BETWEEN 2000 AND 2300 MEN, WOMEN AND CHILDREN ARE LIVING AGAIN IN THE CALAIS JUNGLES WITHOUT EVEN WATER, NOR ENOUGH FOOD, TENTS, ETC.
There are over 2000 migrant people in Calais, more than in 2009 , and their number is rising. The number of migrants in the Calais region may be around 3000. The main difference is that there are many more women and children now. They are living in makeshift camps in appalling conditions. Calais jungle is back, and full of people. Most of them are refugees from the most war torn countries in the world. The local associations who support the migrants are struggling to cope as there is not enough food, not enough tents, not enough blankets, nor clothes, nor shoes. People are hungry all the time and in most cases they don’t even have access to water. With winter coming the situation, already more than critical, will become untenable. The coming winter is to be extremely cold, according to forecasts.
POLICE VIOLENCE AROUND THE PORT HAS ESCALATED TO APPALLING LEVELS
There are, daily, hundreds of people running after lorries even in broad day light, or climbing the port fences. Scenes like we never saw in Calais, reminiscent of Ceuta and Melilla. Such is the desperation to get into the UK. Very few people are crossing, due to increased police presence around the port. 300 migrants took the ferry port by assault: 100 managed to get in but they were all stopped and escorted back out by police and port security. The UK has promised 15 millions to fortify the border more. The police’s reaction to the augment of people trying to cross has been to further escalate violence against migrants whenever they find them in the zones of passage. Use pepper spray more often. Beat people up harder. We have many reports of such violence, including broken bones.
A 16 years old girl form Ethiopia died on Tuesday 21st October after being hit by a car while running on the motorway with others. The accident happened shortly after 3 am. The victim was taken to hospital unconscious, and passed away a few hours later.
On the night between Monday and Tuesday, fierce fights erupted between Eritreans and Ethiopians over the control of a lorry park. The fights continued into the day and spread to the jungle by Tioxide, involving hundreds of people. The police intervened to separated them. At least 7 people ended up in hospital.
More photos here:
Calais is a border point where migrants tend to accumulate since Britain increased immigration controls. Britain signed the Dublin accords but not the Schengen accords, thus creating an internal border in Europe. They even moved British controls onto French soil (accords of Toquet, 2003), whatever happened to French national sovereignty. In 2002 Sarkozy, then the French Immigration minister, bowing to pressure from the UK government decided to close the accommodation centre in Sangatte near Calais, run by the Red Cross in big hangar disused after the Tunnel had been completed. The UK right wing press were screaming that Sangatte was a ‘magnet’ for ‘illegal immigrants’ trying to reach England. The vast majority of Calais migrants are war refugees who, in accord to international law and in the respect of all the Human Rights Conventions signed by all European States, should be entitled to international protection. Why do they call them ‘illegal immigrants’? Those who are fortunate enough to survive the journey, after escaping the horrors of war, and arrive alive, ought to be given at least a roof, food, showers and toilets, medical care. It is simply a matter of humanity. When Sangatte was closed people were forced to go self-catering in makeshift camps they nicknamed ‘jungles’. French border police (PAF) and riot police (CRS) were employed to brutalize migrants in the streets and in the jungles, beat them up, pepper spray them in the face when they were sleeping, destroy their shelters and personal belongings in order to ‘persuade’ them to leave Calais. “I saw a man on the ground, probably of Kurdish origin. He was bleeding after being beaten by police. A policeman took a photo of the man’s wife and children from his wallet and tore it to pieces before his eyes. He told him: ‘you do not exist’.”(testimony from a local resident who has been very active supporting migrants, since the closure of Sangatte).
