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This border kills! One person dead and one feared missing at sea after shipwreck last Thursday // Cette frontière tue ! Une personne décédée et une autre portée disparue en mer après un naufrage jeudi dernier

Last Thursday an Eritrean man died after he was recovered from the Channel when the boat he and others were traveling to the UK on sank. One other person is feared missing at sea. The details are unclear and questions remain about how the authorities responded and what they will do to search for the missing person. What is clear is that once again the racist border system built up by European states to restrict the free movement of non-Europeans has taken more lives. Below we summarise the information we currently have and call for the abolition of this lethal border.

Thursday’s shipwreck

In the early hours of Thursday morning (12/08/21), a boat carrying approximately 37 people, including women and children, began to deflate and take on water in the Channel, around 25 kilometers north of Dunkerque. Because of their distance from shore, the people on board were not able to reach the emergency numbers by phone. They tried to signal for help to passing cargo ships, at least two of which passed by without responding. For more than two hours the people kept trying to get water out of the boat. According to survivors, as the boat continued taking on more water, luggage was thrown overboard and some people jumped into the sea to lighten the load.

From here it is unclear exactly how the situation and rescue unfolded. We have to stress that the following should not be considered an authoritative account of Thursday’s events, but has been pieced together from communications on VHF channel 16 overheard during the day, survivor testimony, press releases and AIS data.

At around 10:00 CEST a passing cargo ship, Elena, spots the sinking vessel and raises the alarm on the VHF radio emergency channel saying that there were three people in the water. We estimated that the location of the boat in distress was around 51°14’45” N 02°03’12”E at this time. The French Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre (CROSS Gris-Nez) then engages two nearby fishing boats, Nicolas Jeremy and Notre Dame de Boulogne, and a rescue helicopter from the Belgian air force to assist rescuing the people in the boat. The cargo ship, Elena, also launches a small rescue boat.

The two fishing vessels arrived and began taking people out of the water. However, there was at least one person in the water who refused to be rescued. The rescue helicopter reported seeing 10 people still on the sinking boat and the one person who refused to be rescued unconscious in the water. The helicopter lifted the remaining people out of the boat, which survivors told us was breaking apart, and placed them onto the other ships. Meanwhile Elena’s rescue ship took onboard one unconscious person (who may have been the same one that was refusing to be rescued by one of the fishing vessels).

From the conversations overheard on the radio, it sounded as if multiple people were unconscious in the water at different times. However, what is not clear is if all of these people were taken on board the rescue boats or if some may have been left at sea in the course of rescuing others in the water who were still alive.

Around 10:45 CEST, the French Navy ship P676 Flamant arrived to help with the rescue. All survivors who had been rescued by the fishing vessels and Elena’s rescue boat were transferred to the Flamant, assisted by the helicopter. By 10:50 CEST the Belgian rescue helicopter reported that everyone had been placed on the Flamant and confirmed that there was no one left in the sea. At 11:17 CROSS Gris-Nez requested that the helicopter make another search of the area for anyone who may have been missed. The helicopter responded that they had just completed a search of radius 1.8 nautical miles, but suggested another search ‘3 nautical miles south west from the initial points’ to account for drift.

Despite the reports of multiple people unconscious in the water throughout the course of the rescue operation, from the radio conversations it sounded as if there was only one unconscious person on the Flamant. Following a medical consultation teleconference, this person, whom the associations in Calais and Grande-Synthe have only identified as M. for now, was airlifted to the hospital in Calais, where he later died. The other people rescued stated that they had been trying to alert the authorities on board Flamant that others might still be at sea. It remains unclear if any further action was taken by the authorities based on this information.

While we cannot say exactly what happened in the course of the rescue, the survivors we spoke with are adamant that there is at least one person still missing from the shipwreck. As they told us some people had thrown themselves into the water early on to potentially delay the boat’s sinking, it is possible not all of them were not found in the course of the larger rescue.

The survivors are still left with questions about what happened that day: chiefly, where is their missing friend? And if there was someone on the boat who was not rescued or recovered, what more is being done by authorities to search for them?

After the shipwreck

At 15:00 CEST, the Flamant arrived at the port of Dunkerque where the survivors of the shipwreck and others rescued that day from a seperate vessel in distress were disembarked and met by police, firefighters, emergency doctors and members of the association Utopia 56. Two separate groups of people independently informed Utopia volunteers that, in addition to the man who was evacuated, another man from Eritrea was missing and may have been left behind at sea. The 35 people rescued from the boat which sank were then taken into custody by the Police aux frontières where they were interviewed about the events and who had organised the journey. Survivors reported again alerting the police about the missing person at this time.

Several people also told us that they were held by police for 24 hours without receiving any medical attention, despite having injuries such as chemical burns sustained from the salty sea water mixed with petrol. There was also no psychological support offered.

Still without news of the missing man, on Friday (13/08/21) people from the Eritrean community in Grande-Synthe provided his name and photograph, which was handed to police. The Bridgade de Recherche (special investigations unit) of the Police Nationale in Dunkerque launched an investigation and sent out a missing person report to all police stations and hospitals, but could not locate him. The police also said a two hour long search at sea was launched on the Friday morning, however, the CROSS Gris-Nez would not confirm this. The CROSS has since not given any further information, including whether they believe that someone may still be at sea from the shipwreck, nor if they have launched subsequent searches. There have been no official announcements from the authorities about this missing person.

Since Friday the ‘Group décès‘, a collective responding to deaths at the border in northern France, has been working with the Eritrean communities in Grande-Synthe and Calais to identify the deceased and missing person, and provide support to their friends and relatives. This includes following up with the authorities and discussing how to arrange for the body of the deceased to be repatriated to Eritrea.

A commemoration was organised Sunday afternoon at Le parvis des droits de l’Homme in Dunkerque, which was attended by members of the Eritrean communities in Grande-Synthe and Calais, as well as volunteers from the associations and those wishing to express solidarity.

No more border deaths

We have too often had to repeat that when people die or go missing at the border, these are not tragic or unforeseen occurrences, but are rather the logical and intended consequences of increased border securitisation. Likewise the events of the last week are not simply accidents or the result of bad decisions by travellers or the incompetence of the authorities. They are directly caused by the violence and racism of Europe and the UK’s border systems, and recent decisions mean more situations like Thursday’s are extremely likely.

Just three weeks ago the UK pledged an additional €62.7 million to fund the doubling of French police patrols along the coast between Boulogne and Dunkerque. This will not stop people attempting to cross the Channel, but just force them to do so further from the Short Straits of Dover. The result will be people spending longer at sea and having to cross longer distances where they will be out of telephone network coverage and not able to call for help; like what happened on Thursday. Even though the Channel is one of the most heavily surveilled and trafficked stretches of sea in the world, people we speak with often describe being left in distress for many hours without assistance.

Several have also told that they would rather die at sea than continue surviving in Calais or struggling against the borders they encounter throughout Europe. Their camps across Calais are evicted and their property confiscated or destroyed every 48 hours. Food and water distribution is banned throughout most of the city. Violence by police against travellers on the beaches is routine, and is being made increasingly possible by the drones and patrol boats paid for by the British.

So long as the British and French authorities continue colluding to maintain this border, horrific events such as Thursday’s will inevitably reoccur. The introduction of more so called ‘safe and legal routes’ will only serve to further differentiate between desirable and undesirable migrants, leaving most in the same situation they are in today. As long as some people’s movements are criminalised, they will be forced into making dangerous journeys across the sea. Justice will only be achieved when there is free movement for all.

// Cette frontière tue ! Une personne décédée et une autre portée disparue en mer après un naufrage jeudi dernier

Jeudi dernier, un Erythréen est mort après avoir été repêché dans la Manche lorsque le bateau sur lequel il se rendait au Royaume-Uni avec d’autres personnes a coulé. On craint qu’une autre personne soit portée disparue en mer. Les détails ne sont pas clairs et des questions demeurent sur la façon dont les autorités ont réagi et sur ce qu’elles feront pour rechercher la personne disparue. Ce qui est clair, c’est qu’une fois de plus, le système raciste des frontières mis en place par les États européens pour restreindre la libre circulation des non-Européens a coûté de nouvelles vies. Nous résumons ci-dessous les informations dont nous disposons actuellement et appelons à l’abolition de cette frontière meurtrière.

