We are a people, a people of the world. We are humans and we are free. That is the least of what is stated in the universal declaration of human rights. We are all equal. However some amongst us have fled war, violence, conflict and exploitation.
It is for this reason that we have left our homes. It is for this that we have come to seek refuge elsewhere, because we don’t have a choice. To save our lives, our integrity, our children and our families and simply because we want to live in peace. Without having to worry each day who will be the next to die, fall ill, be tortured, be raped, left to die after an organ removal destined for the black market. Our towns and villages are destroyed, or pillaged, or in turn taken and retaken by different armed groups, or taken in part by different militias. Or further placed under surveillance, closed and controlled.
Its for this that we struggle side by side to be recognised, understood, protected, and finally just taken into account in the world, in the same way as the economy and corporations, which at this present time are granted personhood.
We are all human, free and equal. Yet only some amongst us anticipate having to live through a new eviction, a new dismantling in Calais. Exactly where numerous evictions have taken place, over and over, all as violent and useless as each other. In view of the “success” that they have had, which only lasts for a short time. In effect, each eviction is doomed to failure by the very fast return of some of us to new locations, more or less close to the previous, evicted locations. The common characteristics of the expulsions, have shown them to be useless, having precaritised our situations in dispersing us and complicating our access to aid from associations, humanitarians and solidarity activists. We are further subjected to more violence; physical violence from the police and psychological violence due to be being expelled from our living spaces. Housing that took us a great deal of time to find, construct, improve and that we will lose, even though we had space a little less precarious and a little more stability as the time passed. These evictions and this precaritisation also favour the work of smugglers and other mafias by raising fear of the eviction and of dispersal of us, to pay anything to cross the border before the eviction.
So no, we don’t like the jungle, nor what happens there. No we don’t want to live in a slum, which the French state does everything it can to render dangerously unhealthy and uninhabitable. In concentrating 10,000 people on a piece of undeveloped wasteland land, by placing so few toilets or water points that even when we were 2,000, 3,000 or even 5,000 was not enough. By damaging us as much as possible, by sending into the camp patrol after patrol of CRS, by putting pressure on the shops and restaurants so that they close, meaning that even the food and drink in the social spaces is insufficient. In closing us off inside a jungle we become ghettoised, with the help of walls, barriers, fences and barbed wire, isolating and hiding us from the rest of the Calaisien population. A population who, of course, in view of the policies put in place, are afraid. Since we are treated like criminals by the government and the police. As we would have need of the solidarity of more and more Calaisiens than we currently have, the state does everything that it can to stop that solidarity developing. By gassing the interior of the camp, where women and children live at every attempt we make to access the motorway – even though the 100 meter ‘no man’s land’ was created for that very purpose, the police show that their goal is to gas us in a mass collective punishment. By allowing the police violence to take place in and around Calais, without any police officer having to worry about his acts, even when a 10 year old by was shot and paralysed with a rubber bullet. So no, we don’t want to liv in a place where the mafias have their turf, where prostitution is forced and sexual aggression is a regular occurrence. We don’t want to live in an environment like that, obviously.
But we do not want to be subjected to an eviction, with the police dragging us out of our houses by force, mistreating us all the way and pushing us onto buses. Furthermore, we don’t want the psychological damage which obliges us to remain and demand asylum in France and join the Welcome and Orientation centres dispersed around France. With the menace of being deported to our home countries if we do not comply.
In our countries of origin, we would not be in security and if we were deported, we would return to Europe and make the journey a second time, like that which has happened to a good number of us. To repeat the journey a second time, to submit once again to the smugglers, forced labour and prostitution to pay the passage, torture and kidnapping, the sea passage which has seen thousands die before our eyes, drowned, which no government will remember. But we remember them. We cry for them. Then we share and recount our experiences. Traumatised by the sight of death so close to us. At least, those of us who are not dead, because the road before us is still long, before we find a place where we will be accepted and where we can live in security. Live together. Us and you.