In 2009 Eric Besson, then the French Immigration minister, decided to destroy the jungles of Calais altogether, in a futile effort to get rid of migrants. There were some 1800 migrants in Calais at the time. A big media show was held on the occasion of the eviction of the biggest of the jungles, the Pashto jungle, 22nd September 2009, the world media present. Besson turned up with the mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, to be photographed with the bulldozers. Nearly 300 Afghan people were arrested, nearly half were minors. No Borders activists and volunteers from local charities tried unsuccessfully to stop the police from getting the Afghans, they were outnumbered by police. The arrested were all released in the following days, as the arrests were illegal.The activists of Calais Migrant Solidarity monitored the eviction and destruction of the other squats and jungles too, supported the migrants who were thrown in the streets, opened new squats. They denounced police violence through photos and film, taking inspiration from Marie Noelle Gues, the great small woman of Calais who did type of work alone for many years, running the streets of Calais at all hours armed only with her camera. She never stopped until her untimely death from and incurable illness; an incredible number of people shed tears and she is forever missed. When we started posting photos and film on the internet police violence went down all of a sudden and went down very much; it was a very good result. Now police violence has escalated again to exponential levels, particularly near the ferry port and on the routes and parks where people try to get into trucks, and particularly where nobody is watching. CRS go about with their truncheons in one hand and cans of gas in the other, ready to strike. The Afghans seem to be a favorite target because they are fewer than the Africans and do not fight the police back. The Africans are so many and they are known to rebel on occasions; they are fearless fighters, strong, agile and very fast runners. Nevertheless Africans caught alone or in small groups get brutalized, and women do not get spared. All the violence happens in the points of passage, not in the camps where people are sleeping, though it extends to the roads nearby; sometimes people get pepper sprayed just for walking; a few days ago some Afghans were pepper sprayed for no reason while sitting near the entrance to their camp. The police have been going very often to disturb the Sudanese in their jungle.
Now there are three big jungles reborn, where several hundreds of men, women and children are living in disastrous conditions. There is not even water. Migrants and activists have been opening some water points for use by the Fire Brigade, so that people can drink and use water for cooking. The Council keep closing these water points down. On one water point they have even poured cement, to prevent it from being re-opened. At time of writing there is only ONE water point for all the people in the Tioxide and Afghan jungles, that is well over 1000 people including women and children, and no water in the Sudanese jungle. According to medical science, an adult must drink 1.5 to 2 liters of water per day to stay healthy. There are no toilets and no rubbish collections, creating a sanitary hazard for the migrants and for the local population too. People are suffering the hunger, newly arrived people often sleep out with nothing, 4 women sleep in a tent that is for 2 and so forth. It is terribly hard when it is cold and it rains and you don’t even have how to shelter. The jungles are very harsh environments out of town and out of sight, in areas dangerous for violence by police, by smugglers fighting over control of territory, and by desperate people fighting each other over scarce resources; despite that, or maybe as a spontaneous form of self-preservation, these jungles are very good communities: people look after each other, families, single women and teenagers stay together so they support each other and their own communities protect them. There are a few makeshift shops selling handmade cigarettes, canned food, energy drinks. Some women sell delicious food they cook on improvised stoves. The Christians have made a church in a squatted hangar by the Tioxide factory, and there are mosques in every jungle, in large tents or marquees. People spend their time chatting, joking, telling stories, cooking and sharing food, when there is, with their friends and extended families, food they get from the charities, sometimes a friend or relative sends some money via Western Union. Sometimes they party and they sing, beautifully, as an antidote to boredom and despair. These jungles are a model of solidarity and self-organization. People are generally wonderful, cheerful, very hospitable and welcoming to visitors .