Le naufrage de jeudi

Aux premières heures de la matinée de jeudi (12/08/21), un bateau transportant environ 37 personnes, dont des femmes et des enfants, a commencé à se dégonfler et à prendre l’eau dans la Manche, à environ 25 kilomètres au nord de Dunkerque. En raison de leur éloignement de la côte, les personnes à bord n’ont pas pu joindre les numéros d’urgence par téléphone. Elles ont essayé de demander de l’aide aux cargos qui passaient par là, mais au moins deux d’entre eux sont passés sans répondre. Pendant plus de deux heures, les personnes ont essayé d’évacuer l’eau du bateau. Selon les survivants, comme le bateau continuait à prendre de l’eau, les bagages ont été jetés par-dessus bord et certaines personnes ont sauté dans la mer pour alléger la charge.

A partir de là, on ne sait pas exactement comment la situation et le sauvetage se sont déroulés. Nous devons insister sur le fait que ce qui suit ne doit pas être considéré comme un compte-rendu officiel des événements de jeudi, mais qu’il a été reconstitué à partir des communications sur le canal 16 de la VHF entendues pendant la journée, de témoignages de survivants, de communiqués de presse et de données AIS.

Vers 10:00 CEST, un cargo de passage, l’Elena, aperçoit le bateau en train de couler et donne l’alerte sur le canal d’urgence de la radio VHF en disant qu’il y avait trois personnes dans l’eau. Nous avons estimé que la position du bateau en détresse se situait à ce moment-là autour de 51°14’45” N 02°03’12” E. Le Centre de coordination des secours maritimes français (CROSS Gris-Nez) engage alors deux bateaux de pêche proches, le Nicolas Jeremy et le Notre Dame de Boulogne, ainsi qu’un hélicoptère de sauvetage de l’armée de l’air belge pour aider à secourir les personnes à bord du bateau. Le cargo Elena met également à l’eau un petit bateau de sauvetage.

Les deux bateaux de pêche sont arrivés et ont commencé à sortir les gens de l’eau. Cependant, il y avait au moins une personne dans l’eau qui a refusé d’être secourue. L’hélicoptère de sauvetage a déclaré avoir vu 10 personnes encore sur le bateau en train de couler et la personne qui avait refusé d’être secourue inconsciente dans l’eau. L’hélicoptère a sorti les personnes restantes du bateau, qui, selon les survivants, était en train de se briser, et les a placées sur les autres navires. Pendant ce temps, le navire de sauvetage de l’Elena a pris à son bord une personne inconsciente (qui était peut-être la même que celle qui refusait d’être secourue par l’un des navires de pêche).

D’après les conversations entendues à la radio, il semble que plusieurs personnes aient été inconscientes dans l’eau à différents moments. Cependant, on ne sait pas si toutes ces personnes ont été embarquées à bord des bateaux de sauvetage ou si certaines ont été laissées en mer pendant qu’on secourait d’autres personnes encore vivantes.

Vers 10 h 45 CEST, le navire P676 Flamant de la marine française est arrivé pour participer au sauvetage. Tous les survivants qui avaient été secourus par les navires de pêche et le bateau de sauvetage de l’Elena ont été transférés sur le Flamant, avec l’aide de l’hélicoptère. A 10:50 CEST, l’hélicoptère de sauvetage belge a signalé que tout le monde avait été placé sur le Flamant et a confirmé qu’il n’y avait plus personne dans la mer. A 11h17, le CROSS Gris-Nez a demandé à l’hélicoptère d’effectuer une nouvelle recherche dans la zone à la recherche de personnes qui auraient pu être oubliées. L’hélicoptère a répondu qu’il venait d’effectuer une recherche dans un rayon de 1,8 miles nautiques, mais a suggéré une autre recherche à “3 miles nautiques au sud-ouest des points initiaux” pour tenir compte du courant.

Malgré les rapports faisant état de plusieurs personnes inconscientes dans l’eau tout au long de l’opération de sauvetage, d’après les conversations radio, il semble qu’il n’y avait qu’une seule personne inconsciente à bord du Flamant. Suite à une téléconférence de consultation médicale, cette personne, que les associations de Calais et de Grande-Synthe n’ont pour l’instant identifiée que sous le nom de M., a été héliportée vers l’hôpital de Calais, où elle est décédée. Les autres personnes secourues ont déclaré qu’elles avaient tenté d’alerter les autorités à bord du Flamant en leur signalant que d’autres personnes pouvaient encore se trouver en mer. On ignore encore si les autorités ont pris d’autres mesures sur la base de ces informations.

Bien que nous ne puissions pas dire exactement ce qui s’est passé au cours du sauvetage, les survivants avec lesquels nous avons parlé sont catégoriques : il y a encore au moins une personne manquante dans le naufrage. Comme ils nous ont dit que certaines personnes s’étaient jetées à l’eau très tôt pour retarder le naufrage du bateau, il est possible qu’elles n’aient pas toutes été retrouvées au cours du sauvetage.

Les survivants se posent encore des questions sur ce qui s’est passé ce jour-là : principalement, où est leur ami disparu ? Et s’il y avait quelqu’un sur le bateau qui n’a pas été secouru ou récupéré, que font les autorités pour le rechercher ?

Après le naufrage

A 15h00 CEST, le Flamant est arrivé au port de Dunkerque où les survivants du naufrage et d’autres personnes secourues ce jour-là sur un autre navire en détresse ont été débarqués et accueillis par la police, les pompiers, des médecins urgentistes et des membres de l’association Utopia 56. Deux groupes de personnes distincts ont indépendamment informé les bénévoles d’Utopia qu’en plus de l’homme qui a été évacué, un autre homme originaire d’Erythrée était porté disparu et pouvait avoir été abandonné en mer. Les 35 personnes sauvées du bateau qui a coulé ont ensuite été placées en garde à vue par la police aux frontières, où elles ont été interrogées sur les événements et sur qui avait organisé la traversée. Les survivants ont déclaré avoir à nouveau alerté la police au sujet de la personne disparue à ce moment-là.

Plusieurs personnes nous ont également dit avoir été retenues par la police pendant 24 heures sans recevoir de soins médicaux, malgré des blessures telles que des brûlures chimiques causées par l’eau de mer salée mélangée à l’essence. Aucun soutien psychologique n’a été proposé.

Toujours sans nouvelles de l’homme disparu, vendredi (13/08/21), des membres de la communauté érythréenne de Grande-Synthe ont fourni son nom et sa photo, qui ont été remis à la police. La Bridgade de Recherche de la Police Nationale de Dunkerque a lancé une enquête et envoyé un avis de disparition à tous les commissariats et hôpitaux, mais n’a pas pu le localiser. La police a également déclaré qu’une recherche en mer de deux heures avait été lancée le vendredi matin, mais le CROSS Gris-Nez n’a pas voulu le confirmer. Depuis, le CROSS n’a pas donné d’autres informations, notamment s’il pense que quelqu’un pourrait encore être en mer depuis le naufrage, ni s’il a lancé des recherches ultérieures. Il n’y a eu aucune annonce officielle des autorités concernant cette personne disparue.

Depuis vendredi, le “Groupe décès”, un collectif qui réagit aux décès survenus à la frontière dans le nord de la France, travaille avec les communautés érythréennes de Grande-Synthe et de Calais afin d’identifier la personne décédée et disparue, et d’apporter un soutien à ses amis et à ses proches. Il s’agit notamment d’assurer le suivi avec les autorités et de discuter de la manière d’organiser le rapatriement du corps de la personne décédée en Érythrée.

Une commémoration a été organisée dimanche après-midi au parvis des droits de l’Homme à Dunkerque, en présence de membres des communautés érythréennes de Grande-Synthe et de Calais, ainsi que de bénévoles des associations et de personnes souhaitant exprimer leur solidarité.

Stopper les morts aux frontières

Nous avons trop souvent dû répéter que lorsque des personnes meurent ou disparaissent à la frontière, il ne s’agit pas d’événements tragiques ou imprévus, mais plutôt des conséquences logiques et voulues d’une sécurisation accrue des frontières. De même, les événements de la semaine dernière ne sont pas de simples accidents ou le résultat de mauvaises décisions de la part des voyageurs ou de l’incompétence des autorités. Ils sont directement causés par la violence et le racisme de l’Europe et des systèmes frontaliers du Royaume-Uni, et les décisions récentes signifient que d’autres situations comme celle de jeudi sont extrêmement probables.

