Calais Migrant Solidarity (CMS) started in 2009. It was a project that came out of the “Calais No Border Camp” of that summer, in which hundreds of people from across Europe and further afield came to camp on the outskirts of the town, take action against the border, and make connections with people without papers here.
We are also widely known, particularly amongst people in Calais, as “No Borders”. This sometimes causes a bit of confusion: the thing is, really, “No Borders” isn’t a group or organisation, it’s an idea. And the idea is pretty simple, it’s in the name: we are against borders. We believe in free movement for all.
Borders create misery and death. They are a cruel fiction, a weapon of divide and rule. They serve the rich, who use them to protect the wealth hoarded by colonialism and capitalism, and to turn the rest of us against each other. Borders create an illusion of safety and control, while setting up poor migrants as a cheap labour force of “illegals”, who can be easily exploited and easily made into scapegoats.
Is a world of no borders possible? Is a world without tyranny, exploitation and oppression possible?
Maybe not everywhere, not all at once. But should that stop us from fighting against these things where we can? And No Borders isn’t just a utopian dream, it’s an every day practice. Every day people are crossing and undermining the borders, creating cracks in their control, opening spaces and paths of freedom.
Some statements against borders
CMS is an informal network of many individuals. We are not a centralised membership organisation, we don’t have one “party line”. Here are a few statements written by different No Borders people at different times:
Why no borders? (a collection of short statements from different people involved)
Solidarity means fighting the border (August 2015)
A No Borders manifesto (London 2012)
Some of the things we’ve done
The situation in Calais has changed many times since 2009, and so have our approaches and activities. The timeline below lists just some of the projects we have been involved in, as well as some other significant events from the last six years in Calais.
2003. Closure of “Sangatte”. After a tabloid media campaign, the official refugee camp operated by Red Cross is shut on behest of UK Government. The French and UK governments sign the “Touquet” treaty to reinforce the border.
June 2009. “No Borders Camp”. Several hundreds attend week long action camp on outskirts of Calais in solidarity with sans-papiers, ending with a big demo to the town.
June 2009. “Calais Migrant Solidarity” set up. Group of comrades from the No Borders camp decides to start a permanent presence in Calais. The group is formally named CMS, but everyone calls us “No Borders”.
September 2009. Pashtun Jungle eviction. The original big “jungle”, housing around 1,000 Afghans, is cleared by riot police. 278 Afghans who refuse to leave are arrested, half of them are under 18.
February 2010: “Kronstadt Hangar”. CMS rents big empty warehouse on Rue de Kronstadt, which becomes a social centre and a sleeping place mainly for Afghan kids. Evicted after one week by riot police under a “health and safety” pretext.
June 2010. “Africa House”. Many No Borders live with Eritreans, Sudanese and others living in a big squatted ex-factory, called “Africa House”. Police raid this and other squats and jungles about every other day, arresting people and destroying belongings. No Borders do “morning watches” and patrols to warn of police attacks. Africa House is finally evicted and demolished on 21 June. A new “Africa House” squat opens nearby within weeks.
September 2010. “Festival Without Borders”. CMS organise a “secret” week-long music festival with concerts, parties and feasts in the town, taking the police by surprise and giving people a breather from the everyday violence.
April 2011. “This Border Kills” dossier and media scandal. After months of secret filming, CMS issue a number of videos of police violence through big French media website “Rue89”. This is followed by publishing our dossier “This Border Kills” with detailed evidence of 2 years of brutality at the border. The police take it easy for a few weeks.
June 2011. “New Africa House” evicted. Another big squat, which had been a home and hub of activity for No Borders alongside African and other sans-papiers for a year, is evicted and secured. Many residents move to nearby disused university buildings.
Summer 2011. No Borders kitchens and Eid party. As the official “Associations” go on Summer holiday, No Borders organise anarchist kitchens, food-sharing and festivities through the summer, ending with a big party for end of Ramadan.
September 2011. Our comrade Marie-Noelle “Zetkin”, the original No Borders cop-watcher, dies of cancer. She is very fondly remembered.