The jungle by the Huntsman Tioxide factory is the biggest, housing over 900 people amidst toxic fumes and industrial waste. Nearly all the Eritreans and the Ethiopians were there before the last fights, including many women and unaccompanied minors, some very young; there is a number of small children and toddlers with their mother and/or father, the youngest aged 2. After the fights all the Ethiopians have moved out or have been asked to move. Some Sudanese tried to mediate between Eritreans and Ethiopians, but to no avail. The women’s shelter, opened by No Borders activists in a squat over one year ago, is now run by the association Solid’R and temporarily located in the day centre of Secours Catholique, confiscated for that purpose. It is full over the limit, 80 women in a space that is for 30, and they are not taking any more women nor their children. A group of Sudanese sleep in the Tioxide jungle too and some Pashtuns. The people are now all crammed around the football pitch and in the sports hall, since the Tioxide owners have asked the people to move from some of the beautiful land they use to dump their waste. Before that people had space, at least, now the extreme overcrowding adds to tensions. The football ground and sports hall had been left disused for years, now hundreds young Africans have being playing there. There were showers, toilets and even electricity in the sports hall, the owners of Tioxide had the water and electricity cut off. Most Pashtuns moved time ago from the Tioxide jungle to a wood on the other side of the road: the Ethiopians moved there too after the fights. There are many afghan minors, some very young; two boys under 10 who stayed in Calais for many months. The Pastuns are right in front of the old Pashto jungle that was destroyed in 2009. The Pashtuns are the most numerous ethnic group in Afghanistan but they are also prevalent in parts of western and north western Pakistan. Increasingly we see Pashtuns from Pakistan arriving in Calais as the war has engulfed the border area. A few Iranians slept there too, including a 5 years old boy with his father – his mother died, and a small group of Sudanese. The Afghan jungle by the dunes was abandoned because of violence by smugglers. Previous Afghan smugglers were kind to their own people but this particular gang are evil. In the Sudanese jungle by the LeaderPrice supermarket there are 300 to 400 people. Lately there have been problems with the supermarket owner, who would like to see them gone, and police are going there very often. Outside Calais, the smaller jungles of Norrent Fontes and Hazebrouk are full, some 100 people in each, from Eritrea and Sudan. Every week-end some 100 new people travel there, hoping to ‘register’ for a place; most are turned away. In the Dunkerque area there are two other jungles full of Kurdish and Afghans: the mayor of Teteghem is threatening to destroy the jungle there if numbers do not go down from 200 to 50. Over 400 people sleep in the 12.000 square meters squat Galloo, opened by No Borders in the centre of Calais: the majority are Sudanese but all communities are present: Syrians including women, Egyptians, Afghans, a group of Eritrean women. More migrants go to Fort Galloo during the day to socialize, have a cup of tea, charge their phones. The atmosphere is good, and relations between people are generally good but there are lots of problems with drinking and drunken fights; living conditions are hard but better than in the jungles: at least there is water, rubbish collections, and Medicins du Monde has installed some chemical toilets and cabins for people to wash. There was a communal kitchen – once a day only. Lately there have been no food deliveries at all, and the kitchen has been dismantled for now, materials used to build shelters. The squat Galloo and the Tioxide jungle are under eviction, as the respective owners have requested and the court have granted the order. The evictions though have been postponed to date to be announced. A number of people sleep in the streets, in front of the cold weather shelter that only opens when temperatures go below zero, here, there and everywhere. A squat housing 40 Egyptians who were there for nearly a year is also under eviction. The Egyptian squat has recently been bombarded with molotovs by local youths who answered to the hate incitations of the collective Sauvons Calais. The authors of the molotov attack have been arrested and sentenced to 1 year to 6 months in prison- a fairly lenient sentence, the culprits have rights to appeal and the procedure does not take racism as an aggravating circumstance. True they were drunk, but still capable to pour sulphuric acid and spirit into bottles and make molotovs out of them! The showers for the migrants have been burned once again – an unemployed man has been arrested this time and sentenced to 6 months. There are only 7 showers managed by Secours Catholique for all migrants in Calais, and they have been burned several times. It took Secours Catholique 7 years to get the permissions to build these few showers! That is how much the local authorities care about migrants, and about local people too. In 2009 there was an epidemic of scabies, there is a bigger epidemic now, and head lice galore. There are a few showers in the PASS clinic, the medical centre for migrants. There were some more showers and toilets in squatted sports hall by Tioxide, but Tioxide who is the owner had the water closed down, and there are some in the squat Galloo. The PASS clinic has moved to the new hospital that is out of town, thus rendering access far more difficult. Many migrants do not want to go there because afraid to be identified. The quality of the care offered, excellent in the old PASS clinic, has greatly gone down. Many migrants are complaining they are not given proper treatment. A young Eritrean man died of a heart attack while trying to cross: he had been to PASS on the very same day, complaining of chest pain: they just gave him paracetamol.
