms so they were not able to see the demonstration. However, this did not prevent communication as people continued to shout back and forth.

Music was continued at the food distribution area in the evening with folk music, accordion and dancing. The local church association Salam disapproved, they left and locked everyone inside without telling anyone! About 30 people had to climb out the gated area in the pouring rain!

Friday 2nd March

No Borders Demonstration outside Sous Préfecture, Calais: End deportations

On Friday afternoon, 25 people gathered outside the Prefecture to demonstrate and condemn deportation and particularly the current move to deport people to Sudan.

Demonstrators were met by around 40 police who blocked the road outside the building from both ends. The police even followed a group of 8 people to the protest on police motor bikes (this is comparable to 2 police cars which policed a anti austerity demonstration of over 200 a couple of days earlier!). Noise was made with pots, pans, whistles and a number of people read testimonies from those inside detention.

People hung banners around the local area, stating ‘freedom for all’, ‘end deportation’ among other things. Slogans were also drawn on the road in French, Arabic and English.

The demonstration then moved to Calais centre, where a banner, saying ‘stop deportation’, was dropped from the shopping mall and fliers given out. Two people were arrested for dropping the banner and for ID control. Both were released without charge.

The recent move to forcibly remove people to Sudan, where they face torture, mass killings an rape, is part of the violent and oppressive system of borders. As far as we are aware the recent deportation to Sudan, 15th February 2012, is the first forced expulsion from Coquelles detention centre to Sudan.

Deportations to Sudan is just one example of how the system of states and the institutions of international border control continue to persecute people base on which bit of land they are born on!

End deportations!

No Borders!

2nd March 2012

30 police came to the University this morning arriving in 3 CRS vans and two cars. Police entered into the compound as people without papers tried to escape. As people ran the police shouted ‘no problem today no arrests’, as if to say that 30 police coming into the place where you are sleeping NOT A PROBLEM!!! (most people would think this was more than problem).

The police counted numbers of people, took down names, dates of birth and country of origin. They stayed in the university buildings for more than 40 mins. One person was detained and told he would have to go with the police to the station, in the end he was not taken.

At notice from the court posted on the wall last month stated that people from the university buildings can be evicted at any time.

Come and support!

Wednesday 29th February

Eviction

Police have been to the university twice this week to count the number of people sleeping there. No arrests were made but people were told that they would be returning on Monday. An eviction is imminent.

Detention and Deportation

Coquelles remains very full. It is estimated that 60 people are being held inside. The recent move to push for deportations to Sudan is very worrying.

There are currently 4 Sudanese known to be in Coquelles. One person is facing deportation in the next five days. The others remain waiting. Information about court dates and flights remains secret; people are left not knowing until the last minute.

A personal testimony from a person in Coquelles:

“Everyone knows the situation in Sudan and especially Darfur, there are no rights for humans, so why are France deporting us? There are also no rights for us here in France, we are not treated as humans.

In Darfur, in 2003, 500 plus people were killed in one day; this was my village, Anka.

They destroyed our village, raped the women, put children in the fire. Like the devil. In this moment I wished to die. I saw mass graves.

Since 2003, people have left our village, until this day they can’t go back. People can’t leave the camps; there is no security in the region.

Why is the United Nations staying silent?

United Nations community love money, not people. Why did they go to Libya to fight? For oil and money. They don’t come to Sudan even when the president is committing atrocities.

We, black people, are not treated as human. It seems like a bad dream but this is reality, a nightmare.

I was one year in jail in Sudan, these are my scars, you can see where they tortured me with hot water on my legs. After I was set free I had to come each week to sign in in order to not be killed, I ran away”.

(Anyonymous, February 2012)

CALL FOR SOLIDARITY ACTIONS

What can you do to stop these inhumane deportations?

Contact organisations in Calais : The prefect.
The prefect is responsible for the final decision to grant asylum or deport sans papiers. Phone or fax to the prefect of Pas-de-Calais county, Pierre de Bousquet de Floriant, to demand that he cancel the deportation :

Tel : 0033 (0)3 21 21 20 00
Fax: 0033 (0)3 21 55 30 30
Email : http://www.pas-de-calais.gouv.fr/Contactez-nous

Contact the airlines complicit in the deportation.
Contact Lufthansa and Air France as soon as possible to tell them to stop being complicit with such inhumane deportations. Ask that they cancel the departure of the deportees because people could be killed or subject to inhuman treatments if deported to Sudan.

Contact Lufthansa:
Deutsche Lufthansa AG
FRA CI
Lufthansa Aviation Center
Airportring
60546 Frankfurt/Main

Tel : 0049 1 805 805 805
Fax : 0049 1 805 838 005

Contact Air France:
45, rue de Paris
95 747 Roissy CDG Cedex

Tel: 01 41 56 78 00
Fax : 01 41 56 70 29

Please distrbute widely and send to your networks!

