At the start of August, Abdul Rahman Haroun, a Sudanese man, was arrested just short of the exit to the Channel Tunnel in Folkstone, UK, having walked 50km through the tunnel from Calais. He successfully crossed the Channel Tunnel on foot, making it to the UK unharmed and undetected. The British and French governments pretend that they can control the flows of people across the border, spending millions of pounds on fences and cameras. They like to believe they can turn the UK into a fortress but Abdul Rahman Haroun has proved them wrong and because of that they intend to make an example out of him.
Having traveled from Sudan all the way to Britain to seek sanctuary, he now faces up to two years in prison. He has been charged under an outdated piece of legislation, the Malicious Damages Act of 1861, ‘for obstructing a railway carriage or engine’. He had a court date on the 24th of August where he plead not guilty but was remanded in custody by the judge. Being placed on remand for such an offence relates to the political nature of his arrest and is totally uncalled for. He has a further hearing in November and following that a trial in January 2016. He is currently being held in HMP Elmley in Kent.
As he is being prosecuted under such an arcane piece of legislature (the Malicious Damages Act has its history in the criminilsation of dissent by the Luddites in the 18th Century and has recently been used to detain protesters involved in direct action), his prosecution is clearly a politically motivated attack on the freedom of movement designed to intimidate those who would follow his example.
His actions have made him a target but he has a good defense. Under Section 31 of the Refugee Convention and within British law, it is accepted that people may enter the UK ‘illegally’ if doing so to claim asylum. However, as we have witnessed in the past few years, the Tories don’t care much for ‘human rights’ and Abdul needs our solidarity and support to fight their malicious form of justice.
As it stands, his remand means that even if he is found not guilty at trial, he will have already spent 5 months in jail. However, it would not stop there, if found guilty it could have serious consequences for his ability to regularise his status in the UK. A dual punishment that often occurs in the UK, where people who have served out the sentence for their ‘crimes’ (which can be offenses related to immigration) are then punished a second time, by being denied Indefinite Leave to Remain or by being immediately deported (if their country of origin is a country the UK considers ‘safe’).
Abdul’s incarceration and prosecution is an attempt to set a clear example to anyone considering the same journey as him. An attempt to put fear and doubt into the heads of people in Calais about what awaits them on the other side of the channel. We must show them that they cannot scare us into submission with their prisons and their courts!
We absolutely condemn the continued incarceration and prosecution of Abdul. Freedom for Abdul. Freedom for all those detained and incarcerated by the border regime. No one is free until we are all free!
Au début du mois d’août, un homme d’origine soudanaise, Abdul Rahman Haroun, a été arrêté alors qu’il sortait tout juste du tunnel sous la Manche situé côté anglais à Folkstone. Il venait de parcourir les 50 km à pied sous le tunnel, depuis Calais, sans se blesser ni se faire repérer. Les gouvernements français et anglais prétendent contrôler le flux de migrants arrivant aux frontières, dépensant des millions d’euros en barbelés et caméras de surveillance. Ils aiment à croire qu’ils sont entrain de faire de l’Angleterre une forteresse bien gardée, mais Abdul Rahman Haroun leur a prouvé le contraire et Ils comptent bien le lui faire payer.
Parti du Soudan pour chercher refuge en Angleterre, il encourt aujourd’hui jusqu’à deux ans de prison. Il est inculpé, sous un mandat législatif périmé The Malicious Damages Act of 1861, “d’obstruction à locomotive ou wagon de chemin de fer”. Convoqué le 24 août dernier, il a plaidé non coupable, mais a été placé en détention par le juge. Être incarcéré pour ce type de délit est complètement disproportionné et révèle clairement le caractère politique de cette arrestation. Une prochaine audience est prévue en novembre prochain, avant le procès qui lui aura lieu en janvier 2016. Abdul Rahman Haroun est actuellement détenu à Elmley dans le Kent.