The French authorities have announced plans to open a day centre for the migrants, in the Dunes industrial area, out of town and out of sight. The centre should function as orientation service, encouraging migrants to apply for asylum in France or go to EU countries other than the UK. Hundreds of Calais migrants have already applied for asylum in France since crossing to the UK has became more difficult. Most are still in the jungles or in the squat Galloo. There are some 150 asylum seekers in the squat. The UNHCR have stated in written that people who have no grounds to claim asylum should return to their countries. People who have been identified in other EU countries can be deported there, which has very far reaching consequences since most migrants in Calais come from Italy and Italy has resumed taking fingerprints, even by force if people refuse. Services such as food distributions will be concentrated around the day centre. Women, children and other vulnerable people will be allowed to sleep there. Adult men can sleep in ‘small jungles’ around the area. Thus the authorities are institutionalizing the existence of bidonvilles, as Philippe Wannasson aptly points out in his blog, Passeurs d’hospitalite’. They are institutionalizing the exclusion of migrants and condemning them to remain invisible. Migrants may be afraid to be identified when they want to get food or access essential services. Thus it may be possible that many migrants will want to keep well away from the day centre. I certainly am opposed to the creation of a migrant centre like that. The Interior minister Bernard Cazeneuve, ‘socialist’, has strongly excluded any accommodation by night– except for women and children, so outdoing to the right the mayor Bouchart, UMP, who had surprised everybody by advocating the creation of 400 sleeping places. The new extreme cold weather shelter has place for 500 men only -though the authorities say it can accommodate 1000 in emergency packed like sardines. The cold weather shelter only opens when temperatures drop to -5 at night, or below zero during the day; so, when temperatures will drop to -5, where are the 1000+ men who cannot be accommodated in the shelter going to go? I doubt the authorities want to let them die with the cold, not because they care, but because it could go down badly with the public opinion. It is not clear when works will start to adapt the Jules-Ferry centre, designated as the new migrant centre by day, and it will take time to complete these works. The only positive step forward is that the State will eventually take charge of providing food, water and other bare essentials to migrants. In the future. For the moment, things remain as usual. Since the closure of Sangatte, the huge task to feed and support all migrants in Calais has been dumped on the shoulders of volunteers, most unpaid. Even before this huge rise in migrants arriving, the associations who help the migrants were struggling to survive: not only for lack of volunteers, but, above all, because they had their funding drastically cut. Of the two main associations who give food to the migrants, SALAM are waiting since 2012 to receive a paltry 20.000 from the Regional Council and had some ridicolous 2-3000 from the Town Hall – all the rest comes from private donations; the Auberge des migrants are saying that 80% of their income is from private donations, and volunteers are digging in their own pockets to feed the people. How can they cope with such a massive and sudden influx of migrants? Between 800 and 1000 people on average are attending the evening food distribution, the only meal in a day. Yet most people in the jungles cook and eat there, but there is very little, Individuals and associations in France and Europe, some churches, mosques, political groups have been collecting and donating food, blankets, clothes, shoes, tents, money to buy mineral water; but it is not enough. The association Reveil Voyageur brings breakfast in the jungles three times per week – often it is only a bit of bread with marmalade, or with a banana. Everything is scarce, always! With winter coming we need more supplies, else the situation will precipitate. Would it possible to have some sort of campaign so that the State endeavors to guarantee at least the bare essentials, or do refugee people need to get sick and die before any help arrives, other than from the voluntary section?? because the voluntary section have already given. Shall we start a petition?
If you can help by sending donations or if you think of volunteering please contact the associations,
The Reveil voyageur are the only Calais association who works in the jungles – though volunteers of other associations do go there too.
Contact No Borders for the squat Galloo. No Borders also distribute materials in the jungles, such as tents. The contacts are on their blog:
Since the beginning of the year, 130 000 migrants were rescued South of Lampedusa, 4000+ confirmed dead in the Mediterranean, the highest number of deaths ever. The world is facing the biggest refugee crisis since the Second World War. According to the UNHCR, there are now more displaced persons in the world than there were at the end of WW2. The only response by the French authorities so far has been to provide more repression. French police were carrying out raids, mass controls and mass arrests of migrants before the beginning of the Frontex operation Mos Maiorum . They arrested people arriving at Calais Ville station – mainly Eritreans and Sudanese, but also Afghans. In some occasions people managed to get away from the sides, after being alerted by activists. Later people began avoiding that station altogether: so it does not look like these raids at Calais station were very successful, despite lots of police employed. Even before Mos Maiorum there have been mass immigration raids and controls in Paris, at Gare du Nord, Gare de l’Est, Barbes, La Chapelle, where people sleep under bridges having nowhere else to go. Many of these people travel to Calais. Up to 150 people have been arrested each time. Leaving people to accumulate in the streets of Paris or in the jungles of Calais is actually a government strategy, I believe, to create an ‘emergency’ situation, to whip up people’s fears of an ‘invasion’ of immigrants – obviously it wold not look like such a threat if migrants were distributed in dignified accommodation centres of smaller size around France , and to justify more repression at the eyes of public opinion – and get the ill-informed public to support Frontex operations like Triton and Mos Maiorum. The idea that refugees should be stopped from coming is getting hammered more and more into people’s heads. Normally people arrested during mass raids are released by the judges as this type of discriminatory mass arrests are illegal in France. However they have deported to Sudan a Sudanese man who was held at the detention centre of Coquelles, near Calais. This deportation must be illegal, as France do not usually deport to war zones. The deportation centre Coquelles is mostly full of Afghans with papers in Italy. There is a constant merry-go-round of Afghans being deported to Italy and coming back. The centre used to be full of Albanians as well, but now most Albanians are going through other routes. There are more Eritreans, Ethiopians and Sudanese being detained now.
