The OFII [French Office of Immigration and Integration] was present the day of the camp evictions, May 28, 2014, brandishing fliers written Arabic, trying to prove the state’s interest in asylum seekers.
One of the people who took them up their offer agreed to share their experience … of going straight back to square one.
The testimony of a person who asked for asylum and the ‘solutions’ that OFII had to offer:
Faruk had this to say:
“I have been in Calais since January 2014 and I asked for asylum through the services of the OFPRA [French Office for the Protection of Refugees and Stateless Persons] in May 2014.
The day of the eviction of the camps, someone from OFII came to tell me that I would be given housing. I spoke to someone on the telephone who said they were from the consulate, who asked me where I wanted to go. I said Arras.
That day, the OFII offered to provide a taxi.
I asked a friend to bring me a suitcase with my things but the person [from OFII] didn’t wait for them.
When we arrived in Arras, they showed me the train station and told me that if I wanted to leave I could go there.
We arrived at the 115 [homeless shelter], where they offered us some ambulance beds.
There were seven of us in a tiny room.
They asked me to show my papers and one person told us to stay there.
They told us we had to leave the building the next morning at 8:00 and that we couldn’t come back before 8:00 that night, that we would have to find food and showers on our own.
We weren’t allowed to go out to smoke cigarettes after 9:00 and all the lights had to be out at 10:00.
I said I wanted to leave.
I left my country to flee prison and here, I find myself in another prison. I haven’t experienced anything like it since I escaped.
I can sleep anywhere, I don’t care, I’m 45 years old and I refuse to be treated like a child. I have the right to keep my dignity, even in this situation.”
After asking for asylum, Faruk was summoned to the sub-prefecture of Calais to give his fingerprints but nothing was ever offered to him.
He currently lives in a squat which was opened and where, he says, he can at least enjoy ‘acceptable’ conditions, like being able to go to bed at the hour of his choosing, make his own food, and come and go at will.
Once again, the town hall of Calais and the OFII have taken advantage of the presence of the media to attempt to mislead us all but also, above all, to demonstrate their own incompetence.
The houses they call ‘squats,’ opened several months ago, are awaiting eviction. These houses are, for the moment, the only viable response for people in transit. The question remains open: what will the town hall do next to prevent these people from living like human beings?
Where will they go?