Thursday 23rd February

A Sudanese man who the French state tried to deport this week is back in Coquelle detention centre after one of his connecting flights, from Paris to Frankfurt, was cancelled due to strikes. We have been told that a second flight was attempted in the same day, via the UK and Turkey, but the airline refused to fly him.

So long as he remains in detention he can be deported at any moment. It is believed they will try to deport him again in the next few days.

The prefect in Calais can, if they choose, cancel the deportation.

Call, fax and email the prefect to demand they stop the deportation :

Tel : 0033 (0)3 21 21 20 00

Fax : 0033 (0)3 21 55 30 30

Email : http://www.pas-de-calais.gouv.fr/Contactez-nous

Please circulate widely.

Tuesday 21st February

Last week, on Thursday 16th February, four people were deported from France to Sudan and a fifth person was also due to be deported but refused to board the plane. This was the first time in a long time France has deported anyone to Sudan. Even the racist deportation machinery has, until now, said that the situation in Sudan is too dangerous and unstable.

Early morning of  Tuesday 21th they tried to deport the person who had refused five days before for a second time. The person was moved to an airport in Paris but the flight to Frankfurt (from where he was to be flown to Khartoum) was cancelled and the person was moved back to Coquelles detention centre in Calais.

Now more people locked in Coquelles are being processed for deportation to Sudan. Fuck France, Europe and fuck all this racist bullshit.

Early morning on the 21st a short press release in English and French was sent to newspapers and NGOs about this. People have been going to the detention centre to meet and talk to the detainees. Many people are wondering what is going to happen, and are fearing the possibility of deportation if they get caught in France without papers.

After being in the detention centre today, talking with two people, one of them the person who was supposed to be deported, they expressed often that they would rather like to die before getting send back. “Send me to Italy, send me to Greece, just not Sudan”. “I fled from hell, came to hell (fucking France), and am now being forced back to hell….” One good friend is already gone…

The press release:

This morning, French authorities attempted to deport a Sudanese man coming from the conflict-ridden region of Darfur to Khartoum, Sudan,  from Calais via Paris and Frankfurt.  The current rise in the detention and deportation of Sudanese migrants in France is a worrying new development: The fragile political situation and violence in Sudan suggests danger and human rights violations of returning refugees are almost inevitable.

Previously, appeals to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have prevented deportations to Sudan from taking place. Now associations working with migrants in detention believe the Court has changed tack, and is unwilling to intervene in appeal cases of people facing deportation to Sudan if they are not in the French asylum system.

Migrants in Calais’ Coquelles detention centre have said that on arrival they are given the choice to apply for asylum in France within five days or be deported to Sudan. They are kept in detention until their asylum request has been processed and then face deportation if their request is refused. The right to appeal against deportation is only available to those who have requested asylum in France. There is concern amongst undocumented migrants, migrant rights’ groups and advocacy associations that this new fast-track system will result in the rushed deportation of many Sudanese migrants who fear persecution on their return.

The man facing deportation was informed just last night (20th) that he would be taken to Frankfurt for deportation, leaving on Lufthansa flight LH590  at 11.50am today (21st) and his last-minute reprieve occurred only because a number of flights out of Paris were cancelled early this morning. The man is now awaiting further information about another deportation attempt.  He was arrested on Sunday 12th February and the French authorities attempted to deport him three days later. He refused to board the plane in Frankfurt and was returned to Coquelles detention centre in Calais. On the same day, four other Sudanese men  were deported: one from Calais and three from Paris. Meanwhile an increasing number of Sudanese migrants are being arrested and detained in France.

While the independence of South Sudan was recently realised, Sudanese people are still in danger. In Darfur, human rights abuses and attacks on civilians by the government, its allied forces and  rebel factions are continuing whilst international attention is focused on Southern Sudan. For migrants who initially fled a unified country, the question of identity and place are of paramount importance and constitute another layer of uncertainty, instability and danger.

In the newly independent Southern state, fighting continues in the border regions of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. As recently as 6th February four bombs were dropped on a health clinic in Kurchi, Southern Kordofan. Citizens continue to suffer from lack of food and shelter, violence and fear of violence, civilian bombings and without health care. On the 10th February, the United Nations Human Rights Commission called on donor nations for US$145 million in aid for the region. George Okoth-Obbo, director of the Africa Bureau in UNHCR said, “The needs are real and urgent, with refugees having to walk for weeks to reach safety, running out of food and water, and living in the bush.”