Read also: Deaths in the Mediterranean
Hiding in the back of a lorry is the most common way to do the clandestine crossing. Several people including some minors have died in the Calais area crushed by lorries, or they fell or jumped and died. Others, particularly Sudanese, go via the Eurostar trains, under the carriages at 250 miles per hour. Quite a thrill. I have not heard of people dying that way but many break their arms or legs if they fail to board when the trains slow down or lose their grip before they can secure themselves. Of course to access the Eurostar is about as difficult as to access the ferry port, due to security and police. Others had died in different circumstances, the most common being hit by cars while running on the dangerous motorways. A 16 yers old girl from Ethiopia has just died and a young African who could not be identified is fighting for his life. I never remember so many migrant people dying in Calais as during the last year. At the port there are three successive types of control: they check the lorries for CO2 (some migrants put a plastic bag over their heads, at least one young man died of suffocation at Calais port); they check the heartbeat; if a lorry appears suspect they send it to scan – which reveals the body shapes; but the most efficient system of ‘illegal passengers’ detection are sniffer dogs, the dogs always find people who are hiding into trucks. Some migrants were shot and injured last winter while trying to cross, in two separate incidents. Near Dunkerque two men were shot from a running car, the authors of the attack were never identified. In Calais a Sudanese man, Adam, was hit by two bullets, in his torso and arm. He pressed charges. An Eritrean man who did not want to be identified was also shot and injured in the same attack. The author of the attack, a local man who works as security and has mental health problems, was arrested and given a very lenient sentence: 1 year and 8 months for a double attempted murder! Thus I find the xenophobic discourse quite disturbing, even more so when the local press amplifies it. The police are talking about rising crime amongst migrants, but they are refusing to provide numbers. The only example they provided to the local press are some massive fights between Sudanese and Eritreans, a few months ago. These fights, originating over access to a lorry park, resulted in 64 Africans in hospital, no local people were hurt. Now of course there have been new massive fights between Eritreans and Ethiopians, for exactly the same reason, the control of a lorry park. The authorities are pandering over people’s fears. If anything, the rate of crime amongst migrants is lower than amongst local people I believe, apart from spectacular fights amongst migrants that may scare the local population but do not involve them, and ‘crimes’ such as opening and closing lorries to try get the hell out of Calais. Drinking and drunken fights are also a problem, but people drink because they are desperate. I would not blame people who steal because they are hungry, yet most migrants don’t. They even say they would not break the laws of a country where they are guests. The supermarket manager who only lets in two migrants at a time are racists. Sexual assaults by migrants on local women are quite rare and a drop in the ocean compared to rapes by husbands, fathers, family ‘friends’. Migrants have also been accused of attacking lorry drivers – though most times it is lorry drivers who are violent towards migrants, rather than the opposite. Not all drivers are violent, only a minority, but all get the migrants out their lorry if they see them, or call the police: because of the liability to carriers order they have to pay fines of thousands for any ‘illegal passenger’ caught in their vehicles, which would destroy their business and their jobs. The liability to carriers creates lots of tensions between lorry drivers and people desperate to cross. The 13th of October there was a demo called by a police trade union, nearly 300 attended. The police are asking for more police to be deployed. Hunters are complaining that people are occupying their hunting grounds. Local traders and businessmen are complaining that massive immigration is bad for the local economy. I guess so. Unless tourists and other travellers like to see bidonvilles and scenes of misery you would not see anywhere else in Europe. Then what do they do for the local economy? Where are the investments that could lift the local economy? Calais has the highest rate of unemployment in the whole of France and social problems beyond imagination, and it was like that even before migrants started to arrive in numbers. Poor people tend to be sympathetic to migrants because they know first hand what is like to be oppressed. Or the opposite, there are poor areas where the National Front has very strong support. Calais North is bourgeois and tends to be racist. Some Calais people are against migrants, some are sympathetic, too many are indifferent but we don’t count the acts of people’s solidarity, from the old lady who charges migrant’s mobiles chez elle, to those who have defied the law to shelter undocumented migrants in their homes – now it is no longer illegal, at least! The volunteers of local associations work so hard and give so many hours of their time, for no pay – and some have done it for many years. Many Calais people are saying they are scared seeing so many migrants running about, and of fights amongst migrants. Understandably people find it very hard to live near a big jungle that has popped up next to their homes, where they live with their families. In the total absence of interventions from the State, other than a few arrests here and a few beatings there, the people of Calais are left to suffer the situation, which is most unfair.