Il y a tout juste trois semaines, le Royaume-Uni a promis 62,7 millions d’euros supplémentaires pour financer le doublement des patrouilles de police françaises le long de la côte entre Boulogne et Dunkerque. Cela n’empêchera pas les gens de tenter de traverser la Manche, mais les obligera simplement à le faire depuis plus loin du court détroit de Douvres. Le résultat sera que les gens passeront plus de temps en mer et devront traverser de plus longues distances où ils seront hors de la couverture du réseau téléphonique et ne pourront pas appeler à l’aide, comme ce qui s’est passé jeudi. Bien que la Manche soit l’une des voies maritimes les plus surveillées et les plus fréquentées au monde, les personnes avec lesquelles nous nous sommes entretenus nous ont souvent dit avoir été laissées en détresse pendant de nombreuses heures sans assistance.

Plusieurs d’entre elles ont également déclaré qu’elles préféraient mourir en mer plutôt que de continuer à survivre à Calais ou à lutter contre les frontières qu’elles rencontrent dans toute l’Europe. Leurs campements à Calais sont expulsés et leurs biens confisqués ou détruits toutes les 48 heures. La distribution de nourriture et d’eau est interdite dans la majeure partie de la ville. La violence de la police à l’encontre des voyageurs sur les plages est routinière, et est rendue de plus en plus possible par les drones et les patrouilleurs payés par les Britanniques.

Tant que les autorités britanniques et françaises continueront à s’entendre pour maintenir cette frontière fermée, des événements horribles comme celui de jeudi se reproduiront inévitablement. L’introduction d’un plus grand nombre de “routes sûres et légales” ne servira qu’à différencier davantage les migrants désirables des indésirables, laissant la plupart d’entre eux dans la même situation qu’aujourd’hui. Tant que les mouvements de certaines personnes seront criminalisés, elles seront obligées de faire des traversées dangereuses à travers la mer. Il n’y aura de justice qu’avec la liberté de circulation pour tou-tes.

Calaisresearch: Mapping The Deals That Make The Deadly Border

cropped-calais-UK-border-fence-6-1160x700One year after the Jungle eviction, the hunt against migrants is as vicious as ever. People keep arriving in Calais, hoping to cross the channel to the UK. They are now met with a zero tolerance policy: shelters destroyed, demonstrations broken up, people rounded up in the streets, as deportations are scheduled to vicious states like Sudan, and the death count continues to mount. These days even charity food distributions are being targeted by police and dispersed with tear gas.

The calaisresearch website is a collaborative project to gather and analyse information about the Calais border. Formed by members of Calais Migrant Solidarity, Corporate Watch, and Passeurs d’Hospitalités, its first publication in 2016 was a list of 40 companies profiting from the jungle eviction and other border violence. The site’s aim is to help those fighting for freedom of movement in Calais develop effective strategies.

To do that we need to understand what we’re up against: the decision-makers and deals that create the Calais ‘Border Regime’. Most obviously, the orders come from the UK and French governments. But there also other important players, including the business interests which govern cross-border trade. The latest section of the calaisresearch site maps these key decision-makers, with another new page cataloging the security funding deals announced since 2009.

First, the two states: the French and UK governments and their security forces. The securitised border is a direct result of the “juxtaposed controls” agreement, first signed as the Channel Tunnel was being built in 1991. This offshores the UK border to French soil in order to stop refugees claiming asylum in Britain. To keep the deal going, the UK has given millions in funding to France, as well as directly to private contractors, to create a militarised death-zone in Calais.

Second, local power players: Right-wing Mayor Natacha Bouchart has staked her political ambition on a personal campaign to clean Calais of migrants, flirting with far-right vigilantes in the process. And now she has support from the right-wing takeover of the Regional Council, a major local landowner.

Third, corporate interests: Eurotunnel and the Port of Calais are allies in lobbying for extreme security measures – but also fierce competitors for cross-channel trade. The Port is now run by a semi-private company embarking on a major expansion programme, whose majority shareholders are the local Chambers of Commerce. The freight industry, with its trade associations, also has a stake in shaping the key problem facing the Calais border regime: how to stop human beings moving freely, but without slowing the profitable trade in commodities.

For over 20 years now, Calais has been a focal point for migration struggles in northern Europe. It will be so for as long as wars, dictatorships, and environmental destruction drive people to risk their lives at the border. Movement will not stop, and neither will resistance.

So the calaisresearch website will be a continual work in progress. It hopes to make a small contribution to the fight today and tomorrow, helping us share our knowledge and inform our strategies. It will keep on being updated with new information and analysis as the struggle develops.

Channel Charades

On the Franco-British border: Everyone’s at sea

The widely publicised shipwreck off the coast of Calais on 24 November, which left 27 dead, drew a few crocodile tears from the sharks that govern France and England. A show of hypocrisy that does not hide the truth: the deadly closure of the increasingly militarised maritime border of the Channel are the first responsible.

This is an English translation by activists from Watch the Channel of the article “Effets de manche” by Emilien Bernard published in CQFD n°204 (December 2021).

“The real enemy travels by private jet not dinghy”.
(Tag on a wall in Dover town centre, October 2021)

The French coast

From the beach of Sangatte, on a clear day, the white cliffs of Dover across the Channel are clearly visible. They shimmer about thirty miles away, no more, almost next door. A seductive mirage which no doubt explains why some people mount an attack on the Channel from this well guarded place. It rarely succeeds. “Not long ago, three Sudanese attempted to cross in a kayak in the early hours of the morning, but they were quickly intercepted by the coastguard,” explained Gabriella* of the Watch the Channel collective in early October.

Part of the European AlarmPhone network, which provides telephone assistance to people in distress at sea as they cross the Mediterranean1, Watch the Channel was created in 2018 by French and British activists in response to the increase in attempted Channel crossings. The aim: to give the people concerned, and the associations that help them, as much information as possible to mitigate the risks. Among the instructions contained in the small flyer that the collective distributes to people on the move is this imperative: “Do not try without an engine”. Without an engine, there is a great risk of being carried away much further north by the currents. If drama was avoided for the trio in a kayak that Gabriella mentioned, this is not always the case. On Thursday 11 November, three people were reported missing after setting off in the same type of boat.

Deflated dinghy on the beach of Sangatte

Similarly to crossings via ferry or the Eurotunnel, less and less popular because of the quasi-dystopian surveillance techniques that are now deployed to make it increasingly difficult, maritime attempts vary according to multiple factors. The weather, the logistics of the smuggling networks and word of mouth. Among these factors, the constant increase in police harassment in and around Calais is determinative. As a result, attempts are made from ever more remote areas spread along the 130-kilometre coastline facing England, from the Dunkirk area to the Bay of the Somme.

But even if there are numerous successful crossings (around 26,000 people between January and the end of November 2021), as well as rescues (8,200 on the French side for the same period, according to the Maritime Prefecture), the tragedies multiply as winter approaches. Officially three people died and four disappeared between January and mid-November – figures that are underestimated according to Watch the Channel. In addition, rescuers believe they are “on the verge of breaking point”.2 And a chilling piece of news comes at the very moment of writing this article, Wednesday 24 November: twenty-seven more dead in a shipwreck off Calais. Twenty-seven.

The toll could be even higher. Because, unlike in the Mediterranean, here the official sea rescue services are currently carrying out essential work on both sides of the line separating French and English waters. Gabriella recalls the case of this small boat in difficulty on the French side, where two of the occupants were rescued while the others chose to continue, before being rescued later when the situation worsened. But Calais activists fear that the rescue situation will deteriorate. In mid-October, Gabriella warned: “We’re starting to get people saying, ‘We waited for hours to be rescued’. Or both sides passing each other the buck. And as winter approaches and hypothermia cases multiply, we fear even worse tragedies.” She adds: “The political climate in England is not exactly conducive to optimism.” To put it mildly.

The English coast

In the port of Dover, which is much less secure than Calais, there is a secluded area where people picked up by the Border Force are taken. Often disembarked in the early hours of the morning, they are regularly filmed by far-right activists, discloses Mark*, from Watch the Channel, showing me on his smartphone pictures of those in question who, according to another testimony3, regularly “intimidate and harass migrants”. “These people live-stream the arrivals saying that they are part of an invasion”, Mark explains. “Close to [the far-right group] English Defence League, they want to impose the narrative of the Great Replacement. And their narrative clearly has purchase with the government, which has an increasingly extremist posture.”

An anti-migrant activist films people arriving in Dover

In October 2020, documents were leaked to the English press concerning discussions at the Home Office to curb sea crossings. Among the plans mentioned: the installation of a gigantic anti-small boat wave machine or the construction of a floating wall.4 These are unrealistic projects, no doubt, but they are moving forward along with other more concrete proposals. Like the possible construction of a detention centre for migrants on Ascension Island, a British overseas territory 4,000 kilometres to the south, in the middle of the Atlantic. The British are in fact coveting the situation at the Australian coastline, where the policy is to send people back to prison-camps outside its mainland. As for Home Secretary Priti Patel’s criminal proposal to push back boats to France, it is being seriously discussed by the British political class and has even led to exercises off Dover, with Border Force jet-skis practising intercepting boats. This is the hallmark of an out-of-control debate in which Patel feels she has grown ten-feet tall.

