Documenting police harassment of migrants in Calais, and the strengthening resistance to this violence by a network of people against the border regime.
If you are a refugee and you are looking for information on your rights in Europe, go here
New to this site? Then read our introduction to the situation here.
Swedish Calais Migrant Solidarity blog: Calais på svenska
German Calais Migrant Solidarity blog: CMS.de
Come to Calais!
Every person intervening can make a huge difference in the levels of police brutality against migrants. We try to maintain a constant activist presence on the ground and need people all the time. If you’re thinking of coming, please email us and we can give you some up to date information, or put you in touch with part of the network near you.
– ‘The Hardest Winter in Calais’, documenting police repression over winter 2009-10
– ‘The Daily Life of Calais Migrants’ , a French film from 2009, but the footage shows the situation well
New! Radical Migrant Solidarity – a practical guide to working in solidarity with migrants in Calais and beyond
See also: Without Borders, a local newspaper written and edited by French activists in Calais
NEWS AND REPORTS FROM ACTIVISTS ON THE GROUND
27.09.12: update: more evictions and arrests
This morning the police visited the squat of the Eritreans. There are 16 people living there. They told them to take their bags and stuff and leave and that the house would be closed soon. It is not evicted yet but we expect it will be tomorrow.
All the houses squatted the night before last were closed yesterday by the police but have been re-opened, but will again be closed soon as police are sitting in cars outside of them.
Any people who tried to enter the place of food distribution last night were pounced upon by police who waited in the car park opposite all night. Many people were unable to sleep last night and walked all night in the rain looking for somewhere they could stay.. We distributed all our tents yesterday – also Medicin du Monde gave everyone plastic and Salam distributed blankets again.
There are many people in detention in Coquelles, including one minor who the police refuse to believe is under 18. Yesterday 16 minors were arrested in the raid on the Afghans. There are four children under ten here at the moment.
The people detained have the usual complaints about Coquelles – poor conditions, bad food, racist and humiliating behaviour from the police – for example, the officers have been holding their noses when people walk past in the hallways, implying that people smell. Many people inside have no idea of their legal rights, although France Terre d’Asile work inside Coquelles many people we have been visiting and speaking with have never heard of them. The police are deliberately trying to stop communication between the different sections of the prison – people are rushed to the hall for eating and moved out again very quickly so as they do not talk to each other. The rooms are full – up to five people in each.
Many people inside were people arrested in the big raid on the place of food distribution – the police took their bags and are refusing to give them back to people now in detention – always saying “tomorrow, tomorrow..”
People are unable to change their clothes. One man doesn’t even have any shoes as he was refused by the police, when they arrested him, to retrieve them from his bag – so he was walked barefoot to the arrest van and into the police station..
With the constant heavy rain and crazy numbers of police on the street people don’t know what to do with themselves. Nowhere is safe, nowhere is dry and people are so tired.
26.09.12: Eviction of Salam followed by mass road block next to the port. Lighthouse area also evicted. Mass arrests.
Yesterday morning at 6am many many police – PAF and CRS – arrived at the place of food distribution and kicked everybody out in the rain. A lot of people were arrested, around 50 people, and everyone was not allowed to take their blankets or sleeping bags with them (which had just been distributed two days before by Medicin du Monde) though they were able to take some personal bags.
People were released throughout the day – though not everybody, some still remain in the detention centre.
After the food distrobution by Salam at 6pm more blankets were distributed. Many people from the associations gathered in the distribution place and it was decided together by many communities that they wanted to make a road block in protest to the eviction that morning.
It was very beautiful to see, maybe 100 people or less sat and stood in the road to the port and blocked traffic. Plastic sheeting was brought and people made makeshift tents over the road. Cardboard sheets were written on with slogans like “where are our human rights?” and “we are not criminals!”.
Chanting and singing and dancing made the atmosphere a bit like a surreal party. There were many police – Nationale, PAF, BAC – who stood and watched for a couple of hours at a distance, directing traffic. A huge storm came over the demonstrators with thunder and lighting and terrible rain – people held out in the road in the rain until it was totally dark before dispersing to find places to sleep.
This morning at 6.30am the police came again in HUGE numbers. PAF and CRS. They evicted the area outside of the food distribution and arrested everyone. They were not very violent but really unpleasant.. They woke people by cutting the tents from over their heads and stamping on the plastic, with people sleeping inside. It was very cold and the CRS found it amusing that so many people were shivering and wrapping themselves in blankets.
The translator they brought with them did not speak Pashto or Dari – only Arabic. 95% of the people arrested were Afghan and so the woman walking round screaming in Arabic that everybody must go to the police station to show their papers and could take there bags, was not understood.
In the police station people were divided into language groups, Pashto/Dari/Farsi/Arabic/Urdu and put into cells. The police were calling the porta-cabin where most of their cells are, “la maison Afghanistan”.
We are unsure at the moment how many people are left inside – but it seems most are released. The last person from “la maison Afghanistan” was released today but we are still not sure about the other police cells.
It seems somewhat like a bad joke here at the moment. With the constant rain and now what seems to be becoming an eviction trend the days are very long and uncomfortable. We desperately need more tents/sleeping bags/blankets/waterproof coats etc.
21.09.12: General update
There are more people still arriving to sleep in Salam, all spaces under the plastic are taken so people are putting up many tents on the grass outside. Also people are sleeping without tents just wrapped in blankets on the ground.
The police are coming to the place of distribution every morning at 7am to count people. Usually it is just one or two cars of PAF but yesterday they came in huge numbers also with the CRS and drove inside Salam. They spoke to every person in turn and wrote down on a clipboard peoples names, nationalities and age. This took them over an hour and a half to go round all the people in and outside of Salam. But there were no arrests.
However, the police are clamping down seemingly harder than before on so called “people-smugglers”.. basically anyone they can catch in the parking who isn’t in a truck. Recently many people have received prison sentences for being people smugglers (but who actually were just trying to cross to the UK). We have been attending many of the court cases to support our friends.
Unit 61 of the CRS is in town but they have been pretty quiet – the previous unit (40 – from Dijon) were very busy with controls in the streets and parks and were extremely racist, only asking for papers from people they assumed were migrants and ignoring other more western looking people.
Many people have Italian papers at the moment but even though the papers allow travel within Schengen it does not make people immune to being arrested in Calais.
Today Medicin Du Monde did a big clean up in the place of food distribution, cleaning the porta-loos, the taps, and all the loose rubbish – which with hundreds of people using the space is really a lot. A massive skip was placed in the centre of the yard and filled to the top. After the cleaning had finished, sleeping bags were distributed to all. Three vans of PAF officers sat and watched all of this take place from behind the fence.
At the moment the situation is not so good. More and more people are arriving into Calais, without spaces to stay, without blankets and very often the food distributions are running out of food before everyone is fed. People are tired, hungry and as the days and nights are getting colder people are getting sick. Many people are injured at the moment. Broken arms, broken legs, its so common to see hands in bandages and fingers stitched up from where people have ripped them open on fences.
But – there will always be good spirits. Music and dancing and cooking food over fires, there’s lots of fixing bikes sessions, teaching each other languages, making use of home-made library and free shop, playing chess and cards, reading books, drinking tea and regular do-it-yourself barber shop for hair cuts…
What we need:
– Tents, tarps and sleeping bags – we need lots of them.
– Books – in any and all languages. Especially, English, French, Italian, Arabic, Pashto, Farsi, Tigrinya, Amharic and Greek. Language dictionaries would be really really cool, and really well used. (We have many in German and Swedish already so don’t need any more!)
– Games – card games, board games, dominoes etc..
– Tools/bike equipment – the bike workshop space is good but could be excellent. We need tools and other equipment and as usual more bikes and trailers.
– Phone chargers and sim cards
– Also we are in DESPERATE need of cameras… We are missing so much potential footage that could be used against the police.
And if you have any spare time we would love to see you because we have a massive shortage of activists but so much to do!!
13.09.12 Africa House Evicted
Yesterday at 8am the police evicted Africa House where 30 to 40 people had been sleeping. There were no arrests, but the police would not let people remove their personal belongings or bedding. As usual, these possessions were taken to the town dump, although much of this has now been recovered.
With no where else to stay, many of those who had been staying at Africa House were forced to stay in or around Salam. There is no space under any shelters in Salam, meaning that the new comers from Africa House (and others) had to sleep without cover from the heavy rain last night.
10.09.12 Africa House and Salam threatened with eviction again
At the moment there are about 50 people sleeping inside of Salam and about 30 people outside of Salam, next to the building on the other side of the road. Because people have been there for so long, without being disturbed people have become quite settled, putting up blankets and matresses.
About 10 days ago the Mayor asked the police to remove the people sleeping there and on Tuesday last week the police came and kicked everyone out in the middle of the night. Nothing was removed and the people were able to go back inside once the police had gone.
A couple of days ago there was a meeting in the Town Hall about the issue of people sleeping in Salam. Again the Mayor has asked the police to remove the people sleeping there, which makes it pretty likely that in the upcoming week there will be an eviction of Salam, leaving 50-80 people with no where to stay.
As well as requesting the removal of the people, the Mayor is also attempting to change the agreement that the Associations have with the Town Hall. The Mayor wants a new agreement which says that if people are sleeping inside of Salam that it can be closed down. They also want to include in the new agreement that people from No Borders will not be allowed inside of Salam at all. At the moment we do not know how the Associations are going to respond.
Africa House is also still awaiting eviction having received eviction papers about a month ago, we have no idea when this might happen.
Recent Update; 08.08.12 – 20.08.12
It has been a quiet few weeks here in Calais. The end of the Olympic Games in London saw the departure of the Gendarmerie and additional security forces.
On 09.08 there was an offical visit to the abandoned Douane building (where people are sleeping under the eaves) by high ranking Police officers, accompanied by two unknown civilians – possibly landowners. Officers went inside the building and looked around, leaving shortly afterwards.
Last week Africa House received papers for eviction – stating reasons of hygiene and structural dangers. It is now at constant risk of eviction.
19.08 – A small noise demonstration took place outside Coquelles detention centre. It was well received by those inside who shouted out in response to the demo. Tennis balls filled with sweets and sugar were thrown over the fence into the courtyard, where people are allowed to smoke.
Those detained in Coquelles complained of racial and religious insults from the PAF officers and other forms of oppression – such as denial of sugar for tea.
Last night saw the end of of Ramadan, Eid. No borders marked this occasion by organising a party on the beach. A generator was brought, allowing music of many cultures. Food, drink, dancing and friends made for a memorable Eid. Ques Katir.
7th of August 2012
Today we held a demonstration to commemorate the death of Noureddin Mohamed, who died one month ago in suspicious circumstances.
(For more information see below)
The intention of the demonstration was to draw attention to death, and ensure he does not become another empty fatality statistic from the borders of Fortress Europe. We also want the authorities to reopen the case. The demonstration drew about 60 people and passed off peacefully, starting from the food distribution centre and moving down the main street of Calais. Flyers were distributed on route and were generally received positively.
Simultaneously, activists infiltrated the tower of the town hall to drop a 20 metre long banner saying “Justice Pour Noureddin.” Although the banner was deployed successfully, it was immediately and dangerously tampered with by security and police officers so that it could not be read. Four activists were violently arrested after having deployed the banner.
At the same time, the main demonstration was passing the town hall as the detained activists were being taken to the arrest vans. A scuffle ensued. During this scuffle, the police arrested another activist, violently wrestling him to the ground and kicking him several times whilst he was being held down. Another police officer picked up a hand drum and used it to beat an activist, who later had to be taken to hospital requiring three stitches. The demonstration subsequently moved to the police station where the arrestees were being held. We are still awaiting the release of the detained activists, and suspect that they are being held for the full 48 hours. Meanwhile, the daily humiliation and repression of migrants continues.
Sunday,29.07.2012 – Calais “Games without Borders”
In Calais as everywhere, refugees, migrants, and all people without the right official documents are world champions in endurance and survival events. Each day involves hours of dedicated training in escaping police harassment. The quest to cross the border to England is a momentous sporting challenge in the journey of a lifetime. To make the race still tougher, at each olympic games governments deploy stifling security measures under the pretext of anti-terrorism. In Calais, recent weeks have seen mass arrests, beatings, and evictions.
In the “Games without borders” event on Saturday 28 July, we celebrate our fighting spirit as cross-border athletes.
The Calais region authorities tell us that they are “welcoming the world” for the olympic games. People arriving from Sudan, Afghanistan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Palestine, Mali, Kurdistan, Syria, Somalia, Iraq, Lybia, Albania, Pakistan, Tunisia, Egypt have all been welcomed … with a closed border, arrests, beatings, detention centres, and constant harassment.
The day’s events included:
— Installing new commemorative street plaques to remember Noureddin and Ismael.
— A counter-olympic procession through the town with about sixty people, including refugees of many different communities. We had hoped to stop at the town hall to add a new monument to the mayor’s collection of giant sweetie-shaped sculptures decorated in national colours. But the march was blocked at the town hall by police lines. Instead we added our new sweetie to the monument in the square in front of the town hall.
— The celebratory procession continued, taking the road all the way, through the town centre, with lots of people out in the street, and a very positive welcome. The cops followed en masse but didn’t interfere.
— The main athletic events were held in the counter-olympic park (also known as Parc Richelieu), a picnic, music, and a running race with the added obstacle of “border guards” and “riot police” trying to block the contestants.
— Then the aquatic games at the beach. Diving, acrobatics, ball games, and an evening swimming event in the channel (joined by police speedboats).
The day was a success and with beautiful weather we rounded the evening off with a small party on the beach..
Arrests are few but the presence of police is high on the eve of the Olympic Games. The Military have built a Camp just outside Calais, the Gendarmerie (Military Police), usually only to be seen in the port area are roaming the streets. With seven CRS Units in town, all in all there are around 750 to 800 police.
The PAF (Border Police) have been passing by peoples sleeping spaces every morning, without making arrests, but asking for ID and nationalities.
Evicted from place to place by the police for more than two months, a lot of migrants in Calais have found a precarious shelter in the place where the charities provide them meals, and under the eaves of a nearby building.
According to several sources a police raid is planned to happen in the next days in order that the migrants don’t stay in this very visible place near the harbour, where tourists going to the Olympic games are going to cross.
You can from now express to the prefect of Pas-de-Calais your worry according this information and your indignation in front of this perspective of Olympic cleaning :
03 21 21 20 00 or
If you are abroad, you can demonstrate at the French Embassy in the country where you are :
It is also important that this scandalous cleaning receives a echo in the media and doesn’t stay hidden.
Thanks in advance for your support,
Tuesday 17th July: Justice for Noureddin Solidarity Demo in London
Today over 20 people held a demo outside the French embassy in London to call for an immediate investigation into the death of Noureddin Mohamed.
Members of various Sudanese groups were present. Representatives of two groups – Darfur Union UK & Ireland, and Nuba Mountains Solidarity Abroad – submitted a letter they had co-written to the Ambassador.
Saturday 14.07.2012: Funeral and Demonstration
Yesterday, the community brought Noureddin Mohamed to his last rest. Very emotional, I must admit. After breakfast, at around 11.00, we began to come together in the park. The police came through the park with three officers and occasionally came through by car, but, they left the community alone. At around 15.00hrs, the community marched with 50 to 70 people to the cemetery. Again, one police car watched us, but left us alone.
We assembled behind the van with Noureddin’s body inside at 15.30, and marched behind it to the cemetery. There, the community got the coffin out the van and marched the body around. They then set the coffin down. The Imam assembled Muslims in strict order and began with prayers. After the ceremony, the community lowered the coffin into the grave. Then, everyone present buried Nourredin together, which was followed by another short, ceremony.
Afterwards, everyone came together outside the cemetery, where banners were given out. One senior police officer and two BAC (Undercover police) came through the crowd to warn us that we could not go on the road. We had to walk on the pavement. Around 60 people marched off.
At the beginning, all was calm and we walked more or less on the pavement. The police on motor bikes tried to push people back on the pavement. After a while, we had enough of this and decided to take the road. The police, however, stayed very calm. We then marched to the place where Noureddin apparently died, where another little ceremony was planned. But the community decided to march on. Not to much good. Around 500 metres on, a line of ‘Robo Cops’ blocked our path. Again, for Calais it was very calm – apart from being a bit pushy, there wasn’t much from the boys in blue. We marched then on another way back to the park. There, after a bit of discussion, the community decided to call it a day. Most went to Secour Catholique to eat and to think. Some stayed in the park, drank and ate Food distribution opposite SALAM. This happened at 18.30.
July 12th: Justice for Noureddin Mohamed.
No more border killings.
Our friend Noureddin Mohamed died in the centre of Calais in the early hours of Saturday morning (7 July 2012). Noureddin was 28 years old. Originally from North Darfur, Sudan, he had been in Calais for more than four years. He was well known and loved in Calais, and leaves many grieving friends. He died just some 200 metres from the Sub-prefecture (government office) where he had recently been granted leave to remain in France as a refugee.
That night, Noureddin had been out with a group of friends in the town centre. But a normal night out in Calais, if you are black or look “foreign”, means the constant danger of harassment and aggression from the police. In Calais companies of CRS riot police patrol the streets night and day with specific orders to stop anyone who looks like a migrant, and arrest anyone who can’t show the right travel documents. Despite a recent French appeal court ruling against such racist policing (see notes), nothing has changed.
According to Noureddin’s friends, as they left a bar near the main street Rue Royale, they were once again stopped aggressively by the police. Refugees are used to this treatment in Calais, and generally shrug it off. Noureddin and his friends split up, and Noureddin left alone on his way home. Minutes later he was dead. At 3.30 am, his body was dragged out of the canal 200 metres from the Sub-Prefecture.
Noureddin’s friends do not believe that his death was an accident. And they do not believe the official story, which was immediately parroted without further investigation by the local press. According to the police, Noureddin stole a mobile phone from a woman, her friends chased him, and Noureddin jumped into the canal where he drowned. Everyone who knew Noureddin insists that he was not a thief, and had never done anything like this. Nor do they believe that he simply “jumped”. The police have provided no evidence for their story, except the word of the three people who are supposed to have chased Noureddin.
We cannot say, at this point, whether the police were involved in Noureddin’s death. We do not currently know the truth about the three people who are supposed to have chased him. We do know that racist attacks against migrants are all too common in Calais, sometimes involving local fascist groups, as well as the police themselves. Whatever happened that night, Noureddin’s death deserves a proper investigation.
Instead, the case was closed immediately, and the police have refused to perform an autopsy. On Wednesday (11 July) Noureddin’s uncle submitted an official demand to the state prosecutor for an inquiry into “murder by persons unknown”. According to legal counsel, this demand means that the authorities should now perform an autopsy and reopen the investigation. So far, though, there has been no official response.
Every day this week, friends, family, and their supporters have held demonstrations demanding justice for Noureddin. On Tuesday (10 July) around 60 people – not only Sudanese but Afghan, Eritrean, French, and others — demonstrated outside the central police station. They were met by a show of force including around 20 CRS riot police, with flashball guns, who blocked off all the streets around the areas.
Undeterred, on Wednesday (11 July) members of the Darfuri communities from Paris and Belgium arrived to join another demonstration outside the Town Hall. They carried placards with pictures of Noureddin, demanding “We want to know the reason for the death of our brother.” The mobilisation continues today (Thursday 12th), and solidarity demonstrations are also planned in Paris, Lille, Germany, London, and elsewhere in the coming days.
Passed over in silence.
Noureddin’s story is far from unique. There is no accurate count of how many migrants have died in Calais, their deaths ignored, the facts covered up or altogether unreported. Just to give one recent example, Noureddin’s story raises grim parallels with the death of a young Eritrean man, Ismael, whose body was found at the bottom of another canal bridge on 22 December. The police immediately closed the case, writing it off as suicide, without any evidence for this conclusion. Again, the authorities refused an autopsy or any further investigation. Ismael had no family members nearby, the police refused to let his friends even see the body, and threatened them with arrest by immigration authorities if they returned to the police station. Eventually one white friend, a French citizen, was allowed to identify the body.
In the case of Zenebe, whose body was found on 9 April in the deserted lace factory where he was living, the police do claim to have launched an investigation, but there has been no outcome from this so far.
On 22 April 2011 the body of a 24 year old Afghan man was dragged from another canal in Calais. Again, the police claimed he had drowned accidentally. He was being chased at the time by immigration police (PAF) officers.
These borders kill.
The deaths in Calais are just a few of the many lives lost at Europe’s borders. According to the press monitoring researchers of “Fortress Europe” blog, at least 18,244 deaths at European borders have been reported by media since 1988. Many more, for sure, go unreported.
Most of these die in the Mediterranean sea. On Monday night (9 July) a young Eritrean man was rescued off the coast of Tunisia, the sole survivor of a boat carrying 55 Eritrean, Somali and Sudanese refugees.
In the most infamous recent story to come to light, over 60 African refugees died as their boat drifted for 11 days in March 2011. The boat was in contact with the Italian coastguard, a military helicopter (country unknown) flew over and lowered bottles of water, and finally it drifted in full view of an aircraft carrier, probably the French ship Charles de Gaulle. No one came to their rescue.
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. But as Noureddin’s body was found in full public view in the town centre, his death couldn’t be ignored. Both local newspapers (Nord Littoral and Voix du Nord) immediately ran the police story. The supposed “theft” of a mobile phone was reported as fact. Journalists made no attempt to investigate further. No one tried to contact Noureddin’s friends and get their side of the story. Noureddin was immediately written off as a thief and his death as an accident or even, perhaps, a well-deserved end.
This complicity in silence and slander makes the life of a migrant cheap. Racist police officers know that they can beat, chase, and continually harass migrants without fear of sanction. As people were leaving Tuesday’s demonstration, one CRS (riot police) officer called after them: “be careful you don’t fall in the water”. It’s certainly clear for “civilian” racists and fascists, too, whose side the authorities are on. So long as deaths go without acknowledgement or reply, it’s open season on migrants in Calais.
Stop the killings.
The mobilisation in Calais this week has seen demonstrations every morning outside the police station and town hall, with Darfuris now coming from Paris and Belgium to join the demos. In the repressive conditions of Calais, it takes courage to come out and demonstrate on the street if you don’t carry the right papers. But anger, sorrow, and solidarity overpower fear. The anger and protest now begins to spread, amongst Darfuri communities elsewhere in France and beyond, and to other migrants and friends. Can this become the start of a movement against the border killings? Will we find the strength to say “Enough”?
Justice for Noureddin, and for all our sisters and brothers on the borders.
The Calais Migrant Solidarity dossier detailing the extent of repression in Calais, “This Border Kills”, can be downloaded here in English and French: https://calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com/this-border-kills-our-dossier-of-violence/
Article in English on the new court ruling against arrest of migrants without criminal suspicion:
Nord Littoral article (in French): http://www.nordlittoral.fr/actualite/la_une/2012/07/08/article_un_migrant_meurt_noye_a_calais_un_vol_de.shtml
“Fortress Europe” research on deaths at the borders:
July 11th 2012
Today, the Sudanese community assembled in Park Richelieu. From 09.00 onwards, people came alone or in groups in the park. At 10.00, Breakfast arrived. The police had sporadic drives through the park, but no CRS/PAF (Riot-/ Border police) showed up today. At 11.15 we walked to the front of the Park. After a short assembly there, we marched to the place, where Nourredin died. It was very emotional.
We then marched to the town hall (Hotel de Ville). There, speeches in English, French and Arabic were held. The police was present, but again, all very low key. Today, the community also changed the solicitor, the previous one being on holiday. The prosecutor told a local right wing newspaper that he will definitely not be ordering a autopsy. Very independent, this man.
Tomorrow, we will come together again. Justice for Noureddin, justice for Ismael, Justice for all the others. Did you know that since 2002 over 100 people have died in Calais? Some died by trying to come through this inhuman border, some died through suicide, some… will we ever know? By the way, that’s one person every month. What has to happen before the public wakes up? On Tuesday, there will be a demonstration in London, organised by the Sudanese/Darfur community. A press release will come out tomorrow. Whatever we do, I’m sure, nobody will forget Noureddin, no-one will forget Ismael, nobody will forget all the others who died, direct or indirect as a result of the system and its minions.
July 10th 2012
Some members of Noureddin’s family , as well as about 50 members of the Sudanese community and No Borders and different associations, Medecins du Monde and Secours Catholique assembled this morning in the Park next to the Police station . The Police turned up controlled everyone’s ID including activists and one of them said to the Sudanese “Be careful you don’t fall in the water” (yes, believe it or not he did) . Then everyone left the park and went to the Police Station where Noureddin’s uncle and the interpreter were waiting.
We waited outside as they went inside to identify the body and to demand an autopsy. The Police did not appreciate that we arrived with tea and coffee. The situation became tense as the chief of the Commissariat came out and told us to move across the road claiming that we were obstructing public access . We refused and there was a small stand off . The CRS arrived and stood guarding the entrance .They had a riot shield and a flashball gun like they meant business but it was really just an exercise in intimidation. The entire time we were filmed and photographed but we were filming back as hard.
Then another man in a suit arrived who seemed to be the press officer.
We then had a very heated discussion . They claimed that there was no need for an autopsy as the case was closed . The Police Coroner had not found any marks on the body so there would be a verdict of accidental death . As the conversation developed it quickly became clear that this was entirely false as they contradicted each other . To order an inquest it is essential that the uncle ‘porte plainte contre X’ (make a complaint against an unknown person) and they admitted this as a possibility but it has to be done through the Procureur (de la republique) in Boulogne.
We waited about two hours for the uncle and the Secours Catholique translator to come out having identified Noureddin’s body . They told us that the the Police had asked them to sign a release paper to accept the body back . The Police had said that if they did not sign the Police paper that they would not be able have the body to send to Sudan . Fortunately they did not give into this blackmail and were forced to take the painful decision not to sign meaning that Noureddin’s body will now be buried at Coquelles cemetery in a communal grave. The point being that signing would have in fact closed the case even though the Police attempted to persuade the interpreter and the uncle that this was not the case and that it would be possible to ‘porter plainte’ afterwards.
During the day two new versions of events surrounding Noureddin’s death were given to the Sudanese community. In the first scenario the girl owner of the mobile phone pushed Nouredin into the canal and was under arrest .
In the second version Noureddin simply ran out of the nightclub and committed suicide by jumping into the canal.
After the uncle and translator came out of the Commisariat there was a second stand off as we were by this stage occupying the closed road . About 20 Police advanced towards us and pushed us back there was some good resistance but eventually we decided to move on to get more detail and to discuss. Eventually the uncle decided that he did want to porte plante and this was done together with the translator and a document testifying to this was given a member of the family.
Next we went back to sit by the war memorial after hesitating whether to do a spontaneous demonstration it was decided by the Sudanese to save their energy for a bigger demonstration tomorrow which is what has now been called. A demo is called for 10 am tomorrow morning. A press release will be put out tomorrow after
We’ve called some local media we can trust (not many) and there are a couple of journalists here but it would be great to have more so if you know anyone who’d be interested that we trust and is available on very short notice to get here then it’s worth a try.
July 9th 2012
One more death. In the early hours of Saturday Morning (7 July), our friend N., 28 years old, from Sudan, died in Calais town centre. His body was dragged out of the canal near the Sub-Prefecture. As often in the past, the police have been point blank refusing to allow friends and family access to his body, or to hold an inquest into his death. They have already prepared their story about his death, which is starting to unravel as more evidence comes to light.
Not because it bears any relation to the truth, but this is the official line: N stole a mobile phone in the town centre, he was chased by a friend of the “victim”, and somehow he managed to fall or jump into the canal, where he drowned. Apparently there is no need for an autopsy or inquiry. No need to explain police movements that night just before N died. No need to wait for evidence that he stole anything. This story, straight from the mouths of the cops, was parroted by the local hate-rag “La Voix du Nord” without further investigation. A migrant. A black man. A thief. An accident, maybe even a well-deserved death.
N’s friends, and witnesses, tell a different story. We cannot write more about what really happened at this moment, but we will do so soon. This morning (Monday 9) around 40 people demonstrated outside the police station in Calais. N was well loved. We hope to write more about his life soon as well, with full respect to all his family and friends. We will not let this death be forgotten.
The cover-up by state authorities and media accomplices of deaths in Calais is standard. Just to give another recent example, on December 22, another friend, Ismael, was found dead at the bottom of a bridge in central Calais. The police immediately closed the case, calling it suicide. They refused to allow his friends to see or identify the body, and refused an autopsy. Ismael’s friends went twice to the police station asking to see his body and were twice refused and threatened with arrest by the immigration police (PAF) if they didn’t leave. Only one white French friend was allowed in to identify him. There was no further investigation.
The border kills. We don’t know how Ismael died. We have seen many times police chasing migrants off bridges, into canals, into the harbour. Bullets and clubs are not the only way to kill people. A fall from a bridge can kill just as well. Constant beatings and hunger can kill just as well. Years of fear and frustration and humiliation can kill just as well. These are the deaths that keep Europe’s looted wealth safe from the foreigners.
Ni Oubli. Ni Pardon. (Don’t forget. Don’t forgive.)
There will be a further post to come soon.
Nord Littoral article (in French): http://www.nordlittoral.fr/actualite/la_une/2012/07/08/article_un_migrant_meurt_noye_a_calais_un_vol_de.shtml
July 7th 2012
Update on whats been happening recently:
The town hall served a whole load of (bullshit) regulations on the
hanger last Sunday (01.07), forcing us to close the building temporarily. Basically they’ve put us in a high-grade category as a public restaurant for 250 people, which requires that a lot of work be done to the place. No-one can use the building until regulations are met except contracted companies doing the work and we have to ask the town hall for permission before every single bit of work, they have to reply in up to six months time and if we don’t comply they’ll permanently shut us down themselves by securing doors. Bastards. BUT as it is obviously not a public restaurant for 250 people, we’re working on some ideas to hopefully find a solution to this soon. All this was done the day before the no border kitchens started (nicely timed), and the associations (stopping food and going on holiday for the summer) wouldn’t let us use their space to cook. But we have found a temporary space for the kitchen for the time being. The apartment is still fine… this is not affected.
Kitchens have started cooking breakfast and dinner and its already been really positive, people are getting involved with cooking and lots of people saying they like it. Apart from watching us, the police is at the moment not intervening. Apart from that things have been relatively quiet. There are some new people and quite a lot of good spirits (given the situation), and a sound no border crew working well together with people. It looks like we’ve now got most of the summer covered with at least a few people ‘on the ground’ for most of the time, although more are welcomed to give people breaks, do more stuff etc. September and beyond is empty. Yesterday, the police made pictures in a migrant Squat, so, we fear, that another raid is coming. This morning, everything is calm, CRS drives around, we watch them, the standard game in Calais. Later more
Friday July 6th: general update
Police repression comes in waves at the moment. For example, this week: Until Wednesday, no raids, nearly no Id controls, no arrest, nothing taken away, few police under way. Then, yesterday, they swarmed the place, arrested 35 to 40 people, some of them minors, taken blankets/ sleeping bags, tents away. After going with the father of two minors to Coquelles, the police station/ Detention centre and a two hour discussion there, two minors were released. They cleared the space opposite Salam and a jungle. Also, the day before yesterday, police beat one migrant in the back of a police van. In general, the police begin again with rougher methods. Our Summer Food Distribution is under way since the 02.07. In July/August, charities in France go on holiday, so, some activist kitchen from all over Europe help out. Until now, apart from watching us, no harassment from the police. We all hope, that it stays this way. This morning, the police gone again trough the jungle, so far, no arrest made. General update hangar: We can not use the Hangar at the moment, do to a legal dispute. The sleeping space for activist is fine. We meet this afternoon with a solicitor, have then a meeting tonight, afterwards, we will write more about this. By the way, more activist on the ground would be more then welcomed
Friday June 23rd: general update
Repression is high and it does really seem like they are trying to clear Calais of its migrants before the Olympics. All squats old and new have been closed except a few small ones, there are not many people even in the jungles around Calais. Instead people sleep out and about with the police chasing them, people just try to hide and stay out of sight. Record numbers of police, the CRS are combing the streets at all hours, day and night, also on Sundays, but also more ‘normal’ police and undercover police, many new surveillance cars also of new types. Many arrests – except the last few days.
Destruction of blankets and shelters have reached unparalleled proportions, there is an ongoing crisis of the associations’ supplies and our stockpile is also low. Even the Vestiaire is running out of blankets.
The deportation centre in Coquelles is full, many deportations to Albania and to various Dublin countries, particularly Italy. People get bounced back and forward from France and Italy, some people have been deported to Italy 5 times and have just come back. Its impossible to find work in Italy, there are people sleeping rough everywhere in the streets and at the train stations, many are Italians but also many migrants and refugees.
Monday June 18th: New Space update:
The door to the courtyard has been installed. A new kitchen is ready. The walls have all been repainted… with some decorated by people with and without papers and local youth. A new window and door have been built behind an electric shutter.
Nice to have good relationships with some close neighbours. Even despite some early intimidation by the local authorities and police… paying us regular visits. Sometimes police are circling around the building, taking photos or just hanging outside, trying to make their presence felt in the neighbourhood, but their petty intimidation isn’t working.
We still need to clear the garden and develop it. Lots of space for planting stuff. Need to build / find more tables, chairs, sofas, shelves… and start preparing lots of lively activities for the space.
Relatively quiet at the moment. Regular daily ID controls in the parks, racially profiling people all the time and sometimes making arbitrary arrests.
Saturday 16th June
A migrant who made his way into the Channel Tunnel got blocked in a service room along the way. The Nord Littoral tells the story on page 3:
“Once on site, the forces of order start their inspection on foot of the 17 km — a forbidden area — of the tunnel, helped out with a slow-moving train. Once he is found, the migrant takes shelter in a service room, where he cannot hurt the operation and safety of the tunnel. A decision is then made by the prefect and the police to leave him locked in that room to allow the traffic to resume, before going in, probably at night, at a less busy time, to arrest him.”
He stayed there all day long and faces a 3 year sentence for trespassing and disrupting traffic in the Tunnel.
Sunday 10th June: New Space
All week we have been working on a new space….
Lots of people helping out painting and building. A very nice home-made kitchen is in the making.
Bike maintenance on the go, and English classes with neighbourhood kids.
Pictures to follow, get in touch for an update, we need plenty of materials for the space too, ideas and donations welcome… And tat list on its way!
Wednesday 6th June: Noise Demo
A group of fifteen people which included migrants, No Borders activists and local Calais residents did a noise demo in solidarity with the people held at Coquelles Detention Centre.
We could hear people shouting back greetings as we played music with a portable sound system, an accordion and any aother materials which came to hand. All in all the demo took about two hours and was well worth it in terms of showing solidarity with people banged up because of borders.
Quite a lot of police turned up but they seemed fairly content to stand at the back and put their gloves on and off.
Update on hunger-strike:
The five hunger strikers at Coquelles have called off their strike after six days, when they were threatened with being moved to individual cells at the hospital. All are fine.
Monday 4th June: Hunger-strike at Coquelles
People go on hunger strike inside Calais’ immigration prison for at least the third time this year…
Five people imprisoned inside Coquelles detention centre are on hunger strike. They have refused food for four days and have lost several pounds in weight already.
They are starving themselves in protest against the conditions and treatment they face in Coquelles immigration prison on the Calais border.
Detainees on hunger strike say they have been put in detention and then forgotten. Police are constantly shouting at them in French but they do not understand what they are saying. They are given bad translators in court and do not understand what is happening.
They say they are treated with no respect and have no rights because they are poor.
Many people in detention are Muslim and say they are served food that is often non-halal. They also say the portions are very small and the food is very bad. The border police, Police Aux Frontières, running the detention centre dispute this, but one of the hunger strikers says ‘even a child could see this meat is not halal’.
People on hunger strike are also trying to drink water regularly but say it is difficult because they are only given one bottle of water a day. The border police deny this as well and say they are given three bottles.
This is the third confirmed hunger strike inside Calais’ immigration prison this year  and these have not been in isolation, there have been many hunger strikes in other detention centres across Europe.
In the UK, thirteen men from Darfur recently started a hunger strike at Campsfield Immigration Removal Centre in Oxford. Seven people still continue the strike and have refused food since 24th May .
In March 2012 one man from the Congo started a hunger strike in Colnbrook IRC in London after having been savagely beaten by private security guards during a forced deportation .
In Belgium, in April 2012, twenty-three sans papiers went on hunger strike for over 83 days .
The repression of ‘migrants’ and ‘undocumented people’ is wide-spread across Europe. People regularly face violent attacks, harassment and humiliation at the hands of state authorities, the police, private security and fascist groups.
These detention centres function as modern day concentration camps, systematically incarcerating people because of their race, nationality and income.
People inside detention are regularly resorting to starving themselves as a form of protest against their treatment.
 See blog posts 8th April and 16th April 2012 at https://calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com/
Friday 1st June
Early morning harassment by 7 vans of CRS and PAF, parking up and flashing their lights to intimidate a dozen people sleeping on the street outside Salam food distro. All morning, starting 7am, vans continually circulate the sleeping area, stopping several times. Police threaten to evict the area if people do not move.
After having been evicted so many times from inside the food distribution area (concrete yard with make-shift plastic open shelters) people are sleeping on the doorstep of a building nearby with a thin overhang as shelter from the rain, which looks like it also will be evicted soon.
Wednesday 30th May
Another small squat housing just a few people has been evicted. The building has been secured so people cannot re-enter.
Court postponed until September (see blog post Monday 28 May). Police’s ‘evidence’ was submitted last minute, prosecution and judge hadn’t even had time to read it… so it was adjourned.
Tuesday 29 May
Around fifteen CRS cops ID control several groups of people sitting in the park at about 8pm, making at least two arrests. One person presented papers but was arrested anyway… CRS Compaigne 11 were out circulating town with an arrest van trying to fill their quota.
Small squat housing about a dozen people evicted in the evening. People living there weren’t allowed to enter to collect their belongings.
Monday 28 May: Solidarity to people facing court this week…
Following the violent police attacks against migrants and their supporters on 29 March 2012 in Calais, six people are being summoned to Court of Boulogne-sur-Mer this Wednesday 30 May 2012, 8.30am.
One person is being charged for ‘outrage’ and five with ‘organised rebellion’ against the border police, Police Aux Frontières, and the riot police, Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité.
Attacking migrants and their supporters and then laying heavy totalitarian charges has been a common police tactic, aiming to drive out migrants and deter people from challenging state abuse against people with and without papers in Calais.