Press Contact:
Telephone: 0033 645 465 986
Email: calaisolidarity@gmail.com

Ce matin, les autorités françaises ont tenté d’expulser soudanais provenant de la région en conflit du Darfour vers Khartoum (au Soudan), de Calais via Paris et Francfort. La hausse actuelle de l’expulsion des migrants soudanais en France est un nouveau développement inquiétant : la situation politique fragile et la violence au Soudan n’assurent pas le respect des Droits de l’Homme des réfugiés expulsés vers le Soudan.

Précédemment, des appels à la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme (CEDH) ont empêché des expulsions au Soudan d’avoir lieu. Maintenant les associations travaillant avec des migrants dans les centres de détention pensent que la Cour a changé de tactique et veut intervenir dans les cas d’appel des gens faisant face à l’expulsion vers le Soudan s’ils ne sont pas dans entrés le système d’asile français.

Les migrants détenus dans ce centre de rétention de Coquelles a Calais ont dit qu’à l’arrivée on leur donne le choix entre demander l’asile en France dans les cinq jours ou être expulsé au Soudan. Ils sont gardés en détention jusqu’à ce que leur demande d’asile ait été traitée et font ensuite face à l’expulsion si on refuse leur demande. Le droit de faire appel contre la déportation est seulement disponible pour ceux qui ont demandé l’asile en France. Les migrants sans papiers ainsi que les associations d’aide aux immigrés sont très préoccupés car ce nouveau système très  accéléré aboutira à la déportation accélérée de beaucoup de migrants soudanais qui craignent leur persécution a leur retour.

L’homme faisant face à la déportation a été informé juste la nuit dernière (le 20/02/2012) à 20h qu’il serait emmené à Francfort pour l’expulsion, partant sur le vol LH590 Lufthansa à 11.50am aujourd’hui (le 21/02/2012) et son retour au centre de rétention à la dernière minute n’a eu lieu que parce que de nombreux vols partant de Paris vers Francfort ont été annulés tôt ce matin. L’homme est maintenant en attente de nouvelles informations concernant une nouvelle tentative d’expulsion. Il a été arrêté dimanche 12 février et les autorités françaises ont essayé de l’expulser trois jours plus tard. Il a refusé de monter à bord de l’avion à Francfort et a été ramené au centre de détention de  Coquelles a Calais. Le même jour, quatre autres hommes soudanais ont été expulsés : un de Calais et trois de Paris. Pendant ce temps, un nombre croissant des migrants soudanais sont arrêtés et retenus en France.

Tandis que l’indépendance du Sud-Soudan a été récemment réalisée, les soudanais sont toujours en danger. Dans le Darfour, des violations des Droits de l’Homme et des attaques sur des civils par le gouvernement, ses forces alliées et des factions rebelles continuent pendant que l’attention internationale est concentrée sur le Sud-Soudan. Pour les migrants qui se sont initialement enfuis d’un pays unifié, la question de l’identité et du lieu a une importance primordiale et constitue un autre niveau d’incertitude, d’instabilité et de danger.

Dans l’état nouvellement indépendant du Sud, les combats continuent dans les zones frontières du Kordofan du Sud et au Nil Bleu. Déjà le 6 février quatre bombes ont été lancées sur une clinique dans Kurchi,  Kordofan du Sud. Les citoyens continuent à souffrir du manque de nourriture et de logement, la crainte de la violence, des attentats à la bombe et des bombardements sur les civils et ils ne disposent pas de services médicaux. Le 10 février, la Commission des droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies a appelé les nations à donner US$145 million d’aide pour la région. George Okoth-Obbo, le directeur du Bureau de l’Afrique dans UNHCR a dit, “les besoins sont réels et urgents, avec des réfugiés devant marcher pendant des semaines pour atteindre la sécurité, étant à court de nourriture et d’eau et vivant dans les buissons.”

Contact presse :
Téléphone : 0033 645465986
Courrier électronique : calaisolidarity@gmail.com

Saturday 18th February

Today No Border demonstrations are held in Calais and London in solidarity with migrants and refugees persecuted by the immigration, detention and deportation regimes across Europe. A noise demonstration was held outside Coquelles detention centre to give support to the people incarcerated in the prison and in solidarity with the No Borders Carnival demo in London.

At Coquelles demonstrators went around the back of the detention centre with whistles, drums and megaphones, chanting and communicating with many people incarcerated inside. This is the second noise demo in the last couple of weeks, to continue to show support to people locked up in the Calais immigration prison (see 7th February post). The border police, Police Aux Frontières, immediately removed detainees from the nearest prison wing and shut them into the rooms furthest away. This just made chants louder between people inside and out. Banners written by friends said ‘Stay strong. We are with you’ in different languages and were hung on the fence.