Home Secretary in the Johnson government since 2019 and muse of the right wing of the Conservative party, Priti Patel is a tough cookie. An admirer of Thatcher, a supporter of the death penalty and a fervent supporter of Brexit, she is the one who best embodies the extreme right-wing nature of the government. She is also responsible for the “Nationality and Borders Bill” currently being debated in Parliament which combines a tightening of the right to asylum with increased criminalisation of people arriving irregularly by boat. Even though the number of asylum seekers fell in 20205 and the country takes in proportionally far fewer new arrivals than its European neighbours, the debate has become so toxic that the inflammatory Patel is accused within her own ranks of being too human rights conscious. A nationalist race to the bottom that is also, unsurprisingly, affecting the situation on the other side of the Channel.

Ping-Pong Politics

“Calais, tunnelling beneath humanity”. This was the title of the article published in the last issue of CQFD. A cold autopsy of the French state’s hunt for displaced people. Since our visit, it has continued in the midst of general indifference (see in this same issue, “Exiles in the mud and the cold: the state assumes no responsibility“), with the only response being an inflation of security in Calais and elsewhere. In addition to drones and police on horseback patrolling the shores, there is now a race for coastal video surveillance. This development has been documented by local newspapers, such as La Voix du Nord, which published an article on 22 October entitled “The elected representatives of Calais (almost) all in favour of anti-smuggler cameras“, mentioning the disappointment of the mayor of Marck-en-Calaisis: “The only downside is that the installation of four cameras has been proposed. This is insufficient for the politician.” The politician sets the tone: today as yesterday or tomorrow, it is insufficient, we need more and more cameras, razor wire, drones…

On Monday 22 November, Interior Minister Gérald Darmanin announced a plan to provide 11 million euros for equipment: quads, 4x4s and thermal imaging cameras. This is a small part of the 62.7 million Euro package promised in 2021 by the British to fight against illegal immigration. The objective: an ever more marked militarisation of the border, in line with European policies in this area.

Thus, month after month, the spectacle of an invasion staged as unmanageable and requiring an immediate martial response is perpetuated on both sides of the Channel, in a game of political ping-pong that relies on anxiety-provoking symbols and media coverage. “Calais is a highly strategic space in terms of communication, where new security policies are being tested on foreigners”, Juliette Delaplace of Secours Catholique reminded us in mid-October. Put another way by Corporate Watch activists:”[The city] is of fundamental importance as a symbol for anti-migrant propaganda – the perfect scare story that drives the border regime.”6

The umpteenth drama that has just unfolded off the coast of Calais, which for a while will have directed cameras and politicians to the scene, is already part of this security narrative, mixing denunciation of smugglers and calls for Frontex, the armed wing of European borders. One thing is certain: the blood in the Channel will not be washed away by those who shed it.

Émilien Bernard

Through the Looking Glass

The history of the reinforcement of the Franco-British border is made up of multiple milestones, from the Le Touquet agreement in 2003, dividing the roles between the two states (the British finance, the French control) to the Sandhurst agreement in 2018, extending it by tightening the security screws. On both sides of the Channel, the instrumentalisation of the migration topic has developed throughout this period, with obvious electoral aims. We are logically more familiar with the rough contours of this in France. But the English mirror of this growing state xenophobia is just as edifying. In a book entitled The UK Border Regime (2018), Corporate Watch activists detail the successive alliance of "Labour's war on asylum seekers" conducted following the election of Labour's Tony Blair in 1997, and then Theresa May's so-called "hostile environment" policy from 2012. A false construction of immigration as a problem to be solved urgently, carried out hand in hand with a reactionary media and a flourishing security industry, leading to what the collective refers to as a "dramatic escalation of the repression of migrants". The whole thing has since been completed by the triumph of Boris Johnson, the Brexit and the nationalist delusions made in Perfidious Albion. France-England: zero-zero.
  1. See En mer Égée : “Le bateau a un trou mais les gardes-côtes ne nous aident pas”, CQFD n° 186 (April 2021).
  2.  See Dans la Manche, les sauveteurs au secours des migrants craignent d’atteindre “le point de rupture”, Le Monde (18/11/2021).
  3. See Channel Rescue, la patrouille citoyenne à l’affût des arrivées de migrants sur les côtes anglaises, InfoMigrants (26/03/2021).
  4. See No 10 confirms UK offshore asylum plan under consideration, The Financial Times (30/09/Se
  5. See, for example The Observer view on Priti Patel’s fake migrant crisis, The Guardian (21/11/2021). It states, “The number of people coming here to seek asylum fell by 4% last year and is at most half what it was in the early 2000s.”
  6. In their book The UK Border Regime, 2018, freely available on the Web.

This is an English translation of the article “Effets de manche” by Emilien Bernard published in CQFD n°204 (December 2021).

Deaths and push-backs through calculated non-assistance in the Channel

Post written by Watch the Channel and Calais Migrant Solidarity


As news began circulating that a boat had sunk in the middle of the Channel and that 27 people, men, women and children, had lost their lives on Wednesday 24 November, both the British and French governments were quick to blame ‘people smugglers’ for the loss of life. The information that has emerged since shows that it was the decision on the part of authorities not to intervene, nor cooperate with one another, after being alerted to the boat in distress that lead directly to their deaths.

One of the two survivors, Mohammad Khaled, spoke with Kurdish news network Rudaw and explained his story. He says the travellers got onto the boat and entered the water close to Dunkirk at around 21:00 CET on Tuesday night. Three hours later they believed they had arrived at the dividing line between British and French waters.

Mohammad says that during their crossing the right sponson was losing air and waves were coming into the boat. People were bailing out the sea water and using a hand pump to reinflate the right sponson as best they could, but after the pump stopped working they called to the French coastguard for rescue. They shared their GPS position via a smartphone with the French authorities, to which the French responded that the boat was in British waters and that they had to call the British. The travellers then called the UK Coastguard who told them to call back to the French. According to his testimony “Two people were calling – one was calling France and the other was calling Britain”. Mohammad recounted that: “The British police didn’t help us and the French police said, “You’re in British waters, we can’t come.” Despite both HM Coastguard Dover and French Maritime Rescue Coordination Centre at Gris-Nez knowing the location and condition of the boat, neither launched a search and rescue operation.

A relative of one of the people on board, also interviewed by Rudaw, explains that the problems with the sponson began around 01:30 in the morning GMT. He was in contact with the people on board up until 02:40 GMT and was also monitoring the boat’s position, shared live on Facebook. He insists that at this time the boat was in British waters and that HM Coastguard was aware of the situation. He states: “I believe they were five kilometers inside British waters,” and when asked if the British were aware of the boat in distress he replied: “100 per cent, 100 percent and they [British police] even said they would come [to the rescue].”

The British denied that the boat was in their waters when asked by Rudaw. A statement from the Home Office reads: “Officials here confirmed last night that the incident happened well inside French Territorial Waters, so they led on the rescue effort, but [we] deployed a helicopter in support of the search and rescue mission as soon as we were alerted.” However, Rudaw (as of 29/11) still has not received a detailed response on whether or not HM Coastguard had received a distress call from the vessel during the night or early morning.

One question looming over the Home Office’s statement is what time-frame does it consider constitutes ‘the incident’? The statement mentions deploying a helicopter “as soon as we were alerted”. Flight tracking of HM Coastguard’s helicopter G-MCGU (named “Sar 111232535” on MarineTraffic) by Sergio Scandura shows that it did three flights over the area on 24 November:

The first time was between 03:46 and 06:26 GMT where it appears to fly an “expanding square” search pattern, and then circle some specific targets that it finds. If this is the launch “as soon as we were alerted” the Home Office refer to, did this helicopter spot Mohammad’s boat and were there other vessels launched to assist in the search and rescue mission?

The next time the helicopter was launched was in the afternoon, at 13:16 GMT. It appears to do “sector search” and again circle some specific locations. This is around the time that the French launched their search and rescue operation, and is more likely the launch and “incident” referred to in the Home Office’s statement. Only at 15:47 did the Préfecture maritime Manche et mer du Nord first Tweet that they were coordinating a search and rescue operation involving a shipwreck in the Channel. Data from MarineTraffic show that boats involved in the rescue, for example the Notre Dame Du Risban lifeboat of the SNSM only began to move towards that location around 14:00, around 12 hours after Mohammad and his relative state that they first spoke with the authorities. Most of the activity of the French vessels tasked with the rescue operation involved takes place around 51°12′ N, 1°12 E, a position only about 1 mile East of the line separating French from British waters.