Support comrades at Court of Boulogne-sur-Mer, 8:30am, May 30, 2012!
News of what happened during the police attacks:
Calais update: http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2012/04/494501.html
Olympic Cleansing in Calais: http://www.schnews.org.uk/stories/Olympic-Cleansing-in-Calais/
Friday 25th May
There were 20 arrests this morning from the food distribution place and all people’s blankets were taken.
The park was raided yesterday evening and all people’s ID papers were checked. About 2 people were arrested, even though they did have papers.
ID controls, arrests and the confiscation / destruction people’s belongings including tents, blankets, clothes, bags etc is happening all the time.
Even the church which distributes clothes is running out of blankets because so many are being destroyed or taken by the police and local authorities constantly.
If you want to come and support us please email or call ahead if you can.
Wednesday 15th May
Today SALAM was raided 3 times, this morning 20 people were arrested – including 3 children. All the blankets were taken to the tip and covered with some kind of liquid so they could not be recovered. At four o’clock the cops came again and again took peoples personal belongings including bags and papers; they also closed up a hole to stop people accessing SALAM to sleep in at night. People decided not to eat in SALAM this evening in protest and sat outside the gates.
At 9pm many vans of CRS and PAF arrived to clear away all the people sitting in front of the gates. Several vans of people were taken to Coquelles, including some people who have papers. At the moment people are sleeping in makeshift jungles but the cops are still roaming and still making arrests.
We desperately need more tents, blankets, tarps and waterproof coats!!
Friday 11th May
After having being evicted from Palestine House more people are having to sleep in a concrete yard where food is distributed. The police came yesterday evening, took photos and threatened to return in the morning, but they did not.
Thursday 10th May
Palestine House was evicted this morning at 8am. People were forced to leave but no arrests.
Some asylum seekers were offered accommodation in the foyer, but most were not. Now there are around 50 people newly in the street.
Only members of associations were allowed entry to the building to collect some sleeping bags and personal items, but they were not allowed to re-enter to collect all of people’s belongings.
Wednesday 9th May
Today there was a big raid on Palestine House, 10 people arrested, all but one were released by the evening.
Also 16 arrests at Téteghem.
Palestine House, the last big migrant squat in Calais, have been served with papers is about to be evicted. There will be need for activists to monitor the eviction, but especially to support the people who will be thrown out in the streets. As usual we cannot know when the eviction will happen, but there will be warning signs, like the police going there to count the migrants and work out the logistics of the eviction. Sunday 6th May is the last day of the elections, after that anything can happen!
There is also a great need for materials, especially TENTS, since it is next to impossible to keep new squats, the police close them immediately, and it has been the rainiest month in 100 years! Exceptional even for Calais.
The place of food distribution, where quite many migrants were sleeping, got evicted this morning by police, shortly before 8 am. 7 migrants were arrested. After, council workers took all the blankets, tarpaulin, pallets and tents away. It is not clear where the people are going to sleep tonight.
Police (PAF, old crew) came today, around 9am, and kicked out all the people sleeping in Salam. They said that they did not wanted to make any arrests but just wanted to check papers. It is still difficult to find places to sleep, we get kicked out after 1 day or a bit longer. People are fed up with it, and feel that Salam is in some way the only opportunity…
A lot of people are moving to other cities because of the tiredness from Calais. Otherwise the last few days have been strangely quiet, probably because of the elections. The police still go around but there have not been the usual mass arrests.
The big hungerstrike in Coquelles detention centre is finished as many people got deported, to various Dublin countries. More people have been brought in, especially Palestinians, Tunisians, Egyptians and Iraqi Kuridish, some Albanians, very few Africans and there are also 4 women.
22nd April: Noise demonstration.
Today a noise demonstration was held at Coquelles in solidarity with those inside and the ongoing hunger strike. The demonstration was well received; people banged on the windows, screamed and whistled from their rooms. People also called the CMS phone during the demonstration, one man inside commented that in his room he knew of 7 people still not eating. News of 3 women inside the centre was also given.
Life is becoming increasingly difficult, small squats are being shut instantly and ID controls and arrests on the street are happening all the time. The new Unit of CRS (compagnie 6) are literally hunting people, today they controlled people as they walked to Salam breakfast at 10 am. One activist was arrested for outrage and taken to Coquelles. They then came again at 2pm, waiting for people as they left the distro area. Many people ran back into the distribution space to hide, waiting for the cops to leave.
Many people are sleeping in Salam at night time. It’s cold and wet with no proper shelter. The PAF came 6 times in one night shining lights on people whilst they tried to sleep. The morning before they came at 6am asking for papers and nationality.
People are exhausted. People are physically and emotionally battered, this border kills by the heart. There are so many people here who are claiming asylum, and yet they are still sleeping rough, they are still being harassed. There is only so much a person’s heart and mind can cope with. People are at breaking point.
19th April: Palestine House
Palestine house was raided today at 7am. 10 people were arrested, all released later in the day.
EVICTION: Papers have been given to Palestine house now, so we are expecting an eviction any day. With constant movement of people between different very short lived squats or jungles Palestine House is the home of many people.
Eviction of squat where many people from Ethiopia and Eritrea living. All inside had papers as they are claiming asylum. All now have nowhere to go; again people with papers find themselves sleeping on the street. Friends have also told us that whilst they have a 10 year paper in France they continue to be harassed and arrested for ID controls.
PRESS RELEASE: Mass hunger strike inside Coquelles Immigration Removal Centre
On the 16th April 2012 18 people started a hunger strike inside Coquelles Immigration Removal Centre. They are refusing to eat in protest at the inhumane conditions inside the centre and also their continued detention.
In an open letter signed by all 18 people , they ask ‘why have we been here so long? … Why are they [the Police] treating us like animals?’ They have been held inside the centre for over 25 days. After making this statement the border police demanded they stop the strike, however people refused.
Seemingly, in response to the hunger strike, police are making it difficult to visit the people inside the centre. A No Borders activist says ‘denying visits is a deliberate attempt to silence the voices of those on hunger strike. Some of these people are so desperate they are asking to be deported to get out of this place and resorting to starving themselves to try to change their situation. People are treated so incredibly badly here all the time.’
Conditions inside Coquelles Removal Centre are notoriously bad and accounts of violence by the police are common place. The hunger strikers state ‘we wish to be free from this deportation centre and this country.’
This hunger strike is not an isolated protest. On 4th April a person from Iran began a hunger strike from inside Coquelles Removal Centre, refusing any food until his release or death . On the 12th April he was deported to Hungary, a country he had never been to before. He was detained upon arrival and remains in detention there today, continuing to live without freedom.
In Belgium detainees have remained on hunger strike in protest against the conditions for over 100 days .
The systematic repression of people without papers in Europe is widespread. Coquelles detention centre continues to be at the centre of controversy, with regular protests by the people detained inside. The hunger strikers vow to continue to refuse food. They are asking for ‘a better life, and freedom’.
Calais Migrant Solidarity
For more information please contact
00 33 6 45 46 59 86
In the morning, 2 PAF vans turned up on the other side of the fence to look at people sleeping inside the SALAM area. 2 PAF and 1 police National officers chose to go out of the vans to chat with the sleeping people. They came in starring for around 10 minutes before leaving saying that people should leave.
People are forced to live outside because of the continuous destruction on peoples houses by police forces, and are constantly told to move. The only answer to the officers were, “where to go?”.
11th April: Eviction of Iran house.
After a dry night sleep, in a new house, the owner came and woke everyone up. After calling the police national and PAF, everyone got taken to the streets again, in the rain, again again.
Even though some squatter rights exist in France, the police keep turning the chin to the ongoing struggle for finding accommodation for people travelling, and for people seeking asylum, who are legally obliged for accommodation in France
Monday 9th April: Remembering Zenebe.
A friend has been killed in Calais. Zenebe was found dead in his squat, where he and 15 or more people from Ethiopia and Eritrea had been living, on Monday lunchtime. It is unknown exactly how he died, but an inquiry into his death is ongoing.
Zenebe spent many months in Calais and is greatly missed by the community here. He was a gentle and kind person, always with a big smile.
On Thursday 12th April a ceremony was held in the local park to mark the tragic death. Over 60 people from the community and associations came to lay flowers and candles in memory.
Sunday 8th April
A person from Iran is on his fourth day of hunger strike inside Calais’ immigration prison. Here is his testimony:
6th April 2012
Hello my dear friends and thank you for helping me.
I have been in French prison for 20 days. I am going to shorten my speech – I had many difficulties in Iran, that is why I escaped. Religious and political difficulties, I can’t write them all here. Actually you know about the problems in Iran. I shall tell you some of them; firstly, I could never say what was in my heart otherwise I would be oppressed, put in prison or even executed. I escaped from Iran to Europe to have a good and comfortable life and I wish to live peacefully. What a pity it’s not like that. There are the same spiritual and physical oppressions as in Iran, while they claim they are human rights defenders. Is this a human right? Do I have the right to live? If I do, why do they treat us like animals and put us in prison? All of this is lies. They just make speeches on TV but actually everything in this world is lies. All dreams, nothing more.
Now I shall tell you about the difficulties afflicted on me by this country. I have neither seen Hungary, my feet have never touched the soil of Hungary. Nor have I fingerprints or claimed asylum there. Why does Hungary want me? And why is France going to deport me to a country where I have no fingerprints – I have never even wanted to be in that country.
I am very angry about the Judge’s verdict and have stopped eating. I will not eat again until I am judged correctly. I will not eat even if I die. I write this to you dear friends so that you know everything that happened to me. Follow my situation, don’t forget me because the French police have threatened me with three years imprisonment unless I accept the deportation to Hungary.
Thank you dear friends. Until the day of absolutely freedom and correct justice – goodbye.
PRESS RELEASE: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE:
Day four of hunger strike for detainee in Coquelles Immigration Detention Centre, Calais
8th April 2012
On 4th April a person from Iran began a hunger strike, refusing any food, in Coquelles detention centre, Calais. He is facing deportation to Hungary – a country he has never been to – under the Dublin II regulation, and is refusing to eat until his release or death- he demands a fair trial.
His condition is deteriorating and until today he was also refusing to drink water. Whilst the nurse within the centre refuses to comment on the state of his health, visitors from the Calais Migrant Solidarity group say that he is pale, weak and dizzy.
Officers in Coquelles deny that the hunger strike is a political act but merely the behaviour of somebody crazy. They have also refused visitors to see him together with his English-speaking friend. This makes it difficult for him to express himself, therefore denying him of his freedom of expression and further oppressing him.
He has been in detention for 22 days and under French law can be held for up to 45 days without charge. He describes in a letter to those outside that detention in Coquelles is:
“..the same spiritual and physical oppression as in Iran, while they [the French government] claims they are human rights defenders, Is this human rights? Why do they treat us like animals and put us in prison?..”
The Hungarian authorities detain, almost without exception, every asylum seeker they receive, and can hold them for up to 12 months. They also detain those who have been deported back to Hungary under the Dublin II agreement. The Hungarian Helsinki Committee has reported self-harm and continuous cases of police violence within detention centers.
This hunger strike is not happening in isolation. People without papers across the world continue to refuse food in protest of their detention and repression. In Belgium, as of April 7th, 23 sans papiers have been on hunger strike for over 83 days. Throughout history hunger strikes have been used as a successful form of protest highlighting repression and injustice.
Systematic suppression of people without papers is part of daily life in Europe. This person has fled from Iran for his life and has suffered in the detention centre in France; if deported to Hungary he will continue to live without freedom. As his hunger strike continues his health deteriorates. He wishes for people to ‘not forget’ him.
 Dublin II Regulation 2003 http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/justice_freedom_security/free_movement_of_persons_asylum_immigration/l33153_en.htm
 Hungarian Helsinki Committee, Stuck in Jail: Immigration Detention in Hungary (2010), April 2011, available at: http://www.unhcr.org/refworld/docid/4ed77ea72.html [accessed 7 April 2012]
WHAT YOU CAN DO:
Please send solidarity emails to the person on hunger strike to firstname.lastname@example.org . Please include where you are from and anyother information you are happy for the person to know.
Contact organisations in Calais : The prefect.
The prefect is responsible for the final decision to grant asylum or deport sans papiers. Phone or fax to the prefect of Pas-de-Calais county, Denis Robin, to demand that he cancel the deportation :
Tel : 0033 (0)3 21 21 20 00
Fax: 0033 (0)3 21 55 30 30
Email : http://www.pas-de-calais.gouv.fr/Contactez-nous
Please circulate this information to your networks
Noise demonstration in Solidarity with Hunger Striker
Today a noise demonstration was held outside Coquelles detention centre in solidarity with an Iranian person inside who is entering his 3rd day of hunger strike. He is refusing both food and water in protest against his detention and immanent deportation to Hungary, a country he has never set foot in.
People banged pots and pans, blew whistles, and rattled the fence so that the people inside could hear. Slogans were shouted, including messages for the person on hunger strike. People inside shouted back and made noise.
The hunger striker has spoken with people from Calais Migrant Solidarity. He spoke about his time in detention likening it ‘to the same mental torment as experienced in prisons in Iran’. He has now been in detention for over 20 days . If deported to hunger it is likely he will be put straight into detention as almost all people seeking asylum or deported to Hungary are immediately detained.
After the noise demonstration at the detention centre the group moved to the shopping centre to give out leaflets about both the detention centre and also the hunger strike. The police followed the group around the shopping centre until they left.
Thursday 5th April
Yesterday the Calais Migrant Solidarity group staged a demonstration in the local shopping centre calling for solidarity with those without papers. Around 20 demonstrators gathered in the afternoon and staged a flash mob in the middle of the shopping centre, carrying banners and demonstrating police violence towards migrants using theatre. Migrants in Calais are regularly subjected to brutal police violence, and have little protection against this. Many members of the public stopped to watch the demonstration and protesters handed them leaflets asking them to support the migrants. Police arrived towards the end of the demonstration but protesters let peacefully.
Thursday 4th April
Today 15 people with and without papers held a noise demonstration outside Coquelles detention centre. People banged pots and pans, blew whistles, and rattled the fence so that the people inside could hear. People also held banners with messages of solidarity, including a telephone number that people inside could call if they wanted to speak about their situation.
People on the demonstration managed to speak with those detained through the windows. After 5 minutes the people inside called the telephone number on the banner, they said that there is currently ‘over 40 people are inside the centre from many different countries. All of us are facing possible deportation’.
Very quickly the police moved the people detained away from the windows and into another part of the detention centre so they could not see the demonstration.
After 15 minutes around 15 PAF officers (the border police) used batons to violently remove the demonstration away from the detention centre. More police arrived shortly after.
The demonstration then moved into a nearby shopping centre. People shouted slogans of solidarity with the people inside the detention centre.
One person was briefly detained outside the shopping centre on his way home.
Coquelles centre is just one part of the international network of racist prisons. End all detention.
Recent update – 29th to 31st March.
Thursday 29th March and the surrounding days have seen a shocking and rapid escalation of police harassment, arrests and brutality against people with and without papers in Calais – far beyond the normal level and in what seemed to be a premeditated assault on the migrant communities and their supporters.
This coincided with the visit of a UK ambassador to the city to meet with officials on Friday 30th to discuss the matter of port security in the run-up to London’s Olympic Games, and appears to be part of an ongoing offensive against migrants. This city is coming under the spotlight as part of the Olympic project as international sports teams are training in the Pas-de-Calais region, and the UK and French governments have promised a joint effort to strengthen the border regime this summer.
Early in the morning on Thursday, a large squat housing mainly Eritreans was raided and two people were arrested during ID controls. However, the police’s energy was focussed in the evening. Multiple ID controls took place, in what one person described as the police ‘swooping into the streets’, as people travelled to and from the food distribution area for their evening meal. Another group were stopped by CRS officers near the Town Hall. Four people without papers were taken in to custody.
Around the same time, two people from No Borders* were attacked by CRS officers as they walked down a quiet street, pushed against a wall from behind and asked for identification. The police violently arrested one, forcing her onto the floor of the CRS van, whilst pushing the other to the ground before driving off. The activist arrested was not told the reason for her arrest, but was released 24 hours later on bail charged with outrage.
The wave of violent repression continued into the evening as several vans of CRS police descended into one of the city’s parks at around 8pm and began ID controlling men congregated there. They made around five arrests. A group of activists present challenged the police’s behaviour. The activists and a man without papers were chased in the park by police before being pinned to the floor and beaten with batons and fists. The beating continued against the five in the police van, as they were handcuffed, and in the police station, where one was repeatedly kicked as he lay on the floor. The arrested people were released 48 hours later on bail, charged with violence against the police. Several received injuries requiring medical attention.
One person arrested stated that ‘the police in Calais can do what they like. Beatings by the police in custody, including during interrogation is a daily occurrence and happens with impunity’.
A small squat housing 10-12 Iranians was evicted at around 11pm, but no arrests were made as the men had already left. After the eviction of the main squat, known as Africa House, many people with and without papers have been depending on smaller squats for shelter to avoid sleeping on Calais’ violent streets.
The previous evening, Wednesday, an ID control at one of the largest squats, ‘Palestine House’, resulted in a group of men being taken into custody. Another small squatted building housing around 12 people was evicted by police during a raid at 1am. On Friday, the constant circuiting of the city by vans of CRS, PAF, Police Nationale and undercover cars has continued, ID controls have been conducted in early morning visits to remaining squats, and activists have been followed in their vehicles by CRS vans.
The crackdown is set to continue as the local news reports that the authorities are to demolish Palestine House in the coming weeks, which they say is for redevelopment.
The violence perpetrated against people with and without papers during these 24 hours is aimed at sustaining an atmosphere of fear for those living with and without papers in Calais. For those facing the risk of deportation, the police threat of arrest and detention is a terrifying prospect – whilst the evictions have left tens of people without shelter. The repression seen over the past week is a part of the wider system of borders and state repression, restricting and controlling the movement of people.
Wednesday 21st March
The squat, close to the post office, was again raided at 9am this morning. No arrests were made but police searched peoples bags and belongings.
Tuesday 20th March
Those evicted on Monday try to find a new place to sleep for the night but are again woken up by police and kicked out onto the streets. None of the people were arrested, but this is the forth day in a row that people have been removed from their house.
Monday 19th March
People are kicked out onto the street again. At 12pm a new squat was evicted which had been sleeping about 30-40 people from Sudan, Iran, Afghanistan, Chad and Eritrea. All people inside, around fifteen at the time, were arrested. Most people could not take any of their belongings with them. Around thirty cops (three CRS vans Compaingne 23, three arrest vans, two PAF vans and a few cars) evicted the building along with staff from OPH, a farcicle ‘social housing organisation’ who own the building and also evicted people from the last squat. This time they refused to give any court papers to show it whether it was a legal eviction. Whether it is legal or not is of course irrelavent, people are still forcefully made homeless, again.
It is the third evictions in five days with many arrests. Many police ‘chiefs’ along with their foot soliders joke and jest with each other as they turf people out and carry them off in police vans, as if it is some kind of sick game. It is not a game, it is routine and systematic persecution, harressment, and abuse – racially profiling, imprisoning and removing the ‘foreigners’ who are too ‘undesirable’ to this babylon fortress.
Saturday 17th March
In the morning CRS riot vans hover outside a new squat along with staff from Office Public de l’Habitat de Calais (OPH). Many people moved to this new squat after being evicted from the university buildings and from the food distribution area over the last few days. This building is owned by the same social housing assocation who owned and evicted the last big squat, see : http://www.indymedia.org.uk/en/2012/02/492399.html
In the evening CRS raid Palestine House arresting fifteen people.
Friday 16th March : food distro evicted
Many people moved to the food distribution area to sleep after being kicked out the university squats. All night and all morning unmarked cars full of police drove up to the gates with flash lights scanning over and intimidating people inside. At about 10.30am one van load of police entered and told everyone to leave or they will be arrested. The police wrote down everyone’s names and threatened to stop the food distribution ‘deal’ if people don’t leave. By ‘deal’ they mean blackmail; threatening people not only with arrest but with closing the food distribution area permanently if they do not leave.
At 3pm about five PAF cars and two vans came turned up. Most people had already left for fear of being arrested. Nonetheless 25 cops with the local sub-prefect and a council van show up to remove the last hand full of people, violently dragging some people out, and putting all the sleeping bags and blankets, which people had to leave behind, in the dump.
In the evening four people were arrested in the park.
The police accompanied by the municipality have also been looking around and taking photos at Palestine House over these last days.
Thursday 15th March : University buildings / latest Africa House and the Villa have been evicted.
At 7.30am about 10 police vans, mostly CRS came with some PAF, blocking all the roads around the site and evicting everyone inside. People were not given much time to collect their stuff. About 60 people made homeless in one blow.
People with black skin, even if they had papers, had to leave while those with white skin, even if they didn’t have papers, were allowed to collect together some of peoples belongings, sleeping bags and tents. The police arrived with the sub-prefecture and municipality services, including the right hand man of the mayor. They proceeded to try and tell everyone to claim asylum as a bullshit attempt to make the eviction look reasonable.
Over these last weeks the police took people names and promised accommodation for 60 people after eviction. But only nine places were given, some dispersed far away in north of France. The rest are forced, again, to find somewhere else to hide.
Today was the first day that the ‘winter truce’ ends – the French law of trêve hivernale which prohibits evictions during the ‘cold period’ of 1st November – 15th March if the occupant of the building has nowhere else to go. It has been repeatedly ignored by the authorities in Calais, including for the eviction of the previous ‘Africa House’ in mid-November last year. They claimed they waited until until the winter break had finished is a complete farce. To the local newspaper they said ‘we could have evicted them earlier but we waited”, but to No Borders they gloat ‘everywhere people go they will be evicted’.
Friday 10th March
About 30 police came to the squatted university building this morning, CRS compaigne 23 and PAF border police. They were counting people again, taking names and seperating people with papers from those without. No arrests.
Nine PAF border police (one van, one car and an arrest van) raid a squat near the post office. No people were there. They climbed over the fence and went after the beds. Loud noises and bangs were heard from outside as cops were breaking things inside.
Thursday 8th March
A man was arrested walking from food distribution and is in detention facing deportation.
Wednesday 7th March
Over the past couple of days we have been thinking that the eviction of Africa House might happen because there has been increased police activity. This has not happened but people are still expecting the eviction; it is very unnerving to be like this every day. Yesterday police drove in the back entrance of the university buildings but no arrests were made, they seemingly came just to look around.
Tuesday 6th March
15 police again came to the University this morning to ‘look’ around. This is the third time in one week. No arrests were made. People were left wondering again when their house may be destroyed. People anxiously await the seemly imminent eviction.
Sunday 4th March
People gathered outside Coquelles for a noise demonstration on Sunday afternoon to show solidarity with all those being held in the centre. Music was played and slogans shouted to those inside. Police quickly removed the detainees from their rooms so they were not able to see the demonstration. However, this did not prevent communication as people continued to shout back and forth.
Music was continued at the food distribution area in the evening with folk music, accordion and dancing. The local church association Salam disapproved, they left and locked everyone inside without telling anyone! About 30 people had to climb out the gated area in the pouring rain!
Friday 2nd March
No Borders Demonstration outside Sous Préfecture, Calais: End deportations
Demonstrators were met by around 40 police who blocked the road outside the building from both ends. The police even followed a group of 8 people to the protest on police motor bikes (this is comparable to 2 police cars which policed a anti austerity demonstration of over 200 a couple of days earlier!). Noise was made with pots, pans, whistles and a number of people read testimonies from those inside detention.
The demonstration then moved to Calais centre, where a banner, saying ‘stop deportation’, was dropped from the shopping mall and fliers given out. Two people were arrested for dropping the banner and for ID control. Both were released without charge.
The recent move to forcibly remove people to Sudan, where they face torture, mass killings an rape, is part of the violent and oppressive system of borders. As far as we are aware the recent deportation to Sudan, 15th February 2012, is the first forced expulsion from Coquelles detention centre to Sudan.
2nd March 2012
30 police came to the University this morning arriving in 3 CRS vans and two cars. Police entered into the compound as people without papers tried to escape. As people ran the police shouted ‘no problem today no arrests’, as if to say that 30 police coming into the place where you are sleeping NOT A PROBLEM!!! (most people would think this was more than problem).
The police counted numbers of people, took down names, dates of birth and country of origin. They stayed in the university buildings for more than 40 mins. One person was detained and told he would have to go with the police to the station, in the end he was not taken.
At notice from the court posted on the wall last month stated that people from the university buildings can be evicted at any time.
Come and support!
Wednesday 29th February
Police have been to the university twice this week to count the number of people sleeping there. No arrests were made but people were told that they would be returning on Monday. An eviction is imminent.
Detention and Deportation
Coquelles remains very full. It is estimated that 60 people are being held inside. The recent move to push for deportations to Sudan is very worrying.
There are currently 4 Sudanese known to be in Coquelles. One person is facing deportation in the next five days. The others remain waiting. Information about court dates and flights remains secret; people are left not knowing until the last minute.
A personal testimony from a person in Coquelles:
“Everyone knows the situation in Sudan and especially Darfur, there are no rights for humans, so why are France deporting us? There are also no rights for us here in France, we are not treated as humans.
In Darfur, in 2003, 500 plus people were killed in one day; this was my village, Anka.
They destroyed our village, raped the women, put children in the fire. Like the devil. In this moment I wished to die. I saw mass graves.
Since 2003, people have left our village, until this day they can’t go back. People can’t leave the camps; there is no security in the region.
Why is the United Nations staying silent?
United Nations community love money, not people. Why did they go to Libya to fight? For oil and money. They don’t come to Sudan even when the president is committing atrocities.
We, black people, are not treated as human. It seems like a bad dream but this is reality, a nightmare.
I was one year in jail in Sudan, these are my scars, you can see where they tortured me with hot water on my legs. After I was set free I had to come each week to sign in in order to not be killed, I ran away”.
(Anyonymous, February 2012)
CALL FOR SOLIDARITY ACTIONS
What can you do to stop these inhumane deportations?
Contact organisations in Calais : The prefect.
The prefect is responsible for the final decision to grant asylum or deport sans papiers. Phone or fax to the prefect of Pas-de-Calais county, Pierre de Bousquet de Floriant, to demand that he cancel the deportation :
Tel : 0033 (0)3 21 21 20 00
Fax: 0033 (0)3 21 55 30 30
Email : http://www.pas-de-calais.gouv.fr/Contactez-nous
Contact the airlines complicit in the deportation.
Contact Lufthansa and Air France as soon as possible to tell them to stop being complicit with such inhumane deportations. Ask that they cancel the departure of the deportees because people could be killed or subject to inhuman treatments if deported to Sudan.
Deutsche Lufthansa AG
Lufthansa Aviation Center
Tel : 0049 1 805 805 805
Fax : 0049 1 805 838 005
Contact Air France:
45, rue de Paris
95 747 Roissy CDG Cedex
Tel: 01 41 56 78 00
Fax : 01 41 56 70 29
Please distrbute widely and send to your networks!
Thursday 23rd February
A Sudanese man who the French state tried to deport this week is back in Coquelle detention centre after one of his connecting flights, from Paris to Frankfurt, was cancelled due to strikes. We have been told that a second flight was attempted in the same day, via the UK and Turkey, but the airline refused to fly him.
So long as he remains in detention he can be deported at any moment. It is believed they will try to deport him again in the next few days.
The prefect in Calais can, if they choose, cancel the deportation.
Call, fax and email the prefect to demand they stop the deportation :
Tel : 0033 (0)3 21 21 20 00
Fax : 0033 (0)3 21 55 30 30
Please circulate widely.
Tuesday 21st February
Last week, on Thursday 16th February, four people were deported from France to Sudan and a fifth person was also due to be deported but refused to board the plane. This was the first time in a long time France has deported anyone to Sudan. Even the racist deportation machinery has, until now, said that the situation in Sudan is too dangerous and unstable.
Early morning of Tuesday 21th they tried to deport the person who had refused five days before for a second time. The person was moved to an airport in Paris but the flight to Frankfurt (from where he was to be flown to Khartoum) was cancelled and the person was moved back to Coquelles detention centre in Calais.
Now more people locked in Coquelles are being processed for deportation to Sudan. Fuck France, Europe and fuck all this racist bullshit.
Early morning on the 21st a short press release in English and French was sent to newspapers and NGOs about this. People have been going to the detention centre to meet and talk to the detainees. Many people are wondering what is going to happen, and are fearing the possibility of deportation if they get caught in France without papers.
After being in the detention centre today, talking with two people, one of them the person who was supposed to be deported, they expressed often that they would rather like to die before getting send back. “Send me to Italy, send me to Greece, just not Sudan”. “I fled from hell, came to hell (fucking France), and am now being forced back to hell….” One good friend is already gone…
The press release:
This morning, French authorities attempted to deport a Sudanese man coming from the conflict-ridden region of Darfur to Khartoum, Sudan, from Calais via Paris and Frankfurt. The current rise in the detention and deportation of Sudanese migrants in France is a worrying new development: The fragile political situation and violence in Sudan suggests danger and human rights violations of returning refugees are almost inevitable.
Previously, appeals to the European Court of Human Rights (ECHR) have prevented deportations to Sudan from taking place. Now associations working with migrants in detention believe the Court has changed tack, and is unwilling to intervene in appeal cases of people facing deportation to Sudan if they are not in the French asylum system.
Migrants in Calais’ Coquelles detention centre have said that on arrival they are given the choice to apply for asylum in France within five days or be deported to Sudan. They are kept in detention until their asylum request has been processed and then face deportation if their request is refused. The right to appeal against deportation is only available to those who have requested asylum in France. There is concern amongst undocumented migrants, migrant rights’ groups and advocacy associations that this new fast-track system will result in the rushed deportation of many Sudanese migrants who fear persecution on their return.
The man facing deportation was informed just last night (20th) that he would be taken to Frankfurt for deportation, leaving on Lufthansa flight LH590 at 11.50am today (21st) and his last-minute reprieve occurred only because a number of flights out of Paris were cancelled early this morning. The man is now awaiting further information about another deportation attempt. He was arrested on Sunday 12th February and the French authorities attempted to deport him three days later. He refused to board the plane in Frankfurt and was returned to Coquelles detention centre in Calais. On the same day, four other Sudanese men were deported: one from Calais and three from Paris. Meanwhile an increasing number of Sudanese migrants are being arrested and detained in France.
While the independence of South Sudan was recently realised, Sudanese people are still in danger. In Darfur, human rights abuses and attacks on civilians by the government, its allied forces and rebel factions are continuing whilst international attention is focused on Southern Sudan. For migrants who initially fled a unified country, the question of identity and place are of paramount importance and constitute another layer of uncertainty, instability and danger.
In the newly independent Southern state, fighting continues in the border regions of Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile. As recently as 6th February four bombs were dropped on a health clinic in Kurchi, Southern Kordofan. Citizens continue to suffer from lack of food and shelter, violence and fear of violence, civilian bombings and without health care. On the 10th February, the United Nations Human Rights Commission called on donor nations for US$145 million in aid for the region. George Okoth-Obbo, director of the Africa Bureau in UNHCR said, “The needs are real and urgent, with refugees having to walk for weeks to reach safety, running out of food and water, and living in the bush.”
Telephone: 0033 645 465 986
Ce matin, les autorités françaises ont tenté d’expulser soudanais provenant de la région en conflit du Darfour vers Khartoum (au Soudan), de Calais via Paris et Francfort. La hausse actuelle de l’expulsion des migrants soudanais en France est un nouveau développement inquiétant : la situation politique fragile et la violence au Soudan n’assurent pas le respect des Droits de l’Homme des réfugiés expulsés vers le Soudan.
Précédemment, des appels à la Cour européenne des droits de l’homme (CEDH) ont empêché des expulsions au Soudan d’avoir lieu. Maintenant les associations travaillant avec des migrants dans les centres de détention pensent que la Cour a changé de tactique et veut intervenir dans les cas d’appel des gens faisant face à l’expulsion vers le Soudan s’ils ne sont pas dans entrés le système d’asile français.
Les migrants détenus dans ce centre de rétention de Coquelles a Calais ont dit qu’à l’arrivée on leur donne le choix entre demander l’asile en France dans les cinq jours ou être expulsé au Soudan. Ils sont gardés en détention jusqu’à ce que leur demande d’asile ait été traitée et font ensuite face à l’expulsion si on refuse leur demande. Le droit de faire appel contre la déportation est seulement disponible pour ceux qui ont demandé l’asile en France. Les migrants sans papiers ainsi que les associations d’aide aux immigrés sont très préoccupés car ce nouveau système très accéléré aboutira à la déportation accélérée de beaucoup de migrants soudanais qui craignent leur persécution a leur retour.
L’homme faisant face à la déportation a été informé juste la nuit dernière (le 20/02/2012) à 20h qu’il serait emmené à Francfort pour l’expulsion, partant sur le vol LH590 Lufthansa à 11.50am aujourd’hui (le 21/02/2012) et son retour au centre de rétention à la dernière minute n’a eu lieu que parce que de nombreux vols partant de Paris vers Francfort ont été annulés tôt ce matin. L’homme est maintenant en attente de nouvelles informations concernant une nouvelle tentative d’expulsion. Il a été arrêté dimanche 12 février et les autorités françaises ont essayé de l’expulser trois jours plus tard. Il a refusé de monter à bord de l’avion à Francfort et a été ramené au centre de détention de Coquelles a Calais. Le même jour, quatre autres hommes soudanais ont été expulsés : un de Calais et trois de Paris. Pendant ce temps, un nombre croissant des migrants soudanais sont arrêtés et retenus en France.
Tandis que l’indépendance du Sud-Soudan a été récemment réalisée, les soudanais sont toujours en danger. Dans le Darfour, des violations des Droits de l’Homme et des attaques sur des civils par le gouvernement, ses forces alliées et des factions rebelles continuent pendant que l’attention internationale est concentrée sur le Sud-Soudan. Pour les migrants qui se sont initialement enfuis d’un pays unifié, la question de l’identité et du lieu a une importance primordiale et constitue un autre niveau d’incertitude, d’instabilité et de danger.
Dans l’état nouvellement indépendant du Sud, les combats continuent dans les zones frontières du Kordofan du Sud et au Nil Bleu. Déjà le 6 février quatre bombes ont été lancées sur une clinique dans Kurchi, Kordofan du Sud. Les citoyens continuent à souffrir du manque de nourriture et de logement, la crainte de la violence, des attentats à la bombe et des bombardements sur les civils et ils ne disposent pas de services médicaux. Le 10 février, la Commission des droits de l’Homme des Nations Unies a appelé les nations à donner US$145 million d’aide pour la région. George Okoth-Obbo, le directeur du Bureau de l’Afrique dans UNHCR a dit, “les besoins sont réels et urgents, avec des réfugiés devant marcher pendant des semaines pour atteindre la sécurité, étant à court de nourriture et d’eau et vivant dans les buissons.”
Contact presse :
Téléphone : 0033 645465986
Courrier électronique : email@example.com
Saturday 18th February
Today No Border demonstrations are held in Calais and London in solidarity with migrants and refugees persecuted by the immigration, detention and deportation regimes across Europe. A noise demonstration was held outside Coquelles detention centre to give support to the people incarcerated in the prison and in solidarity with the No Borders Carnival demo in London.
At Coquelles demonstrators went around the back of the detention centre with whistles, drums and megaphones, chanting and communicating with many people incarcerated inside. This is the second noise demo in the last couple of weeks, to continue to show support to people locked up in the Calais immigration prison (see 7th February post). The border police, Police Aux Frontières, immediately removed detainees from the nearest prison wing and shut them into the rooms furthest away. This just made chants louder between people inside and out. Banners written by friends said ‘Stay strong. We are with you’ in different languages and were hung on the fence.
Recently people have been deported to Sudan with many more people also being threatened. People from Sudan state that if they are deported back they are certain they will be persecuted, tortured or killed. Conditions inside the detention centre are still bad and visitors have also been denied access several times without legitimate reasons.
Today’s demonstration coincides with the No Borders Carnival in London, which marks the end of a week long convergence of people fighting against detention, deportation and border controls. The demo in London today started at St Paul’s Cathedral at noon where people from many communities took to the streets in a lively event with samba, banners and celebration.
Thursday 16th February
In the early hours of the morning the Pashtu jungle was raided and destroyed. The police broke the tents and took people belongings included sleeping bags. Two people were arrested.
Wednesday 15th February
This afternoon over thirty people demonstrated outside a social housing organisation, the Office Public de l’Habitat de Calais (OPH), to demand that they do not go through with the planned imminent eviction which will make many people in Calais, both with and without papers, homeless in the middle of winter. Making a lot of noise outside the OPH office demonstrators banged pots and pans, blew whistles and shouted demands through megaphones. Several banners were hung, saying “Stop Expulsions”, “Freedom to move”, “Freedom to stay”, “Stop arrests”, “We are not criminals” and “Where are the human rights?” A few people entered the building to give the director, Gérard CLAIS, a list of demands on camera in order to record his response. The director tried to stop people filming despite the fact they are a supposed to be a public organisation. Clais confirmed that the derelict university building owned by OPH will be demolished.
The rest of the demonstrators then entered the foyer and continued to shout their demands to make their voices heard. The whole group was then aggressively pushed out by the police.
One person said “We are humans we are not animals, we must have somewhere to sleep, we are asking for some humanity. People are treated like they are not human. This is the situation. There is no solution yet.” The only other option for the occupants of the university building, the cold weather shelter, closed on the 14th February after opening from 6.30pm – 8am for just one week. The rest of the year this building, owned by the council, lays empty.
See February 8th post for phone blockade details !!
Saturday 11th of February
This morning CRS were controlling the streets outside the University squat aka Africa House. On their way to food distribution people had to show their papers or, if this possibility did not exist, try to find another way. At least one person got arrested on its way to breakfast. The latest days CRS have been more visible in the streets and the number of arrests seem to have risen. Yesterday, Friday the 10th, CRS raided the University squat, controlled the area and arrested five persons. On their way back to their cars they sad Thanks for the visit and drove away. The evening before police also entered the squat and around four people got arrested. There might be a new CRS unite in Calais who wants to ensure that the daily repression stays on a high level.
Yesterday evening two people were also controlled and arrested at the train station.