Recently people have been deported to Sudan with many more people also being threatened. People from Sudan state that if they are deported back they are certain they will be persecuted, tortured or killed. Conditions inside the detention centre are still bad and visitors have also been denied access several times without legitimate reasons.

Today’s demonstration coincides with the No Borders Carnival in London, which marks the end of a week long convergence of people fighting against detention, deportation and border controls. The demo in London today started at St Paul’s Cathedral at noon where people from many communities took to the streets in a lively event with samba, banners and celebration.

See https://london.indymedia.org/articles/11757

Thursday 16th February

In the early hours of the morning the Pashtu jungle was raided and destroyed. The police broke the tents and took people belongings included sleeping bags. Two people were arrested.

Wednesday 15th February

This afternoon over thirty people demonstrated outside a social housing organisation, the Office Public de l’Habitat de Calais (OPH), to demand that they do not go through with the planned imminent eviction which will make many people in Calais, both with and without papers, homeless in the middle of winter. Making a lot of noise outside the OPH office demonstrators banged pots and pans, blew whistles and shouted demands through megaphones. Several banners were hung, saying “Stop Expulsions”, “Freedom to move”, “Freedom to stay”, “Stop arrests”, “We are not criminals” and “Where are the human rights?” A few people entered the building to give the director, Gérard CLAIS, a list of demands on camera in order to record his response. The director tried to stop people filming despite the fact they are a supposed to be a public organisation. Clais confirmed that the derelict university building owned by OPH will be demolished.

The rest of the demonstrators then entered the foyer and continued to shout their demands to make their voices heard. The whole group was then aggressively pushed out by the police.

One person said “We are humans we are not animals, we must have somewhere to sleep, we are asking for some humanity. People are treated like they are not human. This is the situation. There is no solution yet.” The only other option for the occupants of the university building, the cold weather shelter, closed on the 14th February after opening from 6.30pm – 8am for just one week. The rest of the year this building, owned by the council, lays empty.

See February 8th post for phone blockade details !!

Saturday 11th of February

This morning CRS were controlling the streets outside the University squat aka Africa House. On their way to food distribution people had to show their papers or, if this possibility did not exist, try to find another way. At least one person got arrested on its way to breakfast. The latest days CRS have been more visible in the streets and the number of arrests seem to have risen. Yesterday, Friday the 10th, CRS raided the University squat, controlled the area and arrested five persons. On their way back to their cars they sad Thanks for the visit and drove away. The evening before police also entered the squat and around four people got arrested. There might be a new CRS unite in Calais who wants to ensure that the daily repression stays on a high level.

Yesterday evening two people were also controlled and arrested at the train station.

Wednesday 8th February: The latest Africa House is threatened with imminent eviction AGAIN (see Monday Feb 6th post). THIS IS A CALL OUT FOR A PHONE BLOCKADE OF THE OWNERS, a so-called ‘social housing organisation’, who are kicking 60+ people out on to the street. OPH (Office Public de l’Habitat) claim on their website ‘far from being a mere lessor… its mission is to always contribute to a better life for those it houses’. Clearly this is a farce; they are evicting many people who are homeless from buildings that have been derelict for many years. The demolition company, Societe de Demolition er d’Amenagement Exterieur (SDAE Demolition) have been surveying the place for many months. Two people from the company looked around the buildings again yesterday. The police are also still raiding the buildings regularly, harassing and arresting people. Yesterday morning one minor was arrested for not having papers. WHAT YOU CAN DO:

  • call the OPH, ask to speak to somebody from the directory board, tell them what you think about the situation. OPH phone number : 0033 3 21 46 04 80. Or fax: 0033 3 21 97 38 87.
  • write an e-mail to the OPH: webmaster@ophlm-calais.fr
  • write a letter to OPH, 16 quai de la Gendarmerie, 62100 Calais, France Note: OPH president is Mr Gérard CLAIS, the director Mr Hans RYCKEBOER. See website http://www.oph-calais.fr/

WHAT YOU CAN SAY:

  • do not evict people who have no-where to live on to the street, especially when it is winter and freezing outside
  • to demolish shelters where many people without homes live is inhumane
  • do not give authorization to the police, or instructions to bailiffs, to enter the site at ANY time
  • you are a social housing organisation you should be providing accommodation for all the occupants, no matter what their ‘administrative situation’. People are people whether they have papers or not.

Tuesday 7th February

Today a noise demonstration was held outside the detention centre at Coquelle, Calais. Coquelle detention centre is purpose built to hold sans papiers. People are held for up to 40 days for the sole ‘crime’ of being ‘foreign’.