This means that for around 12 hours, between approximately 02:30 and 14:00, more than thirty people were left adrift in a boat that was sinking and without an engine in one the busiest and most surveilled shipping lanes in the world. More information is still needed to definitely prove that Mohammad and the others in his boat were in British waters, for how long, and that their distress situation was known to HM Coastguard. However, given the testimony of Mohammad and the relatives of others in the boat, the first helicopter launch, and the amount of time which the boat was left to drift at sea, it is extremely likely that HM Coastguard was aware of the situation. But instead of intervening to save lives at sea, it appears they decided to play politics and hope that the travelers would drift back and drown in French waters.

Mohammad testified that even though water was entering the boat through the night and people were becoming submerged “Everyone could take it until sunrise, then when the light shone, no one could take it anymore and they gave up on life”. By the time the sun started to rise they had already lost hope of survival.


Mohammad Khaled’s account from the 24th is not the first of what appears to be deliberate non-assistance for migrant boats in distress in the Channel. Less that a week beforehand, on 20 November, we spoke with someone else whose calls for help in the Channel close to the border line seem to have been deliberately ignored by the British, and who provided the following account of his journey:

It was at 3am on Saturday 20 November when we put the boat in the sea. We are 23 in the boat.

After three hours, I think, we reached the British border then the fuel ran out, I think at 7 o’clock, and then we decided to call the 999 [the British emergency number]. Then we called and they told us you are in the French water without asking us for our location. They told us to call 196.

First of all we did not agree to call the French. We were trying to paddle but it was very difficult because of the waves. Then we decided to call the French. When we called they asked us to send our live location, then they told us ‘You are in UK waters’.

Then we called the British again many times but they kept repeating that we were in French waters and then they ended the call. The UK guys answered us in a very rude way and it seemed like he was laughing at us.

I told him two times that there were people dying in here but he really didn’t give a shit. We sent our live location a second time to the French coastguard. We also called them again, we were trying to reach them by two phones but they kept telling us we were in the UK waters.

So I decided around 9.30am to call Utopia. Then they helped us and they were forcing the French authorities to send the boat to save us around 10am or 10.30am. The reason why I’m sharing this thing because I don’t want it to happen again because it’s related to people’s lives.

Utopia 56, after being called by the people in distress, called to CROSS Gris-Nez, the French Maritimate Rescue Coordination Centre responsible for the Straits of Dover. Utopia 56 relayed the information they received and the position of the boat, and were then told by the CROSS that they were sure that the British had deliberately not intervened and let the people drift back to French waters.

Deathly consequences of a failure to cooperate

These two cases indicate that although Border Force has yet to implement forcible push-backs, turning around migrants boats’ with jet skis or dragging them back into French waters, push-backs are already occurring in the form of HM Coastguard deliberately refusing to come to the aid of migrants which it believes will drift back into French waters. This deliberate non-assistance is a deadly tactic that leaves people out at sea, in overcrowded and unseaworthy vessels, for many hours after they call for help, to traumatise the travellers and deter them from attempting to make further attempts at crossing to the UK by boat.

The French and British Coastguards “have a duty to cooperate together to prevent loss of life at sea and ensure completion of a search and rescue mission” under the International Convention for the Safety of Life at Sea and the Search and Rescue Convention. This includes a responsibility on both sides to contact one another as soon as information is received about people in danger and to cooperate on search and rescue operations for anyone in distress at sea.

However, it appears that the UK’s current anti-migrant policies mean that this cooperation in fact does not exist for migrants in distress in the Channel. Especially the UK government does not want to be seen to rescue boats immediately after they enter their waters. Furthermore, their criticism of the French for (in their eyes) not doing enough to intercept migrants’ boats at sea or prevent them from departing from the French coast, has seemed to poison diplomatic and operational relationships between the countries. For example, the Journal du Dimanche recently published that even in the investigations of smuggling networks there has been a breakdown in French and British cooperation.

Instead of cooperating to save lives at sea the Franco-British response has been to argue with one another, introduce more border policing measures (including aerial surveillance from Frontex), blame the victims and continue to scapegoate the smugglers. This has been useful to detract from their own failings over recent days, but will not improve the situation for the people who actually have to undertake such journeys. Further securitisation of the beaches and seas will only push people to try longer, more dangerous routes where there may not be good telephone network coverage. Small boats in distress will find themselves further from the large number of potential search and rescue assets located in the Straits of Dover.

Deaths of their friends and hours in distress adrift at sea without rescue will not dissuade people from trying to make the same journeys as they have no other options. Suggested solutions such as humanitarian visas will not provide everyone who needs it with a safe route to the UK. Others will continue embarking in small and unseaworthy vessels. Simultaneously, millions of people make this same journey each year aboard the ferries and trains that criss-cross the Channel several times a day without incident. Only by according the right to freedom of movement to all will we end the border apartheid and prevent further lives from being lost at sea.

H for harassment / H de harcèlement

“Why do you do this? It’s ridiculous. We just move 200m and then come back. It’s annoying. It does nothing.” says someone, on a random morning, during a police raid on one of the camps located on the outskirts of the city of Calais. Officers don’t answer.

While the raid may not manage to completely erase people from the landscape, it would be incorrect to say it does nothing. These raids fail in evicting people, but they are yet very effective as part of a larger strategy of harassment. And in terms of harassing people, the government and its armed little soldiers in Calais have shown their determination, and at times creativity, to honour old practices used in Calais years ago, by repeating them these days.

When arriving in Calais, as a warm welcome, police and SNCF agents will greet you at the door of the train you arrive on and block your way out of the train station. They will stare at you, ask you for papers and/ or your train ticket. They will not be there every day, so to make it not too oppressive for the citizens to complain, and casual enough for it to look legit and justified. Then the bus may or may not stop to pick you up, but may occasionally be stopped to control papers of everyone, and if you don’t speak french or look “turisty” enough, you may be arrested.
Talking about tourists… the tourist office just put some flowers on the steps to access to the door. Cute! If they weren’t steps, not flower places, and the installation looking more like a way to get rid of the homeless people who used to sit there waiting for people to chip in some spare cash.
The army will be waiting in front of the police station, while the police drive around the town looking for anyone they think looks like a migrant. Beware not to wear hoodies or dark clothes if you don’t want them to slow down when coming from behind to stare at you better while deciding if they want to stop and search you or you look white enough. Charged because drunk on public space? Covid-19 seems to be the reason why it’s impossible for your friends, even just one or two, to enter the tribunal and support you through this. Several people without papers have been arrested and charged with offences ranging from minor ones to violence against police, solely for existing and sometimes resisting to the daily police violence in the past months alone. Private security in parkings, on top of it all, repeatedly reported as setting free their dogs to attack people, gas them and insult them.
The CRA as recently opened again, seeing one person transferred there from Lille CRA for suspected Covid, so what best idea than transferring the person to a different facility with several other people in time, and when confirmed, lock them in isolation!

The numbers of people sleeping rough while attempting to cross to the UK since the dismantlement of the slum known as Jungle have fluctuated, but according to associations on the ground have consistently remained between 500 and 1000. And despite the money spent on making the physical border more technologically sophisticated and “secure”, people are still crossing. Living conditions, often the only thing that would be mediatized or addressed, have changed at times but remained consistently bad. Trash laying around and rats running free? While this will be all blamed on the inhabitants and used by public powers to define migrant people as dirty/ uncaring in the eyes of the public, or even to evict living places, the major of Calais refused one more time to take in charge said trash -as is her duty for people living in the municipality. See here, minutes 58-55. For now and still, even if people were to put their trash in bin bags, said bags will not be collected, and it takes only a seagull and a bit of wind to spread the litter all around.
These weeks, some street artists participate in an event organized by the town hall to paint some places in the city centre, to look artsy, for the benefit of those considered worth enough (citizens, tourists) . Seen the original roots of the graffiti movement, what do they think of the politics carried on by the same municipality, amongst which the quickly erasing political messages or simple messages in political places (see: walls)?

“Pourquoi faites-vous cela ? C’est ridicule. On se déplace juste de 200m et on revient. C’est agaçant. Ça ne fait rien.”, dit une personne, lors de l’une des descentes quotidiennes matinales de l’une des nombreuses compagnies de police, dans l’un des camps situés à la périphérie de la ville de Calais. Les policiers ne répondent pas.

