Tagged: demands

REFUGEES IN CALAIS: THE HUNGER STRIKE HAS BEGUN

As agreed, the refugees occupying the food distribution center had breakfast together this morning. They formed two groups, those who will continue to eat and those who are fasting. Those fasting had slightly larger portions. They sat in the middle of the courtyard. Yesterday, they made a list of 53 people willing to get involved. By late morning, there were more than thirty of them waiting for those who had tried to cross that night to join them – something they will no longer be able to do during the fast. This afternoon, we should know more precisely how many will participate in the hunger strike.

Their spokesperson can be reached at 07 53 93 21 53 (he speaks English).

Here is the text of the call-out on which they agreed:

FROM THE MIGRANTS OF CALAIS
TO THE FRENCH AND BRITISH AUTHORITIES

After the destruction of our camps and our occupation of the food distribution center, French authorities came to meet with us two times. They told us that they would come again to speak with us on Thursday, June 3. Nobody came and we haven’t heard any news from them.

Today, Wednesday, June 11, some of us, with all of our support, will begin a hunger strike. We ask the French and British authorities to to resume the interrupted dialogue and meet with us without delay.

We remind them of our demands:

– Houses in Calais for all the migrants who wish to go to England and for asylum seekers who are forced to live in the street
– Houses with decent hygienic conditions: toilets, showers, garbage collection
– Houses where we can come and go whenever we like, in order to be able to continue trying to cross to England
– Houses protected from police controls, harassment and evictions
– Access to three meals a day
– Negotiations between France and the United Kingdom to allow people access to British territory.

originally published on http://passeursdhospitalites.wordpress.com

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Refugees of Calais: A New Communique

Since the authorities are giving no more signs of life and making no further proposals as to where the refugees can stay, other than the food distribution center, the refugees are rekindling the debate with the following communique and planning a demonstration.

WHY… ?

 We are the homeless migrants of Calais who have been occupying the food distribution center for the last week. All of the communities live there and have decided to unite to find a solution for our situation. We have tried to meet with authorities for this purpose, but they have broken their promises and have failed to respond to the demands we have made. We are homeless here and we want to be given the possibility of living dignified lives in safe places in Calais, where we can stay temporarily on our way to England.

Why is it that we are in this situation? Who can help us to find a solution? We were living in poverty and war in our countries and now, we find ourselves once more in even worse poverty. The authorities told us at the beginning that we had less than 48 hours to vacate these premisses, or they would evict us by force, although we came here to flee violence. Is this just? We want an end to the violence against migrants!

We came here for freedom and that is what we are trying to find… we want to reconstruct our lives and not to die here slowly. We want to be given to be given the chance to live where we want! We request as well a meeting with the British government, with whom we would like to discuss our situation. We want to be heard!

We are human beings, not animals!

THIS IS WHY WE ARE ORGANIZING A DEMONSTRATION SATURDAY, JUNE 7TH

Starting from Rue Lamy in front of the food distribution center at 2:00 pm

We want:

  • Houses in Calais for all the migrants who wish to go to England and for asylum seekers who are forced to live in the street
  • Houses with decent hygienic conditions: toilets, showers, garbage collection
  • Houses where we can come and go whenever we like, in order to be able to continue trying to cross to England
  • Houses protected from police controls, harassment and evictions
  • Access to three meals a day
  • Negotiations between France and the United Kingdom to allow people access to British territory.

The State Fumbles, Migrants Continue their Struggle

On Friday, the migrants occupying the food distribution center brought a list of demands (see here) that they had agreed upon to the prefect and the media. At first, the prefect maintained that the 48 hour period in which they were to vacate the premises had expired and refused to enter a dialogue. However, seeing that they were determined to stay, he set up a meeting for today [Saturday] with the departmental Director of Social Cohesion, who was soon joined by the sub-prefect. They proposed a second meeting to the refugees next Tuesday, on the condition that by then they move to another place and leave the food distribution center. It seems that a meeting is planned Monday morning at the Ministry of the Interior regarding the situation of the migrants in Calais; the meeting on Tuesday will likely depend on the decisions taken Monday. The proposal to continue the dialogue in another location was accompanied by a threat: if the migrants did not leave the food distribution center on their own over the weekend, they would be evicted by force, arrested and sent back to their countries of origin. Of course, this poses the question of where should they go. The authorities let slip the idea of moving to the old municipal camp site. The state now stands before the contradiction of demanding that people leave one place only to occupy another, without permission, somewhere which inevitably belongs to someone. The site of the old camp grounds belongs to the city of Calais.