On the 7th of September the local collective Sauvons Calais were allowed to hold a demonstration in front of the Town Hall, well protected by cordons of police. The anti-racists had organized a counter-demo. Some antifascists tried to get at the fascists, but were stopped by police. The nazi demo attracted 300 people or nearly, it is not much but attracted some of the worst elements of the French far right including Thomas Joly and Yvan Benedetti. Locally Sauvons Calais have little support and most Calais people don’t like them. Incitations to violence, racial hatred and even murder were the main topics of their delirious speeches.
The Sauvons Calais have rised their ugly nazi head and are organizing, strong of the support they have collected with that demo.They have been doing their own patrols since quite a long time, and they are preparing to fight. Previous to the nazi demonstration, several migrants and those who support them had been assaulted. A 15 years old was attacked in front of her school on the day before the demo, and had to be taken to hospital, very shocked and very badly bruised. Two men had previously attempted to kidnap Severine Meyer, local writer and activist and spokesperson of the collective Calais Ouverture Humanite, that express the moderate opposition to racists and nazis – and has a larger base of support than Sauvons Calais. Despite Severine pressing charges, the authors of the attack have still not been apprehended nor identified. Severine has gone into hiding, possibly with her youngest children – she is a mother of three, the youngest a toddler. From her secret location she continues to speak for migrant’s rights and against racism.
Most Calais migrants are from privileged background and well educated. Most are not escaping poverty but war and persecution. There is a genocide in Darfur, a terrible dictatorship in Eritrea, a long war with Ethiopia wanted by the two governments but not by the people. Thousands of young men and women run away every month, to avoid military service that is compulsory and may result in being sent to the front line, braving police who shoot to kill them when they cross the border. Border controls are very class selective and the poorest refugees never make it to Europe. To cross the Sahara desert and the sea not only is deadly dangerous, it is also very expensive. People arrive in Calais having spent all their money, often they have sold all they had and/or got into debt, sometimes they give their last money to smugglers who promise to take them to England. To find themselves in a state of absolute poverty, unable to continue their journey when just a few miles from their destination, suffering hunger and cold is a further trauma. In their countries they lived in houses and never had to sleep in the streets until they arrived in Europe. They never had to queue for a badly cooked meal. People lose between 5 and 10 kg after they arrive in Calais. People who have been in Calais for some times either leave, or they adapt to the extreme hardship, and they teach others their survival skills. People who have been wandering the streets of Europe for years, without finding a possibility of integration, either crack up or find ways to survive and keep their spirit intact. For the newly arrived it is particularly hard. They are desperately angry. They never expected to be treated like that in the land of freedom and human rights.