Même si le raid ne parvient pas à effacer complètement les gens d’un paysage, il serait faux de dire que cela ne produit rien. Les expulsions n’expulsent personne mais sont surtout des outils efficaces de la stratégie de harcèlement de l’Etat . Et en terme de harcèlement des populations, le gouvernement et ses petits soldats armés à Calais savent faire preuve de tant de créativité que de détermination pour de nouveau honorer leurs bonnes vieilles pratiques.

Ancrée sur un terrain solide comme une frontières peut l’être, à l’intersection de nombreuses oppressions systémiques, Calais.
En guise d’accueil, la police et des agents de la SNCF vous bloqueront l’accès à la sortie de la gare, en haut des escaliers à la sortie du train. Ils vous fixeront, vous demanderont vos papiers et/ou votre billet de train. Ils ne seront pas là tous les jours, afin que ce ne soit pas trop oppressant pour les, et agiront de manière assez désinvolte pour que cela paraisse légitime et justifié. Le bus pourra s’arrêter pour vous prendre, ou non, cela dépendra, mais il arrive qu’il soit arreté pour contrôler les papiers de tout le monde, et si vous ne parlez pas français ou n’avez pas l’air assez “turiste”, vous pouvez être arrêté.
En parlant des touristes.. l’office du tourisme vient de mettre des fleur sur les marches d’accès à la porte. C’est mignon ! Si ce n’est que c’est à la base des marches, et l’installation ressemble plus à un moyen de se débarrasser des sans-abri qui étaient assis là à faire la manche.
L’armée stationnera devant le poste de police, la police fera des tours en ville. Attention à ne pas porter de sweat à capuche ou des vêtements sombres si vous ne voulez pas qu’ils ralentissent pour mieux vous fixer, le temps de décider s’ils veulent s’arrêter et vous fouiller, ou déterminer si vous avez l’air assez blanc. Inculpé.e parce ivre dans un lieu public ? Covid-19 semble être la raison pour laquelle il est impossible pour vos ami.e.s, même juste un.e ou deux, d’entrer au tribunal pour vous soutenir. Au cours de ces derniers mois, plusieurs personnes sans papiers ont été arrêtées et accusées de délits allant de faits mineurs à des violences contre la police, uniquement pour avoir osé exister et parfois résisté aux violences policières quotidiennes. La sécurité privée dans les parkings, en plus de tout cela, a été citée à plusieurs reprises comme libérant ses chiens pour qu’ils attaquent les gens, gazages et les insultes.
Le CRA a récemment rouvert ses portes, voyant une personne y être transférée du CRA de Lille pour suspicion de Covid, alors quelle bonne idée que de transférer la personne dans un autre établissement avec plusieurs autres personnes, et une fois le diagnostique confirmé, de l’enfermer en isolement !

En ce qui concerne les personnes qui dorment dans la rue en essayant de traverser vers le Royaume-Uni , les chiffres ont, selon les associations du terrain, fluctué entre 500 et 1000 depuis le démantèlement du bidonville connu sous le nom de Jungle, mais sont restés stables jusqu’à présent. Et malgré l’argent dépensé pour rendre la frontière physique plus technologique et plus “sûre”, les gens continuent de traverser. Les conditions de vie, souvent seul sujet médiatisé ou abordé, ont parfois changé, mais sont demeurées fondamentalement mauvaises .

Des déchets qui traînent et des rats qui courent en liberté ? Alors que tout cela sera imputé aux habitants et utilisé par les pouvoirs publics pour définir les immigrés comme sales/ insouciants aux yeux du public, ou encore pour expulser les-dit camps, la maire de Calais a refusé une fois de plus de prendre en charge ces ordures, comme normalement son devoir pour les personnes vivant dans la municipalité. Voir ici, minutes 58-55. Pour l’instant et encore, même si les gens mettaient leurs déchets dans des sacs poubelles, ces sacs ne seraient pas ramassés, et il suffit d’une mouette et d’un peu de vent pour répandre les déchets tout autour.
Ces semaines-ci, des artistes de rue participent à un événement organisé par la mairie pour peindre certains endroits du centre ville, pour donner un aspect artistique, visiblement au profit de celleux qui sont considérés comme suffisamment méritants (citoyens, touristes) . Vu les racines du mouvement graffiti, que pensent-ils de la politique portée par cette même municipalité, parmi laquelle la rapidité à effacer les messages politiques ou les simples messages dans les lieux politiques (voir : les murs)?

Voice of Unaccompanied minors (= Letters from Refugees to the World No. 6)

“Evacuate us from closed camps!” (26/04/2020)

Normally, 24 million kilowatts potential energy exists in a person`s
body. This amount of energy can supply the electricity of a small town for one week. But I repress, stifle, waste all that energy, because of psychological problems every day. I am one among hundreds of unaccompanied minors who live in one of the most crowded refugee camps of Europe.

Here is Moria camp overcrowded with thousands of persons from every region of the world, with different backgrounds, different experiences, different mentalities. This diversity and complexity make the living conditions for hundreds of unaccompanied minors, be it boys or girls, physically and psychologically harder and harder.

A simple summer tent for shelter seems a dream for us. We have passed many days sleeping in the road. Instead of having access to useful education, we are learning how to steal, to use drugs, to trick the girls. And every day, we make plans how to get out of this prison.

I am an unaccompanied minor, who covered thousands of kilometers over deserts and borders to come to Europe. The sky was like my father and the ground was my mother. I passed the distances, counting stars, lonely and dreaming of a bright future.

I came here in order to have a brighter future, but what is happening to me and the other minors like me, is that we are  losing our hopes and our future looks dark.

I have lived here in fear — fear of losing my way, my courage, my goals and of becoming trapped by male wolves. So I prefer to live in the road instead of living with single men around.

Here the boys are used for achieving goals, like objects. Every night with many efforts we are trying to escape from here, hanging under trucks hoping to board on the ships going to the main land and, from there, to continue our journey. Each unsuccessful try is followed with harassment, even physical violence. Many of us live outside the camp’s section reserved for minors. Yet even minors from that section pass their nights in single men´s shelters instead. Nothing is free here, everything must be paid for.

Even just staying in some one’s tent, in order to have a shelter, has a price.
In exchange we are asked to do such things as:
1) Find a girl for the night                    
2) Find drugs                
3) Sell drugs
4) Steal                      
5) Sell stolen phones                  
6) Threaten people
7) Terrorize residents of the camp

How can an unaccompanied minor be safe while each moment he may be trapped and be forced to commit actions that will put him in danger? We passed all the winter without a shelter to sleep in, without someone to guide us, to give us information and advice. Instead, we have been pushed, by older men, to do anything and be anywhere just to obtain a shelter or get some attention.

We cannot see an end to our situation. Even if we are moved to a special zone for unaccompanied minors, we would still need to be very careful to avoid becoming pray of domestic wolves. Alcohol drinking and getting drunk are ways used to be rescued from all disappointments. But all these problems are not only ours. The conditions are even harder for young unaccompanied girls. Listen to them!

We are all considered as objects, objects of lust. The eyes of young boys, of old men and everybody are all on our body and are following us just deceive. Even if they are in a safer part of the camps, many unaccompanied girls spend their nights in the tents of single boys and young men in order to earn money. Having no guardians, these girls are treated like tissue paper. Unaccompanied girls, as well as women, should seek for shelter only for themselves, even if it is just a simple summer tent for many days. Instead, they end up having a tent among many single boys and men who drink and get, endlessly, drunk. So anything can happen to those girls or women.

In addition, girls have no learning opportunities or access to physical
activities. Although there is a safe zone for unaccompanied minor girls, the metallic fence surrounding this zone does keep them apart from the boys outside.

Why should huge power for work be wasted? Such power could be usefully employed.

We pass our time holding a cigarette in our hand instead of a pen, a notebook, a book. Youths from 11 year old boys to 18 year old teenagers are drowning their sadnesses in cigarette smoke. We drink alcohol instead of drinking water of life. We smoke instead of breathing in the fresh air. We risked our lives and traveled  thousands of kilometers over deserts,valleys, mountains and sea facing thousands of problems to come here, but our lives are in jeopardy.

Security and safety lost their meanings for us here.

If we are going to have a chance to serve a country one day, we must be evacuated from this prison before we become living dead or psychiatric and clinical patients.

published by:


17 May. Yesterday has marked two years after the death of the young girl Mawda, who was killed by the bullet of a policeman during a police chase in Belgium on the night of 17-18 May.
Following the conviction of the policeman who fired the shot that killed Mawda, with ‘involuntary homicide’, in January this year, the Comité Mawda Justice-Vérité has launched a legal procedure against the prosecutor in Mons, Belgium.
To honour Mawda and her still grieving family, we will never forget.