At first, the migrants were divided as to whether they should leave the food distribution center or not. Several discussions took place during the afternoon and into the evening. Finally, to preserve the unity of the group, everyone agreed to follow the majority opinion and leave. Shortly after 8:00 pm, 150 people stood in the Rue de Moscou, their belongings on their shoulders, while the rest gathered their things together in the food distribution center. A few delegates from the different communities has gone ahead to the campsite to prepare for the move, when suddenly the police arrived and told them all to leave. The media was already there, following the whole process. Back to the food distribution center. The prefecture, confronted with its own mess, conceded to the migrants that they could stay until Tuesday, the day the negotiations will resume, without being bothered by the police.

Although the migrants had been divided on the question of leaving, they came together again in the face of adversity and celebrations broke out, with all the communities together, people singing, dancing and embracing. These people, whose languages and cultures have nothing to do with one another, from Ethopia to Afghanistan, from Romania to Syria, finding themselves in an improbable situation in Calais, have managed to make bonds of solidarity. If the evictions on Wednesday had gone as planned, these people would be hiding in bushes day after day, only to be driven out by the police at night, wandering from place to place, sleepless nights in their eyes and police beatings on their bodies. Instead, this time, they have chosen to affirm their dignity through struggle. And this dignity cannot be erased by police violence or the betrayals of the state.

In the days and weeks surrounding this episode, the administration has demonstrated all its incompetence and inconsistency to the media. For us, it has become normal that representatives of the state lie through their teeth. But for someone who comes from a culture based on respect for one’s word, it is shocking. And this Saturday’s inconsistencies will not facilitate the progress of the dialogue.

This Saturday afternoon, a demonstration also took place against the evictions and in support of the migrants’ struggle for acceptance. Several hundred people attended, spoke, listened to music and danced.


Demonstration Saturday Afternoon
The migrants leave the food distribution center as sign of reconciliation, only to be blocked by the police. They keep their word, the state does not.

The Demands of the Exiles

A long process of discussion took place, within and between each community, before agreeing on a common wording. It lasted part of yesterday and today and resulted in the following text, addressed to the prefect of the Pas de Calais and delivered to the subprefect.
It was also taken to deputy Yann Capet, who came to meet the refugees and the associations at the food distribution center.

“Mr. Prefect,
We invite you to come and meet with us to discuss solutions to our situation. You will find our demands below.
In the meantime, we ask you to accept our sincere greetings.
The refugees present in Calais.

We, the homeless migrants of Calais, have occupied the food distribution center. All of the communities have come together and decided to unite to find a solution for our situation. We do not want to live like animals anymore, we want to live like normal human beings and to have access to dignified living conditions, no matter whether we have papers or not.

We have all come to Europe to demand asylum and we have reasons for doing so in the country of our choice. The vast majority of us wish make our claim in England. Those who were still not convinced, after staying in Calais for some time and having seen the disgraceful living conditions here and the treatment given to asylum seekers, do not want to live in France.

We can no longer accept that dogs are treated better treated we are and we will not leave here until we are guaranteed access to living conditions worthy of human beings. We will stay and resist here, united and visible, until our demands are heard. We wish to meet with you to share the following demands:

Houses in Calais for all the migrants who wish to go to England and for asylum seekers who are forced to live in the street
Houses with decent hygienic conditions: toilets, showers, garbage collection
Houses where we can come and go whenever we like, in order to be able to continue trying to cross to England
Houses protected from police controls, harassment and evictions
Access to three meals a day
Negotiations between France and the United Kingdom to allow people access to British territory.”

Banners on the fence of the food distribution center