Winter begins…

It has been raining a lot and getting really cold. People are getting soaked through, many are spending most of the day outside on the streets and in the parks, at the border at night and sleeping outside. We are getting through so many blankets, sleeping bags, tents, jackets and shoes and constantly need new supplies. A van full of blankets will be distributed in one day. At the bi-weekly church clothes distribution they counted 193 people coming in for extra supplies of clothes.

While some empty buildings are being occupied, other places are being closed rapidly and people are having to move around, repeatedly having to leave their stuff locked in evicted buildings, taken to the dump, destroyed or soaked through from the rain.

Some people are wary of going indoors for fear of being evicted and their stuff taken, but outside people are also being awoken in the early hours, hassled, arrested and their stuff destroyed.

One man who sleeps with three other people inside a sheet of tarpaulin hung up against the side of a wall on the street says the police come repeatedly to where they sleep at 5-6am, kick them, demand their papers and while they are being controlled ransack their belongings; this week the police tipped out their toiletries and food supplies, squirting tooth paste and opening their packets of food and drinks all over their bags and blankets, before arresting all of them for the umteenth time.

There are still people appearing with new injuries, broken legs, bandaged arms, cuts and bruises from the nights trying to cross the border.

There has also been an increase in pregnant women in Calais, attempting to hide in lorries to pass to the UK. They have also been repeatedly arrested at the border and in ID controls in the centre of Calais. Last week one pregnant woman was surrounded by CRS in an ID control, having already been arrested the day before, and couldn’t stand because she was exhausted and had been without food for so long, so sat crying on the pavement while the police hassled her and the women she was with for papers.

An older man over 60 who was arrested was refused access to a toilet while in custody and reduced to pleading while officers laughed and joked at him.

The police have also  been regularly conducting body and bag searches during ID controls, racially profiling people in the park and then making the non-European looking people line up against benches, bent over with their arms spread across the seat while they pat them down go through every pocket. This includes people with papers who have been living in Calais for years who are still being constantly humiliated and harassed by the police. After one of these routine controls one man from northern Africa shouts ‘I have papers and I am still treated like an animal’.

The police are telling people in the park they’re not allowed to sit there and must move – when asked where they can actually go to sit without being hassled the police of course have no answer except ‘go back to your own country’.