The majority of Calais migrants arrive from Italy. Generally they like Italy very much, despite the fact they had a hard life there. They say the country is beautiful and Italians are nice people with a heart and treated them well – bar a few who had bad experiences with racists. To me it seems that there is a lot of racism and institutional racism in Italy, but they see a better side. They are very grateful for having been rescued and saved. Many think Italy is the best country in Europe. Northern countries are more racist and less friendly, especially France. This is what I collected from many conversations. Sure, not many European countries other than France solve the problem of the accommodation for migrants simply by leaving them in the street. Even in Italy there are camps, though not sufficient, with beds, water, toilets, as minimum, even electricity. Unfortunately there is no work in Italy so migrants have to leave in order to make a living. Before the so-called crisis there were 1 million immigrants successfully integrated in Italy. Now many have lost their jobs, and there is nothing for the newly arrived. There are many – mostly awful – accommodation centres for asylum seekers, but they are full, so many have to sleep the streets until a place comes free. When people are given refugee status, most end up in the streets again, eating at the Caritas. So many go North. In the UK Eritreans and Sudanese are usually given asylum, providing they have no fingerprints in other countries. Possibilities for refugees to work, to study, to integrate are better in the UK than in the rest of Europe, for the moment. Many people speak English because of Britain’s colonial past, and already have relatives and friends there. The EU however made the rule people should ask for asylum in the first ‘third safe country’ they arrived (Dublin regulations). In other words, Italy and Greece should take all, or the vast majority of refugees who arrive in Europe. The asylum system in Greece is in such a failed condition that the European Court for Human Rights have advised its member States to stop deportations to Greece – thus implicitly admitting Dublin regulations do not work, at least in the case of Greece. The Italian accommodation system is in deep crisis and will soon collapse. There were a series of protests in Italy by Eritreans who did not want to have their fingerprints taken; the Italian authorities, not keen at all to take all these people, let them go without identify them. In recent months, most Eritreans and Sudanese arriving in Calais had no fingerprints. Things however are to change very soon, as Italy has resumed taking fingerprints under pressure from the EU. The Interior minister Cazeneuve went to meet his Italian couterpart Alfano to this end. In recent days some Syrians have been beaten up by police in the notorious mega asylum centre of Pozzallo because they resisted having their fingerprints taken. The Afghans are willingly asking for asylum in Italy – because it is the only country in Europe where they get asylum easily. In the UK, Afghans are usually refused. There are regular deportation charter flights London to Kabul. Nearly all Afghans in Calais have now Italian papers. Afghans like Italy but cannot remain there because there is no work and they need to work: they need the money and often their families at home need the money desperately. So they ask for asylum in Italy, then they go North. There are some countries like Norway or Sweden where it is sometimes possible to find some work, but it is difficult. In UK it is very easy to find work, especially in the black market at £2 per hour or less, 12 per day or more and 8 hours on Sundays. British capitalist economy is actually profiting big time from the exploitation of illegalized workers, who cannot complain about working conditions, work hard because they must, and can be picked up and deported any time, to be replaced by other ‘illegals’ equally keen to work, but less tired. In France it is next to impossible for newly arrived migrants to find work. People who apply for asylum in France are usually left in the streets for up to two or three years, until their claim is dealt with. By law they should be given accommodation, but they are told there are no places. Rates of refusal are high. Possibilities to work and integrate for those who are accepted are scarce. I hope I have answered to the frequently asked question why people want to go to England.
Appendix: Solidarity football
A local lad called Jeremie Jaquemin started a successful and very popular initiative getting the migrants to play football, on Sundays at La Citadelle. Football is very useful to take people’s minds out of their daily troubles, keep fit, create a bit of a show, with several enthusiastic supporters attending, build links amongst the different migrant communities. The Africans excel because they are the best runners, the Arabs have skills and cunningness, the Afghans do not excel because their favourite sport is cricket not football, though I have seen them playing the most entertaining football against drunken Polish lorry drivers, in a parking to the way to the ferry port that is now fenced up; the Albanians are no longer numerous enough to have a team of their own – pity, because the matches between Sudanese and Albanians were galvanizing. It is a happy way to spend a Sunday afternoon. Unfortunately the mayor Natacha Bouchart does not like the football, and has been trying – unsuccessfully so far – to stop it from happening. The first time she had the idea to forbid the football it was on the same day of the nazi demonstration, 7th September, on grounds that the football could provoke racial trouble on that day. On the same day, a mob of far right extremists were allowed to shout racist abuse and incitations to violence under the mayor’s windows at the Town Hall. The footballers just moved to a different and more visible pitch. However they have been harassed by bailiffs and cops ever since. Could it be that Bouchart does not like to be defied? Or that she does not like any initiative, no matter how innocent, that takes the migrants out of the jungles? It does not look like the lady mayor has any legal rights to stop people – of any race, creed or colour – from playing football. Please support! If you happen to be in Calais on a Sunday afternoon go to La Citadelle, it’s fun!
Read also: Repression and struggles in Calais, 2013 – 2014
for updates and further information on Calais see also:
Passeurs d’hospitalites (in French)
Calais Migrant Solidarity (in English and French)