In recent weeks there has been a lot of sensationalist reporting on the number of migrants who are currently trying to make their way to the UK. Receiving less attention though is the brutality these people must endure during their attempts to make the journey. Each of those 1,000+ thwarted attempts represents a person coming into contact with police or security. The actions of these forces are often wholly disproportionate and verge on sadistic. CS gas is sprayed indiscriminately by French police on people that only want to leave their country.
This video, shot in May on the highway entrance to the Eurotunnel, provides some context for the everyday violence against migrants here in Calais. Keep in mind though that this is but one of the many places in which people experience intimidation and brutality, and that the most serious events happen where the police are sure there can be no witnesses.
Along with other videos published by Calais Migrant Solidarity this evidence depicts a program of intimidation and violence against migrants and the activists attempting to document the police brutality. This level of violence is not a one-off occurrence, but is rather systemic and reflects a policy decision from the French authorities to continue to intimidate and attack undocumented people as they attempt to cross to the UK as a deterrent.
This evidence we present contradicts French Interior Minster Bernard Cazeneuve’s claim that “the police in Calais, do their difficult mission with courage, dedication and respect”1 and provides tangible evidence of human rights violations committed by the French police. Every day and every night undocumented people in Calais are beaten, pepper sprayed, abused, and arrested by police that act with impunity and who fear no consequences for their disproportionate uses of force.
In 2011, Calais Migrant Solidarity submitted a dossier of police violence to the French Défenseur des Droits (Defender of Rights).2 This document compiled evidence of the everyday attacks and intimidation tactics used by the French police against the migrant population of Calais. Since then, multiple complaints have been made to the French state. A new dossier was sent in 2014 to the Defender of Rights, who is investigating the claims, as well as Human Rights Watch, who has since produced a document detailing the everyday human rights violations of migrants in Calais3. However, despite this, the authorities here have not altered their program of violence.
1 – Communiqué de presse de M. Bernard Cazeneuve. (20 janvier, 2015). Accusations publiques contre les forces de l’ordre formulées par l’association Human Rights Watch. http://www.interieur.gouv.fr/Actualites/Communiques/Accusations-publiques-contre-les-forces-de-l-ordre-formulees-par-l-association-Human-Rights-Watch
2– Calais Migrant Solidarity. (2011, June). Calais: This Border Kills. Retrieved from https://calaismigrantsolidarity.files.wordpress.com/2011/09/english-dossier.pdf
3– Human Rights Watch. (2015, January 20). France: Migrants, Asylum Seekers Abused and Destitute. Retrieved from http://www.hrw.org/news/2015/01/20/france-migrants-asylum-seekers-abused-and-destitute