Wednesday 8th February: The latest Africa House is threatened with imminent eviction AGAIN (see Monday Feb 6th post). THIS IS A CALL OUT FOR A PHONE BLOCKADE OF THE OWNERS, a so-called ‘social housing organisation’, who are kicking 60+ people out on to the street. OPH (Office Public de l’Habitat) claim on their website ‘far from being a mere lessor… its mission is to always contribute to a better life for those it houses’. Clearly this is a farce; they are evicting many people who are homeless from buildings that have been derelict for many years. The demolition company, Societe de Demolition er d’Amenagement Exterieur (SDAE Demolition) have been surveying the place for many months. Two people from the company looked around the buildings again yesterday. The police are also still raiding the buildings regularly, harassing and arresting people. Yesterday morning one minor was arrested for not having papers. WHAT YOU CAN DO:
- call the OPH, ask to speak to somebody from the directory board, tell them what you think about the situation. OPH phone number : 0033 3 21 46 04 80. Or fax: 0033 3 21 97 38 87.
- write an e-mail to the OPH: firstname.lastname@example.org
- write a letter to OPH, 16 quai de la Gendarmerie, 62100 Calais, France Note: OPH president is Mr Gérard CLAIS, the director Mr Hans RYCKEBOER. See website http://www.oph-calais.fr/
WHAT YOU CAN SAY:
- do not evict people who have no-where to live on to the street, especially when it is winter and freezing outside
- to demolish shelters where many people without homes live is inhumane
- do not give authorization to the police, or instructions to bailiffs, to enter the site at ANY time
- you are a social housing organisation you should be providing accommodation for all the occupants, no matter what their ‘administrative situation’. People are people whether they have papers or not.
Tuesday 7th February
Today a noise demonstration was held outside the detention centre at Coquelle, Calais. Coquelle detention centre is purpose built to hold sans papiers. People are held for up to 40 days for the sole ‘crime’ of being ‘foreign’.
In solidarity with those detained No Borders went to the prison with banners, make-shift instruments and lots of whistles. We managed to communicate with many of those incarcerated over the back fence, who were shouting and waving out the windows. We attempted to throw food and cigarettes in through the windows and were met with cheers from inside.
Detainees say people are sleeping in crammed rooms with people over-spilling into the corridors and they are also not getting much food. The food which is served is often non Halal so many of the Muslim detainees are eating very little other than white rice. They are also being denied access to the outside yard. Complaints about the conditions are falling on deaf ears. There have been rumours that four people managed to escape a couple of weeks ago and since then conditions have become worse.
Coquelle is just one small branch of the violent system of detention centres and prisons across Europe. The number of centres and incarcerated people without papers is increasing, strengthening borders and systems of segregation; building bigger and higher walls and barriers between people.
Meanwhile, this morning PAF raided the university buildings and arrested one minor. A few hours later a couple of people from S.D.A.E Demolition company came on site taking pictures and sizing up the buildings.
Monday 6th of February
Today a notice was found at the University buildings, better known as Africa House. A judge has given permission to evict and demolish the place. The date of the notice is the 30th of January, even though the clean state of the paper would imply that it was put out more recently.
This means the eviction of Africa house could be really soon now, Even though the BCMO is only open at night and frequently visited by the police, it could be used as an excuse to pretend that people living in Africa House would have an alternative place to go to, With the detention center in Coquelle fully packed with people, it seems unlikely that lots of people would use the BCMO as an alternative shelter as it is under such a strong police surveillance.
Whoever can come and support, please come.
One more episode in the adventurous project of us asking the charity associations to support the migrants with a bit of basic infrastructure (giving a warm room to spend the cold day etc.)
This time, having asked Salam without any visible success yet, we asked La Belle Étoile if they could charge people’s mobile phones during food distribution. They could not. The primary reason being that the mairie (town hall) does not allow it. After some questioning about the logic behind this, another reason emerged which seemed to relieve them. They weren’t very comfortable with saying that they contented themselves with the arbitrary (evil-willing people might even call it sadistic, of course we don’t) exercising of power the mairie shows here once more.
The other reason was that when La Belle Étoile were charging phones at food distro before, some phones were stolen. So, since the migrants need their phones very much to stay in contact with friends and family and could not afford to lose them, La Belle Étoile just can’t risk letting people charge them. We didn’t have the heart to point out to them the utterly flawed logic behind that decision.
Sunday 5th of February
Today we discovered two bannerdrops. One on the way to Africa House, saying: “Bienvenue A L’Europe Forteresse” (Welcome to Fortress Europe), the other one close to the railway station saying: “Welcome to All. Bienvenue. No Borders.”
We are delighted and hope this finds the attention it deserves in the calaisien society.
On a darker aspect of Calais: Two activists visited Coquelle Detention Center.
Even being used to everyday racism and brutality this was unbelievably fucked up. Here is there report:
The detention center is over crowded. People are sleeping in the hallways as there is no space in bedrooms. There is only one shower per prison block.
People are starving as they do not get enough food. For the 8 o’clock breakfast, there is 2 slices of bread and a coffee. Between 12-1 o’clock for lunch people get a small meal of usually mashed potato. The 6 o’clock dinner consists of a small microwaved meal, that often contains pork which is obviously a huge problem to many of the muslim people and means that they can not even eat the little they are given.
Boredom is terrible. There is no opportunity to do anything and only one room with a tv – the only progam being in french.
The doctor is deliberately difficult and refusing to speak english.
Clothes are washed once a week.
Last week a man was to be deported at 5am and a guard woke everyone up with him to have breakfast together – because the guard thought it would be funny.
When a CMS activist was visiting there was a party happening at the same time. The police were drinking lots of champagne – while on duty, in the station, in full view of the visitors room.
Wednesday 1st February
The police came to the BCMO cold weather shelter during the night to check so that people weren’t too comfortable. When the people were kicked out in the morning the police were there waiting, counting how many people came out.
Palestine house was once more visited by police this morning.
CMS activists spoke to the Secours Catholique charity today, asking them to open up part of their big hall, currently used for storage, for migrants wanting to escape the freezing cold. They said it was not possible,
“Because you know how they are, the migrants. If they come in here and see all our stuff they will start grabbing it and rip up all the boxes and when we ask them to leave they won’t listen. They will start fighting and we will never get them out. Of course, they are not all like that, but you know…”
These are the same people who just a couple of days ago arranged a party in “the migrants honour”. One might almost start to doubt their agenda. Was that party on International Migrants’ Day just a publicity stunt? An empty promise? A charade, to make them feel better about themselves?
The charity was also asked whether it would be possible for them to let people use their privileged access to electricity to charge mobile phones or use the internet. Neither was possible. They explained that they actually don’t have access to electricity in their space, but borrow it from the neighbour. The fact that the neighbour they are borrowing it from is a priest at the local church was not mentioned.
Tuesday 31th January
The people living in Palestine house were visited by the fascist police tonight. This is the first time the police have come around since their violent raid on the 11th of January, which resulted in a couple of hospitalized police officers and the imprisonment of four migrants, in a farce of a trial, for violence against the police.
In the morning, PAF came to Africa house in two vans and one car. They entered one of the buildings next of Africa house but did not arrest anyone and did not check for papers.
Monday 30th January
The BCMO cold weather shelter finally opened today. The CRS was inside before the opening, talking to the organizers. SALAM are not organising it any more. Instead, it is “Le Conseil des Migrants” who are in charge of opening it. They have also hired a security company to keep watch of the people at night.
People got thrown out in the morning at 07:00 when the sun had not yet risen and the cold of the night at its climax.
Sunday 29th January
International Migrants’ Day came and went, with the same party held in the migrants’ honour by the catholic church here in Calais . It consisted of the handing out of some free chocolate and snacks, break dancing – performed by the same school kids as last year – and constructed conversations. While the event provided some light relief from the biting cold Calais days, it also revealed the charity’s less than benign motives. After asking people for their forenames, family names, dates of birth, living conditions and “deepest wishes”, as well as taking photos without asking permission (all that was missing was a fingerprint scanner); the benevolent collection of day time do-gooders and catholic missionaries went on to say that they would do their best to help the migrants. By praying for them. Sarcastic responses such as: “I live in a freezing cold squat without windows, will you build me a house?” and “will you help me cross to England?” made it clear that some migrants didn’t quite put faith in the catholic church’s ability (or want) to actually help them. Sure, a party in one’s honour is nice, but how about showing some actual solidarity?
Saturday 28th January
CRS were standing outside food distribution this morning, checking people’s papers. Passport-checks based on unlawful racial screening, although constant in Calais, usually do not happen during food distribution. There is a written agreement between the charities and the state for the police not to harass people (except from a distance or behind a fence) during lunch and evening food distributions (+/- 20minutes), but the agreement for breakfast is only an oral one. And it seems to have been cancelled.
Today as well, SALAM tried to blame the still withstanding graffiti on the walls on No Borders activists. They blasted CMS for not being an hierarchical organization, asking angrily: “What is the point of having a group if it’s totally anarchistic?”
This rhetorical question was answered by the questioner themselves, when they explained, that not much could be done against the break of the agreement between the municipality, the food distribution-organisations and the police: “I can’t do anything. My boss (SALAM presidents) would have to do it.” Hmm.
Thursday 26th January
Just a quick update: there was an ID check at the food distribution site but thankfully no one was arrested.
Wednesday 25th January
At 6 o’clock in the morning, the Iranian jungle was evicted again. Seven vans packed with CRS barged in and stole people’s tents. 10 people were arrested, some of them arrived later at the 13:00 food distribution with their sleeping bags under their arms, but we don’t know if the rest of them are still held.
Between 7.15 am and 7.30 one van of CRS unit 15, later joined by a 2nd, entered the university buildings, taking photographs of the inside of the buildings, demonstratively putting on latex gloves while doing so. When asked, they refused to give the number of their unit.
If it had not been reality it would have been funny because they seemed quite lost, argued for a while about what to do next and checked several times with their bosses. They got in and out of the vans, pulled their batons out, stuck them back again and took their gloves on and off.
Later, police came to morning food distribution to arrest people on the way to breakfast, but did not manage to arrest anyone.
In the afternoon, a well-known PAF-officer came by Africa House with the people who had brought the eviction notice to the previous Africa House. One worker, putting fences up around on the ground of the squat, said it would be demolished after a month. We’ve heard different rumours, but all we know is that this sick harassment of destroying peoples homes is going to continue to happen again, again, again.
Tuesday 24th January 2012: Barbed wire round food distribution yard mysteriously disappears
This morning at the food distribution, held in a prison-like area, we were all greeted by a strange sight. The barbed wire surrounding the area was gone. A defiant message had also been painted on the walls of the two distribution buildings, reading: ‘Tear down the fences, Tear down the walls, Tear down the borders, Tear down the barbwire.‘
This is not the first time this has happened. The last time the barbed wire was removed about one year ago. We were informed that it cost 8000 Euro to replace it – it was sad that money to keep the prison-like atmosphere up seemed to be so easy to find. It was taken from the budget that was given to SALAM to open the BCMO (cold weather shelter).
We’d like to remind of the circumstances of the autonomous people s kitchen in summer – when about 400 Euros had to last all summer to cook for about 200 people, constantly hassled around by police, when the organisations had their summer break.
SALAM, one of the organizations giving out food, accused No Borders activists last time and are doing it again this time. The energy spent on looking for a culprit seems to be more important than confronting themselves with the grain of truth in the messages.
If the bosses of this organisation wouldn’t want a food distribution that looks like a prison, they could push for it. But as far as we know they have not.
It is important to give out food – nourishment is the basis of survival. The amazing work done by volunteers to ensure this is greatly appreciated by people eating there. Yet that barbed wire was part of turning the provision of a basic need into a humiliating experience.
Friday 20th January 2012
This morning at around 9 ‘o clock, a group of twenty CRS and PAF officers raided the university buildings used as the current Africa House. Police vans drove right into the area, in order to make arrests out of sight of passers by (thus allowing them to be more brutal).
Activists on watch were able to raise the alarm, and many of those without papers were able to run away; this angered the police who tried to smash cameras that were being used to film the raid. The cameras were taken out of the reach of police by two activists climbing up onto roofs who continued to film.
Around seven arrests were made; people were taken to coquelles police station. Most people were let out before lunch. Activists were released at around 7pm this evening and were given court cases for refusing I.D, and fingerprints.
In spite, of the cold, wet, and windy conditions police continue their brutal project of forcing migrants out of shelter and onto the streets.
Friday 19th January 2012
Winter has arrived in Calais. With nighttime temperatures reaching well below zero, the full potential the season is now beginning to show its true face. As is the state, taking the signs of first frost as an opportunity to continue the repression, now with even more grave results.
Although there has been little police presence at the current Africa house, the CRS have been busy targeting other squats and Jungles. On Tuesday morning, the Afghan jungle was destroyed by the police. Clothes, bags, tents and blankets were either destroyed or stolen by the police. On Wednesday morning the same thing happened to the Iranian jungle. 12 people were arrested and the police “confiscated” everything they could find. These migrants spent three nights sleeping exposed without blankets in temperatures of -3C and -4C and appeared cold and wet. We gave them blankets and tents but have now distribiuted them all – donations are urgently needed. Apparently, none of the charity organizations had any to spare. Including the UNHCR.
More police violence & prison sentences for disobedience
At 6.30 am, 11th January, two dozen police officers woke everyone up in Palestine House in search of an individual. They attempted to make and arrest. The individual in question reportedly told the police that he was ill and needed to go to the toilet, but this request was refused. He reportedly then jumped down one storey from the dilapidated building (the room in question has no wall on two sides), into the rubbish heap below. There he reportedly attempted to urinate. Two officers then set on him, beating him savagely and banging his head against the wall. They were then chased off by the man’s friends under a barrage of stones.
However, the police returned at 9am with reinforcements – approximately 40 officers in riot gear according to reports. 22 arrests were made. In custody, they are shown photos of people in Calais and asked whether the individuals are known to them. All bar four were released, and the remaining detainees appeared before court on 18th and swiftly jailed for six months for ‘outrage’ (insulting a public servant – in this case, the police), rebellion, and irregular stay in France. One was convicted for stone-throwing.
We liaised with the men’s solicitor regarding filing an appeal, but she felt that by the time an appeal went to court, the detainees would be released.
Since the arrests, four migrants are in prison “maison d’arrete” awaiting their trial. CMS activists are trying to contact those detained but so far without any luck. Neither the court, the police or the prison are willing to give any information what so ever.
It has been relatively quiet in terms of police activity around Africa House in the last few weeks. There has only been the one big morning raid there since New Year, although CMS activists are still doing morning watch there every morning. On Monday afternoon however, a small group of CRS (accompanied as usual by PAF officers) came to Africa House, hassling Libyan migrants, and looking for Sudanese people. Activists were quick to arrive at the scene; but it seemed that the police were only interested in looking around the area, scoping out various entrances and exits. No arrests were made.
This morning, an unidentified man spoke to a couple of activists doing morning watch. The man told them that the buildings were dangerous and that people shouldn’t be staying in them, and that access to the buildings is going to be shut. He then also said, ‘these buildings are going to be demolished in two weeks. You can choose to stay here until then, but in two weeks this will be finished’.
Without knowing who this man actually is, it is hard to know how seriously to take this. However, it does seem to correspond with the speed of the demolition and building work going on around the University buildings. If Africa House is evicted, as many as 40 migrants will be made homeless again.
The BCMO, a cold-weather shelter run by the charities supposed to provide a warm space for people during the cold winter nights, has still not been opened despite the freezing night time temperatures, as it only opens when it drops to -5C. Activists have been trying to put pressure on the organizations to do something to help, but so far with no success.
Sunday 8th January 2012
A couple of days ago, there was an early morning police raid at the university squat. While some of the migrants managed to get away, those who were still asleep were rounded up by the police from all of the buildings and subjected to ID checks. About 8 were arrested and were released about an hour later.
The No Borders activists present were rounded up and kept completely separate from the migrants. Five activists refused to give their ID’s in solidarity with the migrants and were also arrested and taken to Coquelles where they were held for 24 hours, continually refusing to give their identity.
It was an interesting experience for the activists involved, due to the strange lies, threats and comments made during their time there. Being told they would be put in prison for three months, in the company of “criminals and murderers” – which would make them scream in horror to get out, was a particular highlight.
On a more pleasant note, since the Cambridge kitchen has left Calais, there has been a lot of enthusiasm for cooking together in Africa House, instead of relying on the charities for all the meals. At a meeting, the migrants decided to cook together a couple of times a week, using the leftover ingredients from the Cambridge kitchen and vegetables that we can pick up when the local markets close.
The atmosphere at the first meal that we cooked together was really positive, with music and dance surrounding the cooking, and the initiatives for the meal came from a lot of different people and communities.
There has also been some cleaning efforts at Africa House, which quite a few people eventually took part in, even though the opinions expressed around this frequently was that “there’s no point to cleaning here, since the police might evict the place any day”. As you usually clean in preparation for the next few days or even hours, perhaps it is quite an appropriate insight into the people stuck in Calais. Calais isn’t seen as a place for living or building things up – it’s just a place for waiting for life somewhere else.
This is something we have been discussing over the last few days, the need for constructiveness, for activity and the chance to create, or just do things. And what lack of stimulation does to people. Thinking about this we have created a small “library” – that is, a bookshelf with books – that people can come and borrow books from, which has been used a little at least. Unfortunately, people’s self perception whilst staying as migrants in Calais seems in many cases to hinder them from going to the public library.
This is not all– English, French, Arabic and Swedish language exchanges, cooking together, building rooms, fixing bikes and of course, the continuous chasing of a dream. Life in Europe, whatever that might be…
Sunday 1 January 2012: New Year in Calais
Another report from the Cambridge Kitchen Collective working with CMS in Calais:
Happy New Year from Calais. The Cambridge kitchen has spent a few more days in Calais, and have been cooking up a storm! We’ve made potato salad, North African chickpea stew, potato-olive pastry rolls, carrot salad, aubergine coconut curry and more. Members of the cooking collective have also been learning bits of different languages, making friends
with people from all over the world, teaching people about how to use manual cameras, and collecting discarded vegetables from the Saturday market.
On New Year’s eve, activists preperared for a party which was to take place in Africa House, where the migrants who lived there invited all the other migrant communities to come to the “hafla” (a party). We collected decorations, built benches and tables out of pallets, wood and bricks, sorted out a generator for lighting, and of course made lots of food. There were some worries about a police raid during the party- a few nights before some police had shown up at Africa house at about 3 in the morning, woken up the migrants who were sleeping there and intimidated them. Rather than arresting anyone, they said “see you on the 31st”, implying that there would be police presence during the party.
Events like that are a constant reality for migrants living in Calais- Africa House is raided several times each week, with police storming the squat (a set of derelict university buildings) in the early hours of the morning, waking everyone up and making arrests. During the raids it is normal for phones and cameras to be seized or smashed if they are used to document police brutality, and windows, chairs and tables are also intentionally destroyed by the police. If migrants are arrested-which is a regular occurrence for many- they are put into prison for several hours, and then have to walk back into town. Routine imprisonment, brutality and police intimidation can grind people down- often migrants will describe some individuals as having “been in Calais for too long”- meaning they can be hopeless, erratic or aggressive.
Luckily, the New Year’s party went ahead without the police inviting themselves along. Instead, Africa House was festive- lit up by candles and fairy lights, pumping with music coming out of a car-battery powered sound system, and filled with migrants and activists from all over the world. Different people took turns plugging their phones and mp3 players into the soundsystem, so the music was an amazing global mix- Egyptian, Afghan, 80’s pop, hip-hop and everything in between. When the Afghan songs were on, a group of Afghan men led dancing where participants dance in a circle, spinning, clapping and jumping. At first only Afghans danced in the circle dance, but they were soon joined by guys from Africa House, as well as No Borders activists.
As midnight approached, we went outside for the climax of the evening- our very own mini fireworks display. As the fireworks rocketed off across the field outside of Africa House, we counted down to the New Year and people wished each other happy new year in at least a dozen different languages. What an amazing way to end one year and begin a new one!
Saturday 31st December 2011
Cambridge Action Network spent some time in Calais this month with a mobile kitchen. This is a report of their experiences
There is a food distribution centre here where many of the migrants normally get food. They run lunch and dinner on most days. Surrounded by metal fencing that gives the impresssion of being caged in the distribution centre could be mistaken for a prison, the migrants have to line up to receive the food and there are no tables or chairs. Two charities take it in turns to provide meals. However, they do not serve food every day, and they don’t reach all of the different
migrant communities in Calais.
Last night we served our first meal as the Cambridge kitchen collective in Calais. We were taken to a patch of woods 45 minutes drive outside of Calais where roughly thirty migrants – mostly from Afghanistan – are living. So far outside of Calais, few of the charities who usually serve food to migrant communities reach them. The need for secrecy also increases their isolation, because they are hesitant to reveal the location of their camp to outsiders.
As we pulled down a muddy lane between a field and the woods, we were welcomed by the migrants who lived in the ‘jungle’. They showed us the way into the woods that they had made in their home – tarpaulins stretched over frames made out of branches created dry spaces for eating, talking, a mosque, and several sleeping spaces. Despite the thick mud on the ground, everything was tidy and homely.
We had spent the afternoon cooking a mushroom, cauliflower and chickpea curry, rice, and red lentil daal (which the Afghan migrants we ate with said tasted just like Pakistani lentils – we assumed that was a compliment). The food was served from the makeshift mosque, and we ate together round the fire. The community there – almost all young
men – was extremely hospitable. We were promised that after the food there would be singing and dancing, and after a few minutes of teasing each other to see who would start off the singing, they launched into a series of songs accompanied by clapping and drumming on water butts. Some of the songs were traditional Pashtun songs, and others were songs about making the crossing to England. As the evening passed by, the rain came down harder and it became windy, but the atmosphere remained vibrant and warm.
Sat around the fire, a man from Afghanistan told us of his journey. He told us that because of the violence and dire economic situation back home, his family had sent him to Europe in the hope that he would find a better life. He gestured at his surroundings and smiled sadly as he said “but look at how shitty my life is now”. He had been through Italy but left because he could not find work there and wanted to travel to England where he had heard there was work.
Another man, from Iran, told us how he had left beacuse he had been burnt, intimidated and put in prison by the state for refusing to join the army, because to join the army would mean fighting his own community.
We have heard many stories like this before, but found it so upsetting to meet these people who had come to be here only because of where they had been born. It made it so clear to me that the systems of asylum and the UK’s supposed commitment to human rights did not apply to the people who need it the most. It seemed like most of the people we met came from areas of the world where UK military, political and economic involvement had a devastating effect on people’s lives – yet the UK does everything it can to stop these people from crossing over the Channel. Because of UK law, crossing illegally into England is the only way to make an asylum claim for the vast majority of asylum seekers.
Many of the people we spoke to had been in the UK before, they knew how hard it would be for them there, and yet trying to make the crossing was still their best option.
Each day we are here, we discover another hundred lessons that we need to learn, and stories that we want to hear. Being here, in practical solidarity with the migrant communities struggling against state violence, racism and economic oppression, is an incredibly powerful experience.
Thursday 22nd December 2011: DEATH OF ISMAEL
Calais has killed a person, a young Ethiopian man, who has spent some time Calais and is known to a lot of people here. He was found at the bottom of a bridge in central Calais in the early hours of Thursday 22 December.
The reason for Ismael’s death is not clear, what happened or why. The police immediately tried to close the case as suicide, treating his death as insignificant. There has been no autopsy and further investigation has been refused. His friends have been denied permission to identify the body, they have tried twice at the central police station because it is very important to them, but have been met with threats that the border police (PAF) will be called if they do not leave. Only a person from Calais has been allowed identify him.
Clearly the police don’t find it important enough to investigate a death, but would rather spend time continuing to harass ‘foreigners’, both those with and without papers. On the same day that people found out this man died the police continued to raid these people’s homes, as normal. So what is the police’ work? To prevent death, or create death? A rhetorical question.
This fascist state of Calais with its pristine parks gives more water and health to its flowers then to people. This is not the first time a person has been killed by the border system, and as long as it remains it will not be the last. A vigil was held with many people at the site where he died on Sunday evening.
Sunday 25th December
C’est quoi avoir froid? A partir de -5 degree? Arrete cacher la clef! Tous les jours c’est froid!
Now it is winter in Calais and the weather is cold. Many people are living in decrepit houses without heating or in self-made shelters. There is however, the BCMO, a cold weather shelter. It’s a building run by charity organizations and controlled by government representatives. They say that this building will host people and protect them from the cold, but it stays empty pretty much all year-round. The shelter only opens when it is colder than -5 degrees in the night, so now it is closed even though it is freezing outside. Even when the shelter is open it can be shut down again at short notice and the people staying there are not allowed to use the toilets inside.
A banner was dropped last night on the cold weather shelter: What does it mean to be cold? Is it when temperatures drop to -5 C? Stop hiding the key! Every day is cold!
Tuesday 20th December: Activist served 1 month suspended sentence and banned from Calais
At around 7.30 am one CRS police van and one CRS police car turned up at the university squat. These were shortly followed by two arrest vans. They ran into the property, and four policemen forcibly removed a whistle from around one activist’s neck and violently took him to the ground.
They snatched a camera from another activist who was filming and immediately, and deliberately, snapped the sidescreen.
Four No Borders activists were then surrounded by 10 officers and taken into one of the buildings so that they could not see what was happening, whilst police rounded up and ID’d the people without papers who had not already got away or were sleeping in the other buildings. They arrested 6 migrants and 3 No Borders activists. Throughout the process police were desperate to segregate the No Borders activists from the other people there. Most people were released in the afternoon and two activists were released in the evening.
During their detention the police constantly attempted to intimidate and humiliate people, making noises whilst waving toy pigs at people, making obscure religious comments, laughing and joking around like it was a game.
One activist was held for 24 hours, charged and then taken directly to court the next morning at Boulogne-Sur-Mer having had no contact with a solicitor and also denied contact with anyone outside. A policeman had alleged that the activist had assaulted him by spraining his finger, which never happened, and three officers fabricated the same story as witnesses.
The police destroyed the footage on the camera so it could also not be used as evidence. The activist was convicted and has been banned from the Pas-de-Calais region for one year, and was given a one month suspended sentence. This person also has a court hearing in February to determine the fine he must pay as compensatation to the police officer.
Even despite the fact that No Borders activists were acquitted from a string of false charges earlier in the year, which were also clearly aimed at intimidating, deterring and imprisoning activists working here, the police not only continue to act with impunity but are now also fast tracking the judicial process, which has resulted in a conviction for a ficticious assault on police. It is CRS unit 45 from Lyon that is operating in Calais at the moment. And of course the same old PAF (border police).
Sunday 18th December
Police raided the university buildings at about 9pm. Everyone who was there got away, so no-one was arrested. Over the weekend it has been extremely stormy and cold here.
Visits to Ostende
CMS have been in Ostende twice, where we have talked with migrants and local activists – there is a new No Borders group there.
We also did two deliveries of clothes and sleeping bags, together with the local activists. From next week, there will be more deliveries and we are going again tomorrow.
We heard of police chasing people with dogs, people bitten by dogs, people being left in cells for 12 hours without water, sometimes without clothes. We heard reports that they strip search people and put in freezing cold cells in their underwear…and these cells have only 3 walls and a gate.
There are only men and teenage boys of 16/17 years old, the conditions apparently too hard for women and children.
There is a day centre, CAW, open to migrants 4 mornings a week, they get food, advice, showers, some medical care. Up to 60 migrants a day attend the centre, but there are many more who don’t go there because they want to escape the police surveillance which is very invasive and extensive in the areas beyond the centre.
The port area has been fortified with barb wire and high security. Crossing has become increasingly difficult.
During the day the migratns mainly hide or walk the streets alone or with a friend, trying not to be noticed. The park where they used to hang out is regularily visited by the police and very few people go there. Most people sleep in many abandoned buildings in the port area and industrial areas.
We visited some of the squats, where up to 100 sans-papiers from various Arab countries sleep. When the police find them they destroy their possessions and even have the finesse to piss on their blankets.
Wednesday 14th December
Today one CRS and one PAF unit came to the area of the University squat around 8.30. They went over to the house which they attempted to demolish yesterday, but didn’t because there were people inside. There were around fifteenth cops in the area, looking at the building without entering. After a while they seemed to decide that the situation was safe enough and the house which had been peoples home were demolished to the ground.
Tuesday 13th of December
Early in the morning demolition workers were working on the ground of one of the old Africa house squats. Around 8.30 am one bulldozer went in to the area of the current Africa House with out taking any notice of the people living there or giving any indication of what they were planning to do.
They started demolishing a building where people where sleeping and only stopped because people intervened telling there were people sleeping there.
No one died, and all blankets got collected.
Friday 9th of December
The night between Thursday and Friday Palestine house got raided at 1 am. Since most people living there have papers no arrests were made. In the morning CRS and PAF raided Africa house. Everyone got forced into one room to be ID’d and searched. Around 10 people got arrested, with and without papers.
Five people got released from Coquelles in the afternoon after being arrested in the street twice in one day, with a gap of 10 hours in between.
Sunday 4th – Wednesday 7th December
On Sunday morning, Iranian migrants reported that their camp had been flooded by the river. All tents, sleeping bags and blankets were soaked and damaged. Many have now moved to another place after two sleepless, wet nights. Our last tents have now been handed out.
Police have been very active around the university buildings. On Tuesday and Wednesday morning, they visited around 7.20am. On Tuesday migrants reported 3 arrests. On Wednesday the PAF came at around 7.15 and arrested 4/5 people, this was then followed by a lengthy visit from the CRS, half an hour later, who again checked everyone’s papers.
With the combination of continual police visits and a visit from the demolition team who came to calculate the costs of the operation, we are now on high alert for the university buildings. With temperatures dropping significantly in the past few days this could leave many people yet again on the streets.
Migrants in Palestine House have also been subject to more police harrasment, on Monday migrants reported two visits: 9am and 3.30pm with 2 arrests of sans papiers.
Hazebrouck and Dunkerque
Activists have visited migrants in the jungels in both Hazebrouck andNorrent Fontes this week end and the two jungles near Dunkerque on Tuesday. In Hazebrouck and Norrent Fontes the situation is steady, there are many women from Eritrea/ Ethiopia and the police only go there once a week to count peopele, though in Hazebrouck is reported there is some heavy harassment from local people. The jungle has subsequently changed place.
With the police station closed in Dunkerque (St Paul) we are seeing many migrants who are arrested there being brought to Coquelles and left in Calais without anything/anywhere to sleep. Police raids and arrests in the two surviving jungles near Dunkerque – Teteghem and Grande Synthe are very frequent, on Tuesday 10 people had been arrested in Teteghem early in the morning.
There are supposedly 20- 25 people in both jungles, surviving in pretty desperate conditions. There are only men in Teteghem, and in Grande Synthe there is a family with a baby. All are from Kurdistan, Afghanistan, Iran, Southern Iraq, Pakistan. The Vietnamese seem to be gone. According to the charities who help them, there could be more people in the areas, hiding because of fear of the police.
We are low in numbers again, please come if you can!
Friday 2nd December
The police went 4 times to the cabins belonging to the University where most of the ex-occupiers of Africa House are sleeping, at 10.30am, 2pm, 7pm, 7.30pm. They arrested two or three people, most ran away. They are also arresting people with papers, as many asylum seekers have had their applications refused recently, they take them to the police station to check their papers.
Palestine House was also visited by the police, but they only checked people’s papers and no arrests were made.
English and French classes have restarted in the University cabins, but for how long?
Thursday 1st December
Migrants report three raids having occurred this morning. Palestine House was raided once at 7am by PAF officers, who quickly looked at people’s papers, then left. Then the CRS showed up, and remained for what seemed like ages, before finally leaving. They then attacked the university buildings at around 10 am. Most people managed to run away. Those who remained had papers and did not fear deportation. One person was arrested anyway.
As two activists were bringing a new stove they had made, with help from migrants, to Palestine House, they found 3 CRS vans parked in front of the entrance, plus one snatch van. It was CRS compagnie 7. They tried to intimidate activists into not filming them, on the grounds that the property they were filming from was private. In point of fact, the activists were on the sidewalk, the camera placed on a hole in the board of a window, and this was enough to upset the officers. “I gave you a warning. Next time I come back, I will confiscate your cameras,” said the CRS officer as he walked back to join his comrades, looking for who knows what. As he was going away, we heard a crashing noise, and one activist emitted the hope that no one was hurt from whatever the CRS were doing out of sight from anyone whatsoever in the very private Palestine House where officers may enter at will any time of the day and night. The CRS left shortly afterwards. Later conversations with residents of Palestine House revealed no one was arrested; only papers checked.
Wednesday 30th November
Early in the morning, a small camp of 6 tents inhabited by people from Albania was raided by 5 vans of PAF, CRS and Police Nationale. People couldn’t understand what the fuss was about. Everyone was arrested. It appears the police used extra intimidation, and questioned the arrestees as if they were part of a ring. The reason probably was the camp’s location, after the port and the terminal’s parking lot, near the defunct hovercraft port. Everyone was released.
It appears the CRS have blocked the entrance of breakfast distribution, systematically checking everyone’s ID, and therefore stopping people without refugee or asylum seeker status from having breakfast just like everyone.
Thursday 24th November
This morning the policed raided the Iranian jungle. All tents got destroyed and people lost their sleeping bags and blankets. Still no one got arrested in the raid.
Last evening around 9.30 pm PAF entered a new squat where people have been constructing and improving the living space. Most people could run away but still 4 persons got arrested. In the morning the police came back but no arrests were made.
The latest days the Afghan and Sudan jungle has been controlled by the police but without any arrests. The Eritrean squat got raided Tuesday and at least one person got arrested and had to spend 11 hours detained for identity check.
Friday 18th November
After the eviction of Africa House and the new squat many people are still sleeping under the stars, although some have found accommodation in other squats. Most squats have no fire and even in the jungles people don’t make fires because they say the police come if they see it.
The police still come and destroy the camps regardless, and while people usually just rebuild them, they remain minimal structures. The charities are complaining that there are lots of asylum seekers sleeping out, with nothing but a couple of blankets. It is already very cold and wet, and the cold weather shelter remains closed as it only opens when the temperatures drop below -4C.
Thursday 17th November 2011: TWO MIGRANTS KILLED IN A ROAD ACCIDENT NEAR DUNKERQUE
Two Egyptians were killed during Wednesday night-Thursday morning on the A16 near Dunkerque in a collision between an HGV and a car which was occupied with other migrants.
Seven people were found in the car, including five Egyptians without papers and two other people, “surely people smugglers”, according to the prosecution of Dunkerque. According to initial enquiries, the car of migrants had swerved when it was overtaking the Dutch HGV, and was then hit from behind. The three migrants who survived the accident, which occurred around 1am, were rescued from the side of the road. They have still not been spoken to by the investigators as they are awaiting a translator. The two presumed people smugglers, who were sitting in the front seats, fled the scene. The breath tests on the German driver of the HGV did not reveal anything abnormal.
Wednesday 16th November
The new squat opened for the migrants who were evicted from Africa House was evicted on Tuesday – illegally this time. The police forced their way in, arresting 7 migrants and 2 CMS activists. One activist charged with occupation. All were released after spending the night in the police station and some have bruises from being ill-treated while in custody.
A van from the charity La Belle Etoile collected the blankets from the squat and everybody is out in the streets again.
Wednesday 9th November 2011: Africa House, Eritrean squat evicted over 100 in the street once more; Iranian jungle destroyed again
Wednesday saw the eviction of the latest Africa House, an industrial complex right next door to a previous Africa House that had been evicted and demolished in 2010.
What has been interesting this time about the Africa House eviction is that the authorities made some efforts to do things by the book, possibly as a result of the public inquiry that was launched after CMS presented a dossier of evidence to France’s Human Rights Ombudsman earlier this year.
Eviction notices were placed on the property in advance – not that this makes the tiniest bit of difference to people who are about to lose their home ; people were ‘allowed’ to take their personal belongings instead of them being dumped in a trailer destined for the rubbish tip; and the residents were offered limited emergency accommodation elsewhere in France.
Calais Migrant Solidarity’s line is clear: regardless of whether administrative formalities are complied with, no-one has the right to deny people shelter, and no-one has the right to control freedom of movement – or can, for that matter.
The Iranian Jungle near the canal was destroyed for the second time this week, without even bothering to pay lip-service to the law.
A security team is now guarding the empty Africa House 24/7, lest anyone dare seek shelter from the cold, while around 100 people are out in the street, the majority from Sudan (mainly Darfur), but also Eritrea, other African countries, and some Palestinians.
The people who asked for asylum in France and unaccompanied minors have been offered accommodation in some hostels in various towns across France but most don’t want to go in the middle of nowhere so they still in town sleeping rough. Activists and local charites have been distributing emergency supplies such as sleeping bags
The latest Africa House, a large squat inhabited primarily by Sudanese refugees, is due to be evicted imminently. Two CRS units are in town at the same time (#4 & #16), and police visited the property this morning to inspect the site with a view to carrying out an eviction. They were accompanied by a lawyer who pinned eviction notices on the doors.
The notices say, ‘Disons, vu l’urgence, cette présente ordonnance exécutoire sur minute’, which means that the order takes effect immediately and that eviction could happen at any time, rendering dozens of people homeless.
The irony is that the property ajoins another of the run-down and abandoned warehouses and factories that define the post-industrial landscape of Calais: a former Africa House (Squat Paniez), which was home to dozens & dozens of people and which was destroyed in an utterly pointless operation in 2010. The empty site next door was left standing, and was subsequently squatted by these refugees in dire need of shelter against the cold coastal weather and the harassment and violence of the police.
Come to Calais prepared to support the residents of Africa House! If you have spare tents and blankets they will be in particular need if the eviction goes ahead, and in any case are needed for other migrants in Calais. If you have a car or van then please bring one – a vehicle would be very useful as we currently do not have one.
Tuesday 11th October – General Update
Perhaps due to the recent big police operations in Dunkerque, Oostende and other coastal towns, the number of migrants in Calais has risen suddenly. We are now seeing growing communities of people who have had a small or non existent presence in recent months – such as Pashtun and Somali.
The weather has been very unpleasant in few past days with wind and rain. It’s particularly unwelcome to those with little or no shelter, and with a shortage of tents many people have been forced to sleep in doorways and under the eaves of buildings to escape the rain.The police are still their usual unpleasant selves. Stopping people in the street based upon racial profiling, raiding squats and jungles and sinking again to the lows of stealing/destroying peoples personal possessions.
Bikes continue to be sabotaged with knives stabbed into wheels and recently two men had their phone chargers “confiscated” from them during an ID check. There has also been a noticeable rise in racist behavior from the local population, it’s quite common now on evenings – especially weekends – for people (considered to look like migrants) to have stones thrown at them by youths. Just yesterday one CMS activist was followed all the way across town by a car, for 30 minutes, as she walked back to the CMS office from a migrant squat.