Thursday, 18 June 2020. In around a month, it will be the 20th anniversary of 58 Chinese youths found dead in the port of Dover, in the back of a truck.

Since, border continued killing, in Calais as elsewhere.

There is no accurate count of how many migrants have died in Calais, their deaths ignored, the facts covered up or altogether unreported.
This timeline, this map and this list try to give a bit of justice to those who perished, reminding us of their existence. A commemoration plate to the victims of the border (picture below) was also recently inaugurated in Calais, all by associations after years of having asked the public powers to do so. Several times we’ve seen marches and demonstrations to denounce and remember these losses. In this context , solidarity means everything.

We are almost half past into 2020, and the border in Calais has already proved this year not being an exception to “the rule”: it kills.
And it kills in many different ways, as testimony the people that we’ve known, not only those who perished, but all those who lost their mind, got sick, lost hope or went physically missing.


M., is a person from Soudan. After seeing their claims for protection refused elsewhere, was severly injured during an attempt to cross to the UK. Over ten years later, the persons’s body is found floating in water. In between, life, but mostly precarious protection documents issued by France, life long treatment following the accident, no job, and limited options as for future and building a life. The place where his body was found, the morning of January 9, 2020, is that of one of the lakes recreated on the land that was known as “jungle” in 2015-2016, after having demolished the settlements of people that were once inhabiting. It is unclear if he comitted suicide, or wanted to give a last chance to try and seek a better life in the UK, but what seems sure is that with over 20years of exile from homeland, border politics killed a man.

Baquer, young and smiling soul, died in unclear circumstances in what was said to be a collision with a train close to Metz, beginning of March 2020. Him, as well as other members of his extended family, had left Iraq to seek protection in the UK. After years spent in the camps in Dunkerque as isolated minor, exposed to inefficiency of the state to protect him and all the violence and exploitation that being a young man without papers can face. Family close and far, friends and associations that knew him and had helped him, made videos  in his memory.

Covid 19 has clearly created more loss and difficulties in grief than most people had ever experienced, and in this light, with isolation hitting hard and the impossibly to gather, we can not help but think of those whose life was always considered less worth, alive or dead. The difficulties encountered when your family is far away, does not have the money to pay for funeral, language barrier, and so on.
People that can not understand how their lovely, brilliant, young son, daughter, brother, husband, sister, friend could die, or rather be killed by governmental policies in Europe, where they were deemed to find safety.

The same government that even in death, they showed little compassion or remorse for those who have died attempting crossing, all criminalising them while still alive. Preferring to see those who have died seeking safety as nothing more than an inconvenience and disruption to the regular order of profit driven and reputation obsessed tourist mongering.

The deaths in Calais are just a few of the many lives lost at Europe’s borders.

In Calais as in the Mediterranean, as at the Greece-Turkey border graveyard of the Evros valley, the lives of migrants from Africa and Asia are not worth saving, their deaths are not worth recording or investigating. Police and other state authorities are often actively involved in these deaths. Other times, they are merely complicit. Police and other officials cover up killings of refugees and refuse to investigate suspicious deaths. A migrant’s death doesn’t mean the same as a citizen’s. Because a migrant’s life is not worth the same as a citizen’s.

It is not only the state authorities who are complicit in these killings at the border. Amongst others, we should note the role of the media. Not all deaths in Calais are even reported. And when they are , it is as “fait divers”.

The value placed on the life of an undocumented person in Calais is alarmingly low and the internment, prosecution, and systemic repression of those who attempt to use the tunnel / ferry / channel waters to access Britain is disgusting.

Justice for for all our sisters and brothers on the borders.

These borders kill.



Hier, c’était le 17 mai. Hier, c’était le deuxième anniversaire de mort de la petite Mawda qui a été tuée par la balle d’un policier belge pendant une poursuite policière en Belgique, la nuit du 17 au 18 mai 2018.
Suite à la condamnation pour “homicide involontaire” du policier qui a tiré le coup de feu qui a tué Mawda, en janvier de cette année, le Comité Mawda Justice-Vérité a lancé une procédure judiciaire contre le procureur de Mons, en Belgique.
Pour honorer Mawda et sa famille encore en deuil, nous n’oublierons jamais.

Jeudi 18 Juin 2020. Dans environ un mois, ce sera le 20e anniversaire des 58 jeunes Chinois retrouvés morts dans le port de Douvres, à l’arrière d’un camion.
Depuis, la frontière continue de tuer, à Calais comme ailleurs.

Il n’y a pas de décompte précis du nombre de migrant-e-s mort-e-s à Calais. Leur mort est ignorée, les faits sont dissimulés ou tout simplement non rapportés.
Cette chronologie, cette carte et cette liste tentent de rendre un peu de justice à celleux qui ont péri, en nous rappelant leur existence. Une plaque commémorative aux victimes de la frontière (photo ci-dessus) a également été récemment inaugurée à Calais, le tout par des associations, après des années de demandes aux pouvoirs publics. À plusieurs reprises, nous avons vu des marches ou des manifestations pour dénoncer et se souvenir de ces pertes. Dans ce contexte, la solidarité signifie tout.
Nous sommes presque à la moitié de l’année 2020, et la frontière à Calais a déjà prouvé qu’elle n’était pas une exception à la “règle” : elle tue.
Et elle tue de bien des façons, comme en témoignent les personnes que nous avons connues et qui ont perdu la tête, sont tombées malades, ont perdu l’espoir ou ont disparu physiquement.


M. est une personne originaire du Soudan. Après avoir vu ses demandes de protection rejetées ailleurs, elle a été gravement blessée lors d’une tentative de passage au Royaume-Uni. Plus de dix ans plus tard, le corps de cette personne est retrouvé flottant dans l’eau. Entre temps, la vie, mais surtout des documents de protection précaires délivrés par la France pour se renouveler chaque année, un traitement à vie suite à l’accident, pas d’emploi, et des options limitées quant à l’avenir et à la construction d’une vie (comment, quand on n’a aucune certitude au-delà de cette année-là ?). Le lieu où le corps a été retrouvé, le matin du 9 janvier 2020, est celui d’un des lacs recréés sur le terrain que l’on appelait “jungle” en 2015-2016, après avoir démoli les habitations des personnes qui y habitaient autrefois. On ne sait pas s’il s’est suicidé ou s’il a voulu donner une dernière chance de tenter de trouver une vie meilleure au Royaume-Uni, mais ce qui semble sûr, c’est qu’avec plus de 20 ans d’exil de la patrie, la politique frontalière a tué un homme.

Baquer, âme jeune et souriante, est mort dans des circonstances peu claires dans ce qui a été dit être une collision avec un train près de Metz, début mars 2020. Lui, ainsi que d’autres membres de sa famille élargie, avaient quitté l’Irak pour chercher protection au Royaume-Uni. Après des années passées dans les camps de Dunkerque comme mineur isolé, exposé à l’inefficacité de l’État pour le protéger et à toute la violence et l’exploitation auxquelles un jeune homme est exposé. Sa famille proche et lointaine, ses amis et les associations qui le connaissaient et l’avaient aidé, ont réalisé des vidéo en sa mémoire.

Le covid-19 a clairement créé plus de pertes et de difficultés liées au deuil que la plupart des gens n’en ont jamais connu, avec l’isolement frappant fort et l’impossibilité de se rassembler, nous ne pouvons nous empêcher de penser à celleux dont la vie a toujours été considérée comme moins valable, vivant-e-s ou mort-e-s. Les difficultés rencontrées lorsque votre famille est éloignée, qu’elle n’a pas les moyens de payer les funérailles, la barrière de la langue, etc.
Ces personnes qui ne peuvent pas comprendre comment leur adorable, brillant-e, jeune fils, fille, frère, mari, sœur, ami-e pourrait mourir, ou alors être tué-e par les politiques gouvernementales en Europe, où elles sont censées trouver la sécurité.

Le même gouvernement qui, même dans la mort, a montré peu de compassion ou de remords pour celleux qui sont mort-e-s en essayant de traverser, les criminalisant tou-te-s alors qu’illes étaient encore en vie. Préférant voir celleux qui sont mort-e-s en cherchant la sécurité comme rien de plus qu’un désagrément et une perturbation de l’ordre normal du tourisme motivé par le profit et obsédé par sa réputation.