Étant poursuivi sous une telle législature (“The Malicious Damage Act” qui a été créée dans le but de poursuivre les dissidents de l’église anglicane au XVIIIème siècle, et a été récemment utilisée pour enfermer des personnes accusées d’action directe), nous affirmons haut et fort que cette affaire est clairement politique et constitue une attaque à la liberté de circulation. Abdul Rahman Haroun sert de bouc émissaire pour intimider ceux et celles qui voudraient suivre son exemple.
Ses actions ont fait de lui une cible, mais il dispose d’une bonne défense. D’après l’article 31 de la convention des réfugiés, ainsi que dans la loi anglaise, il est possible d’entrer “illégalement” sur le territoire anglais si c’est dans le but de demander l’asile. Cependant, comme nous en avons toutes et tous été témoins ces dernières années, le gouvernement se fiche bien des “Droits de l’Homme”, et Abdul a besoin de notre soutien et de notre solidarité pour combattre leur justice perverse.
Dans l’état actuel des choses, son renvoi d’audience montre que même s’il est jugé non coupable lors du procès, il aura déjà passé 5 mois en prison. Mais ça ne s’arrête malheureusement pas là. S’il est jugé coupable cela pourrait avoir des conséquences dramatiques quant à sa demande de régularisation en Angleterre. Une double peine récurrente au Royaume-Uni, laissant les personnes ayant purgé leur peine sans aucun droit sur le territoire, ou même directement expulsées (si leur pays d’origine est considéré par l’État comme non dangereux).
L’incarcération d’Abdul et ses poursuites judiciaires montre clairement la volonté de l’État à faire de lui un exemple pour quiconque souhaiterait tenter le même voyage. Une tentative d’intimidation, faire peur, faire douter les gens à Calais sur ce qui les attend de l’autre côté. Montrons-leur que nous n’avons pas peur d’eux avec leurs tribunaux et leurs prisons!
Nous condamnons fermement l’incarcération et la poursuite d’Abdul. Liberté pour Abdul. Liberté pour toutes celles et ceux détenus par le régime des frontières. On ne peut être libre quand les autres sont enfermés.
Every night hundreds of people, including children, make the long 3 hour walk from the “jungle” camp to the Eurotunnel, hoping to cross to England. This video from Jason Parkinson was made at the tunnel last night / this morning.
The border kills. Open The Border.
As has been widely reported in the media, between Sunday night and Monday morning a man was arrested for allegedly assaulting a police officer in the Eurotunnel. What has not been reported is that this man is both deaf and mute!
We have heard from numerous people who saw what happened. The police arrived to disperse a group and when others fled he kept on walking straight because he could not hear the police commands. They took this as defiance and ran up behind him, violently grabbing him. In the end his friends told us that there were two full vans of CRS (about ten individual officers) that were involved in “arresting” him. As far as we can ascertain, this extraordinary level of police force can only suggest one thing. The police decided to take out their frustration and aggression on this one man.
The hospital in Calais told us that at 1AM on Monday someone matching his name and description was treated with stitches for a laceration to the head. It was not noted though that he was in police custody and they do not know where he was taken after treatment.
The police will not give any information either. We do not know where he is, if he has a lawyer, anyone with whom he can communicate, or if he even knows what is happening to him. We are extremely worried that, not being able to hear or speak and without a lawyer, he will not be able to defend himself in court.
The police were very quick to spread this story, or select elements from it, to create an image of the migrants here as violent and dangerous. In this way they hoped to victimize themselves and create the justification for the violence they use against people here on a daily basis; people who just want to get by them and cross the border. If this was the savage and unprovoked attack that police say, why have they not yet released any video evidence? Certainly, with all the money the British have been giving them for more security, the French should have had at least one camera able to see what actually happened. We suspect that the police have cynically manipulated this incident for their own gain. This seems to be their tactic for dealing with their own mistakes; targeting those attempting to cross the border and their allies, demonising them as violent and anti-social.
To remember: at least 12 people have been killed by the Calais border in the last 2 months. Innumerably more people have been beaten, gassed, injured, by police and border security. The violence here is coming exclusively from the state.