News from outside Calais: On Friday some CMS activists went to visit the jungles in St.Omer and Steenvorde. In St. Omer, where they dropped off a car full of blankets and winter clothing, the jungle remains as disastrous as it has been in the past months and years. There are about 30 people living in makeshift shelters, that are not at all constructed to resist a cold and rainy winter. At the moment there are two families with several very small children.
In Steenvorde there is a hall open all day, that Terre d’Errance Steenvorde provides. People can have hot drinks there, cook, use a washing machine, play games or simply take a rest without the damp cold of the outside. Due to the very high security at the parking, where people try to get into trucks, the jungle in Steenvorde has recently been more crowded than the usual. After visiting the hall the CMS activists were invited to have a delicious dinner in the jungle and enjoyed the pleasant atmosphere, chatting to the people living there, until late into the day.
07/10/11: Round up of the past weekAfter a relatively slow start, CRS Compagnie 18 have finally started to show their true colours and the past week has been a blur of police vans and arrests. Numerous arrests have been made on the streets, in bars, parks and in migrant squats and jungles with people being held up to 24 hours in custody.
Last night, CMS activists were run ragged round Calais following countless CRS and PAF (border police) vans. One CMS activist was hit by a PAF van while trying to stop them hunting for people through Parc Richelieu, but instead of being at all apologetic at what they had just done the officers driving made derogatory comments about her appearance and commented that another activist had had his hair cut. Blowing kisses from the window the police left the park and the activists continued on towards the train station where two vans of CRS were making some (as usual UNLAWFUL) arrests.
One activist tried to block the van from leaving while demanding to know the reason for the arrests. No answer was given and the officers just dragged her out of the way and carried on through the streets of Calais hunting for sans-papiers.
This morning two vans full of PAF officers were seen patrolling through the shopping centre, though no arrests were made. Two activists were at Coquelles this morning and witnessed the arrest vans returning from their mornings hunt – all empty.As the weather starts to get colder, life in Calais will slowly get more and more difficult for those living on the streets. We have already been getting requests for hats, gloves and scarves – especially in small sizes for the many children in the camps at Dunkerque.
Friday 30th September
Africa House was raided this morning by PAF and CRS, and over 10 arrests were made.
Thursday 29th September
CMS activists were asked for blankets this morning, after being informed that one of the Afghan jungles was destroyed in the night.
Wednesday 28th September
At 3.30pm, PAF were seen in Parc St Pierre asking people for their papers. Fortunately, no arrests were made.
Police in Dunkerque have been carrying out some large raids recently, and are using Coquelles Detention Centre to fingerprint those arrested. Once they finish this though, instead of taking people back to Dunkerque the police are simply dumping them on the streets of Calais. CMS received a phone call late tonight from a CRS officer who wanted us to find shelter for a family of seven sat waiting outside the train station. All the children were under 6 years old, hungry and very tired. We were able to find them a place to sleep and prepare them some dinner. Unfortunately none of the other families with children were able to be located and we just hope that they managed to find somewhere safe to sleep.
Tuesday 27th September
A new unit of CRS has arrived. Compagnie 18 have come to Calais all the way from the historic town of Poitiers. They seem pretty relaxed and are spending most of their time asleep or playing on their phones in front of the train station.
Monday 26th September
At just past 8pm tonight the PAF were in Parc St Pierre asking people for ID. After making no arrests, the officers spent quite some time peering into hedges with their torches and making jokes. CMS activists, who were present at the time, followed them from the park and down the road to where several arrest vans were parked. Thankfully all the vans were empty and after doing a bit of jeering and horn beeping at the CMS activists, the police drove away.
Friday 23rd September
The French have a saying. “Pas de nouvelles, bonne nouvelle.” No news, good news. A quiet day today. One CRS van was sighted driving up the main road towards the theatre. Activists cycled around town in the morning, but did not see any police in or around squatted areas. Palestine House residents report that they have not seen any police for a whole week, and feel like they’re on a blissful holiday. One man reported that he had been detained for 46 days in Coquelles, which is 1 day longer than the new legal limit allowed by the Besson law.
Monday 19th September: Tribute to Marie-Noelle
Our comrade Marie-Noelle Gues, who also used the name Zetkin, died of cancer early in the morning of Saturday 17 September. Marie-Noelle was the original “No Border” of Calais. For some years before the Calais No Border camp of 2009, she fought alone here, patrolling the streets with just her camera and her enormous courage, intervening single-handedly against the police attacks on migrants, documenting and exposing their dirty work, rupturing the invisibility and apathy on which repression feeds. Neither the countless trials and sentences of the French state, nor the harassment she received from local flics (cops), nor the death threats from fascist scum, did anything to halt her momentum and energy. Out on the streets, in the squats and jungles of Calais, filming, writing, arguing (e.g., against any moves which she saw as diluting the political struggle in Calais with “humanitarian” work), shouting (“Petain! Revient! T’as oublié tes chiens!”), singing (“shit, it’s hard to find new rhymes for Sarkozy”), inspiring so many.
Here is a personal memory of Marie-Noelle from one comrade:
“I struggle even to use the past tense.
“Independent and fearless, Marie-Noelle was a great role model to activists. She knew that to truly realise a more just society, you’re going to upset those an interest in the status quo. Yet she was never afraid to do this; police officers, government officials, and charity workers, who were content to maintain their own privilege rather than confront the flagrant injustice of border controls; she never shyed away from speaking her mind.
“When I first went to in Calais in July 2009, I was amazed to find what seemed to be a kind of one woman FITwatch. Marie-Noelle would regularly go out by herself to the old Pashtun jungle at night, which was then a much more intimidating environment. She would chat to people, and confront and photograph the police when they raided.
“In spite of the intimidating climate, this small-framed woman with a huge personality fearlessly confronted the authorities, often alone; something that led to continued police harassment and court cases. Her prizing of justice over public perception is certainly something more people could learn from.
“Yet she was also a great role model to women. She had the courage to enter and fight in an incredibly patriarchal environment; male refugees, held in higher esteem than their female compatriots – and therefore selected over their women to make the journey to Europe; the male mafia, exerting their influence over the area for even more power and money; the male CRS (French riot cops), using threats and violence to protect a patriarchal state; and more recently, violent male fascists who sent her death threats.
“Like Clara Zetkin and other Communists who inspired her, Marie-Noelle gave me strength to confront the authorities when I first started out in Calais. Let the spirit of resistance live on in her memory.”
Marie-Noelle herself described her work on the streets like this: “it’s important to be able to show that I am always here. And when they do something I want to be present. I want to give them this fear.” (C’est important d’être capable de montrer qu’on peut être toujours là et qu’on peut être présent quand ils font quelque chose. C’est cette peur la que je veux leur donner.” MN speaking in the film “L’Exil et Le Royaume”.)
She also regularly reported on police and official activity in Calais, using Lille Indymedia and her personal blog. Marie’s nom de guerre Zetkin was a homage to the german communist and feminist Clara Zetkin. The last blogpost from 15 August once again compares the repression in Calais in 2011 to the deportations of 1942, condemning not only police but the “collabos” (collaborators) working for the SNCF (national railway) who inform on migrants at the train station. Marie was clearly totally undeterred by a recent court case in which she was (for the nth time, we have lost count) convicted of “outrage” or insulting state officials, this time for calling them “collabos”.
Here are some of her videos. You can see her here in action, filming alone, in full “outrageous” flow against the cops.
Here in Calais we remember Marie as our friend, comrade, and inspiration. We have been singing the “Chant de Partisans”: “Amie, si tu tombes, une amie sort de l’ombre à ta place”. (“Friend, if you fall, a friend will come from the shadows to take your place”). Comrades from all over Europe have been sending messages remembering and celebrating Marie. We call on all friends and comrades of Marie-Noelle to celebrate her in action.
Sunday 11th September: A young man DEAD in Steenvoorde
Yousuf, a young Sudanese man of 28 was found dead last Wednesday on a motorway parking lot near Steenvoorde. Terre d’Errance is the main humanitarian organization working there, and contacted his mother, who wishes to retrieve her son’s body. They are asking for financial help, as repatriation costs a lot of money. If you want to help, you will find their address on this document. As the border regime tightens up, more and more such tragedies will occur, and they will be blamed on the victims’ naivete. The circumstances surrounding this tragedy are unknown as of now, but we’ll update this entry as soon as possible.
12/9 Update:It seems Yousuf died from his injuries after he fell from a truck. There are no news pieces about this yet.
Saturday 10th September 2011
This morning, Salam did not serve breakfast AGAIN — this is the second time this week. And again they did not make an effort to sufficiently inform people about this. A bit over 10am, around thirty people were waiting in vain for the meager morning meal that Salam usually provides them. With heavy police presence on the streets of Calais last night, many people had an exhausting night, and due to a general lack in many squats of fire wood and other materials to make tea, they tracked all the way to the food distribution area, to be met with another disappointment. We tried to react quickly, and went to buy some tea and bread and brought provisional breakfast to the park by the railway tracks where the No Borders kitchens were distributing food when Salam was on official holidays during the summer. There were about forty people there and the atmosphere was pleasant — even though we felt resentful for having to do the work of the humanitarian organisations yet again.
Friday 9th September 2011 At 7.45am, 30 PAF and CRS officers raided Africa House. They ID controlled everybody, arrested everybody without papers, 12 people in all. Thursday 8th September 2011This morning, the CRS arrested two people at the university buildings behind the recently demolished Africa House, they kept them 15 minutes at the police station. Later on, at around 8.40am, they arrested one person at the African house and after that, two people at the Palestine House. During the day, most activists on the ground went to Boulogne-sur-mer, to support two people, who were taken to court for witholding identity after the 2nd of July blockade of the Coquelles detention centre. The prosecution’s case was misinformed and weak, the translator inadequate and police disproportionately present — and our lawyer was fantastic! The decision about the outcome will be reached by the 22nd of September.
Wednesday 7th September 2011
Salam decided not to serve breakfast today. And even if it’s worth criticising, since this leaves people hungry for a couple more hours, it would have been not as bad, if they actually bothered to tell anyone. Unfortunately, they didn’t. This resulted in the people who came to eat being rounded up by a dozen CRS and PAF vans without a way to escape. They only took 1 person though, which might be signs of a new strategy. In the day they mostly arrested people who looked Iranian when ID’ing mixed groups. Tuesday 6th of September 2011At around 8am, 7 people were arrested in the destruction of an Iranian jungle close to the Gendarmerie station. The police took all their tents and personal possessions, including a passport of a Tunisian, to the “déchèterie” (the town waste disposal facility). Due to negligence and a complete lack of care, the things were destroyed, despite all the efforts made to get them back.
Except for the kitchen work Calais has been relatively calm recently. The number of migrants has decreased over the past few weeks and so has (seemingly) police oppression. The CRS still roam the streets to perform racist controls, but raids on squats and jungles have decreased in quantity. Nevertheless people get arrested by the police – for instance 9 Africans during an Africa House raid on Thursday. Unfortunately, it’s hard to keep track of all police activity, as communities live dispersed in small groups and we can’t be everywhere at once every time.
Saturday 3rd September 2011
The last weeks have been very busy for CMS activists on the ground. The two associations serving food to migrants decided to take a break subsequently, so first we needed to fill in for Salam, then for Belle Etoile, who left the people with one meal a day for two months. And we did it! It’s been a very stressful time, we were constantly watched and harassed by the police, had some minor organisational problems and didn’t sleep enough for most of the time, but at the end of the day we were able to serve two tasty and nutritious meals a day in an atmosphere far more compelling than the barbed-wired prison-like space people are usually forced to eat in. Thanks to all the people, who have been involved: the cooking crews, the people who donated food, those who gave us a place to cook and everyone else who invested their time to help us. We couldn’t have done it without you – you again show us that everything is possible if people work together. Thank you.
Tuesday 30th August 2011: Eid Party!
Tuesday marked the end of Ramadan, which we took as a reason to throw a party in the park. The were snacks, all kinds of beverages and a lot of good music from a sound system. And as everyone could play DJ and connect their mp3 player or mobile and play the music of their choice the musical span reached from Pashto songs to American rap. To put it short: everyone was having a good time. That is, until about a dozen of police cars arrived…They told people to throw away their beers, complained about littering on the grass (meaning full packs of crisps and plastic cups for the drinks) and produced a warrant, which forbid all parties in the park due to public disturbance. But in the end the warrant proved to be invalid, as it had another date on it and the police left after hanging around aimlessly for a couple of minutes. The party then continued with people dancing, talking and laughing for a couple more hours.
Thursday 11th August 2011.
The police are continuing to harass the efforts to continue to provide regular food to san-papier in Calais. On Tuesday, they continued to watch the piece of waste ground that was established as a Food Distrubution. After allowing breakfast to be served for around 20 minutes, PAF officers turned up in force, meaning that most people left the area. A new space to distribute food from has been established, but it takes a few days for people to become familiar with it. The police, so far, remain watching the new space at each meal time.
CRS, PAF continue to tour the town, particularly the tourist areas, watching out for people who don’t quite fit in, and controlling and arresting them. In the early hours of Wednesday morning, they raided a squat, mostly inhabited by Sudanese / Darfuri migrants and arrested 15 people. This is the second time in a week this squat has been raided; last Thursday 13 people were arrested. The continuing, repeated raiding of squats is very normal for Calais, but once again shows the determination of the Police to carry out a policy of inhumanly forcing people from their homes.
Activists who have visited the detention centre at Coquelle note that it is now full, whereas until recently there were few people held there. We continue to visit regularly, to bring tobacco, to chat, and to find out if people’s legal rights are being respected. It appears that some of the detainees are not in contact with France Terre d’Asile, who are contracted to do the legal representation.
Friday 5th August
Yesterday police arrived at morning and afternoon food distribution in the park, apparently with the intent of evicting the site. However a European summer camp of teenagers was present doing various outdoor activities and circus skills. The police didn’t seem willing to raid in front of the group and left again, though one activist caught alone with PAF officers was violently controlled and had his face repeatedly smashed against the side of a police car. The officer involved was present at Monday’s successful de-arrest and seemed to be venting his personal frustration.
This morning with tourists gone police were waiting in the park before breakfast and blocking the area so that distribution could not take place. They are fully aware that this is the only chance of homeless, displaced people to eat and drink- there are no other options for sans papiers. This kind of torture is simply part of the tactics of what the police seem to regard as a game.
Breakfast and then lunch were successfully moved to yet another point, back alongside the river. They progressed well, with music and a friendly atmosphere despite lurking police.
Let’s be clear what has happened here: the authorities are contradicting themselves, and are denying migrants (with or without papers) access to food. Denying people the right to eat purely on the basis that they are foreign (disregard for the fact that many amongst them have papers means that this is what it essentially amounts to) surely constitutes a new low in Calais policing.
Police essentially told us that we had to leave the first food distribution place (area between the two railway tracks) because it wasn’t a park. The next day we moved to Parc Richlieu. Despite the fact that we were now in a park, the police clearly hoped to disrupt food distribution again, but were prevented from doing so. The following day ,when it was less embarassing to do so, the police intervened again, blocking access thus preventing food distribution from happening.
Thursday 4h August 2011.In the early hours of the morning Police raided a squat, mostly inhabited by Sudanese migrants and arrested 13 people.
Monday 1st August
After morning food distribution 3 CRS vans and an arrest van arrived on one side of the tracks, with three vans of PAF and another arrest van on the other. They were slow to make any moves and everyone without papers got away so there were no arrests. However the police stayed at the food distro area on guard and lunch (which the kitchen have taken on as an association are now providing the evening meal though lunch has stopped) had to be moved to the park in the centre of town. Police watched sporadically but made no attacks there, and the food distribution went well.
It is not surprising that the harassment tactics will be stepped up during Ramadan, which began today. They certainly have been in previous years. Threats have been made to migrants over the last few days concerning evictions this week- this could be true or just fear-mongering which is abhorrent enough in itself.
Police were also seen counting people at the largest squat today, often done in preparation for a big raid.
We win some small victories though. Today CMS activists were able to prevent the arrest of a migrant in the park who would otherwise have been taken to have his fingerprints taken or checked.
At dinner some American Folk music was provided by two musicians and there was plenty of singing and dancing.
However, later in the evening 2 CRS vans and a snatch van turned up outside the Salam distribution point. As a result CMS activists, migrants and Auberge de migrants members organised a mass exit of around 35 people to prevent a raid, and were accompanied by a couple of CRS vans the whole way, in a not-so-subtle attempt to intimidate.
Whilst this tactic worked the police are clearly still not abiding by the agreement, made between charities and the state, that migrants will not be harassed or arrested on their way to and from food distribution.
Late night persecution and chases: activist arrested
After arriving on the scene of more police activity (it’s been a busy day for them) we intervened when one migrant who was sitting minding his own business in a public area by the town hall was being told to ‘get lost’ and ‘go away’ by three PAF officers. He replied by saying that he actually had no where to go as he was homeless and living on the streets of Calais. (It seems the cops expect otherwise even though they themselves destroy the shelters people use).
The man asked that as the police they should help him, to which one officer replied that he wasn’t there to help people like that (ie; people in need). The police were crowding and intimidating him so after challenging their abuse (when no laws could be seen to be broken), they didn’t like it when the guy undermined them by slipping away and making it across the tracks. The pushing and shoving that followed resulted in three activists getting gassed, one was hit directly by the canister of pepper spray in the face (and this stuff stings like nothing else we’ve felt!) and another was arrested but it was unclear exactly what for.
Not content with this, the police stopped and arrested three more migrants trying to carry water to their shelters and then went to the park where they arrested three more, one of whom has papers. Having filled the arrest van they headed out of town presumably towards Coquelles, but you can never know when they are done for the night.
Sunday 31st July
The police have been quiet over the weekend as usual; the CRS preferring to spend their time out drinking on Saturday night until early morning, enjoying themselves and partying on the same streets where they regularly chase and harass anyone of the ‘wrong’ colour.
Meanwhile the wonderful kitchen from Ghent have been providing the evening meal at a time actually suggested by the migrants instead of forced upon them, and been very well received, as they have been for weeks now. It is amazing how on a much smaller budget than the charities and with limited resources food is being served in great variety, instead of just repetitive slop. That being said, humanitarian organisations should not just be abandoning their responsibilities for weeks and assuming someone else will sort it out.
English, French and Spanish lessons are being carried out outdoors every day, and people seem to be enjoying them a lot and finding them useful.
As usual in Calais, SIM cards are much in demand, especially O2. If anyone can claim a few free ones and send them over that would be great!
Wednesday 27th July: Raid on camp near food distro in the morning
Three vans of CRS along with PAF officers arrived at the sleeping area near the food distribution just before eight o clock in the morning. CMS activists sleeping there alerted the group and about ten activists arrived on the scene very quickly, which seemed to confuse and worry the police. One activist was grabbed for trying to pass officers on a public path, not even headed towards the vans or the arrests. He was brutally restrained and kicked whilst in restraint, arrested and held for five hours, and released without charge but with a caution for ‘rebellion’.
Seven migrants were arrested from the camp and whilst the activist was in Coquelles he saw about twenty five held overall. It seems the police have been busy today. PAF at the raid were heard discussing how many people they needed to arrest, presumably for a quota, highlighting again how irrelevant individual cases are to the police’s behaviour and to policy.
Philippe Migonet, an aide to mayor and a well known figure in harrasment and abuse of migrants, was present at the raid, and went straight to the town hall to shake hands and be congratulated afterwards.
Workers moved in and cleared out the camp afterwards, destroying and removing tents, sleeping bags and other possessions. CMS activists were able to salvage some which can be returned when their owners are released. The police had left before morning distribution time and breakfast was held as normal.
Kitchen reminder: we still urgently need people and supplies as explained in yesterday’s post. Please consider coming if you fit the bill!
Tuesday 26th July
By sunday the current kitchen will have left Calais. The charities don’t seem to see this as serious enough to step back in and there is a period of at least a week or maybe more where we are lacking food and people to cook it. Some people here are transferring their energies to this but not enough: we urgently need more people with cooking and kitchen co-ordination skills and donations of food or money to buy it. These are currently the most needed things in Calais.
Action at the beach for Prefecture visit
Prefecture of Calais visits CRS to conduct an award ceremony on the beach, commending them on their work both on the streets and in the Channel Crossing waters. No Borders interrupted the proceedings with banners, whistles, chants and speeches telling the truth about the work of the CRS under the command of the Prefecture. The ceremony was forced to retreat from the balcony inside, and activists were pushed away into the car park out of site. Activists without papers were threatened with arrest but the threats turned out to be empty. Ever since his nomination to the position of Pas-de-Calais prefect, the destructions of shelters, attacks on water sources, use of tear gas and pepper spray to disperse people, attempts at collective deportations, nd the disregard for protection of minors have been amplified; aiming to stop the crossing of political refugees to England and make life unbearable in Calais. Trampling on the Geneva Convention, the French State through its prefect, de Bousquet, organizes the racial profiling in the streets of Calais and covers all the police violence periodically used by the CRS and the PAF officers of Coquelles, with the complicity of the Calais town hall. Saturday 23rd July: ‘Welcome to Fortress Europe’ action at City Europe This afternoon over a dozen No Borders activists blocked both vehicle entrances into the City Europe compound, stopping shoppers and screening those trying to enter with rules almost as arbitrary as those used at real borders… checking the colour of their cars, stopping people wearing hats or glasses or with too many people in the car, seeing as Fortress Europe was getting full. While people shouted ‘contrôl frontière ici’ vehicles refused entry were directed to Coquelles detention centre on the street opposite. After only several minutes some people trying to enter became very irate at the inconvenience this mock border control was causing to their afternoon shopping. However many people were receptive to the demonstration and its purpose and lots of leaflets explaining the situation in Calais were distributed, with people taking on board the point of the action. Security and police arrived soon after and removed the barrier at one gate. Activists in high-visibility jackets continued to control and direct traffic for half an hour before being forced into the car park. This fake ‘control zone’ demonstration mimics the farce of ID and border controls that segregate and persecute people because of their race, nationality and income. Immigration and border controls are forcefully making people homeless. In Calais every place people move to, to eat, rest or sleep, has been subject to mass raids and constant harassment, leaving people with literally nowhere left to go. No Borders denounce the compliance of the police and the municipal services with such barbaric orders and denounce the complicity of those who witness this and yet remain unquestioningly silent. We are all human. We must challenge the hypocrisy and segregation that border controls create. Friday 22nd July Three CRS vans were patrolling around Calais this evening, racially profiling people and stopping those who look ‘foreign’ to check their ID. Many people did in fact have papers, but this does not stop them being constantly harassed. An officer from CRS compainge 111/9, who was controlling two migrants with papers in the park, spewed racist comments, saying to female No Borders activist ‘you will cry when you have to start wearing burqas’, whilst laughing and smoking his pipe. Thursday 21st July Police told people staying in a warehouse that they would not raid so long as No Borders did not stay there, as an attempt to try to fracture relations between us and get us out of the way. On Thursday morning 3 vans of police raided anyway, arresting 5 people and taking them to Coquelles. Tuesday 19th JulyOne of the jungles was destroyed today by the police, peoples tents and personal belongings were taken and put in the dump.
Thursday 14th July: Banner drop
Bastille Day was marked by activists in Calais with a banner unfurled along Rue Royale, the main entertainement street in Calais and one which is situated on the official parade route.
The banner read “The Bastille has fallen, but not Fortress Europe”, and its unfurlement was timed to coincide with France’s national celebration of the revolution and commemoration of the sacking of the Bastille prison fortress. The police spent a long time thinking about how to remove it, before calling the fire brigade.
Wednesday 13th July
In July and August, the charities in Calais operate a scaled-down service because it ‘s the French holiday period. As such, each year, migrants in the area live off a meal a day, something which no doubt makes the tough and strenuous existence in Calais all the more difficult. If you are in a police cell when food is served you have lost your chance to have a meal, and the walk back to Calais is long and tiring.
Last year, despite our lack of access to proper cooking facilities, we operated a mobile kitchen for the jungles and prepared collective meals over a fire at (the now evicted) Africa House.
This year we have coordinated a grassroots activist catering collective operation, who will be visiting Calais on a rota to provide material support to the sans-papiers community.
Since the 6th July, on a site near the town hall, a Swedish collective has been distributing breakfast and a hot meal each day to supplement the meal given by the charities. Music provides some entertainment and light relief from the recent crackdown. Although this is an ‘unauthorised’ distribution, the police have simply been watching us rather unsubtlely from an unmarked car (pictured).
However, we will need help transporting the food and cateirng equipment over the next two months – if you have a vehicle and some spare time, please get in touch!
Tuesday 12th July: Activists acquitted
The charges came after a police attack on the Africa House squat at 9am in the morning on 21 April. As usual, a No Borders patrol was keeping watch at the barricades as 5 vanloads of border police (PAF) and CRS riot cops appeared. The watch gave the alarm so that residents without papers could escape onto the roofs, and then filmed the police activity with two video cameras. Just another regular morning in Calais. That morning the police appeared particularly riled up: this was the first big raid since No Borders had released the “videos of shame” showing police harassment and humiliation tactics in Calais, which had been widely viewed across France and attracted national TV and radio coverage. It was noticeable that on 21 April the cops violently targeted the two people filming. Police officers smashed the activists cameras and erased the footage, dragged one person across the floor, smashed another’s face against a knee, and pounced on a third person taking her down to the floor.
The two comrades filming, and one other who went to their aid, were then arrested and charged with rebellion (violence against the police), as well as “illegal occupation” of the building, and then also with resisting being fingerprinted in the police station.
Six officers gave carbon copy replica false statements with a complete opposite version of what happened, claiming that they were beaten by the three activists. None of the police officers involved turned up to court. They also claimed the cameras they were wearing during the raid were disconnected. So with absolutely no evidence the No Borders activists were discharged, both from ‘rebellion’ and ‘illegal occupation’. They were found guilty of resisting fingerprints, but with no penalty. The trial took place in the court at Boulogne-sur-mer, a town along the coast from Calais. Around 20 supporters came to show solidarity.
The trial follows another recent courtroom victory last month, in which three residents of Africa House were also acquitted of “illegal occupation” of the squat. These court judgments on “illegal occupation” may be significant for the future, as they seem to block an attempt by the state to criminalise the migrant squats in Calais. That court case also brought attention to the state’s abuse of its legal obligations to refugees under “human rights” legislation: many of the migrant squatters in Calais have claimed asylum in France and are legally entitled to accommodation, which the state fails to provide. The last Africa House is now in the process of demolition, but migrants will keep on coming to Calais to cross the border, and keep on needing places to sleep and shelter.
Over the last several months the police have attempted to land activists with a whole range of charges to see what they can get away with and to try to deter activists from intervening and exposing what is happening in Calais. Their strategy will not work.
Tuesday 5th of July: River camp Evicted
In the afternoon, a large group of PAF and CRS raided a migrant camp on a disused railway siding opposite the BCMO. Many migrants were staying there after having been evicted from their squats, sleeping in tents and in the open. After blowing whistles to alert the migrants to the arrival of the police and in some cases using their bodies and a bike to stop the police vans, No Borders activists were “controlled”, being searched and having their identities checked. When asked what legal powers that the police were using, one CRS officer replied “I am the law.”
Three migrants were arrested, while a PAF boat patrolled on the river to detain anyone who attempted to escape by jumping in the river. Activists tried to save as many of the migrant’s possessions as possible, in some cases breaking free of police control and outrunning the CRS with armfuls of sleeping bags. After controlling the activists and arresting migrants, the activists were pushed back and a municipal cleaning crew wearing hazards suits and hygiene masks moved in to destroy the camp.
Whilst pushing the activists back, the police used choke holds and tear gas with absolutely zero provocation, tear-gassing a by-standing asylum seeker. Due to the relatively central location this camp, by this point French bystanders had gathered, with a handful of them horrified by what was going on. Migrants and activists could only watch as invaluable personal possessions were removed to later be thrown into the rubbish. Whilst this happened, the CRS were roundly abused in English, French and Arabic, being compared to the agents of Vichy France and being told that “there are no police in Egypt.” As the CRS departed they deployed their sirens and blue lights for no apparent reason. A French news crew was present throughout the raid, talking mostly to the police.
The removal of personal possessions such as tents and sleeping bags which are vital for migrants who are forced to sleep rough is a gross violation of human rights, and as well as causing suffering amongst the migrants in the ever varying weather of a coastal area. Furthermore, none of the correct legal processes that are needed for a eviction were carried out, making it an illegal act under French law.
This latest eviction is another in a row of systematic assaults on the rights of migrants that have been happening since the eviction of Africa House on Monday the 27th of June, designed to make life here unbearable for them. Videos of the eviction and assaults on activists here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MrmEhXG3YIc Monday the 4th of July: Eviction of the food distribution area
Following the eviction of Africa House squat on Monday the 27th, many of the migrants have been sleeping in the food distribution area. A barren area by the docks, enclosed by a fence topped with barbed wire, it offers little in the way of protection from neither chill, rain nor the glare of the summer sun. The charity association Salam, who are entrusted with the distribution of morning and evening meals have began a month long holiday leaving nothing in way of provisions in their absence. This means there is currently only a lunch meal provided by Belle Etoile.
No Borders activists have been assisted in ameliorating the food situation through the contribution of volunteer kitchens. As No Borders has not been state approved for this, we are technically not allowed to do this. Police from PAF, BACS and National divisions have been constantly monitoring the distributing area since the eviction of Africa House, with activities ranging from raids to officers creeping in at night and waking migrants to ask them “friendly” questions in a continuation of the psychological war being waged against those in transit. On the evening of the 3rd of July, the volunteer kitchen distributed a meal to approximately 60 migrants.
No sooner was the meal finishing up than officers from the National Police and PAF arrived on all sides of the compound, almost outnumbering the migrants in nearly a dozen police vans and cars. They declared they were making no arrests but numerous migrants prudently scaled the roof of the two kitchen buildings in the compound. The police then announced that as the distribution area was city property, it was illegal for people to gather or sleep there outside the government-approved times and only then under approved agencies. Everyone had to leave immediately and anything left behind was to be seized and taken by the police. Migrants and activists who tried to take large armfuls of possessions, some taking those of people who were not in the area at that moment, so as to be able to give it to them later were prevented by police and only allowed a degree of possessions deemed adequate by some unexplained police rationale.
Migrants who scaled the roof were induced to come down with the threat of the loss of their meagre possessions, and the eviction of men, women, and children (one individual without even shoes) seemingly in no way troubled the “forces of order”. When challenged as to the reason for eviction, individual officers either ignored the question in English or French, or suggested damage (though he was subsequently unable to show a single damaged item in the area). The PAF “coordinator of the operation” even threatened an activist that he should be careful or they would make him “eat the concrete”. Questions as to the logic of protecting the city of Calais and its property by turning people out to sleep scattered across the entire town were equally met with blank stares or professions of “only doing my job”, the self-justifying preservation of many a collaborator, and one that should still be despised in an area where survivors of Vichy rule still live.
Activists removed their kitchen equipment and salvaged as much of people’s possessions as they could, repatriated some with their owners and took the remainder to the garage to keep safe for people who weren’t present during the eviction. All remaining clothes, sleeping bags and personal effects were thrown into a city council lorry for removal to the dump.
Monday the 4th of July: Later Events
Following the brutal eviction of Salam tensions were running high. People running from the police with all their worldly belongings in their arms dispersed, seeking safety in the jungles or in space spaces across the city from churches that offer sanctuary to under canal bridges. Some congregated by the benches between the railway tracks when suddenly two groups of Eritrean and Sudanese began arguing and violence broke out with roughly ten migrants on each side attacking each other with stones and fist-sized rocks taken from the rail lines. Activists tried to intervene between the groups and where possible disarm them. Both sides sustained several cuts and head wounds before they disengaged. There has been a history of conflict between these two communities in Calais. Migrants described the root cause being access to the parking lots that are run by the various mafias. As border controls are increasingly stringent these kinds of groups become more powerful, able to determine who passes through their designated territories.
Clearly border controls exacerbate conflict between communities. These conflicts are by no means inherent as there are small squats currently occupied by people of both communities and good relations are evident, many people frequently speak of being united as brothers and how proud they are to be Africans.
During the fight there were several police cars present who at no point attempted to intervene. The violent outbreak was entirely predictable as a result of a more relentless than usual systematic persecution and generating such fights are an important part of any imperialists ‘divide and rule’ strategy. If maintaining the peace was the true aim of the authorities, the discrepancy between their response to a group of migrants trying to eat and sleep in an isolated area literally fenced off from the rest of Calais and the voyeuristic response to a provoked rock fight in the middle of town betray the hypocrisy of those guardians of ‘Liberté, égalité, fraternité’ in the 5th Republic.
Following the altercation those Eritrean migrants left and the Sudanese moved to join a mixed group of migrants who had settled on a flat area by the canal. Activists provided them with tents, sleeping bags and jackets and assisted in erecting a site for around 25-30 migrants. Police presence at several potential squat sites and a general heavy presence across town prevented activists from being able to open a squat in aftermath of the eviction. By the time shelter and warmth was provided for everyone present it was after 1am. A watch of activists was set up in three-hour shifts to cover the night and early morning. The night passed uneventfully and it was 8am before a Police National car came to the camp to inform us that it was illegal to camp here and we must go. Again, questions of where could people go were stonewalled. The volunteer kitchen provided breakfast and tea at the camp at 10am, while other activists alerted those arriving at food distribution of the location of the food. During the lunchtime Belle Etoile distribution, migrants were reunited with some of their possessions saved from the night’s expulsion.
Saturday 2nd July: No Borders blockade Coquelles detention centre and police station
On Saturday morning around thirty people blockaded the main gates and entrances to Coquelles detention centre and police station in retaliation to the mass evictions and arrests of migrants in Calais and the ongoing abuses resulting from French and European migration policies.
At 7am two concrete barrels were rolled outside the main gates of the compound, four people locked-on while others chained together the front doors of the police station as well as the pedestrian gate. No Borders activists also surrounded the concrete barrels interlinked in a human chain. Attempts to barricade shut the front doors of the Tribunal were unfortunately scuppered by an early intervention of several police officers who happened to be outside smoking by those doors.
After an hour and a half of the blockade, the first thing the police decided to do was and ID check of all the demonstrators; threatening to arrest people without papers (… of course this is what they do everyday in Calais). Afterwards the police began to break up the human chain formed around the concrete barrels protecting people locked on. They aggressively prized people apart one by one and dragged them away to a separate area. Two people who withheld their identity papers were arrested, and later charged with non-compliance. No other arrests were made. Symptomatically the only charges were against those who, in solidarity with people without papers, did not give their ID.
Police attempt to damage relations between migrants and activists
Police have been employing tactics to create suspicion and discord between migrants, and us, including the use of whistles when they raid (usually our method of alerting people); and at times raiding and simply asking if there are any No Borders activists present – the inevitable and intended result being that people start to associate us with the police (even though when we are present, the purpose of their raids are to arrest migrants, not us).
With a constantly changing migrant population, very good reasons to be mistrustful, and the lack of common language, it has been very challenging to build and maintain a relationship of trust. Yet in the circumstances we have done very well – we do not need the added complication of continual dirty tactics on the part of the police.
Thursday 30th June: Mass arrests at food distribution and Dunkirk.
Following the evictions of Africa, Global House and the whole camp of Teteghem in the matter of a couple of days, more than 80 migrants, left with absolutely nowhere to go, resorted to trying to sleep in the fortified site of food distribution last night. This indicates real desperation since there is no exit route and it is in a highly visible and prominent location.
As expected, at 9.50pm, several CRS vans from Companie 60 and arrest vans were seen heading in the direction of the food distribution. We followed on to find dozens of people lined up against arrest vans and the police going through peoples’ belongings. A few people had managed to escape onto the roof of the Salam distribution kiosk from where the police tried to goad them down.
The police left with 35 people; all of whom allegedly had no papers. They warned the remaining fifty or so (who had papers) that if they slept there they would return to arrest them.
When we were finally able to enter the compound tensions were sky high. Deeply frustrated people were asking where they are meant to go if they are chased and arrested at every location. One man, who had been beaten by the police seemed to lose it, walking round and screaming “fuck the police!” again and again. People are despairing and countless migrants say they are being driven mad by the systematic efforts to stop them from sleeping or finding a space to sit in peace.
This continual harassment, humiliation and sleep depravation is a form of psychological warfare, the effects of which cannot be adequately illustrated here. If you are an unaccompanied child; you have escaped severe repression, torture or conflict in your own country; or you have spent years being hounded by European police and immigration officers, as is the case with many people here, the policy being played out in Calais is going to have serious consequences for your mental health.
We had a meeting with lots of people about the various options for places to sleep, which will continue today.
There was a mass arrest in the jungle in Dunkirk today. 40 people were arrested and taken into detention. The makeshift camps, sleeping bags and belongings were all completely destroyed or stolen by the police.
Wednesday 29th June
Last night, Tuesday, police visted the university buildings. They made no arrests but instead told people it would be safe to stay there for ten days. More people moved to the buildings due to this, but no one was so trusting that they were shocked when a raid took place this morning and about 30 people were arrested.
The tactic of arresting people for no apparent reason other than to give them a long walk back from Coquelles continued today, with a small squat near New Sudan House being raided and two people being taken to the station but immediately released.
New Sudan House/Old Africa House was evicted today. This is the third eviction in as many days with no sign of legal justification or a strong response from the associations or government.
Police have visited food distribution two nights in a row, disturbing people’s sleep, counting people, and asking questions about nationality and numbers of people sleeping there. This may mean a raid here is imminent, driving people into completely vulnerable situations on streets and in parks, where many already are.
This huge increase in evictions may be a sign of a serious new attempt to make life in Calais unliveable. When borders get stronger, so does No Borders! We need all the people on the ground we can get- please, bring your energy, ideas and skills. Or even just some tents!
Monday 27th June update continued: ‘AFRICA HOUSE’ AND ‘GLOBAL HOUSE’ EVICTED
At 6am four vans of PAF (Police Aux Frontières) officers, accompanied by city workers and plain clothes police, raided Africa House. They ran in, but to their surprise, most people (mainly those without papers) had already got away with all their belongings. About 30 people, (almost entirely people with papers) decided to stay in Africa House. The PAF immediately forcefully removed activists inside supporting people who chose to stay, also snatching their camera and throwing it into bushes outside. Then one by one the people living there were forced out the back of Africa House out of sight of journalists waiting at the front. One person was arrested.