In solidarity with those detained No Borders went to the prison with banners, make-shift instruments and lots of whistles. We managed to communicate with many of those incarcerated over the back fence, who were shouting and waving out the windows. We attempted to throw food and cigarettes in through the windows and were met with cheers from inside.

Detainees say people are sleeping in crammed rooms with people over-spilling into the corridors and they are also not getting much food. The food which is served is often non Halal so many of the Muslim detainees are eating very little other than white rice. They are also being denied access to the outside yard. Complaints about the conditions are falling on deaf ears. There have been rumours that four people managed to escape a couple of weeks ago and since then conditions have become worse.

Coquelle is just one small branch of the violent system of detention centres and prisons across Europe. The number of centres and incarcerated people without papers is increasing, strengthening borders and systems of segregation; building bigger and higher walls and barriers between people.

No-one is free until everyone is free

Meanwhile, this morning PAF raided the university buildings and arrested one minor. A few hours later a couple of people from S.D.A.E Demolition company came on site taking pictures and sizing up the buildings.

Monday 6th of February

Today a notice was found at the University buildings, better known as Africa House. A judge has given permission to evict and demolish the place. The date of the notice is the 30th of January, even though the clean state of the paper would imply that it was put out more recently.

This means the eviction of Africa house could be really soon now, Even though the BCMO is only open at night and frequently visited by the police, it could be used as an excuse to pretend that people living in Africa House would have an alternative place to go to, With the detention center in Coquelle fully packed with people, it seems unlikely that lots of people would use the BCMO as an alternative shelter as it is under such a strong police surveillance.

Whoever can come and support, please come.

Update:

One more episode in  the adventurous project of us asking the charity associations to support the migrants with a bit of basic infrastructure (giving a warm room to spend the cold day etc.)

This time, having asked Salam without any visible success yet, we asked La Belle Étoile  if they could charge people’s mobile phones during food distribution. They could not. The primary reason being that the mairie (town hall) does not allow it. After some questioning about the logic behind this, another reason emerged which seemed to relieve them. They weren’t very comfortable with saying that they contented themselves with the arbitrary (evil-willing people might even call it sadistic, of course we don’t) exercising of power the mairie shows here once more.

The other reason was that when La Belle Étoile were charging phones at food distro before, some phones were stolen. So, since the migrants need their phones very much to stay in contact with friends and family and could not afford to lose them, La Belle Étoile just can’t risk letting people charge them. We didn’t have the heart to point out to them the utterly flawed logic behind that decision.

Sunday 5th of February

Today we discovered two bannerdrops. One on the way to Africa House, saying: “Bienvenue A L’Europe Forteresse” (Welcome to Fortress Europe), the other one close to the railway station saying: “Welcome to All. Bienvenue. No Borders.”

                                                                                                           Banner dropped near the railway station

We are delighted and hope this finds the attention it deserves in the calaisien society.

On a darker aspect of Calais: Two activists visited Coquelle  Detention Center.

Even being used to everyday racism and brutality this was unbelievably fucked up. Here is there report:

The detention center is over crowded. People are sleeping in the hallways as there is no space in bedrooms. There is only one shower per prison block.

People are starving as they do not get enough food. For the 8 o’clock breakfast, there is 2 slices of bread and a coffee. Between 12-1 o’clock for lunch people get a small meal of usually mashed potato. The 6 o’clock dinner consists of a small microwaved meal, that often contains pork which is obviously a huge problem to many of the muslim people and means that they can not even eat the little they are given.

Boredom is terrible. There is no opportunity to do anything and only one room with a tv – the only progam being in french.

The doctor is deliberately difficult and refusing to speak english.

Clothes are washed once a week.

Last week a man was to be deported at 5am and a guard woke everyone up with him to have breakfast together – because the guard thought it would be funny.

When a CMS activist was visiting there was a party happening at the same time. The police were drinking lots of champagne – while on duty, in the station, in full view of the visitors room.

Wednesday 1st February

The police came to the BCMO cold weather shelter during the night to check so that people weren’t too comfortable. When the people were kicked out in the morning the police were there waiting, counting how many people came out.

Palestine house was once more visited by police this morning.

CMS activists spoke to the Secours Catholique charity today, asking them to open up part of their big hall, currently used for storage, for migrants wanting to escape the freezing cold. They said it was not possible,

  “Because you know how they are, the migrants. If they come in here and see all our stuff they will start grabbing it and rip up all the boxes and when we ask them to leave they won’t listen. They will start fighting and we will never get them out. Of course, they are not all like that, but you know…”

These are the same people who just a couple of days ago arranged a party in “the migrants honour”. One might almost start to doubt their agenda. Was that party on International Migrants’ Day just a publicity stunt? An empty promise? A charade, to make them feel better about themselves?