Saturday night was an extremely empowering but also disheartening night here in Calais. A group of 250 migrants organized together to go and try to make it inside the Eurotunnel, not to climb aboard a train but to walk the length of the tunnel to England. They walked for hours to get close to the entrance of the tunnel and managed to breach a layer of perimeter fencing only to come up against the recently reinforced fence that is electrified and topped with barbed and concertina wire. The group then went to the fence and started chanting in unison. They demanded the right to move wherever they choose, to live in dignity in Calais, and to be free of police violence. They also spoke the names of those who have recently died attempting the crossing in the Eurotunnel and laid the blame for those deaths at the hands of the police and politician’s whose policy they are enacting.
It was a very large and strong group, however on the other side of the fence were many Gendarmes and also active French military who were menacing their machine guns. The group’s chanting continued for around an hour until the point they started to make their move to try and push through the fence. People had gone down a hill and were lining a steep verge consisting of loose gravel. Those at the bottom, closest to the fence, started to try and make their way over it when suddenly the Gendarmes released a huge amount of ‘tear gas’ onto the crowd. Exactly what type of gas they used though is not clear. Having experienced it and after speaking with people afterward, it was very powerful; much more so than typical CS gas and had strong effects even at the top of the hill far from where it was sprayed. It also created a shortness of breath and a panicked feeling which suggests that it may have been CR gas. After the attack there were also people lying unconscious on the ground. Any use of gas here and particularly CR (if it was indeed that) was completely unnecessary and irresponsible. The panic that the gas created caused a stampede up the hill, but as the footing was so loose people were falling over one another trying to get away from the poison. It was difficult to breathe, see, or move in that area and many people got hurt trying to flee from the gas into a more open space. However, the group, after recovering from the attack, got together and held a meeting about what to do next. They decided to occupy the road leading to the freight terminal at the Eurotunnel, their aim, to stop traffic until they were heard.
The group walked for around one hour from the fence by the entrance to the tunnel to the turn off from the highway to the Eurotunnel terminal. They arrived at about 3am and occupied the road blocking trucks from entering the Eurotunnel terminal. They repeated their chants and demands. When the two vans of CRS that showed up tried to move them on the whole group sat down in the road and started chanting louder. The police were forced to stop trying to move them on and stand by, observing a peaceful protest by 150 migrants as they demanded their rights, dignity, and free movement. The road was occupied for around three hours. The group kept chanting and shouting, being led by one woman repeating that the borders be opened to them to stop the deaths here in Calais. The police appeared to be tolerating the peaceful protest, until around 6am when more companies of CRS arrived. The Commissariat of Calais came and asked the group to disperse. They were complying and starting to leave the motorway when the CRS became impatient and started pushing and shoving people off. The group went as fast as possible but they had to go over many guardrails which took time. The police then started to throw people over the fence and sprayed CS gas. After this clearing of the road, people were dispersing peacefully when all of the sudden a whistle was blown. The CRS then started to run after the two groups that had gone off in different directions. They beat anyone who came within reach while chasing them off. They sprayed CS gas against the people who were running away, one officer even reached his arm around somebody who was running away in order to spray him directly in the face. This was completely unnecessary and a sadistic attack on people participating in a peaceful protest.
What we can take from the night, despite the severe repression, was the strength the group had not only in trying to reach the Eurotunnel but also organizing to blockade the highway. Important to note though, was the difference in policing tactics given the level of media attention that each event had. At the tunnel there were many film crews and so the police for the most part did not attack except for their one gassing of the entire group. However, during the eviction which took place in the morning after all the news crews had gone to sleep they were typically brutal. In case anyone could forget the violence continues here daily but also the resistance.
Open the Border! Stop the Violence!
On Sunday night, a man was killed crossing the A16, around the exit for the Eurotunnel.
In the last years more and more people are being severely injured and killed on the major highways around Calais as they are being forced to take more and more risks trying to get to England.
This death, as are the others are a direct consequence of the British and European border regimes. We will not let this death be silenced. We will not rest until there is freedom of movement for all.