As a result of being evicted from Africa House, the shelter and home of around 100 people with and without papers, many people moved to ‘Global House’ a big empty factory 20 minutes walk away, only to be forced out on the street again that same evening. Private security ‘LSG’ surrounded the factory with dogs, accompanied on and off by Police Nationale and PAF, letting people leave but not re-enter. During the day most people went to Distribution to get food and water but found when they returned afterwards they could not get back into the squat or get their belongings. The security refused to allow food and drink inside, but activists managed to smuggle bits in. Later in the evening at around 9.30pm the private security finally evicted everyone. Those left inside managed to take everyone’s things with them but many people’s bags, clothes, blankets are not yet reunited with their owners.
Overnight people had to sleep dispersed in different places – outside under makeshift shelters, in the Jungle, in the parks, under bridges or in other more vulnerable abandoned buildings.
MORE INFO ON AFRICA HOUSE EVICTION – they don’t even listen to their own rules…
The eviction of Africa House was illegal under French law. No legal justification was given and the police refused to produce documents or to follow correct procedure. When evicting people in France they must be informed beforehand, notices placed in City Hall and on the building in question, and people are allowed to contest the decision (how to do this should be included in the notice). The police must show the judgement when making the eviction. None of these practices have been observed. Notices must be placed on the building and in city hall before demolition works, which there has been no sign of either, but machines have moved in and begun destroying the place.
Asylum seekers in France are entitled to accommodation. For months and years, many people have been ignored and denied this, which is why many have been living in Africa House. Recently three Sudanese men were accused of ‘illegal occupation’ of Africa House, but were found not guilty. Those with papers in Africa House were offered some accommodation when they were evicted but for how long or where was not made very clear to them, some were offered just 24 hours accommodation out of town. Some people had appointments regarding their cases or humanitarian aid in the next couple of days in Calais, and the accommodation they were offered was a long, expensive journey away, making it very difficult for them to actually take up even this meagre offer of help without it jeopardising other things. Although the eviction for those with papers was illegal in many ways, for those without papers the law is even less help. Where it is legal to make people homeless, treat them like dirt and leave them destitute and subject to police violence, it is still completely morally wrong. No amount of law can make these things acceptable and the constant treatment of migrants in Calais is one of systematic and institutionalised abuse. Where it also contradicts law this shows just how acceptable and condoned by authorities this has become, and what disregard the people involved have for any form of restrictions. The more challenges that can be made against this the better, including in support of those who happen to fall out of the law’s protection. They are in no less need of aid, and often their situation is more desperate. MEETING WITH HUMAN RIGHTS DEFENDER- On the same day that private security was threatening homeless men and women with dogs and police (some of these just barked and looked ugly, the others were on leads, being dogs), and PAF patrolled the outside of the home of around 100 people to allow demolition machinery in, a meeting was being carried out in Paris. This was between France’s new ombudsman for Human Rights, and various associations and No Borders activists who were presenting the dossier compiled by CMS activists on police violence in Calais. A lot of interest was shown and the next step is for some of the officials to begin some enquiries. Monday 27th June update: AFRICA HOUSE EVICTED; ‘GLOBAL HOUSE’ UNDER IMMINENT THREAT
This morning Africa House was evicted. A large number of people moved to a new place, called the Global House. However, not tolerating any shelter for migrants, it now looks like the Global House is going to be evicted TOMORROW. At the moment, there is security in front, allowing people to leave Global House, but not allowing anyone coming in.
We really need as many people on the ground as possible, so if you were thinking to come to Calais, COME NOW!
Monday 27th June – Africa House eviction, now.
5.00am showed the start of the eviction and destruction of Africa House. More information will be published when available.
Thursday 23rd June
This morning the PAF raided the university buildings outside the back of Africa House, four people were arrested.
At around 10.30am two suits came into Africa House accompanied by PAF, wondered around sizing up exits. Later in the afternoon at around 5pm ten workers turned up accompanied by one CRS van and one PAF van and began looking around all of the area in Africa House and the university buildings whilst taking notes on the structures of the place. It seems likely this is all in preparation for an eviction/demolition.
Meanwhile some GOOD NEWS: Today three Sudanese men were found not guilty for ‘illegal occupation’ of Africa House, as well as one no borders activist who, on a separate occasion, was accused falsely of assaulting a police officer during a raid.
*22/6/11 BREAKING NEWS: Africa House threatened with eviction over the next few days*
The Mayor Natacha Bouchart announced yesterday to the Council of Migrants that Africa House is going to be evicted in the next few days.
We are not sure if this really means the next few days or more like the next few weeks given the history of false alarms on this subject. This is why this is not an ’emergency call-out’, but IF YOU HAVE ANY TIME TO SPARE, whether in the next few days OR in weeks to come, we could really do with more people on the ground, either for defending Africa House or
for searching for and opening new squats. This will depend on the wishes of people in the current Africa House- CMS is working to discuss the near future with the migrants. If you can come, the most important thing to bring is YOU, but second to that tents, tarps, blankets and anything to make shelters are essential right now (and it is festival season…). Pots and pans and the usual are also useful if there is extra space.
Wednesday 22nd June
In Paris today there was a press conference for the release of the dossier on police violence and systematic repression in Calais, produced over the years Calais Migrant Solidarity have been a presence. Held at the office of Gisti in Paris, it was attended by many human rights organisations.
The dossier will be presented to France’s new ombudsman for human rights, for an investigation into the human rights abuses and how high up the system they are condoned, on Monday. No Borders activists attended the conference and spoke about police repression and violence, and the system’s inherent problems which cannot be addressed by reform. Newspapers in attendance included the AFP Press Agency, Rue 89, Nouvel Obs online, Nord Littoral and l’Humanite.
***The dossier of human rights abuses which we have compiled can be downloaded (in French for now) here.
Meanwhile in Calais PAF carried out a raid accompanied by plain clothes police, and made six arrests. CMS activists were quickly controlled in a building and prevented from taking footage.
One activist was also arrested today. Attempting to peacefully film police making an arrest in an enclosed space, she was grabbed and put in a high-stress hold. Alone with five male officers, she was forced to the ground and gagged to keep from shouting. One officer pinned her down with pressure on her chest and her neck whilst others ripped at her clothes, having removed the camera to delete the videos. She was taken to Coquelles but released after less than half an hour with no charges. Two migrants were arrested at the same time, just as arbitrarily, and released at the same time.
Tuesday 21st June
Half a dozen PAF officers came to the back of Africa House and began to run inside. When activists blew whistles they laughed and slowed to a walk, mocking the migrants and activists, having disturbed people’s sleepwith yet more fear. They checked IDs but made no arrests.
English and French lessons continue in Africa House daily and are well received. With the weather slightly better many people are keeping their spirits up playing ball games outside in the courtyards.
More stress was piled on today though with the outbreak of a dangerously large fire in one of the many piles of rubbish throughout Africa House, which wouldn’t be an issue if the local authorities collected it. The fumes alone were highly toxic and hurt to breathe and there was adanger one of the upper sleeping spaces could catch on fire. The Fire Brigade arrived with Police Nationale and had to break down the barricade to enter. PAF joined them and wasted no time in getting a truck to haul many of the barriers away. The barricade was rebuilt in no time though.
Monday 20th June
On the road near Africa House this morning three people had their ID checked and two were subsequently arrested.
Last night at about midnight an activist on watch at the rear of Africa House was stopped by the police as he was cycling. They were approaching Africa House with an arrest van and seemed to be intending to quietly make some arrests, until they saw they were being observed. They ID’d him, and when he showed them a driving licence they insisted on seeing his passport as well because with only the licence “he might be Morrocan” (?!) They hunted for a reason to give him trouble, and in the end told him to go to the town police station the next day to be fined eleven euros for not having the right lights on his bike. When he went there this morning he was greeted with blank stares. This was just more threats with some
racism thrown in.
Sunday 19th June
Today is the start of International Refugee Week. After lunchtime food distribution music and partying started and carried on well into the afternoon. Tables and chairs were set out, a band played and then Ethiopian and Sudanese music was played over the PA to much dancing. The crowd included children, who played happily, as well as many of the migrants, charity workers and CMS activists, and the food distribution area was decorated with different flags.
Though postponed today due to people being at the food distribution much longer, English and French lessons are currently taking place every day in Africa House and are well received.
The CRS continue to harass and make arrests on the way to and from food distribution. Yesterday bike patrols saw someone new to Calais arrested on his way to food early in the morning.
The man who resisted violence and tried to explain he had papers during the raid on Friday was released later that day with an injured arm which the police doctor had strapped up. The police acted very nicely while he was in the station, and told him he should not file a case against them for their use of violence as it would take a long time and delay, or go
against his asylum application. It is not their place to advise him, and shows knowledge of their guilt in abusing their power and fear of more people hearing about their actions.
Friday 17th June
Today, CRS Unit 49 and PAF came to Africa House, arriving fast and shoving activists aside violently as they ran in to make as many arrests as possible. Many people got safely onto the roof or ran away, and many also had papers and were let free today.
They made nine arrests, including one man who has papers and was trying to explain they were in his jacket in a different building as two cops violently suppressed him, another hitting him. Another man tried to run as others were being arrested, and he was chased and pushed back into the building with his arms held up behind his shoulders. He was pepper sprayed in the head. Activists were ‘controlled’ (ID’ed), and a video camera which was not concealed in time was violently removed from one activist by three CRS officers.
Tuesday 14th June
Nine people were arrested in a raid on Tuesday morning, and two people were picked up yesterday on the bridge down from food distribution site. More arrests inevitably take place, but with few of us on the ground at the moment we can’t record or intervene in all of them. Come to Calais if you can!
Wednesday 8th June
A large raid was carried out with about 30 CRS and PAF officers, making 18 arrests.
Monday 6th June
The French Interior Minister and Theresa May from the UK Home Office held a conference in Calais on tightening border controls yet further… According to the mainstream media, there was a specific request on the part of May to clampdown on illegal immigration even more in anticipation of Arab Spring refugees. CMS activists observed but were singled out to be kept away by police and then physically restrained with no explanation for an hour. Their bags were searched and only reluctantly returned.
Aminullah Mohamadi: The life and death of a young Afghan refugee
Aminullah Mohamadi, a 17-year old Pashtun asylum seeker in Paris, hung himself from a tree in Villette Park fearing deportation back to Afghanistan.
His story bears strong similarities to that of many of the refugees living on the streets of Calais.
According to his brother Abdallah, the family had moved around constantly to flee the violence in Afghanistan, seeking refuge in both Pakistan and Iran before being sent back. The family raised 14,700 euros from the sale of their orchards to fund Aminullah’s journey to a more secure destination.
However, once he reached Turkey, Aminullah was detained.
Aminullah, who would have been around 14 years old at the time, then spent four months in prison in Ankara before being deported once again back to Afghanistan.
Weeks later he made another attempt and reached Greece. There he endured arrest and was forced to work illegally to finance the remainder of his journey to his target destination, Norway. On his third attempt, he exited the country hidden on a lorry seven months later.
Since his eventual arrival in France in November 2009, Aminullah had been living in a mixture of care homes, hotels, and on the streets. His friend Haroun says that Aminullah was told that on reaching 18 he would be deported back to Afghanistan.
Yet says that Aminullah, who had now learnt French and had aspirations to become a plumber, had insisted that he never wanted to go back; “If I kill myself, Do not take my body in Afghanistan. Even in death, I do not want to return.”
A quick glance at the situation in Igoumenitsa, Greece
Calais is no exception for undocumented migrants. The situation for migrants in other European countries, in particular, Greece, is notorious. The same war of social cleansing is being played out at various foci of repression along migrants’ routes; and the same tactics being employed.
What follows is a callout for solidarity in Igoumenitsa, Greece, issued on 23/05/11 in anticipation of eviction of the jungles there currently occupied by 500-700 migrants. Spot the tactics used in Calais…
“There have been around 400 arrests during the last weeks and the police announced to arrest the (as they say) 300 remaining migrants.
Igoumenitsa is the second largest exit-port for migrants from Greece to Italy. Around 500-700 refugees from all war-zones of the world (Sudanese, Eritreans, Afghans, Saharaouis from Morocco, Iraqis, Kurds and Maghrebinias) are living under inhuman and degrading conditions in the mountains close to the port, waiting for their chance to leave Greece and find a safe haven in the North – “the real Europe” as they say. There are quite a lot of migrants who stay in Igoumenitsa for many months now. Many of them made it already several times to the Italian ports but were deported before being able to leave the port or apply for asylum. A lot of people have been deported from European countries before due to the DublinII Regulation.
They are living in small huts without water or electricity or any sanitary infrastructure. Most of the sans-papiers have totally run out of money. They can not afford to buy food. Every night you see people searching for food in the garbage. They are starving from hunger….
…the police opened a new hunting-season by arresting great numbers of sans-papiers every day, thus, hindering them from entering the city and imposing an embargo of food on them. Most of the people arrested in Igoumenitsa are transferred into prisons and detention centres far away from Igoumenitsa. After being released they will have to make all the way back by foot. The ones who strand here are the ones who have run out of money…
…The police already evicted settlement sites at the seaside and inside the city. The migrants from these places are moving to other jungles, building new huts there. It is very obvious that police will try to evict also these places. Like in former times they will most probably destroy the huts, the small pieces of privacy, the few clothes and personal things that the refugees could save for them and arrest as many people as possible.
The situation is escalating and the sans-papiers need support and solidarity!
They ask for support from inside and outside of Greece by activists and journalists.
They want their problems to be heard and their struggle to be supported.
It would be important to have a changing group of people here during the next weeks and months to observe the situation, document cases of police-violence and of continuing police raids.
People who have the interest and time to come NOW and support the sans-papiers and the local solidarity structures in their fight for their rights can contact us:
Note: We also need more people in Calais – see the emergency callout, below
The CRS (compagnie 7) raided Africa House this morning. Arriving around 7.30am at the front and back of the buildings. Again they only seemed to make a half hearted attempt to be fast entering the compound, a small chase followed and one man managed to climb half onto the roof before an officer grabbed his foot and tried to pull him down. On the order of another officer he was released and managed to get to safety on the roof. One other man was caught and arrested.
The CRS who were raiding the university buildings at the back had had more luck and 12 arrests were made – this time including the three year old boy and his mother. There were very mixed attitudes to this from the police. Some officers were (almost apologetically) trying to make excuses for why they were doing their jobs, “I have a family and children to feed” etc.. but others found the situation very amusing, joking that arresting a child really filled their quota for the day and that they were going to get off work afterwards to drink a beer.
One officer in particular was exceptionally disgusting making a continuous stream of racist and sexist jokes and whistling the tune to “The Animals Went In Two by Two” while he was loading people into the arrest van. CMS activists desperately tried to get the mother and child released but after pleading proved fruitless they blocked the arrest van from leaving, slamming fists on the bonnet and demanding that the child was let go. A small scrum followed as officers dragged the activists out of the road letting the arrest van speed away.
This wasnt the end of the raid as another eight people were gathered up by officers and held in one place to wait for the arrest van to come back. During the wait, CMS activists were verbally abused by officers, the women called tarts and prostitutes and told that the only thing they did for the migrants in Calais was to sleep with them. Once the van had come back all the arrested were loaded inside and then in an apparent backwards system had their papers checked in the van – after their arrest! Seven of the eight had papers and were then let back out of the van, only one man being taken to the police station.
The child was released later that day.
Three PAF officers entered the university buildings this morning searching for a particular person or persons unknown. No arrests were made.
The CRS (compagnie 7) arrived shortly afterwards and made a very slow attempt to raid the main buildings of Africa House. Before they had even managed to get into the compound everyone was on the roof. After taking a look around, to confirm there really was nobody left, they arrested one man with papers on the street outside of Africa House and left. CMS activists followed in a car. The new unit of CRS then proceeded to get lost on the way to Palestine House (where most likely they hoped to make more than one arrest this time). Unfortunately no such luck as CMS activists were already sounding the alarm. No arrests were made and so the police moved on to the next target, leaving one van behind to block in the car. Eventually the van moved and CMS activists were able to catch up with the other officers who were now searching the park for sans-papiers. Whistles were blown and one Sudanese man managed to get away. Again, no arrests were made. This time the police decided to hunt No Borders instead and chased the car of activists up a one way street with sirens and lights blaring. Pulling the car over they controlled the driver, checking her license, insurance and ID. After finding nothing to complain about they let the car go.
Later on in the afternoon, PAF returned to Africa House to continue the hunt for this particular person or persons unknown. One man was arrested and another managed to escape. CMS activists tried to give the arrested man one euro to get the bus back from Coquelles but officers refused this, threatening an activist – “Do you want a smashed in face?“.
PAF raided the university buildings this morning at just past 8.00am. 10 arrests were made. Fortunately though a mother and her three year old son were spared the trip to Coquelles, unlike on previous occasions when PAF have had no problem with arresting unaccompanied children (refer to 13th May).
Four police national vans arrived at Africa House at 12.30pm accompanied by a “Ville de Calais” truck with ten city workers. The roof was cleared of all tents, sleeping stuff and personal belongings. Also, the ladders people use to get up onto the roof were taken. The city workers commented to one CMS activist that they didnt enjoy the job, answering “obligé” when asked why they still did it.
Three people were hospitalised today as four fights broke out between the different communities in Africa House. No one was seriously injured.
This afternoon around 150 people took to the streets of Calais in a demonstration against the brutal repression against migrants in the French border town.
The march started at 2.30pm from the “food distribution” cite on Rude de Moscou where sans-papiers are handed their daily gruel, through the main square Place d’Armes and the thoroughfare Rue Royale, ending at the Mairie (Town Hall). At the town hall a wedding party was still going on and blended with the demo’s sound system, while cops blocked the doors of the building and riot police were seen waiting inside. With the presence of many undocumented migrants on the march no one was looking for trouble, and the police stayed calm for once in this town. It was a rare chance for migrants in Calais to make themselves seen and heard, occupying the streets, shouting and waving Banners and hand-made placards in many languages.
The demo was part of a French national day of action against racist immigration policies. It was called by a new collective called “D’ailleurs nous sommes d’ici” (rough translation: anyway we’re from here”) of people involved in solidarity work with migrants in the town, and supported by No Borders Calais as well as trade union members (SUD and CGT), Lille anarchist group, leftist political party NPA, and others. The “official” migrant support organisations such as Salam also supported the demo at least in name, though few of their members were seen on the streets.
10.00am – One man with papers was arrested by PAF in the Hazara Jungle. 26th May: PAF raided the building opposite Africa House this morning, arresting one person. They then entered Africa House but made no arrests. The police returned later that day and made 3 arrests in the university buildings. 25th May: Some footballs, goals and football bibs were brought to Africa House and three different football games then proceeded, carrying on all evening. Art equipment was also brought, for those not playing football, and some beautiful pieces of art were created. (Pictures to be uploaded soon) English and Arabic lessons also occupied most of the day. 24th May: This morning saw the long expected mass raid on Africa House. PAF officers (accompanied by CRS compagnie 4) stormed the complex of buildings at 8.00am. Most people managed to get up to safety on the roof with the alarm given by CMS activists but unfortunately for many others the police were too thorough and 39 arrests were made – including five women and many young Afghan boys. CMS activists were rounded up by CRS officers who, after violently ripping the cameras off them, held the four activists against a wall until the raid was over. The cameras were given by the CRS to a PAF officer who took them out of sight, smashed them and then returned them to the activists. Two CMS activists were arrested for having no papers, handcuffed and loaded into the packed arrest van. The PAF officers who were driving the vehicle thought they would have some fun and, putting on the sirens, sped through the town centre, taking corners like a racing car and occasionally slamming on the brakes. For the people in the back of the van (in handcuffs and without seatbelts) this meant ending up on the floor. After arriving at Coquelles most people were released almost instantly, some without even giving fingerprints, to make the long walk back to Africa House. The CMS activists were held on a bench for several hours before being told to leave with a cheery “À Bientôt!” A man fractured his heel while attempting to cross to England by train. 23rd May: Three PAF officers arrived at the back of Africa House, greeted the CMS activists by name and then, just as the officers had done the night before, looked about – counting the number of people sleeping in the university buildings and blue cabins. They seemed to find it amusing when people woke with a shock, seeing police in their room, and just laughed saying “C’est bon, C’est bon!” (Its good, Its good). 22nd May: A new unit of PAF came to Africa House in the night to look around. They entered the university buildings and, with very poor quality torches, proceeded to count the number of people. No arrests were made and the officers left after commenting down the radio that there were many people sleeping. 20th May: A seriously ill man was taken to hospital by ambulance from Africa House. Again it took an extremely long time for paramedics to respond to the call, leaving the almost unconscious man to wait over half an hour, even though the hospital is on the street opposite Africa House. 19th May: Iranian killed trying to cross the border
Yet another fatality has resulted from this barbarous border regime when an Iranian man hiding in a lorry bound for the UK died as he tried to shut the vehicle’s doors when it was in motion.
A quiet morning with the new CRS Compagnie 29 seems like the calm before the storm. For the last two days Police Aux Frontieres officers have come to Africa House specifically to scout the building, and No Borders activists have seen high profile political figures and senior police officers parked at Africa House this morning. In light of recent information that local police have received a three day training on the eviction strategy for Africa House, Calais Migrant Solidarity believes that the eviction is imminent, and will take place within the next few days.
We also have information that the police are planning to clear and evict migrants who sleep at the Salam food distribution area within the next day or two.
There is an urgent need for activists on the ground in Calais, to guard against serious abuses and brutality, and to non-violently resist eviction where possible. Please come to Calais and lend whatever time you can!
PAF arrived at the back of Africa House around 7.30am but couldn’t drive their vans in because of the new barricade. They knew that we had alerted the residents so they took their time, looking around the abandoned university buildings behind Africa House, and then entered at a slow walk. They checked a few papers and half-heartedly tried to eject activists from the site, but seemed more interested in wandering around, checking the place out. One cop made some comments to one of the female activists (“you have boyfriend in the jungle?”) but the PAF wandered slowly back out without further incident.
About 8.00 or shortly after, three vans of CRS 5 turned up with an arrest van and just parked on the street for 10 minutes, looking unsure. Most of the refugees were already sitting in high places well out of reach, and the cops drove off with no arrests.
At 15.48 an activist was almost knocked off his bike by two PAF in a police car registration AA712YN. As he was cycling across a turning the car crossed the road and accelerated sharply towards him so that he had to dodge out of the way. Then the cops came tearing up behind him and swerved into the cycle lane with a screech, missing his handlebars by a few centimetres.
The food distribution was raided at about 7.40am by Police Aux Frontieres, who arrested around 25 Iranian and Kurdish refugees and left only the two people scheduled for deportation. No Borders activists were called by one of the refugees, and arrived on the scene minutes after the raid began. PAF ejected them from the site immediately so they took positions behind a fence to document what was going on. The man who phoned CMS was taken behind a van and beaten up by the police after asking what would happen to his stuff, and whether he could take some things with him. He later reported a second assault at the CRA detention centre in Coquelles, and that the police knew he was the one who called us to the scene. This clearly indicates that migrants are sometimes attacked for associating with activists, in an attempt by the police to break down the strong ties of solidarity, trust and mutual respect which threaten to make life here a little more bearable. It’s sad and ironic that those fleeing political oppression in countries such as Iran can be subject to politically motivated attacks by European police forces. But that is the daily reality of Calais, a war of attrition fought by making people’s lives unliveable, in order to make a political point.
English lessons resumed today after two days off. The class at Africa House was lively and well attended, but came to a close when someone yelled ‘Police!’ and ran for the door. Two PAF officers were wandering around the courtyard but left when activists emerged from the classroom with cameras. As if on cue, the activists who had just been teaching a lesson on body parts and injuries found themselves treating a nasty infected wound sustained whilst running from the police last week. This is how it goes.
Lastly, CMS activists have been appalled by news of a fascist pogrom against migrants in Athens. The tragic murder of a Greek on 10th May in which the suspects are “dark skinned” has prompted a huge number of brutal revenge attacks and murders by Greek neo-nazis against refugees and migrants including families and young children. Police are present but seem complicit. Read about it here. Photos here.
CRS 5 turned up at Africa House again at about 8.15 this morning. Today they mostly left No Borders alone, stampeding straight past us to catch the refugees before they could escape onto the roof. Activists got the impression that the cops were trying to do this more or less by the book for the benefit of our cameras – no-one was beaten up and none of the activists were assaulted. A few ladders were kicked over and some of the five arrests they made this morning were still fairly rough, with one guy being pinned to the ground and another being arrested and led away without any shoes across a courtyard covered in broken glass (the shoes were returned to him before he was driven away). This morning also saw some passive-aggressive attempts by CRS to stop activists from filming, including two officers filming an activist on their phones from centimetres away from his face in an attempt to intimidate him. The CRS commander then pleaded with the activist to stop filming ‘because we have families’, which presumably means that either the officer himself, or his family, is ashamed to have his face and actions publicised. Needless to say, he received a lecture on human dignity, specifically how the refugees he terrorises also have families, loved ones, and a need to go about their lives peacefully and without harassment.
In a later incident at the Hazara jungle four activists arrived just in time to deter a possible raid by one van of CRS Compagnie 15, who lurked for about 15 minutes and then decided they had better things to do.
After some sporadic police activity early in the week, the Police Aux Frontieres and CRS Compagnie 5 returned in force to perform a big Africa House raid this morning. At around 8am two vans of CRS and one of PAF stormed the front gate of Africa House and ran straight for the makeshift wooden ladders to stop people climbing onto the roof. Very few of the residents were caught out, however, due to a quick response from No Borders activists who alerted the refugees with whistles and began filming the spectacle. The police turned their attention to forcing the activists into one room and stopped them filming, in one case by jumping on the individual and trying to wrench the camera from his hands. Then they returned their attention to the migrants, most of whom were sitting on roofs or the thin edges of ceiling left when interior structures had been torn down in the past.
Undeterred, the cops rounded up about 20 people and placed them under arrest, whilst their colleagues set about destroying four ladders used by the refugees to climb to safety – and to get down again safely afterwards. Three of the arrestees today were young Ethiopian children, aged between about eight and 13. They were arrested and taken to Coquelles without their mother, who was extremely upset and panicking for the safety of her kids. When confronted, the senior PAF officer on the scene shrugged, smiled and replied that the mother had papers and the children did not. Luckily Secours Catholique were there with their van, and one of their people gave the PAF an earful down the phone before taking the mother to Coquelles to get the children released.
Today the police brought with them the owner of the Africa House site and several guys from a construction company called SCT Chaudronnerie, who were briefed to seal up three skylights in the ceiling of Africa House but were hindered by No Borders who kept turning off their generator and tampering with their van. You can contact SCT regarding their complicity on (+33) 03 21 82 14 51.
Once this task was completed and all police and contractors had left the scene, everyone went back into Africa House and pitched in together to undo most of the work that had been done. Four strong new ladders were made and a great feeling of cheerful solidarity was enjoyed by all. Later in the day there was a spirited game of football, and French and English lessons were put on in the afternoon.
Also all through the week there has been delicious Sudanese food cooked by people in Africa House.
At around 4pm 5 people who were collecting water from a pump near the river were surrounded by 3 police vans and aggressively arrested. All were taken to the police station and made to leave their water containers behind. Afterwards others managed to retrieve the containers and return them.
In the evening some out of town French activists held an info event about the Italian mass peoples revolts in the 60’s – 70’s in the cinema, reading testimonies and screening footage from a time where social struggles across class, gender, race came together in force against the state.
At 11.50pm police entered through a broken gap in the fence around the Food Distribution area, waking every person who was sleeping there and making them produce their documents. The police randomly arrested 9 people, some with and some without papers. People with papers were released from the police station shortly after, those without were made to stay longer.
There was no breakfast in the morning at the Food Distribution area. At 8.30am however the border police (PAF: Police Aux Frontieres) came to arrest people who stay in the area, again people with and without papers, 3 men were taken to the police station.
At the same time, around 8.30am, the CRS raided Africa House, chasing after people who are trying to escape. One man chased by police out of the back exit fell hard on concrete and rubble. The police immediately arrested him and one other. The rest of the people got away.
In the afternoon No Borders activists held a instrument making samba playing workshop in Africa House, using bottles, cans and whatever else was lying around to make some sweet rhythm and beats.
Later in the day the front entrance to the new Africa House was blocked with stone to try to stop people who live there from being able to enter, however shortly after, with a bit of effort, it was dismantled allowing people to stay there again.
At 2am in the morning while people were sleeping at the Food Distribution area a police van turned up arresting people with and without papers. In total 7 people were taken to the police station.
Overview of latest events
The last few weeks have seen a stepping-up of the struggle in Calais, after No Borders activists released video footage of police raids and harassment to French national media on 10 April (^1). With TV and radio attention turned on Calais, migrants got a breath of calm as the border police (PAF: Police Aux Frontieres) seemed to take a week off. But they were soon back with a vengeance with a major raid on 21 April which led to over two dozen arrests, including three No Borders activists who were brutally arrested and now face serious charges.
One video, which received thousands of online views in a few hours, showed border police driving into Africa House (the deserted factory complex lived in by around 100 Sudanese, Eritrean, Afghan and other migrants) in the early hours, dancing and joking as they blasted loud African music from squad cars with lights flashing.(^2) ) Other footage showed police hitting activists and smashing cameras, as well as sexual harassment. But these videos really indicate just the tip of the iceberg of the systematic repression taking place in Calais. Many of the worst incidents of police violence against migrants are unlikely to ever be captured on film. Nor can a few video clips make clear the crushing reality of this harassment that goes on every day and every night: constant and repeated ID controls, arrests, raids, beatings, destruction of shelters and possessions, contamination of food and water, and acts of humiliation and psychological warfare. All as part of a deliberate policy agreed by the French and UK governments to “clear” undesirables from the border zone by making life unlivable.
No Borders have been living and working alongside migrants in Calais since the June 2009 No Border camp, and an important part of their work during this time has been filming, monitoring, and documenting police raids and attacks. Activists have collected maybe hundreds of hours of film, as well as photographs, written testimonies and more evidence. There are plenty more “videos of shame” which could be published in future. At this moment activists are in discussions with lawyers about the best approach to take with presenting this evidence, perhaps as part of a legal challenge against the French state.
Africa House, currently the largest migrant settlement in Calais, is attacked by police pretty much every day, sometimes numerous times in the same day or night. So having a whole ten days off from raids was a real material benefit to residents. CRS riot police did make a small incursion at the back of the squatted complex on the morning of the 13th: but when they found out a Radio France journalist was on patrol with No Borders that morning they soon scurried off, even releasing one migrant without papers whom they had been about to detain. The recent French press coverage has been overwhelmingly positive (a surprise for English activists used to the anti-migration rants of the Daily Mail et al.), not only spotlighting the activity of the cops but giving migrants a rare chance to tell their own stories on national media. Such as one Darfuri friend who told how: “I left my country because of war, expecting to find freedom in Europe, and instead I have found another war.”(^3)
Of course the holiday didn’t last long. On 21 April Africa House was raided by five vanloads of CRS riot cops as well as a number of PAF border police, who attacked the building simultaneously from both sides at just after 9 am. More than 20 people without papers were arrested. But in this case the violence was mainly directed at the No Borders activists on the scene — particularly those carrying cameras. Activists were brutally grabbed, dragged on the ground, manhandled and injured. One camera was smashed, another taken and its memory card stolen. Four activists were arrested and held in custody for nine hours. Three of them now face trial on 12 July for charges including “violent resistance in a group” and “illegal occupation”. The former charge is similar to something like “violent disorder” in the UK.
Despite regular No Borders interventions in police raids, if the trial does go ahead it will be one of only a few times the authorities have tried to prosecute activists for serious offences following a squat raid. Such charges have often been threatened, but rarely reached court, perhaps because the police have more to lose themselves from such a trial. Many of these raids, and certainly much standard police conduct during them, are likely to themselves be illegal. With two years’ worth of evidence to make the point, a high profile court case around an Africa House raid could seriously backfire on the “forces of order”.
As one No Border activist commented in a press statement last week: “this trial is no more than a manipulation strategy to try and destroy the image of No Borders, and above all to try and scare us and discourage us from continuing to film and expose the reality of Calais and of its repressive system. We are not afraid: we are ready to go to the courts and seize the opportunity to win this latest political trial.” (^4)
As well as this new trial, two other No Borders activists are currently facing charges of “outrage” (insulting a police officer) and assault on a police officer, from separate incidents. These comrades also need solidarity and support, particularly if there are fines to pay.
Meanwhile, with or without media attention and coutroom battles, the struggle in Calais continues. Whether it’s direct action against the border, or simple acts of everyday solidarity such as sharing a cup of sweet tea by the campfire, the No Borders presence in Calais is getting stronger. As our numbers and networks grow, so do our skills and experience, and we become ready to face new challenges and take new steps to move our struggle forwards. New hands, eyes and minds are always welcome: come and join the resistance.
Tuesday 19th April
A new unit of CRS arrived in Calais today. CRS compagnie 2 spent the morning getting lost and confused on the one way systems round town -but after stopping at the tourist information to get maps they found their feet fast and made four arrests of people walking to morning food distribution.
Monday 18th April
Three Iranian men were arrested walking to food distribution this morning. There was a small altercation between the police and some activists who tried to film the arrests. One officer hit out at the camera, trying to stop it filming.
Sunday 17th April
Two people were arrested while walking to morning food distribution.
Saturday 16th April: Sharing information from Sudan
English lessons over the last couple of days have featured updates from the ground in Sudan from a UK activist focussed on solidarity work with Sudanese people, and discussions on No Borders ideas & how they relate to Sudan in the context of a new national border between North & South Sudan.
Most migrants at Africa House are from Darfur but many have not had access to good information on the political situation since they left – in some cases two years ago.
Thursday’s lesson included an update and discussion on the situation in Abyei, based on the analysis here. Friday’s lesson included updates on the state of various rebel groupings & recent events/conditions in specific geographic areas in Darfur. Materials in English were also given out.
In the future, it is hoped materials in Arabic can also be circulated, and better links can be fostered between the well-organised Darfuri community in the UK and Darfuri migrants based at Africa House.
Three people were arrested while walking to food distribution.
Friday 15th April: More media coverage of the situation in Calais
Over the past few days, the work of Calais Migrant Solidarity has received attention from various French media outlets. A radio interview with No Borders activists can be found here.
In other news, the CRS have continued their strategy of arresting people outside the food distribution site. Yesterday (14/04/2011) a well-known Afghan minor who is claiming asylum in France and who has documents , was arrested after breakfast time. The CRS also continued their routine of racist practices last night: A white activist was stopped with two other migrants, one African and one Afghan. None of them – including the white activist -had papers. They were all ‘controlled’ (ID checked), but only the non-white activists were arrested & the European activist was released. This is the stark reality of life here.
CMS VIDEO BREAKING NEWS ACROSS FRANCE!!
After initially breaking on Rue89, the French media Channel TF1 has just released a video composed of several clips from the work of CMS.
The police are shown pepper-spraying people, being violent, abusive and unprofessional. This video combines several already high-profile clips including the police playing loud music whilst raiding Africa House at night ,and the PAF punching an activist holding a video camera. A CMS activist talks to a radio interviewer about working on the ground in Calais and the use of video cameras in de-escalating violence towards migrants. A police spokesperson also attempts to claim that the police are highly professional whilst a clip of them playing football during a squat raid runs in the background.
CMS is glad that the systematic repression and violence towards migrants in Calais is getting is now widely known throughout France. For new readers please check our archives for more in depth information on police brutality, alternatively please consider joining our work in Calais or donating towards the cause.
Wednesday 13th April
Three people were arrested in the park tonight at 8.30pm. Even though they all had papers they were held in Coquelles overnight, being released the next morning. It seems it is illegal to be in Calais if you are not white.
Monday 11th April One van of CRS visited the university buildings behind Africa House at 6.45am. No arrests were made. The bikes at Palestine house were found broken again. The tires slashed and wheels bent. This is now a common practise of the police at Palestine House (refer to – Monday 28th March).
Friday 8th April
PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) raided the university buildings behind Africa House this morning, kicking down doors, and searching very thoroughly. Activists were roughly removed from the grounds. Officers kicked, pushed and pulled, trying to take cameras off two of the activists – without success. After approx 20 minutes of searching they left, arresting 5 people.
At 9.00am the same group of PAF came to the Hazara Jungle. Two people were woken up, they were told go away and come back again in 20 minutes. No arrests were made but after the police had gone someone noticed that €320 had been stolen from their coat hanging in the communal space, also, a pair of sunglasses. Two PAF officers visited the Hazara jungle again at 10.00pm. Catching one man they handcuffed him to one of the officers – leading him round like dog on a leash. The police then asked the man to call for his friends, when he didnt comply they picked a name at random – calling out “Ali! Ali!“. A CMS activist arrived in the jungle at the same time, witnessing this. Only one arrest was made.
Thursday 7th April
Africa House was raided this morning at 7.15am. Both PAF and the new Compagnie of CRS (Unit 47) ran in from the front and the back entrances of the grounds, in huge numbers, managing to arrest just under 20 people, including one activist.
3 vans of CRS were spotted at the park at 7.40pm. Activists arrived with a camera and were immediately controlled and told to stop filming. 3 people were arrested and after a lengthy wait on the side of the road an arrest bus arrived and took them to Coquelles.
Police took a stroll around Africa House at 10.30pm shining torches and looking about but not arresting anyone.
Wednesday 6th April
No raid on Africa House this morning but a car with two possible undercover police stopped to take photographs of the activists on watch, leaving in a hurry when one activist walked over to get a better look at them.
PAF raided Palestine House at 8 this morning, and arrested 2.
The CRS stopped and controlled three people walking to the Hazara Jungle. One person was arrested.
Tuesday 5th April
PAF raided Africa House early in the morning, at 7.05am. They searched the back buildings of the university grounds, and arrested at least 5. Activists were removed from the building and threatened with arrest, if they were found inside again.
Around 6.40pm, 3 PAF officers parked around the corner of food distribution and arrested 2 people with papers.
Monday 4th April
A PAF van drove slowly down Descartes St. this morning, and officers took a stroll inside Africa House, assuring everyone that they were just here to look. Activists blew their whistles a few times anyway. As people went to sit by the fire to wait out the visit, PAF carried out ID checks on the activists, including on a white homeless person from Eastern Europe whom they mistake for an activist.