The charity was also asked whether it would be possible for them to let people use their privileged access to electricity to charge mobile phones or use the internet. Neither was possible. They explained that they actually don’t have access to electricity in their space, but borrow it from the neighbour. The fact that the neighbour they are borrowing it from is a priest at the local church was not mentioned.

Tuesday 31th January

The people living in Palestine house were visited by the fascist police tonight. This is the first time the police have come around since their violent raid on the 11th of January, which resulted in a couple of hospitalized police officers and the imprisonment of four migrants, in a farce of a trial, for violence against the police.

In the morning, PAF came to Africa house in two vans and one car. They entered one of the buildings next of Africa house but did not arrest anyone and did not check for papers.

Monday 30th January

The BCMO cold weather shelter finally opened today. The CRS was inside before the opening, talking to the organizers. SALAM are not organising it any more. Instead, it is “Le Conseil des Migrants” who are in charge of opening it. They have also hired a security company to keep watch of the people at night.

People got thrown out in the morning at 07:00 when the sun had not yet risen and the cold of the night at its climax.

Sunday 29th January

International Migrants’ Day came and went, with the same party held in the migrants’ honour by the catholic church here in Calais . It consisted of the handing out of some free chocolate and snacks, break dancing – performed by the same school kids as last year – and constructed conversations. While the event provided some light relief from the biting cold Calais days, it also revealed the charity’s less than benign motives. After asking people for their forenames, family names, dates of birth, living conditions and “deepest wishes”, as well as taking photos without asking permission (all that was missing was a fingerprint scanner); the benevolent collection of day time do-gooders and catholic missionaries went on to say that they would do their best to help the migrants. By praying for them. Sarcastic responses such as: “I live in a freezing cold squat without windows, will you build me a house?” and “will you help me cross to England?” made it clear that some migrants didn’t quite put faith in the catholic church’s ability (or want) to actually help them. Sure, a party in one’s honour is nice, but how about showing some actual solidarity?

Saturday 28th January

CRS were standing outside food distribution this morning, checking people’s papers. Passport-checks based on unlawful racial screening, although constant in Calais, usually do not happen during food distribution. There is a written agreement between the charities and the state for the police not to harass people (except from a distance or behind a fence) during lunch and evening food distributions (+/- 20minutes), but the agreement for breakfast is only an oral one. And it seems to have been cancelled.

Today as well, SALAM tried to blame the still withstanding graffiti on the walls on No Borders activists. They blasted CMS for not being an hierarchical organization, asking angrily: “What is the point of having a group if it’s totally anarchistic?”

This rhetorical question was answered by the questioner themselves, when they explained, that not much could be done against the break of the agreement between the municipality, the food distribution-organisations and the police: “I can’t do anything. My boss (SALAM presidents) would have to do it.” Hmm.

Thursday 26th January

Just a quick update: there was an ID check at the food distribution site but thankfully no one was arrested.

Wednesday 25th January

At 6 o’clock in the morning, the Iranian jungle was evicted again. Seven vans packed with CRS barged in and stole people’s tents. 10 people were arrested, some of them arrived later at the 13:00 food distribution with their sleeping bags under their arms, but we don’t know if the rest of them are still held.

Between 7.15 am and 7.30 one van of CRS unit 15, later joined by a 2nd, entered the university buildings, taking photographs of the inside of the buildings, demonstratively putting on latex gloves while doing so. When asked, they refused to give the number of their unit.

If it had not been reality it would have been funny because they seemed quite lost, argued for a while about what to do next and checked several times with their bosses. They got in and out of the vans, pulled their batons out, stuck them back again and took their gloves on and off.

Later, police came to morning food distribution to arrest people on the way to breakfast, but did not manage to arrest anyone.

In the afternoon, a well-known PAF-officer came by Africa House with the people who had brought the eviction notice to the previous Africa House. One worker, putting fences up around on the ground of the squat, said it would be demolished after a month. We’ve heard different rumours, but all we know is that this sick harassment of destroying peoples homes is going to continue to happen again, again, again.

Tuesday 24th January 2012: Barbed wire round food distribution yard mysteriously disappears

This morning at the food distribution, held in a prison-like area, we were all greeted by a strange sight. The barbed wire surrounding the area was gone. A defiant message had also been painted on the walls of the two distribution buildings, reading: ‘Tear down the fences, Tear down the walls, Tear down the borders, Tear down the barbwire.

This is not the first time this has happened. The last time the barbed wire was removed about one year ago. We were informed that it cost 8000 Euro to replace it – it was sad that money to keep the prison-like atmosphere up seemed to be so easy to find. It was taken from the budget that was given to SALAM to open the BCMO (cold weather shelter).

