Video by Andrés Solla and Carmen Menendez
At around 7.30am this morning the largest of the three camps in town, inhabited by up to 300 Syrians, was evicted in traditional Calais style. A large contingent of Gendarmes, Police Nationale and BAC (undercover police) woke people up, giving them very little time to gather their belongings, and told them to go to the Jungle, the former landfill site on the outskirts of the town that serves as the only place where migrants will be tolerated. The Syrians chanted “no Jungle, no Jungle!” and sat down. They also linked arms across a bridge. The police attacked and pepper sprayed them and they moved en masse in the only direction open to them: the jungle.
They were frogmarched the 2.5 miles to the Jungle with a convoy of Gendarmes behind them. One man pictured below wearing a suit and a tricolore sash, appeared to be calling the shots all day. For many of the Syrians, this was their first time at the camp and they were unsure what to do.
On arriving at the Jungle, the police turned their attention to the dozens of tents pitched by the new arrivals at the entrance and told people to move everything back to the Jungle. A crowd from the Jungle gathered in front of the police lines. Giving people almost no notice, the police started ripping up tents and pushing people back. Some woke up to the site of armoured police dismantling their shelters from around them. We helped people save what they could, but many personal possessions were lost in the police violence. At least 6 people lost their passports, some lost money, phones with vital contacts on, others photos or details of dead or missing family. There were attempts to negotiate for some people to be allowed through the police lines to save their passports, but they were met with the stony glares of the automatons in riot gear. Diggers and council workers appeared beyond police lines to destroy and load the tents and belongings onto trucks for the municipal dump (no doubt the site of the next jungle once the current one becomes completely uninhabitable). No-one was allowed to go anywhere for several hours. In the face of this overwhelming and ridiculous show of state force, people showed defiance with chanting, singing and dancing that echoed loud under the bridge. The diversity and vibrancy of the crowd contrasted starkly with the line of fascists in navy blue boiler suits brandishing guns, batons and shields.
We went to the dump soon after to try and retrieve some belongings but found everything in a giant rubbish compactor already mixed up other waste, and were unable to save anything.
We later learnt that the two other, smaller camps in town were also evicted today, meaning that there are no known migrant camps in Calais other than the jungle. It is clear that the 20 hectares or so that increasingly resembles a swamp is the limits of what will be tolerated for migrants in Calais. Large National Front posters are currently plastered all around the town. What the government most despises here is that migrants show their faces in the town centre and in the tourist areas, which is why the Jungle exists at all.
Vers 8h ce matin (21 septembre 2015, ndlt), le plus grand des trois campement de la ville, habité par plus de 300 syriens, a été expulsé dans la plus grande tradition calaisienne (il s’agit en fait de deux campements très proches, ndlt). Un important bataillon de la gendarmerie, de la police nationale et de la BAC a réveillé les gens, en leur laissant très peu de temps pour récupérer leurs affaires, et leur a dit de rejoindre la Jungle, située sur l’ancien site d’enfouissement des déchets, à la périphérie de la ville, seul lieu où les migrant-es sont tolérés. Les syriens ont scandé « pas de jungle, aucune jungle » et se sont assis par terre. Ils ont également bloqué un pont. Les flics ont attaqué, les ont pulvérisé au lacrymogène et ils se sont alors déplacés en groupe, dans l’unique direction qu’ils pouvaient prendre, celle de la jungle.
Ils ont été emmenés de force jusqu’à la jungle, suivit de près par un convoi de gendarmes. Un homme accoutré d’un costard et d’une écharpe tricolore semblait mener la danse de ces expulsions toute la journée. Pour la plupart des syriens, c’était la première fois qu’ils venaient au camp et ils ne savaient pas quoi faire.
En arrivant à la jungle, les flics ont portés leur attention vers les dizaines de tentes dressées par les nouveaux arrivants devant l’entrée et ils ont dit aux gens de se déplacer à l’intérieur de la jungle. Une foule de gens s’est alors rassemblée devant les lignes de police. Sans crier garde, les flics ont commencé à repousser les gens et à déchirer les tentes. Nous avons aidé les gens à sauver leurs affaires mais beaucoup de biens personnels ont été perdus dans ce moment de violence policière. Au moins six personnes ont perdu leur passeport, d’autres ont perdu de l’argent, des téléphones avec des numéros importants, d’autres des photos ou des infos sur leurs proches morts ou disparus. Il y a eu des tentatives de négocier pour que certaines personnes soient autorisées à passer de l’autre côté de la ligne de police pour sauver leurs passeports, mais ils ont été confrontés au peu d’esprit des automates en tenue anti-émeute. Les pelleteuses et les employés municipaux sont apparus au-delà des lignes de police, détruisant les tentes et jetant toutes les affaires dans des camions bennes et direction la déchetterie municipale (sans doute le prochain site de la jungle quand celle-ci sera devenue inhabitable). Pendant plusieurs heures suivant cette opération, personne n’a été autorisé à aller où que ce soit en dehors de la jungle.
Face à cette démonstration de force écrasante et ridicule de l’État, les gens ont fait preuve de défi en chantant, criant des slogans et dansant, faisant un bruyant écho. La diversité et le dynamisme de la foule contrastait nettement avec la ligne de fascistes en costume bleu, brandissant flingues, matraques et boucliers.
Nous sommes allés à la décharge peu de temps après pour essayer de récupérer quelques affaires, mais nous n’avons rien trouvé d’autre qu’un tas de déchets dans un gros compacteur d’ordure et ils a été impossible de récupérer quoi que ce soit.