One activist refused to present ID, and was arrested, handcuffed, and taken to Coquelles police station. A French person who also happens to be homeless, and who has been to food distribution because he was very poorly fed at his shelter, walked in as he saw a police van parked at the entrance, and was subsequently also ID-checked. Police were quite rough with him as well, telling him, among other things, to shut his mouth “or I’ll shut it for you.” He could not quite understand what the fuss was about. He later said to activists he had never faced so much verbal abuse and aggressivity in his life.
PAF did some strange things in Africa House, in the afternoon shortly before 4pm. As well as the usual stroll around, they also kicked the football a few times with the migrants, and climbed one of the ropes. A female officer had a friendly chat with one of the Roma people who are temporarily homeless. On top of everyday harassment consisting in numerous arrests and releases, PAF activities have led to numerous incidents in the past few months, some quite extreme, like when a man drowned after being chased in the dead of night, on February 22nd. We suspect they have an interest in fostering trust among migrants, and it may be the aim of those incongruous tactics.
3 people were arrested at the new building they were staying in, around 9am.
Sunday 3rd April
Very late at night, around 2am, 6 PAF officers infiltrated the university grounds and arrested 5, with a car and a van. Three have been released soon afterwards, but some were not back yet, by 8am the next morning, when we received this report.
PAF raided Palestine House at 6pm and arrested 6, one being released shortly afterwards.
PAF conducted two late night raids on a newly squatted building. The first time, at around 11pm 3 people were arrested, the second time, at 3.30am from 2 to 3. The inside of the building is very dark at night and it is very difficult to make out what is going on. Activists were checked for ID the first time, but got no such harassment on the second.
Saturday 2nd April
CRS drove around Africa House a lot in the morning, but only carried out 2 fake raids, forcing activists to blow their whistles but getting back to their van. No one was arrested. 5 people were arrested at night, around 10pm, in the university buildings behind the back wall of Africa House.
At 11.30pm, 5 were arrested by PAF at Palestine House.
Friday 1st April
After the destruction of people’s living spaces in Africa House, and of a way to get on the roof, people used the wood beams of rubble piles, and other materials, to build an enormous barricade at the front and back. Very early this morning, at 6.30am, PAF furtively raided the back buildings on the university grounds, and arrested 10 people. CRS vans were prowling the streets, they stopped four times at the front, not leaving their vehicle, but laughing at the barricade anyway. Nearing the end of morning watch, people reported many arrests on the way back from food distribution, near the bridge.
Thursday 31st March Rooms destroyed and belongings lost in piles of rubble at Africa House, for safety reasons
This afternoon around 2.30pm, large numbers of police evicted everyone from Africa House in order to allow a bulldozer in. Activists arriving on the scene attempted to block the bulldozer, but they were too late, and police managed to grab them. Although activists were initially getting arrested for that, police decided it was a better use of their time to stand inside Africa House, behind the barricade.
The bulldozer destroyed people’s sleeping spaces, inside the two main buildings, and turned everything into huge piles of rubble. The concrete structure of the building was untouched, as urban planners need it for the ‘eco-neighborhood’ they wish to create. Needless to say, many had no idea this would happen. People have belongings, and some their essential ID and papers, lost in the 3 or 4 mountains of stuff now lying about in Africa House.
All this was carried out because the authorities wanted to stop people from being able to get on the roof. The roof is ‘too dangerous,’ they said. Many have climbed onto the roof of Africa House, many times, for months and months, and we are unaware that a great number of people injured themselves all this time. A very few people did. All of them in the context of a stressful and violent police raid, on Africa or Palestine House (see the updates of Wednesday 9th and Thursday 10th February, as well as that of Friday 28th January, amongst others). This seems to indicate police presence and violence is the issue, rather than access to roofs and semi-secure possessions and living/sleeping spaces.
Wednesday 30th March Mass raid, activist grabbed by crotch
At 8 am, PAF and CRS unit 8 carried out a raid on Africa House, storming the squat simultaneously from front and back, with around 30 officers. 14 people were arrested. The usual flurry of special people came along to look and discuss, including mayor adjunct for sustainable development, Philippe Mignonnet, who tried to hit an activist on Friday 18th March. As activists were lined against a wall for a full search, they tried to defuse the tension by making some jokes and having a laugh. A CRS officer did not enjoy this breach of protocol, and grabbed a person by his crotch as he was searching him, lifting him off the floor.
The activist who was arrested on the 28th for failure to produce identification maintained her decision not to give any identity documents. She was detained for two days, and released this morning. She is being sued for failure to give her fingerprints whilst in detention, even though police have no idea who she is.
We received several testimonies that little kids are harassing Palestine House in the afternoon by going there, throwing little rocks and shouting various things in English and French, such as ‘Fuck Palestine!’ and other racist slurs.
A Hazara jungle resident confirmed that a group of French people have been threateningly following a group of migrants and activists on their way back from Africa House’s party on Saturday 26th March, looking for a fight.
Tuesday 29th March
The villa near Africa House suffered a raid early this morning, around 7.15am. Some 6 PAF officers left the university grounds with 2 people.
A man was chased by CRS at the roundabout leading to Africa House, at 9.15am. They managed to catch him. One officer swore “Bastard! I hate it when they run away!” A single activist leaving Africa House watch stood on the other side of the street from the scene. CRS made the man sit down on the ground, his back to the wall, his legs stretched on the ground, and then asked about his papers. He said they were in Africa House. Not believing him, they arrested him anyway.
Monday 28th March
A CRS raid in Africa House at 8.05am resulted in the arrest of one activist who refused to show any ID. She has spent the day in detention. Again, the homeless white person was believed to be a No Borders activist. No migrants were arrested.
2 people were arrested at Palestine House in the morning. People suspect PAF officers have twisted the wheels of 2 bikes and made them unridable. This stealthy sabotaging practice isn’t new, as activists have already had to repair knife-punctured bikes at the beginning of the month (see Thursday 8th March). Twisting wheels sets a new low in police malfeasance, as it is much harder, impossible truly, to fix such a thing.
Saturday 26th March
At 8.15am at Africa House, a single CRS van parked at the front gate. The activists were lined against a wall inside a building on the left. One minor was arrested, purportedly in order to ‘get him to safety.’ A CRS officer claimed activists were ‘ridiculous,’ that it was dangerous for people to stand on the roof, and everyone would be released four hours later anyway, so it was useless to whistle. The CRS officier didn’t seem to have a sense that people had a right to be free to move. They tried to worm out how many other underage were staying in Africa House, walked around the squat and university grounds, lectured the activists some more, and finally left. Some people on the roof spat on them from above and everyone laughed as the CRS used a lying blanket to wipe his shoe.
Palestine House was raided twice that day. 3 people were arrested at 8am by CRS, and again at midnight, 3 other arrests took place, again CRS work. All were released in the hours that followed.
A night-party was organized in Africa House, with a sound system, a huge fire, lots of drinks and much dancing.
Some rumors circulate that a band of threatening French people have been following a group of migrants and activists as they went back to the jungle, that night after the party. We plan to double-check on this, because fascists have been active and the far-right has been advancing electorally.
Friday 25th March
In Africa House, a late morning PAF raid resulted in 7 arrests: 6 migrants, 1 activist. The activist was arrested for possession of a third-grade weapon. A pen-knife. He was released soon afterwards, but the other migrants weren’t.
At the former distribution area, the wasteland following the train tracks, CRS arrested a person around 9am, whilst he was on his way to food distribution. 4 were arrested on their way back, after food distribution, whilst heading towards Africa House. We received reports about the arrest of 6 other people, in the streets of Calais, during the day.
PAF also raided the Hazara jungle around 8am, but found nothing and no one. A similarly unsuccessful raid on Palestine House occurred at 7am.
The Pedal to Palestine folks organized a critical mass this afternoon, going through the town without any police presence or protection. No one was arrested, and no one was hurt. Reactions from the population were mostly cheerful and cyclists even received supportive honks from motorists.
Thursday 24th March Activists pepper-sprayed, one activist subjected to pressure-point
This morning at around 7am, 2 PAF vans, one marked and one unmarked, parked on the wasteland opposite Africa House’s front entrance. 10 activists were standing around the barricade to block the 7 police from coming in. Police walked slowly up to the line, went beside the right pillar, and started to push the gathering crowd back. When they were not moving much, they used pepper-spray, and later pushed over the activist who was holding the camera. One activist was held by his thumb in a technique that allows the holder to break it at a moment’s notice, and led to the front entrance. Police walked around the courtyard for a few minutes, and left without making arrests.
PAF also raided Palestine House around 7am, making no arrests because people managed to escape their grasp, and also due to the CRS raid of the night before.
An activist cycling in the port area was followed by a PAF van, driving alongside the cyclist for about five minutes, and thereby creating a traffic jam for the sole purpose of intimidating someone. As the activist reached the distribution area, he could see that 2 people were being arrested there, if not more.
Wednesday 23rd March Violent raid on Africa House, activist screams as she’s handcuffed
At 8.05 am, 2 dozens of police arrived from the back, PAF and CRS, to carry out an important raid. Aside from arresting people without papers, they were looking for activists blowing their whistles. They wrote a statement and gave a 68€ fine to one of the activists. The charge is public disturbance and disobedience to an order from police. However he was not issued with any proper paper or description of crime.
As activists were lined against a wall, a white-skinned and homeless person with papers, who sleeps at Africa House because he has nowhere else to go, was also checked and searched properly like the rest of the activists. Police assumed that he was a No Borders activist on the basis of his skin color.
A female activist was strangled by a female PAF officer, who said to her ‘Who do you think you are?’ It is the second time this particular officer loses her nerves, goes into a power-trip, and uses violence on people, for no other reason than they are not submissive enough in her eyes.
We counted 7 arrests, but as we were pushed against the wall, we cannot vouch that it is the whole of it for this morning. Police then led the activists, as well as the homeless person, out of the premises. A stand-off occurred as activists were standing behind the line of the front entrance.
One activist was taken out of the group and back into Africa House violently and smashed on the ground behind a PAF van parked inside Africa House. As she was behind the van, we were unable to see anything. We heard her scream in pain twice. She was then led, handcuffed, inside. The van left, and as it passed the entrance, activists could see she had bruises on her face from being smashed to the floor. She suffered a split lip and twisted arm. The arrested activist showed strong spirits and smiled to us as the van drove away. She was released at 4pm this afternoon, and charged with assaulting a police officer.
2 people were arrested by PAF on the train today.
CRS raided Palestine House at 11pm and made 3 arrests.
Tuesday 22nd March
PAF raided Africa House twice this morning, but only counted. No one was arrested. We believe police try to secure trust with migrants by promising not to do anything but count, and doing so repeatedly. It is unclear whether anyone is fooled by this.
2 people were arrested by a van of CRS outside morning food distribution. A new company is in town.
Palestine House received a visit by PAF officers at 9pm. They didn’t ask for anyone’s documents. They only came to inquire about where No Borders activists were.
PEDAL to Palestine arrived tonight and set camp somewhere in Calais. They have decided to help with CMS activism, and also, to organize workshops and skillshares, such as barber and bike workshops, and to help people having fun, bringing music and films to Africa House.
Monday 21st March
Shortly before 8.30 am, a PAF van parked near Africa House. 3 police officers told activists not to blow the whistle. Because they supposedly were only here to count. Unaware of a reason why it’s legitimate to count people for a future raid, activists decided to blow the whistle anyway. PAF left after some walking around the squat and no one was arrested. Officers shouted from their van that they would be back later to do more counting.
Around 10 am, police raided Palestine House, and made 2 arrests. Palestine House was raided a second time around midnight by the CRS. Three were arrested, and released soon afterwards.
As the weather gets better, people are hanging out in Parc Richelieu again, and so does PAF harass them there. 3 people, who were sitting on a bench in front of the entrance, with an old white guy, were checked and arrested, with handcuffs too. The white person was able to leave without showing any ID.
At half-past midnight, a furtive raid was carried out by PAF at the back of Africa House. 4 were arrested, including 3 underage kids. They were not released by lunchtime the next day.
Saturday 19th March
One person was arrested by police around 8am, at the train station. The rest of the day was very quiet, even at Palestine House. A party was organized at Africa House this night. More details to follow.
Friday 18th March Mass raid at Africa House
Shortly after 8am, more than a week after their ultra-violent raid, PAF and CRS once again conducted what more and more appears like the ‘raid of the week.’ The assault started on both sides simultaneously, all activists being pushed out quickly, so the hunt could start properly. Police once again destroyed last week’s door (repaired by good willing individuals in the meantime.) Some 30 people were arrested, and we believe they were released later in the day.
This one raid saw some ‘special people.’ Philippe Mignonnet was here. He is the mayor’s adjunct for transportation and environment, and running for regional elections on Sunday. A frequent visitor of Africa House during raids, he seems in very good terms with some of the PAF officers, and has no issues with the repression.
Following and filming Mignonnet as he left the squat to exert social pressure on him, an activist dodged a jab Mignonnet threw at him as he was reaching the door of the administrative centre of Calais. Mignonnet entered and no one was hurt.
Thursday 17th March 2 arrests inside food distribution to ensure that barbed wire is ‘repaired’
PAF conducted two mock raids on Africa House this morning, at 7.20am and 7.40am. The first time, a single van drove through the university grounds at full speed and abruptly pulled up near the back entrance. Activists were induced to blow the whistle, but stopped when they realized the officers were staying inside their van. PAF then drove away slowly, stopping to snoop around the back buildings of the university. They did the same at the front of Africa House, talking to the activists there before leaving again. The same van came a second time 20 minutes later, parking at the back, but this time getting out to walk around Africa House, saying to migrants nothing was wrong, that No Borders activists were waking them up for no good reason. They left without arresting anyone.
A short time before 9am, another PAF van parked in front of the distribution area, and the gate was opened for the officers to get into. Council workers were seen talking to police before the officers left their van. Two people were subsequently arrested by PAF. They had slept on the floor, inside the food distribution, with a few blankets. We suspect Council workers called the PAF on them, for “safety” issues.
A Council representative presented the setting up of new barbed wire as “repair work.” (Readers may remember the barbed wire was taken out by unknown individuals on the 2nd of January.) In the little more than 2 months since this occurred, the distribution area has been “functioning” well, and we have heard of no incidents that occurred as a result of the absence of barbed wire. The representative left as the two migrants were taken away by PAF.
Some ten minutes after this happened, tens of people came for the breakfast distribution, as they do every morning. Council workers were able to operate without any issues of safety from this big crowd.
Wednesday 16th March
Migrants report a daytime raid on Palestine House in which 5 people are arrested.
Tuesday 15th March
A little after 9am, Palestine House was visited by 4 CRS who did not check the papers of the residents. They left without doing anything, save give everyone a free dose of stress.
Monday 14th March
Palestine House was raided at 3am by CRS. 2 people were arrested. PAF came around at 8am, without arresting anyone.
This morning at food distribution, the opening in the fence next to the front gate was fixed. By some coincidence, PAF started to harass people there again, and arrested 3 outside distribution. Another person was arrested at night distribution.
The people who were arrested in Africa House, at 4am the other day, have only been released today, and report beatings from police.
Tonight, a Salam volunteer who discriminates against activists asked migrants, with a threatening tone, if they were “sure no borders is good for them.” They had complained to her about the treatment she gave to some No Borders activists.
One person was arrested by CRS at the petrol station behind townhall around 9.30am. PAF arrested 3 people at the train station, around 7.40pm.
An activist was followed and filmed by a CRS van driving slowly right next to him, with the window lowered. A militant was recognized and named by a PAF officer.
5 PAF prowled the shopping mall in the middle of the afternoon. They were checking the papers of anyone who looked foreign, and didn’t bother the lighter skinned shoppers/youth.
10 people were arrested on the streets of Calais in the evening. They have not been released yet.
Saturday 12th March
This morning at around 4am, a police raid occurred at Africa House. For some reason, possibly insufficient numbers, police seems to have focused on the back buildings and left the rest of Africa House alone. 6 people were arrested.
At Palestine House, 10 CRS officers went into the squat at 7am to check the papers of a mighty group of 3 people. One person was arrested, and released some hours later. Another raid happened at midnight, 2 people were arrested, including the person arrested in the morning.
At Africa House, people were able to play football and learn French in the afternoon, without police harassment. A party without borders (but with a sound system) was also organized tonight for someone’s birthday.
Friday 11th March
The Hazara jungle was raided by two PAF vans this morning. One person was arrested, among the three who were present.
Thursday 10th March Mass raid at Africa House, migrants and activists with papers arrested
A joint PAF and CRS raid occurred at Africa House around 8am. 20 migrants were arrested, as well as all the activists present there, save one who had just arrived. The operation involved some 30 police and 5 arrest vans. Stopping at nothing to hunt people down, police used a crowbar and sledge-hammer to destroy a door and make some peoples’ living space uninhabitable.
It seems most of the arrested migrants had papers. We suspect the authorities may try to charge them with illegal occupation of a private area.
Update: A source having spoken to the duty solicitor informed us that 37 people were arrested, 27 migrants and 10 activists. Activists who have returned later in the day said most migrants had been released almost right away. As we suspected, they were “reminded of the law,” being charged in this case with occupying a private area with the intention of making it their home. The court paper says the magistrate decided not to do anything this time, but if within three years another offence is committed, people will be taken to court. All activists have been released.
Palestine House was raided twice in the same night. Once at 8pm, where PAF arrested 7 people, including one person with papers. CRS arrived at 11pm, but didn’t arrest anyone.
Wednesday 9th March
A new unit of CRS arrived in town, unit 61. Around 8.15am, a lone CRS van parked near the front entrance, and the 3 police inside started for a raid, amid a profusion of whistling. Standing near the barricade, they realized the futility of a raid in those conditions, and left. No one was arrested.
Residents of Palestine House seem to be the recipients of particular hatred, as we discovered in the afternoon that their Palestinian flag was torn down and reduced to shreds.
Tuesday 8th March
The Hazara jungle was raided by PAF in the morning. Two people were arrested and released only an hour later. Their fingerprints were taken.
At lunch distribution, Belle Etoile volunteers warned that if people continue to use the small opening in the fence right next to the front gate, the mayor may send the CRS inside the distribution area.
Residents of Palestine House pointed out, to an activist come in the afternoon to do bike-repair, that some of their bike wheels had been knife-punctured and stolen.
Africa House received an afternoon visit by a PAF police car, around 4pm. The object seems to have been counting, once again. Associations continue to distribute pallets and wood everyday. French and English lessons are continuing.
Monday 7th March
Africa House saw no raid this morning. An undercover police was parked some way across the street, and took pictures of the activists. PAF parked twice in front of the entrance to intimidate and mock people, but left shortly afterwards.
A PAF police car entered Africa House in the afternoon, shortly before 4pm, driving inside the main building, and counting the number of people there. They also stated to the migrants they would be back in the night, to play some music again. Charities (Salam, then Secours Catholique) have entered Africa House to distribute pallets, and put down the carefully built, police-blocking barricade to avoid the labor of bringing the stuff on foot.
Elsewhere in town, a migrant with papers was arrested near the train station around 11 am. As he got inside the van, he saw that two others had shared his bad luck. The person with papers was released shortly afterwards, and had to walk all the way back, for more than an hour. We do not know if the other two have been released.
At 9.30pm, a PAF van came into Africa House to play loud music, as they had announced they would.
Saturday 5th March
Once again, PAF raided Palestine House very late as people were about to sleep, sometime between 11pm and midnight. They initially didn’t find anyone, but they eventually found their hiding place and arrested 6 people. Some of them were back by lunch time the next day.
The CRS made three arrests near the shopping mall, including of a person with papers, who was released almost immediately afterwards.
Africa House received a very late visit from PAF around midnight – 1am. The routine intimidation tactic of driving into the courtyard was used, with flashlights on, before the car left. No one was arrested.
PAF chased people along the highway as they were heading back to the jungle after Salam’s food distribution. No one was arrested, but the highway is a very dangerous thing to cross whilst running away. A young woman died trying to escape from CRS in 2009, because she crossed at the wrong time.
Wednesday 2nd March
A mass raid on Africa House took place this morning at just past 9.00am. Both PAF and CRS pulled their vans into the university grounds behind Africa House and 6 vans worth of police came sprinting in through the back entrance, instantly detaining CMS activists who were sounding the alarm, before hunting high and low for sans-papiers.
The PAF officers were seemingly in a very bad mood – people were pushed and shoved about, one of the cameras a CMS activist was using got smashed in the scuffle. Over 20 people were arrested including one activist and many underage boys, one as young as 12 years old. Activists quizzed the police on whether they truly believed that arresting children was right – they all answered “Yes”
Most of those arrested were released by lunch.
After a lot of fiddling with cables, car batteries and our newly aquired projector, CMS activists set up a cinema at Palestine House. Popcorn was made in a pan and a white sheet hung from the wall for the first film night Calais has seen in a long while, we now hope to make it a weekly occurance. The evening kicked off well, with Spider Man 3 (subtitled in Arabic) proving to be very popular. The CRS made an appearance at just past midnight but after a small, unrelated, incident in the street they decided to move on, making no arrests.
In other news – English and French lessons are still continuing at Africa House and the place has been brightened up somewhat by the ever expanding collection of paintings on the walls, in and around Africa House.
Monday 28th February
PAF visited Africa House very early, around 6.15am, to flash their lights at sleeping people. No one was arrested inside Africa House. Reports from migrants mention arrests at the round-a-bout leading to the squat. We suspect PAF drive people out with harassment tactics, so the CRS can pick people up out on the streets.
Palestine House was raided twice in a day, at 6am where 5 people were arrested, and at midnight where 2 were arrested. One inhabitant remarked that it was the third time in three days that the CRS were raiding at midnight.
Sunday 27th February
There was a very late police raid at Africa House and 5 Eritreans were arrested.
Saturday 26th February
Police raided Palestine House at around midnight. 3 people were arrested. 2 escaped via the same window people that people fell from and succumbed to very serious injuries on 9th of February.
Friday 25th February
The new CRS compagnie 44 arrived in Calais on Wednesday. Despite the usual local difficulties of finding one’s way round a new town, they seem to be starting to learn the art of pointless discrimination and harassment.
This morning 2 vans of the compagnie were patrolling the streets of Calais town centre, stopping to chase and check the papers of anyone who looked like a migrant, i.e. people with a different skin colour to the average Calaisien. Four officers accosted and chased a young man at full speed hundreds of metres along a side street away from the town centre. Fortunately, despite his rucksack, he was just too fast, even for police fresh from a warm van.
A few minutes later the same van of CRS arrested 2 people on the bridge leading to the food distribution at about 08:30. In total at least 6 people were detained and removed by the two Company 44 vans ´touring´ the town centre.
Thursday 24th February
Palestine House was raided by the CRS at 4am in the morning, to target people whilst they slept. 6 people were arrested.
It was reported to CMS that 4 female PAF officers went to the squat known as Africa House at about 12pm and informed people staying there that they were ‘worthless’ and that if they had no papers they had no chance of remaining in Calais. This type of harassment, whilst seeming benign, is deliberately targeted to undermine the hopes of people already living in difficult circumstances.
Later in the evening CMS activists met journalists from Al Jazeera Tunisia at Africa House. This team is in Northern France for a week and has already visited jungles along the French Coast.
Wednesday 23rd February
Around 9.15am this morning, a joint raid on Africa House took place. 4 vans of CRS and a car of PAF arrived from the back of the premises. Around 15 people were arrested. A Council official was present, as well as 2 workers, one from the Council. A new CRS unit is in town: unit 44.
When the PAF van returned from Coquille Detention Centre at 10.15, there was a brief struggle at the entrance of Africa House during which one Sudanese man was arrested for allegedly kicking the van.
Tuesday 22nd February: YET ANOTHER DEATH AT THE BORDER
The mainstream press are reporting that a 24 year old Afghan man has died whilst being pursued by the PAF (border police) in Calais, following a vehicle check (contrôle).
The man was reportedly not living in the squats or jungles, but held an Italian passport and was driving a car through the town at the at the time of the contrôle. He was then said to have been chased by the police before jumping into the canal, where he drowned.
The corporate media are suggesting that the police suspected him of being a people smuggler.
2 Eritreans were also arrested inside the train station at 11am by Gendarmerie, who rarely, if ever, get involved with the work of their PAF and CRS colleagues.
Monday 21st February
The Hazara Jungle was raided for 1 hour today. No arrests were made. The CRS were looking for tents to destroy but couldn’t find anyone or anything…
Saturday 19th February
One police car was practicing its hand brake turns, using Africa House as its training ground and CMS as bollards. A PAF van drove into Africa House at around 7.30 followed shortly by the car; that decided to enter the main building with its lights flashing and booming shit-afro-pop through the speakers to the hilarity of the police and the discomfort of the sleeping inhabitants.
Tuesday 15th February
In recent days PAF and CRS have chosen to avoid stress inducing raids and confrontations at Africa house where it inevitably turns into a stand-off between those on the roof and the arresting officers. Instead they have taken to arresting people on their way in and out of food distribution as a regular tactic, despite the fact that they have made agreements with the associations not to do so. The associations have previously sent a letter denouncing these actions, yet still they persist. CMS have taken to walking people to food distribution in an attempt to ensure people are able to get access to food.
Friday 11th February: Another big raid on Africa house this morning, three arrests.
A large number ofCRS came from both sides, with three CRS vans in the front at around 8.30, surrounding the migrants from both entrances. However, most migrants climbed on the roof and the CRS only arrested five people. Despite this, everyone knows by now how dangerous is to escape via the roof!
Thursday 10th February: ONE PALESTINIAN SERIOUSLY INJURED DURING MASS RAID ON AFRICA HOUSE
There was another mass raid on Africa House by CRS and PAF, resulting in about 20 arrests. Yet another man has been injured as a result of the police. The man fell – he did not jump as previously thought, and was rushed to hospital.
Two of us went to hosptial to visit the injured man, who is Palestinian. He has two injuried hands, one broken foot, two broken teeth and is covered in severe bruises. He also seems to be in a terrible emotional and mental state.
It seems like almost everyday now that somebody falls because of police pursuit and ends up badly injured, or have been beaten by the police – usually when no-one’s watching.
Wednesday 9th February: TWO PALESTINIANS SERIOUSLY INJURED WHILST RUNNING FROM POLICE
We went to the hospital to see two men who were injured after falling from the first storey of a building whilst being chased by the police. They have since been released and are back at Palestine House.
From what we can gather, the CRS raided mid-morning and were particuarly violent. Three people were immediately arrested and two more tried to escape by climbing down the guttering onto the street. The guttering broke and both fell, causing facial injuries. One of the men also broke an arm, while the other received a nasty head injury and bruising. He also has two black eyes and a broken nose but from what he recalls, that was from the police rather than the fall. An ambulance was called and they were taken to hospital.
The men who were arrested recieved a beating from the police. One underage boy had his hand injured by the police. He was released from custody almost straight away but then re-arrested later that night.
We went round to Palestine House in the evening for a few hours and made food because they missed all their meals that day. Everyone is seemingly doing ok but very angry and frustrated at the situation, and the two injured men are in a lot of pain.
Saturday 5th February
11.00pm: One car of PAF officers entered Africa House from the back of the building, waking people with torches. One arrest was made.
Friday 4th February
10.00pm: Police raided Africa House and arrested 5 people.
Thursday 3rd February: MASS ARREST AT FOOD DISTRIBUTION SITE
Police in Calais have recently been overheard saying that raids on squats where migrants stay is just not effective enough. In today’s joint PAF and CRS operation, they have displayed that what really works for them is carrying out raids on the roads surrounding the food distribution place before and after food is distributed.
This morning, CRS and PAF vans, cars, and arrest vans, pulled up at both ends of the road where the food distribution place is situated, effectively blocking any escape for the migrants. As migrants ran in both directions away from the food distribution center, police got out, grabbed, assaulted and shoved migrants into vans. Salam volunteers, who do the morning’s food distribution, shut the gates after everybody had left the compound, further blocking migrants routes for escape. Once all the migrants in the area had been caught or had run away, the vans moved off and began chasing down the migrants who had escaped. Groups of migrants were sprinting together in all directions and the police were chasing after them in their vehicles, then getting out, beating them with their batons and dragging them into the vans.
One group were chased onto the train tracks where one migrant collapsed with an injured leg. The PAF began beating him mercilessly, saying he was faking it. When a CMS activist arrived with a camera the police changed their attitude, acting as if they were helping the man. When their playacting got too much for their fascist souls, they then turned round and smashed the camera before continuing with their brutalizing, safe in the knowledge that their role as ‘state protector’ was secure. One migrant was lying on the ground moaning and screaming due to the beatings he had received but the police repeated that he was just faking and continued to beat him out of sight of numerous onlookers who stared from their windows. Car drivers wound down their windows to get a better look and asked the police if it was okay to carry on driving down the road. None of them felt impelled to do or say anything about the scene of police brutality in front of them. The man, now unconscious, was dragged into a van and repeatedly smacked around the face as he moaned in pain. His limbs kept falling out so that they couldn’t shut the door and this was apparently excuse enough to beat him again.
Vans have been seen heading towards Africa House squat where an unsuccessful raid was carried out this morning on behalf of CRS Compagnie 11.
Palestine house was raided around 7 am and everybody was arrested.
Four people were arrested at the train station at 7.00am
The Hazara jungle was destroyed during the night; several tents destroyed and two people arrested.
Wednesday 2nd February
PAF and CRS raided Africa House this morning. CMS were there and made sure that everybody had plenty of time to get away. This upset the officers who took out their frustration on the activists. People were thrown to the floor, punched and kicked in the face and then dragged from the premises. One PAF officer was particularly aggresive and so the activists tried to force his fellow officers to give his name and/or police details. This turned into a stand off as the activists refused to give papers until they had his name. It was never given and two people were threatened with arrest for withholding their passports during a police control.
Meanwhile, inside, the other officers broke down and then smashed up doors and staircases leaving people on the roof no way to get back down into the building. In total, two arrests were made.
Palestine house was raided by CRS at about 9.00pm. CMS activists happened to be there cooking a meal at the time and so were able to witness one arrest and prevent the CRS from continuing their habitual violence. Apart from the loss of one friend to the police it was a lovely evening of Morroccan cuisine cooked on an open fire, ending perfectly with the return of the arrested man, just in time to eat.
Monday 31st January
A Tajik boy of 12 lost a finger when jumping from a fence: the police were chasing him while he was trying to cross and a ring he was wearing got caught in the fence. His brother, who is 10, is also in hospital but uninjured. CMS activists have been visiting the boys and so far they are doing well. An almost identical incident occurred last autumn; again, the man lost his finger. More updates on this later.
Africa House was raided again morning. There were no arrests, although one person was arrested outside the premises. The PAF tried to run down three CMS activists with a police van. Luckily nobody was injured but the officers made sure to check that their vehicle wasnt scratched, not bothering to ask if any of the people were alright..
Saturday 29th January
The Hazara jungle was raided in the night. Two occupants were arrested and the police destroyed some tents.
Friday 28th January
This morning a Sudanese man from Africa House hurt himself after falling from the roof whilst running from police. He has been taken to hospital. More news will be given when available.
Thursday 27th January
There was yet another raid of Africa House this morning. CMS activists were there and made an early warning but the police broke there way onto the roof and unfortunately managed to catch 10 people. The female activists who were barred from the building were then sexually harrassed and insulted by the police.
Friday 21st January
There was a mass raid of Africa House this morning. PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) and the new unit of CRS arrived at the back of the building with six vans. CMS activists were immediately removed from the premises and could only watch as doors were kicked in, CS gas was sprayed and over 20 people were arrested. The officers were seen to be enjoying themselves while climbing about on the roof and kept posing for photographs with their guns. One officer remarked to the activists that it was all “just a game”.
Thursday 20th January
Still no news of the missing Palestinians. Instead, the PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) have been repeatedly raiding the Palestinians’ squat.
Cooking materials were taken over to Palestine House and a large communal meal was cooked between CMS activists and the residents of the house. Everyone had good fun with paint and decorated the walls with Arabic, English and French slogans of freedom.
A Palestinian man was arrested and interrogated by police about No Borders. He has now been released.
A new compagnie of CRS arrived this evening: unit 11.
Wednesday 19th January
PAF came to Africa House twice this morning; once at 5.00am and then again at 6.30am. No arrests were made but everyone was woken up by torches being shoved into their faces.
The police raided the food distribution place, taking tents that some boys had been living in. They also took all their personal belongings, like clothes and their ID papers.
A private squat was evicted – all people arrested. The house was then boarded up.
A sound system was taken to Palestine House. People spent all evening dancing and having an Arabic/English phrase swapping session. It was a beautiful night of incredible dance moves and the breaking down of language barriers.
Tuesday 18th January
PAF arrived at Africa House at 7.00am this morning and tried to batter their way in past the barricades. Once they discovered it was easier to get out of the car and move them by hand they were able to get in. At the moment it seems the police are enjoying playing games and so instead of even trying to arrest people they just drove about inside shining lights and disturbing those who wanted to sleep.
One man in Africa House was taken ill and an ambulance had to be called. At first they refused to come out but after the sixth call some paramedics arrived in a fire truck and took him to hospital. He was discharged later that day with a packet of pain killers even though he could barely walk.
Monday 17th January
PAF came to Africa House in the morning but made no arrests.
English and French lessons are continuing with great enthusiasm and attendance at Africa House. Todays lessons stretched on for hours – until it was too dark to see the board.
Sunday 16th January
Two young Palestinians missing while trying to cross
Two young Palestinians aged 16 and 18 went to try and cross to England via the Eurostar Tunnel. The two boys hid in a water pipe connected with the reservoir. Two other men who were behind witnessed the scene . One of these was arrested and held for 24 hours in police station, the other escaped. They say the security let the dog off the lead, the dog had a muzzle on and could not bite, but it may have caused the boys to panic and go further into the water pipe, where they may have fallen in and drowned. The fire brigade has been searching the bottom of the reservoir, but there is a grill in the pipe before it joins the it. The two Palestinians who were with the missing boys went to the police station yesterday, together with two volunteers from associations to provide information, but there is still no news. It has been three days since the two boys went missing. They had just arrived in Calais and not even the other Palestinians know their names.
A CMS activist was also ‘controlled’ in Carrefour.
Saturday 15th January
The PAF (Police Aux Frontieres – border police) drove into Africa House (a squat home to large numbers of African migrants) with great speed, scaring many people onto the roof, but they did not attempt to arrest anyone. Instead, they collected all the artwork that was drying in the corner of the warehouse, bundled it into their van and drove out again blasting music.
The Hazara Jungle was raided at 12.30am. Eight PAF officers made three arrests including one man with papers and one underage boy (who was then held in Coquelles for 24 hours).
Friday 14th January
Africa house was not raided this morning but the CRS went there three times pretending to go in, then when everybody ran they went back to their van and drove off. They kept prowling the streets where people use to get to the food distribution site and chased a group of Pashtun children on their way, although no arrests were made. Most of the people in Africa house missed their breakfast for fear of being arrested.
Thursday 13th January
At least five people were arrested at Africa House just before 8.00am. The police entered from the back of the building and conducted a small raid on the language teaching cabins.
PAF were doing their usual sweep of town, this morning, when they recognised and stopped a CMS activist in the shopping centre. One officer threatened him with a beating and then told him that the police ´Don´t want Migrants here´.
At just past 8.00am the CRS pulled into the train station and stopped four Vietnamese people who were waiting for a train. They were questioned for papers and then detained on the pavement outside for over twenty minutes while the police waited for an arrest van.
The squat known as ‘Paradise House’ was raided this morning at 10.00am. There are no confirmed arrests.
Wednesday 12th January
Africa house raided, mass arrests made.
Africa house was raided at 8am this morning by PAF and CRS officers. They arrived in 5 police vans and two cars with 2 arrest vans. They made an incredibly thorough search of the buildings with ladders, ripping doors from hinges and destroying the barricades to the upstairs rooms. At least 20 arrests were made; all those not arrested were made to leave, including CMS activists and charity workers who were present. Several blankets and the CMS tents were taken by council workers and they bulldozed the small barricade that was set up at the entrance to stop the police entering. After the police left the people returned and CMS activists helped to replace the doors and rebuild the barricades.
To lift the mood, paints, brushes and huge rolls of paper were brought to Africa House and some of the more creative residents painted beautiful pictures, wrote poetry and slogans of freedom and love.
The CRS have been roaming the streets arresting people at random, in the streets, at the train station etc. PAF breached the agreement with the associations and arrested one man outside the gates of evening food distribution. After a small scuffle with CMS activists and some of the charity workers, PAF drove the man away to Coquelles detention centre where he was held for 20 minutes, finger printed and released.
The Iranian squat was closed and boarded up, forcing all the residents to sleep on the streets, in the rain.
Tuesday 11th January
7.30am – Palestine House was raided this morning 7.30 am and six people were arrested.
They returned two times more during the day without arresting anyone.
PAF went to Africa house in the evening around 8 pm, apparently looking for Afghans who may (or may be not) sleeping there. They did not find any Afghans and went away empty handed after searching all the buildings.
The Iranians were arrested again and taken to Coquelles as soon as they went to their squat.
Monday 10th January
There was no breakfast provided this morning by Salam. CMS distributed pastries, bread and sandwiches but most people went hungry until lunchtime distribution.
The Kurdish Jungle was raided in the night, 5 confirmed arrests, maybe more.
The Iranian house was also raided twice in the night, everyone was arrested and taken to Coquelles police station, then, just after they returned to their squat after walking one hour in the rain, arrested and taken to Coquelles again – including a man who is sick with the flu. It seems sleep is a privilege only for those with papers.
Sunday 9th January
Hazara Jungle raided in the night, two arrests made.
Friday 7th January
It seems that the police have been spreading a rumour amongst the migrants that the UK is closed to refugees and that there is ‘ no more asylum to give’.
No raid on Africa House this morning but the Iranian house was visited by PAF and everyone was kicked out onto the street. The police are just roaming through the streets picking people up. Many Africans and Afghans, some as young as 10, are being constantly arrested and re-arrested all day.
Thursday 6th January
The BCMO – cold weather shelter has now closed because the temperature rose to above freezing today. The temperature has since plummeted with a lot of rain and wind but no sign of the shelter opening again. CMS and all the charity associations have been kept very busy desperately trying to find bedding, tents and waterproof clothing for the over a hundred of people now sleeping on the streets. CRS and PAF have also been very busy chasing them and arresting them when they are most vulnerable.
Wednesday 5th January
Africa house raided this morning, all CMS Activists arrested.