We’d like to remind of the circumstances of the autonomous people s kitchen in summer – when about 400 Euros had to last all summer to cook for about 200 people, constantly hassled around by police, when the organisations had their summer break.

SALAM, one of the organizations giving out food, accused No Borders activists last time and are doing it again this time. The energy spent on looking for a culprit seems to be more important than confronting themselves with the grain of truth in the messages.

If the bosses of this organisation wouldn’t want a food distribution that looks like a prison, they could push for it. But as far as we know they have not.

It is important to give out food – nourishment is the basis of survival. The amazing work done by volunteers to ensure this is greatly appreciated by people eating there. Yet that barbed wire was part of turning the provision of a basic need into a humiliating experience.

Friday 20th January 2012

This morning at around 9 ‘o clock, a group of twenty CRS and PAF officers raided the university buildings used as the current Africa House. Police vans drove right into the area, in order to make arrests out of sight of passers by (thus allowing them to be more brutal).

Activists on watch were able to raise the alarm, and many of those without papers were able to run away; this angered the police who tried to smash cameras that were being used to film the raid. The cameras were taken out of the reach of police by two activists climbing up onto roofs who continued to film.

Around seven arrests were made; people were taken to coquelles police station. Most people were let out before lunch. Activists were released at around 7pm this evening and were given court cases for refusing I.D, and fingerprints.

In spite, of the cold, wet, and windy conditions police continue their brutal project of forcing migrants out of shelter and onto the streets.

Friday 19th January 2012

Winter has arrived in Calais. With nighttime temperatures reaching well below zero, the full potential the season is now beginning to show its true face. As is the state, taking the signs of first frost as an opportunity to continue the repression, now with even more grave results.

Although there has been little police presence at the current Africa house, the CRS have been busy targeting other squats and Jungles. On Tuesday morning, the Afghan jungle was destroyed by the police. Clothes, bags, tents and blankets were either destroyed or stolen by the police. On Wednesday morning the same thing happened to the Iranian jungle. 12 people were arrested and the police “confiscated” everything they could find.  These migrants spent three nights sleeping exposed without blankets in temperatures of -3C and -4C and appeared cold and wet.  We gave them blankets and tents but have now distribiuted them all – donations are urgently needed. Apparently, none of the charity organizations had any to spare. Including the UNHCR.

More police violence & prison sentences for disobedience

At 6.30 am, 11th January, two dozen police officers woke everyone up in Palestine House in search of an individual. They attempted to make and arrest. The individual in question reportedly told the police that he was ill and needed to go to the toilet, but this request was refused. He reportedly then jumped down one storey from the dilapidated building (the room in question has no wall on two sides), into the rubbish heap below. There he reportedly attempted to urinate. Two officers then set on him, beating him savagely and banging his head against the wall. They were then chased off by the man’s friends under a barrage of stones.

However, the police returned at 9am with reinforcements – approximately 40 officers in riot gear according to reports. 22 arrests were made. In custody, they are shown photos of people in Calais and asked whether the individuals are known to them. All bar four were released, and the remaining detainees appeared before court on 18th and swiftly jailed for six months for ‘outrage’ (insulting a public servant – in this case, the police), rebellion, and irregular stay in France. One was convicted for stone-throwing.

We liaised with the men’s solicitor regarding filing an appeal, but she felt that by the time an appeal went to court, the detainees would be released.

Other developments

Since the arrests, four migrants are in prison “maison d’arrete” awaiting their trial. CMS activists are trying to contact those detained but so far without any luck. Neither the court, the police or the prison are willing to give any information what so ever.

It has been relatively quiet in terms of police activity around Africa House in the last few weeks. There has only been the one big morning raid there since New Year, although CMS activists are still doing morning watch there every morning. On Monday afternoon however, a small group of CRS (accompanied as usual by PAF officers) came to Africa House, hassling Libyan migrants, and looking for Sudanese people. Activists were quick to arrive at the scene; but it seemed that the police were only interested in looking around the area, scoping out various entrances and exits. No arrests were made.

This morning, an unidentified man spoke to a couple of activists doing morning watch. The man told them that the buildings were dangerous and that people shouldn’t be staying in them, and that access to the buildings is going to be shut. He then also said, ‘these buildings are going to be demolished in two weeks. You can choose to stay here until then, but in two weeks this will be finished’.

Without knowing who this man actually is, it is hard to know how seriously to take this. However, it does seem to correspond with the speed of the demolition and building work going on around the University buildings. If Africa House is evicted, as many as 40 migrants will be made homeless again.

The BCMO, a cold-weather shelter run by the charities supposed to provide a warm space for people during the cold winter nights, has still not been opened despite the freezing night time temperatures, as it only opens when it drops to -5C. Activists have been trying to put pressure on the organizations to do something to help, but so far with no success.

