If you’ve kept your ears open to news from European border zones, you’ve probably received reports of those “subjected” to the violence that accompanies borders: news depicting people as “victims” of state repression. In Calais as well, reports (including our own blogposts) are dominated by the most recent tear-gassing of the jungle, groups dispersed by pepper spray and batons or an update on yet another death caused by the borders.
It is important to share the reality of the inherent violence and repression that comes with the existence of states and borders but it is equally important to amplify the voices of those affected as active agents in the struggle for freedom and justice. Despite the state and media’s attempts to paint pictures of helpless migrants, every day and every night there are autonomous, self-organised actions confronting border control, defiance against cops and state authorities and hindrance of unwanted state registration.
From the lens of a European activist agitating against states – being active in the Calais jungle as solidarity activists means being around people “classified” as unwanted by the state – it also means being among people that are actively undermining these same structures on a daily basis.
We often forget to report on such actions, in spite of their importance, simply because they are such a common occurrence or because such acts have to be hidden in order to work (like how people cross the border without getting caught): this text is intended as a reminder that they are happening even if we don’t always mention them. Borders are an essential element in the functioning of modern state and capitalist structures; allowing freedom of movement for capital but not for people protects the wealth in Europe established by colonialism and slavery. People’s wish to cross European borders is in direct antagonism with this system and their attacks on border infrastructure – even every single person crossing borders unpermitted – represent an everyday undermining of the state in their upkeep of the status quo.
We’d like to avoid the all too often repeated pattern of solidarity activists or other supporters “giving voice” to those affected by oppression and putting words in other people’s mouths or describing their motivations. Therefore below are re-published texts we were recently asked to publish by different groups in the Calais jungle. The texts serve not to give the illusion to represent “migrants in Calais” as the Calais jungle contains people from diverse backgrounds, with diverse political opinions and diverse wishes for their futures – these quotes merely serve to present some recent examples of defiance that found their way online and counter the media’s pictures of helpless migrants.
“People of the jungle are not treated as human beings but numbers in system. We are not allowed the right to protest in the town but hidden away, they try to silence us. We will not accept this system and we will provide our own solution”
“Try or die. Try to reach the UK or die. In the jungle we are dying slowly. At the train station we die quickly” –
“No deportations, Safe housing for everybody, Open the border! Lets go friends!” –
“We, the refugees present in this area, refuse to submit to this ingrate politics of antisolidarity. The day that the government forces us to leave that will be the day of our protest” –
“Freedom of movement is a right for all. Freedom to move to any country. Freedom to cross all borders” –
“We call upon all people who support the struggle of the refugees to come and to make a protest with us to demand our human rights, and to keep demanding them and protesting until we are listened to.”
Just in the last months, we have seen the anger of people stuck in Calais transformed into well organized attacks on the border such as the mass stormings of the tunnel. For example: 300 people in October collectively broke through the fences to make their way into the tunnel, shutting down the tunnel for the whole night in the process; there were blockades of the port and occupations of ferries; 250 people boarded a UK-bound ferry in September, disrupting the Calais port in the process. In December, 2 police cars were smashed up. Regular meetings among jungle residents to coordinate their resistance, self-organized support structures, survival strategies and managing to laugh and even celebrate in the face of violence and repression are resistance, too. We have also seen daily disruption of the traffic on highways leading to the tunnel and the port; there was a week of daily protests in Calais city center at the start of September; three nights of riots and collective rage on the highway next to the jungle in mid-November.
And the best of all: in spite of everything, people are still crossing the border to the UK. Even with the increased repression of the last months, the incredible amount of cops, arrests, beatings, tear-gassing, pepper-spraying – despite what governments and media are trying to make people believe: people are still crossing everyday!