8.00am – PAF and CRS did a joint operation, entering the property from the front and back. Activists were immediately shoved into a corner and were searched thoroughly. Despite protests, males officers searched female activists. Everyone was then handcuffed and given no explanation for there arrest. The police seemed perplexed that there were so few activists on the ground that morning and asked after specific activists by name..
Before the activists were driven away to the police station they spotted seven arrests of Migrants and what looked like a full scale eviction.
Upon arrival at Coquelles detention centre CMS were almost the only people in custody but by 1.00pm the cells were full, with mostly African Migrants. By 4.00pm most of the migrants had been released but CMS still remained, ears ringing with police threats of jail. The whole operation in Coquelles was very unprofessional as interviews were conducted in busy offices. One activist was locked into a toilet and forgotten about. All activists were released around 7pm.
Tuesday 4th January
A relatively quiet day in Calais today for everyone. Not too many police on the streets, making only a few arrests throughout the day. CMS activists were able to catch up on the usual distribution of shoes, bedding and sim cards. A very well attended and lively english lesson was conducted at Africa House, (the subject today – irregular verbs) which involved much laughter as the activists had to mime all sorts of strange actions!
Monday 3rd January
Two cars of PAF officers arrived at Africa House this morning and decided that instead of conducting a raid on the Sans-Papiers they would beat up the CMS activists who were on morning watch, instead. Batons, fists, and boots were used as activists were thrown to the ground, slammed into walls and choked. A female activist was kicked in the stomach, hit round the head with a baton, thrown to the ground and strangled for trying to stop an officer hitting someone. Another two activists were kicked in the face and thrown into the road for blowing a whistle – the officer (once he had smashed the offending whistle) remarked that we blow the whistles and wake up everyone on the street every morning and that this was not good. He seemed to casually gloss over the fact that he comes to Africa House every morning to wake people up and arrest them, I guess it just goes to show the mentality of the French police – Migrants are not people in their eyes.
The CRS spent the morning roaming around and made several arrests of African migrants who were walking back to Africa House from food distribution. They then followed and tried to arrest people walking back to the jungles out by the ferry port, three people got chased on foot and so climbed the fence into the locked up food distribution area. The CRS followed and climbed the fences catching and arresting two, one guy managed to get out the other side and hide in a garden, the police drove by several times and didnt spot him but unfortunately he didnt get away as a passerby called to the police and showed them where he was hiding. One CMS activist also got arrested after trying to intervene in the peoples escape, he was released four hours later after a full ID check in Coquelles with all the other Sans-Papiers.
Sunday 2nd January
Everyone got a surprise – including us – when they got to food distribution in the morning to find that all the barbed wire (which usually covers the tops of the fences, turning a space for meals into a prison) had been removed from the fences and placed in the big wheelie bins during the night. CMS activists with the help of some athletic Afghan lads then decorated the fences with banners in English, Arabic and French, wishing everyone a Happy New Year – Free from Borders!
English lessons are still continuing strong in Africa House and they are now being joined by art sessions too. Being able to let go of everything in Calais is something very important and so the recent arrival of a portable sound system has been very popular, especially with the young Afghan boys who have delighted in showing everyone some of their dance moves. This evening the music was taken to the BCMO cold weather shelter where within minutes there were over twenty people clapping and watching in awe at an eleven year old Afghan boy and his enchanting dancing. The CRS made an appearance but nobody ran, they just clapped and cheered louder, sending them on their way.
Saturday 1st January (New Years day)
Lunchtime food distribution was served by L’Auberge des Migrants who decided to brighten the mood by taping paper table cloths to the tops of the bins. A Samba band from Germany also played some awesome tunes and got people dancing. After about a minutes notice from CMS the Samba band moved out onto the street and (with banners appearing from nowhere) it turned into a small New Years Day noise demo processing up through town to the shopping centre. The locals looked on with smiles and cheers and the small group of activists and migrants grew by one when a passer-by stopped her car and left her husband and children to join in the march – fist raised and chanting loudly! The peaceful, colourful and cheery gaggle of people stopped outside of the shopping centre and a banner was hung from the christmas decorations proclaming – HUMAN RIGHTS HAVE NO BORDERS! Within moments of the banner being hung the police arrived and officers were seen to be putting on riot helmets and pulling out batons. Everybody scattered and the police took chase. Two activists were cornered down an alleyway and choked by police, the banner ripped from them. Two others were controlled and released – nobody else was caught.
Friday 31st December (New Years Eve)
Thankfully it was a quiet day for the Migrants as there didnt seem to be any police around, no such luck for CMS activists though as they ran round in circles organising that evenings party. Salam did a special evening food distribution with fireworks and afterwards everybody was escorted to Africa House for a spectacular New Years Party. CMS and Africa House residents cooked together and a huge fire was built to sit and eat around. After everyone was full, warm and happy the music and beer was rolled out leading the way to some incredible dancing. Moments of joy are very rare in Calais but well savoured and the night seemed to roll on forever as Sudanese, Eritrean, Ethiopian, Kurdish, Afghani, French, American, Italian, Finnish, British, Danish, Dutch, German, Palestinian, Moroccan, Austrian and Iranian people danced, sang and laughed together. As the countdown was shouted around Africa House people jumped back and forth through the fire and fireworks were set off in the courtyard. It was truly a New Years party without borders.
Thursday 30th December
8.20am – PAF and CRS raided Africa House. CMS activists on morning watch were able to give a wonderfully advanced warning as the officers were very slow in clambering from their vans. Finding nobody in the main warehouses PAF officers broke through the barricaded door to the rooms upstairs only finding four Migrants. Peoples bedding and possessions were thrown around and trampled upon as the police tried to intimidate those present with pushing, shoving and the all time favourite – torches pointed into eyes. After 13 people had been rounded up, all CMS activists bar one (who refused to leave) were removed from the building and controlled for passports in the courtyard. Seven of the detained Africans had sufficient documents and were placed to one side for release, the six others were searched. One man had a seriously injured leg and required the use of crutches to enable him to move but the police made no allowances for this. His crutches were removed and he was searched very roughly, once finished they refused to give the crutches back. The activist who was still in the building kicked up a fuss and finally a female officer gave in and handed the crutches back to him. The activist was then placed under arrest, moved into a corner and surrounded by four officers. Outside, the other activists were being amused by an overheard conversation between several CRS and PAF officers. It seems that Unit 46 of the CRS had some new, young recruits and they were having be reassured by an older PAF officer that everything was under control and that this was just a routine raid. The activists found it especially interesting to hear the PAF officer comment that he should never have joined PAFand this “was not how he expected his life to turn out“. Apparently he wanted to be a real police officer and not spend all his time “doing this and hunting Roma“.
One of the new recruits was also heard to remark that “The migrants were surprisingly clean“. Once all the Sans-Papiers had been searched, they were loaded into the arrest van handcuffed to each other, the man with the injured leg was pushed and shoved from the building as the police got bored with him being “Too slow“. The activist under arrest was released once she had her papers checked, making it six arrests in total.
That night a No Border and Sans-Papiers friendly bar was used as the venue for a pre-New Year party. The Wildkatz from Brighton played and several other acts followed including Kurdish and Welsh performers. People were escorted from the BCMO cold weather shelter and Africa House to the bar. There was a great turnout despite the fact that the CRS were stalking through town picking up people on their way – four arrests were made outside of Africa House and it ended up that most people had to run through the back streets to get into town without harassment. The CRS turned up towards the end of the evening but were seen off when a huge group of CMS activists practically climbed into their van telling them to leave.
Once the party had ended people were beginning to be escorted in groups back to their respective camps and squats. It was then that the police decided to attack and a Sudanese migrant was run down by a police car. Activists and Sans-Papiers ran to help as the injured man was handcuffed. Police National and PAF appeared in considerable numbers and after a small scuffle in the road the man was loaded into an arrest van and driven away. CMS activists desperately tried to reform and get people back to their beds safely but unfortunately the evening just got worse as the CRS turned up and made this an impossible task. Activists blocked them in the road while chanting “SOLIDARITÉ AVEC LES SANS-PAPIERS“. People came out of bars onto the street and watched as the CRS leant out of their van doors and repeatedly pepper-sprayed everybody until the all activists were completely blinded and practically vomiting on the road, after they were satisfied with their work the CRS drove away – thankfully not bothering to arrest any migrants.
Wednesday 29th December
A new Unit of CRS is in town – Unit 46 . Finding their feet pretty fast, arrests were already being made at 10.30am. Three Sudanese Migrants were the first to be picked up while walking back to Africa House from morning food distribution.
The CRS then spent the rest of the day driving round in circles with paper booklets seemingly trying to work out what they were meant to be doing.
Tuesday 28th December
The CRS have been very active today. In the morning they arrested 10 people in the park, others in the street. During lunch an arrest van drove by the food distribution place.
The new Palestine House was raided at 5.30 by PAF, 5 arrests were made; the PAF then went to the old Palestine House and arrested 11 more people, at 8.30. Most people have been released after a 5-minute ID check at Coquelles police station: another example of totally pointless arrests done just to upset and harass people. PAF were seen by activists around the new Palestine squat yesterday.
Sunday 26th December (summary of the past few days)
‘Christmas has no borders/ Jesus had no papers’
Direct action on Christmas eve
On the morning of Christmas eve, we set up a mock jungle in front of the Town Hall, using some damaged or incomplete tents. We displayed a bannerreading ‘Christmas has no borders/ Jesus had no papers’ and put donated hats and scarves that had been discarded by migrants over the heads of the Six Bourgeois, the famous Rodin’ s statue that is the symbol of the city. A dozen No Borders activists from various parts of Europe attended, as did about a dozen+ refugees from Afghanistan, Palestine, Kuridstan etc, and some volunteers from local charities.
The police intervened sequestering the tents (as is their habit) and the banner. No arrests were made and no borders activists marched down Boulevard Jaquard shouting ‘no borders no nations stop deportations’ and ‘solidarité avec les sans papiers’; we had an improvised demo in front of the shopping centre, then marched inside despite a couple of security guys trying to stop us, just to remind the shoppers that Christmas and consumerism happen alongside people sleeping out and living in the most appalling conditions, due to governments’ policies.
In the evening 10 migrants from Palestine and Africa were reportedly arrested, and had to spend Christmas in a police cell. All are released by now. After that the police went on holidays, saying to some activists who were standing by Africa House that they would be back on Monday. Wish they had holidays for 365 days a year.
On Christmas day we had a big party. We cooked a big meal with migrants and some volunteers from local associations. It was a beautiful party and everybody enjoyed themselves for once. There was good food, drinks both alcoholic and not, music from a little sound system, singing and drumming around the fires, everybody dancing, communities mixing and a great atmosphere. Long live the amazing spirit of the migrants in Calais!
Wednesday 22nd December
Africa House was raided this morning but only two arrests were made.
Friday 17th December
There was no raid on Africa House this morning.
English, Dutch and French lessons are continuing in Africa House, Palestine House and some other Jungles.
The home of a family with a 11 month baby in Téteghem.
In the jungle of Téteghem, life is still hard in the cold weather. The people living there tell us that the police have raided early in the morning multiple times over the past few weeks.
For one and a half weeks now a youth from the jungles of Téteghem has been lying in coma in the hospital in Lille. He hit his head badly after falling from a truck that was heading to England. When the border gets harder and harder to cross, people take greater and greater risks.
Thursday 16th December
A very sudden but small raid of Africa House was conducted by PAF officers just before 7.00am. Unfortunately for them, 6 Calais Migrant Solidarity activists were able to alert everyone inside, and no arrests were made. One PAF officer got very frustrated at this and threw an activist to the ground while swearing at another. When the officer was challenged he started shouting and complaining that he was unable to do his job as CMS were “ALWAYS” there..
Sandwiches were made and distributed along with trays of dates and some pastries to different squats, camps and jungles throughout the day. In the afternoon a sound system was taken to Africa House and everybody warmed themselves by dancing to some Sudanese tunes.
Wednesday 15th December
10 CMS activists were at Africa House on watch all morning, but thankfully no police showed up. Bread, vegetables, tea, sugar and pastries were distributed.
Tuesday 14th December
PAF officers and the new unit of CRS (Unit 4) raided Africa House at 7.45am. They removed the barricades and drove up into the courtyard, arresting 10 people, including one Polish man. Only two CMS activists were there on watch which meant the CRS officers were able to be incredibly intimidating and physically violent, pushing and hitting with their batons. The ten people arrested were handcuffed to each other and driven off to Coquelles Detention Centre. After the police had left, the barricades were rebuilt.
Friday 10th December
There were some arrests (at least three) in the morning, on the road between the BCMO and the food distribution. These are the spaces that have been legally conceded to the associations to give shelter and food to migrants, and police should not arrest people there, or on their way, but they do it all the time.
Thursday 9th December
Africa House was raided again at 7 am, where 6 arrests were made.
Wednesday 8th December
One person was arrested at 6am in front of BCMO.
Tuesday 7th December
There were two arrests at the Ethiopian squat at 2am, also known as ‘Paradise House’. Lately it has been raided very often, and at random times.
Monday 6th December
Africa House was raided again this morning.
Yesterday we did another delivery of clothes and food to the camps at Grande Synthe and Téteghem.
Police harassment remains very high. Téteghem jungle was raided by police again the day before yesterday the migrants say, and police in plainclothes keep going to the camps to count the numbers of migrants, usually when the local associations go there to give food. The associations have complained about it, as they do not want to be seen as accessories to police repression, but the police keep doing it. People have been missing their meals for fear of the police.
It has been a time of extreme cold. People who called the emergency number 115 for a place in the night shelter were told there were no spaces. A middle aged man found a place in hospital after developing bronchitis, but was dismissed after only two days and returned to the jungle. Some of the families with young children are indoors now, but only thanks to local volunteers. However, there should soon be some places available for the night. The authorities have decided to open two emergency shelters, one in Téteghem and one in Grande Synthe, and on Friday at 6 pm called the associations to tell them to get the migrants there by 7. 30pm! They refused, as theysay they cannot do everything.
Images from the jungle at Teteghem
People are suffering terribly in Téteghem andGrandSynthe. Not only are people suffering from cold-related illnesses but also from depression and mental health problems, and they keep saying that someone will die. I never thought I would see refugee camps like that in 21st century Europe, with local volunteers struggling to guarantee the mere survival of the people who are stuck there. Adding to the usual hardships, the last two Winters have been much colder than usual, which renders the living conditions almost unbearable…
Saturday 4th December
Africa house was not raided, for the second consecutive day!
And the Palestinians have a new squat! The police went to raid the old squat this morning… and they found nobody.
Friday 3rd December
The police keep arresting people who arrive or leave the BCMO. The association Salam, that manages the BCMO, has issued a complaint.
The French State grants 100, 000 euros for the improvement of the BCMO
There were some 140 migrants – packed like sardines – in the BCMO (a disused gym), over Wednesday night, after an intense period of cold weather.
Many people have moved there from Africa House, partly because of the constant raids by police. Most of the Pashtuns too have moved there from the jungle, including some very young teenagers – the youngest being only 12 years old. According to the law, minors and those who apply for asylum should be given proper separate accommodation but there are not the places.
In the BCMO the migrants sleep on cardboard, there isn’t so much as a single tap let alone showers. There is a single chemical toilet, outside, where the police have been arresting people. We wonder how such a structure can be ‘ameliorated’, and how are the 100.000 euros going to be spent. The money is going to be handed to the Council after the 10th of December and will be therefore in the hands of the racist mayor Natacha Bouchart, who has been very proficient at solving the ‘migrants problem’ by destroying jungles and squats and closing them in the ghetto more and more.
Africa house was not raided this morning! Three PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) officers in plainclothes turned up to see ‘ that everybody is OK’, so they said.
Interestingly, an employeee from the Sudanese Embassy turned up to see if people wanted assistance in returning to Sudan. The Sudanese say that they left because of the war and because they had serous problems with the government, and do not want to go back.
Thursday 2nd December
There was a big raid on Africa House at 8 am. PAF and CRS came in large numbers, and with ladders. They were rather aggressive both towards the migrants and the CMS activists present. At least six arrests were made, but we were evicted from the building at the beginning of the operation. Everyone else was ordered to leave the building- in the cold and snow – but re-entered after the police left. One man was taken in an ambulance to the hospital after falling from the roof while running from police. However he was not in serious condition and was soon released from hospital.
‘Paradise House’, a squat inhabited by Ethiopians, is now getting raided on a regular basis, and at random hours during the night. A few people usually get arrested each time.
Palestine House, a squat inhabited by Palestinians and other Arabs also gets raided very often, and at random times.
Wednesday 1st December: Africa House raided three times in the morning
…Only two people were arrested though, thanks to warnings by CMS activists, and the CRS being rather slow… however worse things may be still to come. A worker in white overhalls and engineer have been searching the building – probably for asbestos.
“We only have a bit of a roof, why do they want to take it from us?”
The BCMO will remain open until the 7th December at least, since the prefect graciously (!) extended the opening due to the extremely cold weather predicted for the coming days. The BCMO (a minimal shelter for sub zero temperatures which cannot accommodate all migrants in Calais) is held in a disused gymnasium and mananged by Salam association. The other associations withdrew in protest this year, as the place does not meet any standards: people are sleeping on the floor with just a cardboard for mattress and a blanket, there is no water, no toilets – only ONE chemical toilet outside for a place that is meant to host up to 150 people.
The place closes at 9 am and remains closed until 7pm, so people are sent off to wander in the cold for the day.
30th November: Brief summary of the latest situation in Dunkerque
Levels of police harassment at the camps of Téteghem and Grand Synthe near Dunkerque remain very high, with the police raiding every day. Loon Plage jungle no longer exists. Half the migrants from Téteghem are now in the deportation centre Lille Lesquin, but some have been released.
There are 20 bed spaces for the extreme cold available in Dunkerque.
– There are over 40 migrants in Téteghem without counting those in deportation centre, including families, one of which has an 8 month-old baby and some women. One woman is 8 months pregnant (she was offered accommodation but refused). They are currently enduring snow and temperatures of – 5C at night. Supplies of blankets, warm clothes and shoes have slowly arrived, still more shoes and clothes are needed and the migrants keep asking for blankets because in this weather everything gets wet. In Téteghem the association Salam, and other local volunteers supply food each day, although the quantities seem to be insufficient. The volunteers also bring firewood, water etc. We brought lots of blankets, warm clothes, shoes and about 150 kg of food to cook, yet more is needed.
– There are around 30 migrants are in Grand Synthe, in conditions even worse than Téteghem… more mud and the place is even more isolated.
Tuesday 30th November
Four vans of CRS (unit 3) arrived at Africa House at 8.45am, arresting one man who was trying to brush his teeth. He resisted arrest and asked if he could just finish washing. Three officers responded to this simple request by dragging him onto the street, slamming his head into the police van window and kicking the backs of his legs repeatedly.
One activist was pushed about as she tried to film and then harrassed over her “unsatisfactory” identity documents.
The routine of sans-papiers being beaten by police was plain to see in the conversation that followed between a resident of Africa House and a CMS activist.
H – “The police, they beat M******d?”
A – “Yeah”
H – “Why?”
A – “He wanted to brush his teeth”
H – “Aaah”.
The CRS then gathered up everybody they could find with papers and moved them out onto the street, informing them in french that they could not stay in Africa House because it is a squat and that they should be at the BCMO (cold weather shelter – a place some migrants are permitted to stay at night only).
Midday saw a raid on another African squat by a small group of PAF. Two arrests were made.
English, French and now Dutch classes are continuing to be well attended at the African and Palestinian squats.
Monday 29th November
Africa house was raided by CRS at 8.00am, barricades were shifted and 5 arrests were made. Not half an hour later everyone was caught off guard while warming round the fire as PAF pulled in and conducted a very sudden, violent raid. As people ran to escape onto the roof, CMS activists linked arms and blocked the stairs behind them managing to stop police following. This infuriated the officers who then decided to take out their frustration by using violence.
One activist was chucked by his coat but managed to dodge the fists swinging for him, another wasn’t quite as lucky, receiving a fist to her face and then being thrown to the floor. The third activist was so violently shoved that she almost ended up in the snow. Batons and voices were raised as whistles were wrestled out of fists and CMS was dragged from the building. One activist managed to stay inside, witnessing doors being kicked in and seven sans-papiers having handcuffs slapped round their wrists. Once PAF were happy with their search they dragged those arrested onto the bus and drove away, leaving behind a warning to the activists that the migrants were dangerous people and that they should “take care” staying in Africa House. Once PAF were well and truly gone, the barricades were re-installed as usual – to make it just that little bit harder for the police to conduct their ‘job’.
At 8.00pm, Africa House raided again by the CRS. No arrrests.
Then at 9.45pm – CRS raided Africa House yet again, arresting two people without papers (one of them being a CMS activist). Apparantly very pleased with themselves, the police entered the building singing “I want to dance…disco, disco, disco…” dancing, smiling and waving cans of pepperspray about.
The activist who had been arrested was taken to Coquelles detion centre and held for 14 hours. Every hour she was taken from her cell and questioned/photographed/insulted and threatened. She refused to speak or give her identity even when threatened with jail. Half way into the night the police took her into a private room and showed her a book with photographs of CMS activists questioning her on their IDs, wherabouts, actions and their reasons for being in Calais. At midday the next day she was released after 14 hours of no food, no sleep and a pointlessly cruel experience.
Sunday 28th November
Police were roaming around Calais all day but to our knowledge no arrests were made. Africa House had a well deserved break from police and ended the evening with another party around the fire.
Saturday 27th November
SNOW! Snow has been falling on Calais all day, covering the city in a very beautiful but very unwelcome icy coat. The BCMO cold weather shelter has finally opened its doors as a place to sleep at night. But with no toilet, no running water, only a piece of cardboard and one blanket to sleep on and the constant threat of police once they step out of the door many people have decided to stay in their own squats and camps.
Africa House was raided by police this morning, five vans of CRS made six arrests. The officers were very rough searching people, CMS activists surrounded one officer who was being particularly rough and with all the sudden attention he soon started to behave himself. One man arrested had an injured foot – he was on crutches with no shoe or sock on the foot – he was made to walk over an hour back from Coquelles detention centre in the snow.
After dark, CMS activists brought instruments to Africa House and a small party was started around the fire with singing and dancing. Others were a little more interesting in playing outdoors and so a giant snowball fight took place between No Borders and Africa House. Snowmen, snow crowns and snow barricades were built and for a while everyone forgot that they were in Calais. Once everyone was well and truly soaked through we all gathered around the fire to dry off and were treated to some traditional Sudanese singing and performance poetry. Nothing could spoil the mood, not even the CRS vans lurking in the snowy haze.
Friday 26th November
A rather violent raid of Africa House occured this morning at 7.45am. CMS activists were pushed and shoved out of the building, one female activist was knocked to the floor twice and dragged across the ground by three officers, another female activist who was taking photographs had her throat grabbed and an officer made a rough attempt at wrestling the camera from her hands. Whistles were ripped from mouths and smashed under boots. The female activists came under fire from the CRS officers who took pleasure in calling them “dirty whores”, “bitches” and commenting on how “ugly” they supposedly were. One man with papers was arrested after receiving a beating from some officers – he refused to get out of bed to show them his papers so they forcibly dragged him out and kicked him repeatedly injuring his arm and ribs. He was driven to Coquelles detention centre where he showed his papers and was released a few minutes later, to make the long walk back to Africa House. CS gas was used on bedding and in and around some of the buildings but after being aired out everything was fine to use again. Everyone was given a nice goodbye from one police officer who leaned out of the van window and shouted “Fuck You! Fuck You! Fuck You!” as they were driving away.
Four people were arrested outside of food distrobution at 9.15am.
CRS vans started roaming around the roads near to Africa House at about 8.30pm finally stopping to make an arrest on the road outside of Africa House at 9.45pm. A chase unsued as CMS activists took off after an officer hot on the tail of a Migrant. After a small encounter with the officer, CMS activists were able to stop him and let the man he was chasing, get away. No arrests.
Thursday 25th November
Africa House was raided at 9.00am this morning by CRS Unit 3, PAF and a small group of Police Municipal. A representative from the mayors office was also present. Most people without papers were able to get away due to the early warning recieved from CMS activists. Ten people were arrested, almost all with papers. CMS activists were pushed and dragged from the building by PAF officers and told that they were the “loser” as they hadnt stopped them arresting people. All those arrested were driven an hour away and dropped off in the middle of nowhere, by the time they had walked back to Africa House they were tired, soaking wet and had missed breakfast. Two Municipal officers were left behind inside their police car, parked in the courtyard of Africa House until 5pm.
Africa House was raided again at 11.00pm by the CRS. 5 arrests were made.
Pashtun Jungle raided during the night. No arrests, but all the water containers were destroyed.
Africa House was raided again this morning at 8.45am. The police had informed Secours Catholique that they intended to raid, so by 8.30am a small crowd of charity workers and journalists (including some from the Nord Littoral newspaper) had formed to watch and take photographs. Four people were arrested for having no papers, including one CMS activist, but everybody else managed to get away after the whistles were blown. With the help of a JCB, council workers were successful in removing the barricades to Africa House and after an hours work left the entrance open for police to drive in without hindrance. Everyone arrested, including the CMS activist, was released several hours later after having their morning wasted in Coquelles detention centre.
At 2.00pm Africa House was visited again by the CRS who made no arrests as everyone was at food distrobution. PAF came just after the CRS left, blocking the entrance with a van and five officers to make sure nobody could get back inside. As everyone arrived back from lunch we were informed (by the ever growing police presence) that we would be let back inside soon.. After an hour of waiting in the cold and being filmed by police we were told that the council would be working inside the building for the next ten days from 8.00am til 5.00pm putting up fences. The notorious female PAF officer explained that the fences were to stop people “entering the private property of the neighbour”. CMS distributed hot tea and at just before 5.00pm the police and council workers withdrew leaving Africa House free to enter once more.
Africa House was descended upon yet again at just gone 9.00pm. Two vans of the new CRS unit (Unit 3) drove up and caught two Migrants. As the arrest van tried to get down the road to pick them up, four CMS activists got in the way chanting “Solidarité avec les Sans-Papiers”. Passers by stopped to watch as the police released the two apprehended men in Africa House, left the building and drove up the road to meet their detained arrest van. A small stand off occured as the activists refused to move and for a few minutes nobody was really sure what was going on. The police eventually got back in their van, reversed up the road and drove away. The four activists managed to get back to Africa House before the police and by that time everybody inside had had plenty of warning meaning no arrests were made.
11.00pm saw another raid on Africa House. Three vans of CRS Unit 3 split into two groups, some climbed in over the fence at the back and some drove up to the newly barricaded front gate. 6 arrests were made, including one injured man. A small scuffle broke out on the road when the police tried to wrestle a bike off a CMS activist. Another activist was hit round the head with a torch. There were smiles all round though when one officer fell into a drain and got human poo all over his shoes…
As the weather continues to worsen people are finding life in Calais increasingly more difficult and dangerous – it has now been confirmed that an Afghan man has been admitted to hospital with hypothermia.
Teteghem update (Wednesday 24th November)
Many migrants in Teghem moved out after being threatened by police, and destroyed their own houses. Maybe 35 to 40 people were left. They had been promised by police that if they reduce the numbers in the camp they will be left alone. The police went to Teteghem jungle on Sunday morning, around 10 am, to tell people they will destroy the camp if they don’t reduce their numbers. Resulting in people running, often without knowing where to go. Some people have gone to Paris, some to Calais, some we don’t know. There were many unaccompanied minors in the jungle, many have left and I don’t know where they have gone. It is always the youngest and the most vulnerable who are affected most. I am very happy local volunteers put some the families with small children in safe houses – there were three babies aged 7, 8 and 9 months in the jungle, living with their families in the cold and rain and terrible hygienic conditions, and some very young children. Some women decided to stay, including one woman who is heavily pregnant.
The police (PAF) returned Monday 22nd in the morning, at dawn, and arrested 8 people, including one woman – all were released by 7pm; they did not destroy anything and were unusually polite; a dozen volunteers from Terre d’Errance, Salam, one no borders (me) a journalist and a photographer from La Voix du Nord were present, soon other press arrived from Channel 3 and some people working for MdM, later other media, TV1…
Unfortunately the story does not end up here: the PAF returned Tuesday morning shortly before 9 am, arresting 6 or 7 people, including people with papers; I was in the camp and saw the arrests; some volunteers from Terre d’Errance were there too but they were at the main entrance, the police arrived from the side of the petrol station. Later MdM arrived, Salam, others. I left around lunchtime and the refugees in the camp were very upset and worried, the police have been threatening them to return and arrest them, put them in deportation centre for two weeks, and deport them back to their countries. More people were thinking of leaving. This time they have started taking people to deportation centre Lille Lesquin, where they may spend the next two weeks.
The regional tv was there, and interviewed a man from Sudan named Ahmed who said that he would stay there “no matter what, and if the police arrests me, then that will be a shame for France, cause it is here that the notion of liberty was born, 200 years ago.” Later Ahmed was detained and ‘disappeared’, we fear he may have been deported to a third ‘safe’ country.
The break Africa House received from police raids was short lived as they were hit with a huge raid at just past 8.00am this morning. No stone was left unturned as four vans worth of CRS (Unit 7) searched every room in every building arresting 21 African Migrants. CMS activists were on watch and alerted people inside with whistles and shouting, unfortunately – most likely due to the incredible rain – many people decided against running away. One arrest van was filled past capacity and four people had to stand. Activists commented on the overloaded bus but the police responded with shrugged shoulders and smirks. While waiting for the next arrest van to arrive, hot tea and pastries were distributed to the hungry migrants (by CMS) who would be missing there breakfast sat in the police cells.
The ‘deputy mayor’ with PAF at Africa House
Two African and two Pashtun Migrants were also arrested, before the raid on Africa House, while walking through town.
Not satisfied with their mornings work the CRS decided to breach the “”agreement” made with the associations and visit lunchtime food distribution hoping to make more arrests. They were sorely disappointed after charity workers and CMS activists gathered to block them and they were made to leave empty handed. The same arrest vans then made their way up to the train station and around the parks hunting for people to harrass and arrest to fill their quotas.
Africa House was visited again at 11.30pm by the police but no arrests were made. Photographs were taken of the newly constructed barricades and one officer got out of the van to make a closer inspection of some graffiti reading “CRS = CRIMINALS”.
On the brighter side of things the arrival of a small group of musicians has lifted everyones mood as guitars, violins, trumpets and a drum are lugged from squat to squat filling the cold buildings with music, singing and laughter.
As usual, English and French classes are continuing to be well attended in Africa and Palestine House.
As far as we know, none of those arrested this morning have been released yet.
Africa House was spared the usual big Monday morning raid.
Last Friday, the town hall held another migrants council. Somehow they forgot once more to invite the migrants themselves. Testimonies from charities seem to indicate that the meeting mostly consists in the mayor telling the associations what’s gon’ happen ’round here. From the name I initially thought this was a sort of brainstorming session among the most important players of Calais to find out what can be done. This time, Natacha Bouchart announced she would dismantle Africa House, and wall everything up if people are still found there after the destruction has started. She said it wasn’t humane to leave them to sleep in there. A participant asked where migrants would go afterwards, she merely answered: ‘That’s not my problem.’ There’s never been more dignity and humanity in France since the authorities realized they could fuck people over with those alibis.
There has been a decrease in police activity in Africa House: this morning a CRS van and an arrest van went there but they were not keen, and made only one or two arrests. In a change of routine, yesterday evening they did not go, yesterday morning they did not go, (the Africans were happy and saying they were having a holiday), Thursday morning they did not go, neither did they in the evening – however the CRS turned up early in the afternoon and made a few arrests. Yet the general presence of CRS in town remains very elevated and visible. They went twice to the Egyptian/Palestinian squat, arresting a few people, and continued to bother people in the streets or in the parks where they hang out.
Some activists visited Teteghem camp near Dunkerque, where around 150 people have gathered following the destruction of Loon Plage jungle, and the eviction of some squats in Dunkerque. More people moved to Dunkerque to escape police repression in Calais. In the camp there are some Kurdish, Afghan and a Sudanese families with small children , as well as unaccompanied under age Afghan and Kurdish boys. People living there said that the police raided the camp every day, usually early in the morning, and arrested people, ( a huge increase in the level of police activity there since when we visited Tethghem in the Summer, that than was than only a small camp of about 50 people). That is ‘normal’ when they want to reduce the numbers, but particularly worrying for the presence of families, unaccompanied kids some very young and women, one at least pregnant.
In addition, having been driven out of Calais by the police, and evicted from other camps nearby, the lake side camp is in a rural location, close to Teteghem village – although various associations do visit and give food. However, we found that people were lacking of everything: blankets, clothes, food they can cook, pots, nappies, etc. One group of 22 Palestinians were sleeping with only one blanket for 4 people; the Afghan boys had about the same amount of blankets between them, kids were walking around with no jackets, no socks, and shoes that are too big or too small…and the weather’s getting very cold to be sleeping outdoors. We went back to Calais and filled our van with everything that we had still left in storage and brought as many blankets as we could to … it was an improvement but certainly not sufficient for all. Satrurday however Medicines du Monde and local associations will do a big distribution of sleeping bags, clothes, tarpaulin.
The local Mayor has just said, “Provided there are fewer than 50 people [in a camp], we can manage it. Now I’m ringing the alarm bell”. The local associations fear a destruction of the camp may be imminent but there is no information, and a meeting of the associations with the Mayor has been cancelled or postponed. One wonders what exactly that will lead to. Yet another destruction? Will people manage to mobilize to save it ( – and for how long…?). Watch this space.
Africa House raided in the morning 8 am, 8 arrests. No raid in the evening.
Tuesday 16th November
Africa House raided 7.30 am and again shortly after 9am. 15 arrests in total.
Monday 15th November A raid took place on Africa House this morning shortly after 7am.16 people were arrested. In the evening they came 3 times, twice they raided arresting approx 10 people, the last time (1 am) they just drove round the courtyard to wake people up, did not try to arrest anyone. Last night there was raid there at 11.30 pm, resulting in the arrest of 11 people. Two men ran away at the last moment before being put in the arrest van and are not counted amongst those arrested. On both occasions 3 CRS vans and one arrest van came via the front of the building.Three CRS vans went to the squat known as Palestine house yesterday at about 8.30 pm. There were 5 arrests.
Sunday 14th November
The CRS went twice to Africa house last night, arresting 22 people, and again this morning, when they took 9. This is a daily occurence so if you are keen on helping defend Africa House please come forward! Other squats are also still getting raided very often, with people being held for 12 – 24 hours. Others are held in Coquelles detention centre for 2-4 weeks.
Three people (two Europeans, one African) and a dog were arrested in the night between Sunday and Monday around 1.30 pm, for making graffiti. They were held in garde-vue until Monday evening and liberated around 7pm. The humans are to appear in court the 13th January accused of vandalizing, and perhaps of insult to police officier but it seems the second accustion has been dropped after the person accused complained about a previous beating by police. There is an outstanding number of no borders graffiti in Calais, made by persons unknown.
Another raid took place on Africa house this morning shortly after 8 am, resulting in the arrests of 10 people.
Friday 12th November
The CRS raided Africa House at 8am. They caught one man whose girlfriend, another resident of Africa House, is in hospital and is about to have a baby. We informed the police but they refused to let him go saying that was our fault because we blew whistles(?!) (which we do to warn people so as to give them a chance to escape) . Shortly after they left, a police car drove into the courtyard at full speed, followed by three vehicles from the council. Council workers and the police simply chatted but they are likely to have been discussing the complete destruction of the buildings, which is slowly being carried out over the heads of the occupiers.
The trial of the men accused of carrying out racist attacks on migrants in Calais in September concluded today in the Court of Boulogne-sur-Mer. Two No Borders activists were present, as was a volunteer from the charity La Belle Etoile.
Four fascists were handed prison sentences for the assaults. According to the local paper, nine skinheads in all had been arrested on suspicion of having carried out the brutal attacks. Tears began to flow as they were told that they would be held on remand.
Then on Friday, four of the defendants were convicted of assault and sentenced to prison. – Christopher Foubet, 22 years old, from Blériot, was sentenced to 24 months in prison, of which one year is mandatory. He had previous conviction for assault. – Rémi Longavesne, from Fiennes, was handed the same sentence. – Jason Rougemont, a 20 year-old from Calais, was given a 20-month prison sentence, of which he must serve a mandatory six months. – Yann Harduin, 20, from les Attaques, was sentenced to 12 months in prison, of which half will be mandatory. Thursday 11th November
The CRS arrested 17 people in Africa house this morning. At first, they took 3 + 5 who were hiding in the garden, then they came back and arrested 9 more people; some of those arrested were released and turned up at food distribution but most are still missing.
There are currently quite large numbers of Sudanese and Arabs in Coquelles detention centre. We have been calling and visiting them. Some are supposed to be released the day after tomorrow if the judges do not give them more time inside. People are very often being held for long periods in the police station too (eg: 12 or 24 hrs).
Numerous raids and arrests occurred in most places (see incomplete list below), and a particularly nasty company of CRS were in town: several migrants and a CMS activist have been beaten or manhandled.
Friday 5th: At 6 am, 5 arrests were made at Palestine House, a mass raid on Africa House took place at 8 am and 3 people were arrested near the commercial centre at 3pm.
Thursday 4th: At 8am, 7 arrests were made at Palestine House. 3 people were arrested in the street at 10.30 (all of people with papers). Between 8.30 and 9.00, 7 people with papers were arrested in the park and one activist was beaten up by the CRS, even though he told them he has problems with his back . Some migrants were also hit, and one was accused of assaulting a policeman, which is not true – all he did was tell them that he had an interview for his asylum claim the following day, and instinctively tried to push away. One week on, he is still being detained, and missed his interview.
Tuesday 2nd: At 8 am, PAF officers raided Palestine House, arresting five people. All were later released. Five further arrests were made at midnight, when the police raided the Pashtun jungle.
Sunday 31st: A midnight raid by PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) was made on Palestine House. Everyone was arrested, and three detained.
Friday 29th October
There was another mass raid on Africa House this morning at about 9am, 16 arrests were made and by 5pm those arrested still hadn’t returned – they are being detained in Coquelles deportation centre.
The CRS are back in town this morning – one CRS van drove into Africa house twice, but made no arrests. Five African migrants were later arrested in front of the food distribution place, at or shortly before 9.30 am
In the evening, the CRS raided Africa House at around 8.30pm, where they arrested four people.
