Communiqué from Calais

We are a group of people from different countries and different political backgrounds who are fighting for the right to housing for everyone, whatever their origin. We announce that we have been occupying (now for more than 48 hours), empty and abandoned public buildings in different parts of the town of Calais, and intend to continue these occupations and maintain them as “legal squats” for as long as possible:

Why here and why now?

There are more than 4,000 buildings empty in Calais, which represents 9 % of homes (500 of these are the property of a single, large, housing association- the major ‘social’ landlord in the city), and yet against this backdrop more than 500 people are on the streets, out of sight of any dignified solution and used only as sound bites by politicians who purport to offer assistance and in reality offering nothing. To address this situation they (the town hall/authorities) have turned Calais into a ghost town .

Who can claim to have walked in the streets of this city and not passed at least one house with bricked up windows, doors barricaded, the cellar sealed? Why leave places empty and people outside in the cold? Why spend money to condemn access to buildings rather than using them to help a precarious population?

To answer these questions that the public authorities have chosen to avoid, (for several years now) a group of individuals have set out to find collective solutions by giving life to abandoned buildings and the homeless a roof over their heads. Until now, the authorities have responded with repressive tactics that have resulted in multiple illegal evictions based on the perversion of legal procedures, manipulation of witnesses during neighbourhood investigations, and the alteration of evidence.

In Calais, the discourse on the right to housing is taken hostage by the various levels of power that have continued to use the migration situation to stir up fears and fantasies about the issue of squats. In recent months this political manipulations has been incarnated in the call for the denunciation and exposure of squats; spearheaded by UMP mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart (who in reality has no real political prospects for this city) an attitude has bee established that suggests that squats and their alleged inhabitants are the origin of all the ills of the city. This poisonous atmosphere has allowed the racist/xenophobic collective “Save Calais” (whose founder is a neo-Nazi with a swastika tattoo) to germinate; their establishment occurring some what coincidentally just two days after Boucharts call for action on “the problem of migrant squats”.

Remember further that two of the town halls main representatives , Philippe Mignonnet and Emmanuel Agius (who both work under Bouchart) came out to welcome ‘save calais’ to the city and to support the groups “sit-in”on Thursday, Nov. 7 outside the town hall despite the fact that organizers and participants did not hide their racism (including for example some discriminatory remarks that migrants “are harmful, three quarters of them are potential aggressors) and displayed clear affiliation with the Front National.

“Save Calais” has since extended their ‘stigmatization of squats campaign’ with a sickening xenophobic discourse, and hardline violence against people trying to find shelter. This group has become the operational arm of the mayors call to denounce squats in Calais, and has set up a system for tracking migrants and others living in squats, to identify buildings being used for shelter, and to organize actions against these people and their homes. Where it was almost impossible before to stay in Calais when you were homeless (particularly homeless and undocumented) without becoming a victim of abuses by the authorities, it is now also a struggle to avoid being the victim of nazi attacks.

Fascist Extremists, members of “Save Calais”, and manipulated residents have effectively been besieging a small farmhouse on the outskirts of Calais ( which was squatted by a couple of people in need of a home) issuing death threats, throwing stones and Molotov cocktails, following and attempting to violently attack individuals going about their daily business, and consistently attempting to burn the house down- making life impossible for residence of the house attempting to carve out a semblance of a normal life. Today in Calais (and the surrounding area) being a squatter is taking the risk of being lynched , under the impassive eyes of police inaction and the defiant ignorance of the sub-prefect and prefect [1].

We can not let the arbitrary violence of a minority, hitherto unpunished, prevent us from having access to shelter and defending the need of decent housing for everyone regardless of their origins. We refuse the trivialization of these methods and the inaction of state officials, we will not sit back and do nothing, or see these events become an entrenched norm.

It would be great to have more people coming to Calais to help support and sustain our occupations, especially since we think the police are likely to try and ignore our strong evidence of legal rights as they have consistently done in the past.

Stop the rot, Squat the Lot.

[1] The roles of prefect and sub prefect are something similar to district judge, combined with the powers of a council official and the CPS (crown prosecution service) in that they can take decisions on police action; whether to intervene in certain political matters etc.