18 February 2012. Noise demonstration at Coquelles detention centre. One of many ongoing demos and visits to sans-papiers held in the detention centre at Coquelles, near the Eurotunnel entrance. This one was simultaneous with a major “No Borders convergence” in London.
April 2012. Hunger Strikes in Coquelles. An Iranian friend goes on hunger strike in Coquelles detention centre on 4 April. He is deported after 8 days of hunger strike. 18 other prisoners start a mass hunger strike on 18 April. Such protests are regular events.
June 2012. “Zetkin Centre”. No Borders rent a warehouse in a neighbourhood on the outskirts of Calais and open it as a cultural centre, named after our comrade Marie-Noelle. It becomes a great hive of activity and exchange before being shut down by CRS riot police using a “planning” excuse.
July 2012. Funeral of Noureddin Mohammed. Noureddin, a 28 year old Sudanese man, is killed in suspicious circumstances in the town centre, the authorities refuse an inquest. Processions and demos are held in Calais and London.
Autumn 2012. Salam occupation. After many squats are evicted, sans-papiers start sleeping in the “Salam” food distribution site in the old town near the port. The occupation is finally evicted in a mass police operation early morning on 26 September. People block the port road protest.
Spring 2013. “Legal Squat” at Rue Caillette. No Borders open a squat at Rue Caillette which, for once, is not illegally raided or evicted by the authorities and stays relatively stable.
June 2013. Women and Children’s House at Rue Victor Hugo. Following the success of Rue Caillette, No Borders open and maintain a new squat which becomes dedicated to housing women and children without papers. This is the only such accommodation in the town. Although the court grants the authorities an eviction order, they are loathe to enforce it as the squat has strong local support and media coverage. The building lasts for over one year, until the authorities decide to force people to move to “official” accommodation for women and children, run by the association Solid’R.
October 2013. Syrian protests. 65 Syrian exiles in Calais blockade and occupy the footbridge to the ferryport. This is part of a surge of demos and actions led by refugees newly arrived from the revolution and civil war in Syria.
October 2013. Birth of “Sauvons Calais” fascist group. Mayor Natacha Bouchart launches an appeal and phone hotline for citizens to report migrant and No Borders squats. Her call is answered by a new “residents group” called “Save Calais”, whose leader is later exposed as a swastika-tattooed Neo-Nazi.
February 2014. Coulogne squat firebombed by fascists. No Borders squat in Coulogne, outside Calais, is attacked and firebombed by “Sauvons Calais” supporters.
February 2014. No Borders open three new squats housing migrants in Rues Massena, Auber and du Vic.
May 2014. Mass eviction of 3 camps. Three camps housing around 650 people in the town centre are evicted by over 300 riot police. In response, refugees again occupy the “Salam” food distribution centre.
July 2014. “Fort Galloo”. On 2 July, another massive police operation evicts the Salam occupation and the 3 squats. In response, on 12 July, No Borders open a massive new squat in the former “Galloo” metal works. The squat is publicly opened at the end of a big demonstration. It will house around 300 people, and becomes an important hub of activities bringing together sans-papiers and local residents.
7 September 2014. Anti-fascist resistance. Sauvons Calais call for fascist demo in Calais town, after spate of fascist attacks including an attempted kidnapping.
September 2014. Nato fence and renewed UK tabloid hysteria. With the right wing press again stoking up fears about Calais, on 15 September the UK government says it will send over the security fence used for the recent Nato summit. (On 27 December, and then again in January, the new fence is blown down by high winds.)
15 January 2015. Partial opening of “Jules Ferry” day centre. The town centre food distribution centre is to be shut, and from now all services will be provided at the site 6km out of the town centre.
March-April 2015. Migrants told to move to “official” jungle. Police visit all squats and camps telling people to move to an officially tolerated area near the Jules Ferry centre. The new “Jungle” begins. The Jules Ferry centre is fully opened on 16 April.
June 2015. All town centre camps evicted. Fort Galloo and other dwellings in the town are evicted, the last residents forced to move to the Jules Ferry Jungle.