Nous avons appris plus tard que les deux autres campements du centre-ville ont également été expulsés aujourd’hui, ce qui signifie qu’il n’y a plus d’autre campement connu à calais que la jungle. Il est clair que désormais les 20 hectares qui ressemblent de plus en plus à un marais est l’unique lieu de vie des migrants qui sera toléré à Calais.
Ce que le gouvernement méprise le plus ici c’est que les migrant-es montrent leurs visages dans le centre-ville et dans les zones touristiques, voilà pourquoi la jungle existe.
This Saturday the people from the jungle are organizing another protest. This will be the fifth demonstration held this week and they are continuing to demand the freedom of movement for all and a dignified and safe home wherever they settle. They will gather at 11AM in front of the Jules Ferry center and march into the city arriving at the Mairie at 1:30PM. They have asked for as many as people to come down and support them! If you are planning to come to Calais this Saturday, possibly to bring donations, make sure to come by the Mairie to learn about and support the people directly involved in their political struggle at Europe’s borders.
Today again over 300 migrants went from the jungle to the centre of Calais, marched down boulevard Jaquard and past the theatre and back to hold a sit in in front of the Town Hall, chanting ‘no jungle’ ‘open the border’ ‘we are not animals’. Strong presence of women with some young children, all with faces covered. Protests will continue every day until a positive result is reached.
Today approximately 500 people, mostly refugees, marched to the centre of Calais to protest for humane treatment and for the freedom of movement. The migrant-led demonstration occupied the car park directly outside the the Town Hall, where people are telling their stories and demanding that their voices be heard. The speakers are also denouncing police violence and the deaths at the border while at their backs a police line is protecting the entrance to the Town Hall. They are demanding that the UK opens the border and let them in. They are demanding that France gives decent accommodation to those who asked for asylum in France, instead they are still in the jungle. Additionally 176 people went on a food strike (refusing the one meal a day that they get from the government in the camp) three days ago, so they have been on hunger strike for three days now.
Migrant-led demonstrations of this scale have not been seen in Calais for a long time, and with 3500 or more migrant people in Calais are likely to get bigger. The people have decided that their protests will continue until they get a result. When Natalie Bouchart felt the pressure to speak to migrants for the first time yesterday she had requested that no further demonstrations occur, and will surely be surprised by the events of today. There is a strong migrant movement in Calais, and it cannot be ignored.
In the evening there was another gathering in front of the Town Hall to protest the deaths in the Mediterranean and Europe’s inhumane migration policies. About 100 Calais citizens, activists, volunteers from associations and migrant people attended. Instead of holding the traditional one minute silence they let out a strong cry to express their anger.
Today a demonstration organised by people in the camp, of approximately two hundred people took place. The protesters met outside the food distribution centre as with the previous day’s protest. It was then agreed that the crowd would march into Calais. Moving through the jungle, the demonstration was met with smiles, cries of support and people pumping their fists in the air. There were members of most nationalities in the jungle present. Walking down the road into the town, it was expected that the protest would be blocked by police at any moment. The march, however, was able to continue into the town. The people were chanting “liberté!”, “freedom!”, “no borders, no nations, stop deportations!”, “Hurreeya!” and “azadi!” Once the march entered the town the chanting and clapping intensified so that the inhabitants of Calais would definitely hear the message of the oppressed.
Eventually the march arrived at the Town Hall. Once there, they sat down and held up their banners so that the message could be clearly visible. The gathering was peaceful, with some singing and a little chanting. Then, to the utter surprise of all present, Natasha Bouchart, the Mayor of Calais, arrived to speak to the migrants, along with Phillipe Mignonet and Emmanuel Agius! This has never happened before in Calais to the best of our knowledge.
Bouchart was cynically trying to appear humane and open by talking with the people. However, the politicians were deaf to the migrants demands, only repeating the same tired lines that the people must claim asylum in France in order to receive any assistance, and that the border was a European problem and a British problem, and out of their hands. They suggested that the people go to the sub Prefecture to protest there.
Nobody was taken in by the bullshit of the politicians. The people have called for continued action and protest. The demands are clear even if the politicians cannot understand them. The people will continue to fight and to take to the streets until the borders are no more. Another demonstration is planned for tomorrow with the intent of having as much support as possible: for people to come to the demonstration and to march with them. There has never been a better time to come and to show active solidarity with the people who are fighting for freedom.
The end of March has come. There are many people who have, under the threat of eviction and violence from the police, gone to the new camp around Jules Ferry. However there are some people left in some of the old living places who have no intention to move.
Here is a statement from some residents of Galloo about why they are not going to leave
– In the new place there are no walls to protect the people from wind, it is open without any protection from the rain. The squat we have now protects us from the weather
-The new place can be controlled by the police and they will be able to make restrictions on people’s movement
-Government will not provide toilets or electricity or building in the new place
-This place we have now is near to the prefecture, and other associations and organisations some of us need to see for making aslyum in France
-Some people demand asylum in France and they have applied for a home. They decide not to go until they get their homes
-The new place is far from the centre and far away from where we normally live in Calais
– There is too much garbage in the new place and its not hygenic, many people will get sick
– His industrial area and there is too much smoke because of fire and plastic being burned
– There is bad drainage and there is too much grass, and the place is for hunting may be dangerous for being shooting by chased gun
-Some organisations which give food here can’t go with us to the new place
-There is not enough space for everyone
-It will be difficult for us to adapt to the new place