Sunday 8th January 2012

A couple of days ago, there was an early morning police raid at the university squat. While some of the migrants managed to get away, those who were still asleep were rounded up by the police from all of the buildings and subjected to ID checks. About 8 were arrested and were released about an hour later.

The No Borders activists present were rounded up and kept completely separate from the migrants. Five activists refused to give their ID’s in solidarity with the migrants and were also arrested and taken to Coquelles where they were held for 24 hours, continually refusing to give their identity.

It was an interesting experience for the activists involved, due to the strange lies, threats and comments made during their time there. Being told they would be put in prison for three months, in the company of “criminals and murderers” – which would make them scream in horror to get out, was a particular highlight.

On a more pleasant note, since the Cambridge kitchen has left Calais, there has been a lot of enthusiasm for cooking together in Africa House, instead of relying on the charities for all the meals. At a meeting, the migrants decided to cook together a couple of times a week, using the leftover ingredients from the Cambridge kitchen and vegetables that we can pick up when the local markets close.

The atmosphere at the first meal that we cooked together was really positive, with music and dance surrounding the cooking, and the initiatives for the meal came from a lot of different people and communities.

There has also been some cleaning efforts at Africa House, which quite a few people eventually took part in, even though the opinions expressed around this frequently was that “there’s no point to cleaning here, since the police might evict the place any day”. As you usually clean in preparation for the next few days or even hours, perhaps it is quite an appropriate insight into the people stuck in Calais. Calais isn’t seen as a place for living or building things up – it’s just a place for waiting for life somewhere else.

This is something we have been discussing over the last few days, the need for constructiveness, for activity and the chance to create, or just do things. And what lack of stimulation does to people. Thinking about this we have created a small “library” – that is, a bookshelf with books – that people can come and borrow books from, which has been used a little at least. Unfortunately, people’s self perception whilst staying as migrants in Calais seems in many cases to hinder them from going to the public library.

This is not all– English, French, Arabic and Swedish language exchanges, cooking together, building rooms, fixing bikes and of course, the continuous chasing of a dream. Life in Europe, whatever that might be…

Sunday 1 January 2012: New Year in Calais

Another report from the Cambridge Kitchen Collective working with CMS in Calais:

Happy New Year from Calais. The Cambridge kitchen has spent a few more days in Calais, and have been cooking up a storm! We’ve made potato salad, North African chickpea stew, potato-olive pastry rolls, carrot salad, aubergine coconut curry and more. Members of the cooking collective have also been learning bits of different languages, making friends

with people from all over the world, teaching people about how to use manual cameras, and collecting discarded vegetables from the Saturday market.

On New Year’s eve, activists preperared for a party which was to take place in Africa House, where the migrants who lived there invited all the other migrant communities to come to the “hafla” (a party). We collected decorations, built benches and tables out of pallets, wood and bricks, sorted out a generator for lighting, and of course made lots of food. There were some worries about a police raid during the party- a few nights before some police had shown up at Africa house at about 3 in the morning, woken up the migrants who were sleeping there and intimidated them. Rather than arresting anyone, they said “see you on the 31st”, implying that there would be police presence during the party.

Events like that are a constant reality for migrants living in Calais- Africa House is raided several times each week, with police storming the squat (a set of derelict university buildings) in the early hours of the morning, waking everyone up and making arrests. During the raids it is normal for phones and cameras to be seized or smashed if they are used to document police brutality, and windows, chairs and tables are also intentionally destroyed by the police. If migrants are arrested-which is a regular occurrence for many- they are put into prison for several hours, and then have to walk back into town. Routine imprisonment, brutality and police intimidation can grind people down- often migrants will describe some individuals as having “been in Calais for too long”- meaning they can be hopeless, erratic or aggressive.

Luckily, the New Year’s party went ahead without the police inviting themselves along. Instead, Africa House was festive- lit up by candles and fairy lights, pumping with music coming out of a car-battery powered sound system, and filled with migrants and activists from all over the world. Different people took turns plugging their phones and mp3 players into the soundsystem, so the music was an amazing global mix- Egyptian, Afghan, 80’s pop, hip-hop and everything in between. When the Afghan songs were on, a group of Afghan men led dancing where participants dance in a circle, spinning, clapping and jumping. At first only Afghans danced in the circle dance, but they were soon joined by guys from Africa House, as well as No Borders activists.

As midnight approached, we went outside for the climax of the evening- our very own mini fireworks display. As the fireworks rocketed off across the field outside of Africa House, we counted down to the New Year and people wished each other happy new year in at least a dozen different languages. What an amazing way to end one year and begin a new one!

 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s