We do not want the dismantling, because we want to have a choice. We want to have the choice of going where we want. We want to live our lives as we wish because it is a very long time since we have had any real freedom. Those of us who want to stay in France and have perhaps already requested asylum will perhaps be happy to leave here. But we know very well that they could be deported if they had their fingerprints taken in another European country. We know very well that if their asylum case is refused, they could be deported to their country of origin. Those amongst us who want to go to the UK do not want to be forced to claim asylum in France. Because they speak English, because they have family or friends, or simply because they want to like in the UK. Because whoever can declare that a place on earth belongs to them alone? Why is it that we who are exiled can’t choose the place where we want to settle? It seems to us that we will be more accepting and accepted by the place that will welcome us, if we have chosen it and if we wish with all our hearts to integrate there.
Furthermore we do not want an eviction because this implies arrests, expulsions and deportations. The police have been given quotas of 80 arrests per day, amongst us, at this time. Can you believe that having travelled this very long road to flee horrors, we will not come back if you deport us? Do you believe that if we are deported to another country where we have fingerprints, but also have been beaten by the police, attacked by fascist groups, where they is no chance of obtaining papers, that we will stay there without leaving? Do you believe that we will be ready to submit to a life of horror, be it in our country of origin or during some part of our journey? No, no and no. We will always try to go where we want to go, for one reason or another. Because we no longer have anything to lose. And because here, where we are, we are ready for anything, to go where we think we can find security. Because we are ready for anything to be able to be free again.
If certain amongst us finish up asking for asylum in France due to constraints and the risk of being deported if we refuse, we also know very well that those with the goal of reaching the UK will come back here or not far from here, together or dispersed. And you know very well that it is more complicated to come and help small groups. That it is more difficult to self-organise in small groups. You know it is like that and thus you wish to make it so, hoping that the difficulty of receiving aid will dissuade our successors from coming here. But this has been your error for 20 years. No, that will not dissuade them. That will not dissuade us. The problems that made us leave our countries of origin are not going away. And we are not at the point of ceasing to arrive any time soon. We have just more risks to come. Always more risks. Always more deaths. Looking at the statistics and percentages of exiles in your territories, you will realise that this is not an invasion compared to other countries: Turkey, Lebanon or Jordan. So don’t be afraid. Welcome us where we want to go. Sweden has recently proved that welcoming exiles was a positive economic factor. Make the most of it, instead of being afraid. Even our reception and our freedom of movement shouldn’t be subordinated to economic criteria, it cannot be ignored, given the almost complete freedom of movement for goods and capital and for those who have the “right” passport.
As for this eviction, we know you’re going to say that it is a humanitarian operation, “nonviolent and personalised”. We don’t believe it. There are more than 10,000 of us. Each in a different situation, with different desires and different reactions to what we are being made to endure. We know the eviction of 10,000 people from one site, particularly this one, can’t happen without physical and psychological violence on the part of the police. We know that what is proposed, getting into buses to CAOs dotted around France without certainty or solid promises on our part concerning non-refoulement to other European countries for those constrained by Dublin regulations. This doesn’t suit us at all. We know that some of will leave the jungle without knowing where we are going, before the eviction because they do not want asylum in France.
What we do want is to be received and protected, where we choose, in France or the UK for those amongst us who are trapped in Calais. We want a place to live in security, or simply to live. We want Europe to welcome us because it should, on a human level and is able to on an economic level. We want to participate in your social and economic life. We want to work, we want those who don’t like us to meet us and have the possibility of realising that we are neither terrorists, nor criminals, nor thieves nor poor beggars.
We are all human. We are all free. We are all equal. And we will say this as long as necessary, until we can avail ourselves of our freedom of movement and circulation across borders and until you give us the possibility of living. Of really living with dignity, without considering us cattle which you move with the season, according to your whim, before condemning us to the abattoir, which is what we have the impression of being in your eyes.