Who are the criminals in Calais?

Where are they to be found? Do they live in the jungle or stay at the hotel? Do they stand next to the road watching the traffic or at a podium spouting poison? Are they the friends, mothers, fathers, sisters, and brothers boosting one another over the fences, or the ones standing on the other side with the gas, the sticks and the dogs?

In May and Cazeneuve’s newest statement great efforts were made to demonize ‘the smugglers and traffickers’ while lip service was paid to ‘protecting the vulnerable’ and ‘improving the humanitarian situation’. This is tired rhetoric; the purpose of which is to try and fabricate groups deserving of all the increased repression and security prescribed by the state while ever playing the role of the humanitarian. Behind these lies they try to hide their hypocrisy. Those stuck in Calais are not vulnerable, the situation they are forced into by the border regime creates their vulnerability. Adding security denies them the way to remove themselves from those who are taking advantage of their position. The police and smugglers continue to prosper from each other at the expense of those just looking to exercise the right to move which has been taken from them.

The governments are greatly exaggerating the level of ‘smuggling’ that happens here. Contrary to what the governments are saying, most of those in Calais are not making use of professional agents in their attempts to pass the border. They are just friends and family who go together and help one another try to cross. Rather than disrupting organized criminal networks profiting off the situation here, the new measures that the governments are implementing will simply criminalize solidarity for those helping one another escape Calais. Don’t be fooled when the state begins to parade people through the courts as hardened criminals who have just closed the door on the truck for friends or given someone a lift over the fence.

By their own standards the governments are the largest gangs involved in the trafficking of people against their will into dangerous and deadly circumstances. Just yesterday France deported one man to Afganistan who had not lived there since being orphaned at age four, who has no family, friends or any other connections to the country, and who suffers from mental health problems. This was also despite him having an appeal in the administrative court of Lille on Wednesday which was his last chance to stay the deportation. This is just one case of forced removal of which there were more than 1,700 from Calais in 2014, and of which they have vowed to do many more. We urgently have to find new ways to resist and stop these deportations, particularly as they start now by targeting the most vulnerable people first.

The gangs that really need to be investigated and dismantled are the UK Border Force, the PAF, the CRS, and the Cabinets. With them gone, no one would be dying on this journey or in the country of their birth after a deportation. With a safe way to cross there would be no market for smugglers or others who look to exploit a trapped population. Families would not have to stay in overcrowded and unsafe camps, and from one day to the next the humanitarian crisis in Calais would cease to exist.