Les morts de Calais ne sont que quelques-unes des nombreuses vies perdues aux frontières de l’Europe.
À Calais comme en Méditerranée, ou comme au cimetière de la vallée de l’Evros à la frontière gréco-turque, les vies des migrant-e-s d’Afrique et d’Asie ne méritent pas d’être sauvées, leurs morts ne méritent pas d’être enregistrées ou de faire l’objet d’une enquête. La police et les autres autorités de l’État sont souvent activement impliquées dans ces décès. D’autres fois, ils sont simplement complices. La police et d’autres fonctionnaires couvrent les meurtres de réfugié-e-s et refusent d’enquêter sur les morts suspectes. La mort d’un-e migrant-e n’a pas la même signification que celle d’un-e citoyen-ne. Car la vie d’un-e migrant-e ne vaut pas la même chose que celle d’un-e citoyen-ne.

Il n’y a pas que les autorités de l’État qui sont complices de ces meurtres à la frontière. Il faut noter, entre autre, le rôle des médias. Pas tous les décès à Calais ne sont même à peine signalés. Et quand ils le sont, ils se retrouvent dans la catégorie des faits divers.

La valeur accordée à la vie d’une personne sans papiers à Calais est alarmante et l’internement, les poursuites et la répression systémique de celleux qui tentent d’utiliser le tunnel / le ferry / les eaux de la Manche pour accéder à la Grande-Bretagne est dégoûtant.

Justice pour toutes nos sœurs et tous nos frères aux frontières.

Ces frontières tuent.

Border kills once more // Encore quelqu’un tué par les frontières

(Article de Getting The Voice Out //  from Getting The Voice Out )

Repose en paix Ermiyas Ungessa, Éthiopien, 28 ans, mort sur une autoroute à Tournai en Belgique ce vendredi 20 décembre 2019. Il était le papa d’une petite fille de 4 ans laissée en Éthiopie avec sa mère. Nous nous souviendrons de toi.

Rest in peace Ermiyas Ungessa, ethiopian, 28 years old, dead on a highway in Tournai, in Belgium, this friday December 20th 2019. He was the father of a 4 years old little girl, still in Ethiopia with her mother. We will remember you.

Border kills! Les frontières tuent!

Here is an uncomplete list of people killed by French-english border this year / Une liste incomplète des personnes tuées à la frontière franco-britannique cette année :

1st november : a 24 yo man from Nigeria is found dead in his tent in rue des huttes in Calais, probably intoxicated with carbon monoxide

October 23th: 39 Vietnamese found dead in a truck Essex in England
Pham Thi Tra My, 26, from Ha Tinh
Nguyen Dinh Luong, 20, from Ha Tinh
Nguyen Huy Phong, 35, from Ha Tinh
Vo Nhan Du, 19, from Ha Tinh
Tran Manh Hung, 37, from Ha Tinh
Tran Khanh Tho, 18, from Ha Tinh
Vo Van Linh, 25, from Ha Tinh
Nguyen Van Nhan, 33, from Ha Tinh
Bui Phan Thang, 37, from Ha Tinh
Nguyen Huy Hung, 15, from Ha Tinh
Tran Thi Tho, 21, from Nghe An
Bui Thi Nhung, 19, from Nghe An
Vo Ngoc Nam, 28, from Nghe An
Nguyen Dinh Tu, 26, from Nghe An
Le Van Ha, 30, from Nghe An
Tran Thi Ngoc, 19, from Nghe An
Nguyen Van Hung, 33, from Nghe An
Hoang Van Tiep, 18, from Nghe An
Cao Tien Dung, 37, from Nghe An
Cao Huy Thanh, 33, from Nghe An
Tran Thi Mai Nhung, 18, from Nghe An
Nguyen Minh Quang, 20, from Nghe An
Le Trong Thanh, 44, from Dien Chau
Pham Thi Ngoc Oanh, 28, from Nghe An
Hoang Van Hoi, 24, from Nghe An
Nguyen Tho Tuan, 25, from Nghe An
Dang Huu Tuyen, 22, from Nghe An
Nguyen Trong Thai, 26, from Nghe An
Nguyen Van Hiep, 24, from Nghe An
Nguyen Thi Van, 35, from Nghe An
Tran Hai Loc, 35, from Nghe An
Duong Minh Tuan, 27, from Quang Binh
Nguyen Ngoc Ha, 32, from Quang Binh
Nguyen Tien Dung, 33, from Quang, Binh
Phan Thi Thanh, 41, from Hai Phong
Nguyen Ba Vu Hung, 34, from Thua Tien Hue
Dinh Dinh Thai Quyen, 18, from Hai Phong
Tran Ngoc Hieu, 17, from Hai Duong
Dinh Dinh Binh, 15, from Hai Phong

23th october : Nixon, , 34 years old, Sri lankais, commit suicide at the open center of Lanaken (Belgium)

14th october : A 17yo teenager and a 22 yo young man from Irak are found dead, washed ashore in the Touquet beach (Pas-de-Calais, France). They fell out of a dinghy in a failed attempt to reach the UK.

On August 26th, Nicknam Massoud ,48 ans, is found dead at a wind farm off the coast of Belgium near Zeebrugge. It is likely he was spotted on the 18th twelve miles off the coast of Dunkirk attempting to swim across the Channel to England (link to blog post).

9th august : Mitra M., a 31 years old woman from Iran fallsfrom a dinghy in the Channel. Her body would have been found off the Netherlands shores.

On July, 8th, Geri, a young eritrean man died falling from a lorry on the A29 in Belgium.

On July, 6th, Mr Kouadio, 21yo, a young man from Ivory Coast drowned off the coast of Grande Synthe.

At the end of June, a man from Irak was hit by a vehicule on the highway, around Grande-Synthe. He died in july, after some days in coma.

20th May : a young eritrean man die hit by a car on the A16 highway, around Guemps (nearby Calais)

April 17th : Amaneal, born in 1986, Ethiopian, his body found on a railway at Silly (Tournai)

8th March : Adam usman Kiyar, 20 years old, ethiopian, is found dead in the back of a lorry during border check at the Calais harbour.

Death at the border // Mort à la frontière

(English below)

Un homme nigérien de 24 ans a été retrouvé mort ce matin rue des Huttes à Calais.

Le jeune homme serait décédé accidentellement, vivant dans les conditions de vie dangereuses et insalubres des éxilé-e-s à Calais causées par les politiques municipales racistes dans le but de renforcer la frontière.

Un rassemblement aura lieu comme d’habitude demain à 18h30 devant le parc Richelieu pour rendre hommage au jeune homme et dénoncer les frontières meurtrières.




A 24 year old man from Nigeria was found dead this morning on rue des Huttes in Calais (see in french here).

Though said to have died accidentally, he was a victim of of the unhealthy and dangerous conditions migrants are made to live in by the municipality to defend the UK’s border.

A vigil will be held as usual tomorrow at 6.30pm next to Parc Richelieu in Calais, for an homage to the young man and to denounce once again the murderous borders.


Disparue à la frontière // Missing at the border

(english below)

Vendredi 9 août, un groupe de personnes à bord d’une embarcation de fortune en difficulté, au large de Ramsgate (Angleterre) est secouru par un bateau anglais de la RNLI. 2 personnes sont retrouvées dans l’eau, mais une autre est disparue. Elle ne sera pas retrouvée, malgré les recherches, qui ont finalement été abandonnées dans la journée de samedi.

M., jeune femme iranienne, a disparu à quarante kilomètres de son but, où elle souhaitait retrouver des proches.

Les politiques frontalières toujours plus violentes l’ont poussée, comme beaucoup d’autres, à emprunter une voie meurtrière pour atteindre un but si proche, et d’accès si simple pour celles et ceux né·e·s avec le bon passeport.

Les médias français (par exemple ici, et encore ), qui ont pourtant largement relaté cette journée du 9 août, ne font aucune mention de cette femme disparue (au contraire des médias anglais : voir ici, ou encore ).

La frontière tue, silencieusement.




On Friday, 9th August, a bunch of people in a dinghy were rescued by a RNLI boat, off Ramsgate’s coast. 2 persons were overboard but were quickly found, but another one is still missing. A search was carried on until saturday 2pm, in vain.

M. a young woman from Iran, disappeared twenty miles away from her goal, where her kin were waiting for her.

The border policies, more and more violent, drove her, like many others, to take a deadly way to reach her goal, so close, and so safe to get to, for those born with the good passport.

French newspapers (for example, see here, here or here), who, quite largely related these events of the 9th august, did not mention anywhere the missing woman, unlike their English colleagues (see here, here, and there again).

This border kills, silently.