The CRS have been gone from Calais for a few days, due to the general strike, protests and riots and 50 cops in hospital across various locations in France…
Instead, the PAF have been extraordinarily busy harassing migrants in their camps and squats, in the streets and on their way to England; a large number of injuries have been sustained by migrants such as bruises, cuts – often requiring stitches – broken fingers, damaged knees, dislocated wrists and ankles — the usual. One man had the skin of the palms of his hands peeled off after being dragged down a lorry by port security.
Africa House has been particularly targeted, withtwo big raids and several small ones.
On Thursday 14th PAF arrived 7.30 am, arresting nearly everybody who was in the squat. People living there say 40 arrests were made, but we were unable to count because they evicted us from the building.
Another big PAF operation took place on Friday 22nd at around same hour. We witnessed around 15 arrests. One activist was threatened and assaulted by cops because she would not leave the premises. The usual.
Several vans from the council arrived at 8am to carry on with the cleaning operation. Essentially, they are slowly demolishing parts of the buildings over the heads of the occupiers. No blankets were taken this time, though the Deputy Mayor and the owner of the building made an appearance. The police also smashed the glass in a room where people are sleeping.
The previous morning, there was a smaller and less well-organised raid on Africa House by the PAF (Police Aux Frontieres – border police) with about 9 arrests made. The PAF turn up every day in the morning and again in the evening – sometimes to arrest, or sometimes just to harass and make people run – they seem to have fun as they often laugh and sometimes play loud music in their vans and it may be the case that they are high on drugs…but this is just a supposition, there is very little doubt however that they are sick in the head. Similarly, in the park where migrants hang out (not having a place to go to), in the streets, and in every other squat and jungle, and at any time, they continually arrest at random. They are also still arresting people outside the PASS clinic where sick people wait to be seen, and at the food distribution place where there is and agreement with the local charities not to make arrests.
In the night between the 21st and 22nd , the PAF raided Palestine House. They only arrested two people but held them for 12 hours. Then on the morning of the 23rd they took nearly everyone.
The Sudanese jungle also receives frequent visits by police and is now all fenced up.
BAC, the criminal investigation police, identified and followed three No Borders activists on the street on the night of 22nd Oct. Considering that the majority of the migrants in Calais are refugees from some of the most dangerous war-torn countries in the world and most of those present in Calais at this moment come from Darfur, I really don’t know what it takes to wake up French public opinion.
English classes continue in Africa House and Palestine House with a great rate of attendance.
How to organise a secret festival
“Dwelling, moving about, speaking, reading, shopping, and cooking are activities that seem to correspond to the characteristics of tactical ruses and surprises: clever tricks of the ‘weak’ within the order established by the ‘strong’, an art of putting one over on the adversary on his own turf, hunter’s tricks, manouverable, polymorph mobilities, jubilant, poetic and warlike discoveries.” Michel de Certeau, “The Practice of Everyday Life”
“Everything is possible if people work together — even stopping Calais from being Calais.” Arnaud Borderer.
We actually did it: No Borders Calais organised a successful week-long music festival in Calais (6-12 September 2010), one of the shittest towns in Europe, in the teeth of the French police and the local authorities, with no publicity at all, a few hundred euros, and little of what you could call organisation. And some of us say it was just about the best party we’ve ever been to.
It’s safe now to let the cat out of the bag: anyhow there’s a crop of videos up on YouTube already, and a few references to “Hafla bila Hudud / Festival Without Borders” have scattered themselves across the web. At the time, though, there was every need of secrecy. In February, when No Borders legally rented a warehouse (the “Kronstadt Hangar”) as a social and sleeping space to be shared with undocumented migrants, it was raided and closed down twice in two days by French riot police. The immigration minister Eric Besson appeared on national television denouncing No Borders as “violent left extremists” and repeating his vow to make Calais a “migrant free zone”. We knew that any public event would be met with gendarmes and batons, so the festival was announced only by word of mouth and on closed email networks.
Even so, around 100 international supporters came from all over Europe, from Ireland to Poland, to join migrants and local Calaisiens for a week of music, art, and festivity. Since last November the number of migrants in Calais, trying to cross the channel, has fallen to perhaps less than 200. But if anything the number of police has increased: there is still the permanent presence of the notorious CRS (Compagnies Republicaines de Securite) riot police who make constant raids and patrols against migrants, and the PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) border police have become increasingly active alongside them. The grim everyday for Calais sans-papiers goes on: raids, beatings, arbitrary arrests, bedding and belongings destroyed and stolen, teargas in the water, pepperspray in the sleeping bags, etc. etc.
In Calais a party, a night out, a simple gathering of friends, is much more than just hedonism. A party in Calais is something extraordinary. A music festival is an insurrection. We held concerts in the park and in some friendly local bars, as well as at the camps (“jungles”) and squats where people live. The first night in the park we were sniffed at by undercover police: but when they saw our numbers they had to back off, and through the week our numbers grew. Internationals and locals with papers stood in the street outside events ready to form protection rings around migrants if the police moved in to snatch. CRS looked on bemused — where had all these pesky No Borders come from? — and drove past empty handed. And that is what solidarity means — that is what we can do when we simply stand together.
In Calais, cooking and sharing a meal together is an act of rebellion. The routine: philanthropic associations hand out tasteless food, truly reminiscent of Dickensian gruel, in a bare yard surrounded by barbed wire, overlooked by undercover cops, council inspectors, and racist charity bosses. The festival took place at the end of Ramadan, the Islamic fasting month, a particularly hard time in Calais with hunger and thirst compounding fear and exhaustion. And through Ramadan the police customarily raided at sunset to catch Muslim migrants gathering together to break their fast with heated-up charity slop. For the festival, the Dutch activist kitchen Rampenplan came to cook nutritious meals at lunch and sunset. We ate the evening meal together in the park, in the town square, and in the open space opposite the official “food distro” point. People with and without papers, sharing food with music, banners, laughter, comradeship.
Just a few highlights. The massive Eid (end of Ramadan) party in Africa House (the squatted ex-factory which is the home of mainly Sudanese migrants), which brought together all the migrant communities of Calais — Sudanese and Eritreans and Pashtuns and Hazara and Kurds and Iranians and more, eating and dancing together. Saturday night’s final party in the park with Pashtun dancing and Kurdish singing, followed by a parade up the main street to a bar for sets from Combat Wombat (Australia) and WildKatz Project (Brighton). Rebel recording sessions in the jungles, and in our short-lived new No Borders squat which for two days became a cauldron of sound and visual creation. The “Food not borders” stall in Place D’Armes. Taking over the food distro yard for weekend picnics with klezmer music, football, and multilingual chalking everywhere. “For a few days,” said one sans-papier, “I felt I wasn’t in Calais.” Yes, it was only a few days.
The next monday, the biggest police raid seen since February fell on Africa House, this time particularly targeting No Borders activists in a “revenge” attack. Since then, the daily grind of raids and brutality continues — back to normality. But in those few energetic days we won something longer lasting: not just a vital breather, a glimpse of life beyond state repression, sweet sustaining memories, but the creation of new links of solidarity that we will continue to build on.
That brief breathing space brought Calaisiens, visitors, and migrants from different, sometimes mutually suspicious, communities together like never before, creating new connections and relationships, deepening trust, knitting together our resistance. Not to mention: we learnt how to organise a secret festival. What next?
See also ‘Hafla bila Hudud‘, a video the Festival without Borders
Wednesday 13th October
There was a massive raid on the squat known as Africa House early in this morning. CRS and PAF (Border Police) arrived with five vans and a car, followed by at least three arrest vans, at around 7.30 am; numerous arrests were made – up to 40 according to the inhabitants of the squat. CMS activists were present but were evicted from the squat at an early stage.
On Friday 8th October, four skinheads appeared in court in Boulogne to stand trial for their alleged role in attacks on migrants. This follows a series of racist assaults against migrants in Calais over the past month, in which primarily lone African migrants have been set upon with bottles, metal bars and tear gas (?!). The trial is adjourned to the 12th November, and three defendants have been remanded in prison, all of whom cried when told they would have to return to prison. The fourth was released in the custody of his parents, under judicial supervison. Three skinheads who are still free, and three girlfriends, went to the tribunal to support their friends. Five minors have been also arrested and will appear in front of a judge for juveniles.
On Thursday 7th October, two racists unrelated to the skinhead gang tried to burn down tents under the bridge where some migrants sleep. The tents are mainly home to a few Afghans, but also to one or two Africans, and an underage Afghan boy of 15 who has been in Calais for over two years and somehow failed to integrate… his tent was destroyed by fire. Two other tents survived as one of the inhabitants returned and caught the assailants, who were very drunk; he held them down and two police officers on motorbikes stopped and asked what was happening. The two racists were taken into police custody, where they remain. CMS activists gave the migrants a new tent and blankets.
Then on Tuesday 12th October, Grégory Dalibon, a 30 year-old from Calais, was condemned to 8 months in prison for burning the tent. A charity worker was also assaulted because he helps migrants, by yet different racists, who work for a security firm. He has been charged with assault, despite the fact that he is the one who got attacked!
Saturday 9th October
Raids on Africa House continue, especially around 8am when people are trying to brush their teeth…at the same time the diggers arrive to clean the place from ‘toxic waste’.
There were two major raids there this week:
– On Wednesday 6th, three CRS vans came from the front of the building shortly after the workers moved the barricade put in place by us. They were followed by two cops in civilian clothes. Nine people were arrested.
– Then on Thursday 7th, three CRS vans, plus PAF officers, came from the back of the building with ladders. 15 arrests were made.
The Kurdish jungle was also raided on Thursday, but the police didn’t manage to catch anyone. The Sudanese jungle has been fenced up and police roam about there in the evening. We went and drank tea with the inabitants yesterday, but the shelter where they gather has been destroyed and very few trees remain… Four PAF arrived, on foot and hoping to surprise the migrants, but the Sudanese saw them coming and hid. The police searched the jungle but without success, and left empty handed. Conditions have however deteriorated, it’s cold and rains a lot and people are without proper shelter. Park Richelieu, where many migrants spend their time, gets raided regularly. Those without papers, if caught, are always arrested – although they still arrest people who have papers too.
Friday 7th October
Three people were arrested at food distribution at 8.30 am. Four others were arrested at a roundabaout at around 7.40 pm.
Tuesday 5th October Works on Africa House
Until now, all personal belongings of the Africa House residents had been left alone, but in the end they said they have to clear everything out. We talked to all the inhabitants of the house so that they know what’s going on and so that everybody puts their blankets into one room where hopefully it won’t get taken away. We are doing morning and night watch on Africa House every day – there has only been one arrest in the past two days. The new CRS unit in town is number 38. Two arrests were made in one of the squats.
Monday 4th October
A big raid was made on the Palestinian squat shortly after 5pm, with 8 arrests made.
Police went twice to Africa house, but made no arrests. Clean-up work on Africa House has now started – workers are staying there all day and are throwing everything out the buildings, although for now they are not touching people’s belongings. It will only be a matter of time until people are completely evicted, their possessions taken to a rubbish dump, and their home destroyed – as we have seen happen to so many other communities here.
Saturday 2nd October
The police raided Palestine House four times, and 8 people were arrested on one occasion.
Friday 1st October
The Pashtun jungle was raided at around 12.30 at night – three people were arrested, two of whom have papers.
Thursday 30th September
The police really were out and about on Thursday. At 7.30 am, they raided the railway tracks where Pashtuns are living. They slashed plastic, which only two nights previously, we had used together to cover the windows the police had recently broken (see ‘Weekend Roundup’, below). That the French authorities do not even allow migrants a bit of plastic to keep out the cold is illustrative of the barbarity and inhumanity of their immigration policies generally, and the policing in Calais in particular.
At approximately 3.45pm, the police pulled up at the grassy area around the PASS clinic. This clinic provides free treatment for sick or injured migrants, and lots of people with broken or sprained limbs who may not be in a position to run from the police tend to loiter outside until their turn or as they wait for friends. As such, its an easy target for lazy police looking to meet their arrest quotas. 11 people were arrested.
At about the same time, a raid was being made on Africa House. We are unsure if anyone was arrested. Several arrests were made in the park over the course of the evening.
One man was also taken at the bridge near Africa House at 9.15pm.
Wednesday 29th September
Another day, another raid on Africa House. This time, a small number of CRS officers entered the site at 8.30am. Whistles were blown, most people ran but 3 were arrested. These individuals are thought to have had papers, making their arrest most probably unlawful. However, this practice remains widespread in Calais.
At 9.40pm, CRS raided the Sudanese jungle minutes after a couple of No Borders activists had arrived. The activists saw the police and were able to raise the alarm; everyone ran bar one man with Italian papers. However, this was clearly not enough for the CRS who arrested him regardless, claiming the ID was false. Sleeping in the jungles, amongst other things, gives us an insight into how uncomfortable and cold nights can be there. We have been distributing plenty of essential sleeping materials and tents which had been collected by volunteers from festivals in the UK over the summer.
Monday 27th/Tuesday 28th
Yesterday the police attention was quieter. Four Eritreans were arrested in the park whilst trying to enjoy the supposedly peaceful public space.
The Police aux Frontieres (PAF) also visited Africa House again; four officers wandered around the premises. Everyone ran away which left the English lessons low in pupils. However, we did have many supportive comments and conversations with Calaisiens as we monitored the police, with people encouraging us to continue our work.
Approximately 12 Iranians were arrested in the jungle and elsewhere that night.
This morning, the PAF made two raids on Africa House, with larger numbers than the previous day and the intention of arresting as many as possible. No Borders activists present alerted people before they entered at 9.10am, and many were able to hide or escape. However, they still arrested nine Sudanese migrants. Activists were ‘controlled’ (I.D’ed), but not arrested. The PAF decided that displaying their dirty work publicly would look bad, and drove the vans around the back of the squat so that the Sudanese could be put into the vehicles without people on the street having to see. The PAF then returned at around 11am – but due to the almost incessant nature of the police harassment, we were unable to be present at the time, and are unsure as to whether any arrests were made then.
The Kurdish jungle was then raided at around 2pm. Tents have been slashed by the police rendering them unusable; No Borders activists provided residents with replacement shelters.
11 people were also arrested at the Sudanese jungle at midnight.
It has been relatively quiet in policing terms. Around five people were arrested during a raid on the Egyptian squat at 8pm on Saturday, and around five more people were taken shortly after midnight raid on the Pashtun jungle.
There was also a large raid of Africa House on Saturday night but thanks to the fast legs of the migrants and the overweightness of the CRS they only managed to arrest five people, who were released after a few hours. Still, a walk home from Coquelles can take several hours in the rain. The weather has been a double-edged sword. The torrential rain has made life more uncomfortable and unpleasant for those sleeping outside, (the majority of migrants) but has ensured that the police don’t bother to raid, lest their uniforms get wet.
The Pashtuns have been getting visits from the police almost every night, usually just after they fall asleep or in the early hours before they wake up. One night about a week ago, the CRS attacked a hut in which a number of migrants live. Despite the hut being only approximately 2.5 x 4.5 squared, with migrants, including minors, asleep in the small space at the time, the police smashed all the windows in with their batons as people attempted to shield themselves from shards of glass. One man received a facial injury from a large fragment and was required to get medical attention from the clinic. Also, several migrants report that they were attacked by local fascists, they managed to get away without injury.
Thursday, 23rd September, 2010: GENERAL STRIKE
A quiet day for most people. There was a General Strike all across France, many trains and bus services were shut and the CRS were busy in other cities dealing with demonstrations. People here took the opportunity to sleep and relax, catching up with needed rest to survive.
Wednesday 22nd September: ANNIVERSERY OF THE JUNGLE DESTRUCTION
The day that Besson was supposed to arrive started with a bang. The Police aux Frontieres (PAF) raided Africa House early and forcefully arrested four No Borders activists and around 12 Africans, mainly Sudanese and Eritrean. They brought everyone to CRA Coquelles and interviewed the activists about why they were in Africa House. When it became clear that no-one wanted to comply with the questions they became and angry and resorted to insults and when that didn’t work they angrily threw the activists out. It was clear to activists that many migrants had been arrested that morning. People cheerily called out to each other in the corridors and the police realised that No Borders had built up strong relationships with the migrant communities of Calais.
Later that day No Borders activists from many countries including France, Germany, Britain, Poland and Finland descended on the statue of the Bourgeois outside of the Town Hall to carry out the subversive act of placing banners in commemoration of the anniversary of the Pashtun Jungle destruction. Many large banner were unfurled on the lawns and statues and hundreds of leaflets given to passers-by. Many journalists arrived and people were interested. However the Police Nationale and Municipale didn’t feel that such freedom of expression was appropriate around this topic and decided to steal our banners. Many activists holding banners were violently arrested, they were wrestled to the ground for no crime other than holding a banner in a public space. Such is the liberte and egalite in Calais. The Police brought tasers and ‘flash-ball’ guns to control a very small crowd of people, which showed the many onlookers what the Police are capable of. There was also a large number of undercover BAC police who assisted in violently arresting the activists. In total four activists were arrested but later released with no charges. The official marking of the jungle destruction was a ‘circle of silence’ called by the associations working in Calais such as Belle Etoile, Salaam and Secours Catholique. Around 50-60 people attended.
Afterwards the evening became more joyful with music and many Pashtun, including some who had lived in the Jungle the year before. There was dancing and laughter in the bittersweet evening. Meanwhile the CRS compagnie 5 attempted to raid Africa House again, however No Borders activists were present and alerted people to the raid. The CRS didn’t manage to catch anyone but controlled the activists. We were told later that they raided again that night but still couldn’t catch anyone. Tuesday 21st September 2010. ‘They treat us like horses. They feed us just enough so that they can chase us’.
In spite of the arrangement that the Police will not harass people visiting the food distribution, this morning the Police visited the distribution compound during morning breakfast and then arrested 4 people immediately outside of distribution space.
The inhabitants of Africa House are extremely tired today, constant night visits mean that people have no sleep and no rest. They raided again several times today, arresting at least ten this evening. The PAF (Police aux Frontieres) were also out checking empty buildings on the same street ensuring that people are not sleeping anywhere else.
Again people were harassed in the park this evening, the CRS attempted to arrest some Pashtuns but they avoided the police by staying on top of a high wall.
The CRS then moved on to Africa House and Palestine House, raiding a space where a three year old migrant and his father sleep.
The newspapers today have been full of lies and distortions. Articles about one after the jungle destruction include such untruths as ‘not one blow was struck during the eviction’ and that ‘No Borders was to blame for people losing their bags because they insisted on migrants fighting the eviction’. The Prefecture in the interview also blamed the Mayor of Angres as being irresponsible simply for providing water and toilets for a Vietnamese jungle. In the same breath he praised the destruction of the Pashtun jungle as a ‘humanitarian act’. The language of double-speak in Calais is alive and well. The quote at the top is in reference to a conversation we had with a group of Sudanese. They told us about being chased by the police, and that they have been chased by the police until they are too exhausted to carry on and then the police, laughing, let them go. They feel like they are horses, being fed enough to run for sport.
As for the good news: Africa House English lessons continue to go well, revision of time and explanation of past and future tenses was well received.
Monday 20th September 2010: SLEEPLESS IN CALAIS
Following a relatively quiet Sunday, people were expecting police operations to step up on Monday morning. From about 7am Activists followed 5 CRS vans around the town. Two arrests were made. Before 9am the CRS had raided Africa House, approaching on foot, presumably to foil any attempt to warn people staying in the building. Activists were present and no arrests were able to be made.
The CRS attempted to steal cameras from activists and threatened to smash them. Film footage was stolen and others were recorded over. Next time we will gently remind the CRS that one of their colleagues recently paid 650 euros in damages for breaking a CMS activist’s camera.
However determined we may be to stop the CRS though, they are more determined to stop the Africans from sleeping. They returned soon afterwards to make arrests and harass. The PAF were also present during this raid which lasted many hours. They left just before evening food distribution but returned at 10.00pm and arrested one person, and then again at 1.00am. This was simply to wake people and ensure that they sleep elsewhere and don’t sleep in Africa House. On a brighter note, English and French lessons are continuing in Africa House with regular attendance. People are enjoying the space to learn and prepare themselves for the journey ahead in the UK.
Sunday, 19th September, 2010
The summer definitely ended in Calais over the weekend, with the weather becoming increasingly cold and showery. Many people have been forced from the semi-permanent, sheltered squats onto the streets of Calais, by constant police harassment of fixed living spaces. The CRS’s first action early on Sunday morning was to act to intimidate those sleeping by the railway tracks around the canal basin. Two people were caught.
Later in the evening, the CRS returned in force with 5 vans of Police raiding the park area and arrested at least 2 people. Activists were nearby and were able to witness and film the continuous harassment, happening in public in the middle of a busy Sunday evening in Calais. Afterwards we were able to quickly to visit and warn other permanent spaces in the town. We understand that at least 2 people were later arrested at ‘Palestine House’.
Saturday, 18th September, 2010
The CRS raided Africa House again, at about 11.00am. They smashed windows and glass, threw tear-gas and used pepper spray on people’s bedding. They scrawled graffiti across windows and doors including the hilarious “yes borders”. They didn’t arrest anyone but simply attempted to intimidate and harass. They also poured chemical solvents, varnish and pepper spray in the No Borders room in Africa House.
Later in the evening No Borders activists watched unmarked police vans patrol the park demanding papers from everyone who wasn’t white. They did not identify themselves as to which force they are from, the CRS, PAF, Police Nationale. It was impossible to tell. They drove off whilst we watched them. Finally, activists brought extra water to the people in Africa House. A day of running from the cops left many people without water. One migrant said, “tonight we sleep thirsty”. As unacceptable as the situation is, a situation without water is inhuman. Simply providing water in Calais is now part of the struggle for people to survive.
Friday, 17th September, 2010
The pressure on the migrants continued with at least two full CRS / PAF raids on the Africa House and a morning raid on the Palestine Squat. In addition the PAF disrupted the French and English lessons, to control and check people’s papers and to temporarily clear the site. This was to save visiting council officials the distressing sight of meeting homeless Sudanese and Eritreans, whilst they inspected the derelict building complex. The Police pursued people into the streets of central Calais, even arresting those on the way to the afternoon food distribution. Later, throughout the evening, CRS unit 5 supported by PAF, toured the town centre parks. They worked relentlessly, returning from the detention centre at Coquelle, to continue filling their arrest bus.
WEEKLY ROUND UP
The pressure and harassment continues in Calais this week, there is a new fear in the air with the potential arrival of Eric Besson, the French Immigration Minister. There are many rumours flying around about jungle destruction and clearances.
As a quick round-up, there has been a huge jungle destruction in Dunkerque, the threat to Africa House has grown and people are being pushed further out of Calais due to consistent harassment. CRS compagnie 8 has changed and compagnie 5 has taken its place. Their tactics seem to be different. They spend many hours in the evening driving around in force, in four or five vans, circling the parks and squats and roads in order to arrest as many as possible, making it impossible for people to sleep. Many people now refuse to sleep until late and then get up as early as five just to avoid being kicked awake by the CRS. The threat to Africa House continues with several guys in suits wondering around the property during a police raid complaining about Health and Safety. The police tried to remove the barricades in order to let the arrest vans into the courtyard.
The harassment continues to deprive people of sleep and health, raids have increased from the morning to every couple of hours, morning, afternoon and evening.
Also the safer place of the park has been under increased attack, with Africans and Vietnamese being arrested late into the night. The migrant jungle in Dunkerque has also been destroyed, it is unclear at the moment how many people that has made homeless but we do know that the camp contained women, children and families. It is in the tradition of France’s and Besson’s racism that these people have been forced out onto the street simply for not having ‘papers’.
No Borders members visited Lille to attend a meeting about the new migration law that Besson is pushing through in October, the law includes changes such as a blacklist for those who fail asylum in France, a ban of two years with a view to extend this throughout the Schengen area. The meeting was well attended and called by many associations across Northern France. However interesting the meeting was though, the attitude of many was desperation with many people asking, “what can we do?”. While focus of the meeting was very Besson orientated, we want to remind people that there is not one person to blame but an entire system of racism and xenophobia.
ESCAPE FROM CALAIS
For many people, both with and without papers, this last weekend rounded off a really different experience of Calais: with music, art, good food and solidarity together we successfully transformed a place of misery and repression into a scene of life and celebration. Musicians continued to arrive and play at the Ramplenplan kitchen’s food sharings, in the streets and squats, and at further parties organised each evening.
On Saturday and Sunday lunchtimes No Borders and Rampenplan took over the wasteground opposite the council’s food distribution cage for festive picnic lunches of 150 or so people each day: a massive contrast to the usual prison line scene at the regular food distributions run by the officialised state-funded “associations”.
On Saturday evening we held what some commented was perhaps the best party ever seen in Calais. It began in Parc Richelieu with food, acoustic performances leading to a great dance circle with Pashtun dances and singing in Kurdish, Dari, Arabic and other languages. As darkness took hold we then walked up the road with newly made banners to a nearby bar where the night continued with more Kurdish singing as well as a klezmer band, another storming set from Combat Wombat, and finishing up again with freestyling on the mic. The bar was packed and the crowd and music spilled out to take over the street as Calais partygoers joined us. CRS vans cruised past, sometimes two at a time, but given our numbers and energy all they could do was look on forlornly at the sight of people enjoying themselves without fear. There was nothing they could do to spoil this night – a vivid demonstration of how, after all, the force of the state bullies is nothing against the power we have when we just stand together.
On Sunday night, after saying goodbye to Rampenplan, we ended the week with a chilled celebration to the music of the Wildkatz project from Brighton. Altogether it was a great week in Calais. That is, a week in which with art and music we created the the kind of situation many of us are used to taking as normality: a space to breathe, relax, enjoy, play. Set against the state of repression in this town, just being out to go out and make music together can be a remarkable act of struggle here. People said: “this week I thought I wasn’t in Calais”.
Unfortunately, I was back in Calais on Monday morning – with a vengeance. Africa House bore the brunt of probably the biggest police raid in Calais since the eviction of the Cronstadt hangar. They came with not just the full complement of CRS (around 20 in 3 vans) but another 30 or so Police aux Frontieres (PAF), the French Border Police, many wearing riot gear. This was something big and something special: given the way that they seemed to be specifically targeting CMS activists, it appears to have been a revenge attack for the success of last week’s events. They were unusually violent and injured many activists with batons and violent pushing.
One activist was handcuffed on the roof and made to jump down to the floor without the use of his hands. All 12 activists present were arrested. According to what officers said later in the station, the arrests were under the 322/4/1 of the French penal code, which is against people using public property as a living space without permission, usually used to target Roma and other travellers. Everyone was taken to Coquelles CRA (detention centre) and placed in custody.
Inside the Detention Centre the violence and humiliation continued, and reached a particular low when one female activist was sexually harassed by CRS. When her comrades came to her defence the 20 or so police present in the corridor rushed us. Four male cops dragged her away alone to the cells, the others attacking activists with full force, including grabbing some activists’ and smacking their heads against the wall. Activists, including three with head injuries, were illegally denied access to a doctor during custody. One activist was targeted because she had a child in Calais and was told she was a bad mother and that she would be deported and her child taken into care by the French.
Despite the violence in the police station, our morale stayed extremely high: with plenty of singing and drumming on the walls, we reprised last week’s “party in the police station”. No one was seriously hurt.
Meanwhile at Africa House police boarded up buildings with metal plates resulting in a migrant being trapped inside the building with no way out for many hours, until journalists heard him banging against the metal plating and helped release him. Arrestee support was waiting outside the detention centre for most of the day with food and beer for those inside. They were targeted by police as well and told to move on several times. Eventually the police decided to get out the Law book for Traffic Offences and sat with it going through every page checking everything on the vehicle. Eventually they decided to fine activists 45 Euros for having a Dutch number-plate which does not conform to French standards, despite the proliferation of other vehicles in the car park with similar number-plates. All activists except one were released early evening; the remaining activist was released in the morning. Despite this repression everyone is in good spirits and healthy and happy. Repression brings many people closer and the ties between activists and migrants are still very strong, activists have recorded songs with many migrants which will be placed on the blog soon.
But still the madness continues, many people are arrested every night at the Kurdish Jungle and driven many hours away from Calais to have to walk back.
Saturday 11th September
L’Auberge Des Migrants, one of the organisations that distributes food in Calais, are on holiday for the weekend. No Borders stepped in to make lunch. Although we requested permission to use the official food distribution area (aka barbed wire prison canteen) this was turned down and we were not given a key. Instead we turned the patch of grass outside the area into a mini festival for the afternoon. Lookouts were posted around the periphory to keep the forces of ‘law and order’ at bay, while inside Rampenplan served up another delcious meal accompanied by Pashtun dance tunes, balkan style band with violins and accordians and later the plaintive sound of classical turkish music drifting over the football game. An unmarked police car and two CRS vans circled but with several dozen No Borders on Security, did not attempt to enter.
This morning there was a raid on the Sudanese jungle at about 7 30. Activists were on lookout at the front and back, and shadowed the CRS as they walked through the jungle. There were 2 vans, one at each end. Their search was not thorough, and there was only one arrest — a man with papers. Then they went to the Pashtun jungle. An activist van was on patrol and witnessed the arrest of 10 migrants. However, the migrants said that it was Eid and a holiday and they had to go to the mosque, and (unheard of!) the CRS complied and released them. Some migrants went to the Mosque out of town in the morning. One car of PAF visited Africa House later in the morning, but made no arrests.
At 1 o’clock, at the same time and place as Belle Etoile’s distribution, Rampenplan also distributed (infinitely nicer) food. There was a real holiday atmosphere with much music and dancing, everybody all together. There were football games and chalk drawing on the floor from both activists and migrants. We remained in the space until 3 pm, offering some much needed time for everbody to relax a bit. After lunch some activists leafleted Calais local reisidents while elsewhere the festive atnosphere spread through the town with musicians visiting migrants’ spaces and jamming, playing and recording music. Look out for forthcoming tracks produced in Calais!! There was also a football game on the beach: the score was Hazaras 100, No Borders 2 (according to a completely unreliable source)
At 7 there was a big No Borders food sharing in the park — people with and without papers walked there and ate together. Again there was music and delicious food, followed by a live gig in a bar which many people attended. Those not completely danced out for the day continued in style!
Thursday 9th September
The last day of Ramadan and the beginning of a relatively quiet patch in terms of police action, though not of activist action. The only arrests reported occurred just down the road from Africa House at 8 30 am. People were on watch at the front and back of the squat, but no activists witnessed the arrests. It was reported that 5 migrants were arrested. At lunchtime there was a ‘Food not Borders’ event where we shared food and information with migrants and local residents on the main street by the Place D’Arms. Musicians and jugglers entertained while Rampenplan kitchen and other activists distributed food and information leaflets to the inhabitants of Calais. 2 police nationale turned up on motorbikes and watched from the sidelines but didn’t interfere. See the article in the local paper here .
There was a big Party for Eid in Africa House in the evening. Activists and migrants walked together from food distribution. Rampenplan made delicious food, and many migrants from all the jungles and activists came together for singing, dancing and eating round the fire. It was a great success and to our suprise (we had many people on watch and were ready for a visit from the police), we were not interrupted. Eid has fallen at a time when there are many activists in Calais (including lots of new ones!), and so it has been possible to hold many events and actions.
This series of social events is aimed at providing relief from the boredom and misery of daily life for sans-papiers in calais, which is marked by tough living conditions, daily arrests, and humiliating treatment at the hands of the authorities. Perhaps more importantly, it is a brilliant opportunity to work with migrants by sharing information and providing as many tools as possible for migrants to build their own resistance to this subjugation; whether that be in the form of protest, preparing their own meals, or simply having a good time in defiance of deliberate a policy to keep them in a position of dependency and powerlessness.
Wednesday 8th September
The morning started with a big CRS raid at the Africa House. As often police come only from one side to enter the area, this time they came from several sides and also climbed the roof. They arrested about 7 people without papers and 17 No Borders activists with papers, who had been there doing the morning shift. Two activists were pushed to the ground, everybody got ID checked and after giving back passports and being told by the police to go, they forced the group to leave the area. One activist who had an injured hand in a bandage was grabbed by the CRS, who twisted her hand, which has now caused her another injury. When other activists tried to intervene, the police became even more violent. All were arrested, including activists standing away from the scene. They were taken to Coquelles, interviewed, and held in several cells until the evening. So for once we managed to outnumber migrants in the PAF police cells in Coquelles!
While part of our group was there, other activists held a meeting in one of our squats which had been raid by the Police Nationale and the CRS at midday. This was a legal occupation – ie; people had been living there since Friday night (well over the 48 hours required by French law), and as such a warrant from court is needed to evict the property. The police had no such warrant and of course, refused to listen when they had their legal position read out to them, saying that they didn’t care about the law.
The police proceeded to break down door and arrested six activists. The whole scene was witnessed by journalists from the local TV channel “TV Calais”, who filmed the incident. Other activists standing outside had their ID checked, then sang a round of “A las barricadas“…. The activists who had been arrested from the two buildings were threatened with charges of ‘illegal occupation’ and ‘criminal damage committed in a group’. However in the end, no charges were brought and all were released early evening — presumably to free the cells for the CRS’ evening roundup. Activists thanked the police for the chance for a good rest on a day of heavy rain in Calais, and with 17 of us inside Coquelles nick took on a festive atmosphere with singing, percussion jams, and exercise classes. Slogan of the day: “No Borders, No Nations, Party in the Police Station!”
That night, there was another peoples’ kitchen in the park. The CRS regularly patrolled the area in order to scare the migrants as they ate eating, two of who were arrested. After the dinner, the film ‘Titanic’, with Arabic subtitles, was screened in the bar for anyone interested.
On Tuesday night No Borders activists, sans-papiers, and many Calais locals had a party together with live music at a local bar. Two members of the Australian rebel sound crew “Combat Wombat” opened the night with beats recorded from around the world, and then held anopen mic session for visiting MCs & anyone who had something to shout about. Raps in Arabic, Amharic, Farsi and other languages with plentiful chants of “No Borders – No Nations” as well as prolific expressions of people´s sentiments about the police, who cruised slowly back and forth on the street outside through the night. When they stopped to hassle migrants taking air outside the bar, activists with papers forced a human safety cordon around them and the CRS went away empty handed. A great night, and everyone got home safely.
Tuesday 7th September
Last night CMS and migrants held a party in the park. Dutch activist kitchen Rampenplan provided delicious vegan food and there was drumming and a sound system playing African beats, reggae and Arabic music. Everyone had a good time though a few of the migrants were scared off by the early appearance of Police Nationale and two BAC undercover cops, who didn´t try to catch anyone.
The party continued until about midnight and gave lots of people a chance to have a good dance and let off some steam. BAC officers kept cruising around for most of the night but were seen-off by activists when they tried to enter the park a second time.
This morning there was a big raid at Africa House. One van of CRS arrived at around 8.00 and were surprised to find themselves inhibited by the presence of 12 CMS activists. The activists kept a close eye on them, following each individual cop very closely as they searched the warehouse, making sure that no damage was done.
They went away without finding anyone to arrest but raided again after some of the activists had left, and decided to arrest one guy who showed them papers. Then they noticed some of the Ethiopians on top of the office inside the warehouse. The Ethiopians made no attempt to run away, but instead taunted the cops and challenged them to climb up and get them. This enraged the CRS, who made an unsuccessful (and extremely funny) attempt to move some shelving units to help them scale the structure, as the Ethiopians stood above them and laughed. The CRS soon retreated to their van at the gate, feeling impotent. Tempers flared as one of the cops grabbed one of the activists by the face and snatched the whistle out of his mouth. Two more vans of CRS turned up, plus an arrest van. They blocked the remaining activists at the gate and stormed back into Africa House. There were shouts and crashing noises. At this point one of the activists tried to get back into the compound, but she was quickly caught, punched and slammed into the wall by three cops. Soon afterwards the CRS came back out of Africa House with one guy who was bleeding from the leg, with a dusty boot mark on the back of his jacket. He was put in the arrest van. The cops tried to steal one of the activists’ bags, and attempted to intimidate another activist filming the scene. All the while, Calaisiens drove past on their way to work. Business as usual in this town.
We later discovered that the cops had poured cooking oil all over the stairs, inside migrants’ bags and over their sleeping bags. Worse still, they found a Bible written in Tigrinya (language of Eritrea), tore pages out of it, covered it in oil and threw it in the dirt. One of the activists spent all day cleaning it with swabs and taping the pages back together. Between the two raids at Africa House four guys were arrested under the bridge and two on their way to food distribution. This morning No Borders activists joined a several thousand strong march called by trade unions in protest against the Sarkozy government’s cuts programme, along with a one day general strike. We leafleted, and marched side by side with Calais workers — including many who work in the port and on the tunnel — with the message that French workers and migrants have a common cause, a common enemy and a common struggle. At one point the demonstration stopped for a while outside the office of the UMP (political party of Sarkozy). Here demonstrators showed their disgust at the ruling politicians by covering the office in eggs and rubbish, then breaking open the letter box and pouring the contents of various rubbish sacks through into the inside of the office, with rousing cheers and a festive atmosphere.
At 20.30 at the Sudanese Jungle five CRS arrested two guys as they ran away. Also tonight at around 22.00 an activist managed to block a CRS van near Africa House as it chased someone, thus preventing an arrest.
__________________________________________________________ Older updates can now be found under the ‘News’ category.
This morning at the food distribution, held in a prison-like area, we were all greeted by a strange sight. The barbed wire surrounding the area was gone. A defiant message had also been painted on the walls of the two distribution buildings, reading: Tear down the fences, Tear down the walls, Tear down the borders, Tear down the barbwire. This is not the first time this has happened. The last time the barbed wire was removed about one year ago. We were informed that it cost 8000 Euro to replace it – it was sad that money to keep the prison-like atmosphere up seemed to be so easy to find. It was taken from the budget that was given to SALAM to open the BCMO (cold weather shelter). We'd like to remind of the circumstances of the autonomous people s kitchen in summer – when about 400 Euros had to last all summer to cook for about 200 people, constantly hassled around by police, when the organisations had their summer break. SALAM, one of the organizations giving out food, accused No Border people last time and are doing it again this time. The energy spent on looking for a culprit seems to be more important than confronting themselves with the grain of truth in the messages. If the bosses of this organization wouldn't want a food distribution that looks like a prison, they could push for it. But they do not - as far as we know (please correct if mistaken). It is important to give out food – as nourishment is the basis of surviving. The amazing work done by volunteers to ensure this is greatly appreciated by people eating there. Barbed wire is part of turning the providing of a basic need into a humiliating experience.