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Calais. Restaurant owners summoned to court, Wednesday 10th August at Lille tribunal – Support needed
UPDATE: The judge in Lille rejected the prefecture’s request the restaurants and shops are destroyed. However, they are still not allowed to sell food or other goods and the police have said they will go in the jungle more often, to check that they aren’t. A significant victory nevertheless. Read more:
This might not seem of much significance to those not involved in local politics, but the attack on the restaurants is the first stage of the eviction of the North side of Calais jungle. Currently, there are well over 9000 people crammed there after the destruction of the South side, including 865 children 78% unaccompanied according to the last census, and new people keep arriving, up to 100 per day. The associations have made a new count and they predict there will be 10.000 people by the end of the month. Trapped behind the fence by very violent police. Inevitably there are high tensions due to overcrowding and competition over scarce resources, resulting in fights both in the camp and for access to the motorway. Far from being an hazard the restaurants and shops provide some safety, besides providing 20% of the food in the camp. The restaurants have water, fire extinguishers and some even water hoses, so if a fire starts anywhere in the jungle they can help putting it down. The restaurants are full of people at all times, who often help stopping fights and attacks. People who have just arrived can go there and wait for their friends, or ask for directions. The restaurants and shops also provide sleeping spaces at night, up to 250 according to a count by volunteers. Since the raids on the restaurants began, queues have became much longer and the camp kitchens are struggling to provide enough food. The centre Jules-Ferry provide up to 3500 meals per day, once per day – they could provide more, and the queue lasts up to 4 hours. There are not enough showers in the J-F centre, nor enough sockets for recharging mobiles. In the restaurants people could recharge mobiles for free, relax, meet friends, watch a film, enjoy a delicious and cheap traditional meal…
The refugees selling food and goods accused of causing hazard e.g. fires and trouble to public order. 72 business between restaurants, shops and hamams (showers with barber shops) are threatened closure and/or demolition and the owners – or those identified as that – threatened to be evicted and the makeshift buildings that host the restaurants destroyed !!! Please come in front of the tribunal and support!
Patrick Visser-Bourdon (in the centre, wearing glasses, suit and tie) is the temporary head of Calais central police station and in charge of this ‘humanitarian’ operation of stealing food from refugees and children.
On Friday the police descended on the restaurants again, arresting some more people and serving everybody with orders to appear in court, charged with selling food without a licence, not being in line with hygiene and safety regulations and causing hazard and public order problems in the camp, totally outrageous – no part of the ‘jungle’ is in line with any hygiene and safety regulations, police cause most of the fires by shooting gas grenades on roofs and into shelters that are highly flammable; maybe the authorities who are forcing thousands of innocent refugees to live in that appalling, unsafe and unhygienic slum should be brought to court, not the restaurant and shop owners. Even Sikander from the Kid’s Restaurant has to appear in court, yet they were not selling anything, they were just feeding hungry kids, most of whom are in Calais on their own. According to the association Help Refugees, 608 unaccompanied minors live in the jungle (latest count), the youngest 8 years old. The cafe provided free 200 meals a day, English and French classes, and asylum advice. It was set up after over 100 underage kids went missing during the eviction of the South part of the jungle, to offer them some protection and keep track of the minors. There is a petition to save the Kid’s Restaurant: https://www.change.org/p/sauvons-le-caf%C3%A9-des-enfants-save-the-kids-cafe
The associations have signed a press release, saying the closure of the restaurants threatens the food security of the camp’s inhabitants, as neither La vie active who manage the centre Jules-Ferry, nor the independent kitchen combined have the capacity to feed all the people – though La vie active could serve more meals, they are currently serving up to 3500 once a day only. Volunteers from the kitchens are saying since the closure of the restaurants the queues are much longer, and they can no longer feed everyone. The centre Jules-Ferry only provides one meal per day for 3500 people at present, the queue lasts up to 4 hours! People do not have enough plugs to charge phones, nor enough showers. The restaurants distributed food covering 20% of the camp’s needs. The camp kitchens 40% : Kitchen in Calais 1000 free meals per day, Belgian Kitchen 1000, Refugee Community Kitchen (Auberge des migrants) 2000, Ashram Kitchen 800, Kid’s Restaurant 200.
Please donate to the kitchens, and also to the restaurants and shops affected. Dozens of people were making a living from the restaurants, in the absence of any other prospect of employment they created their own autonomous activity, making a little living for themselves, sending money to their families, doing a great service to the community and employing other people too! Far from being a risk hazard, the restaurants and shops provided some security, there was someone to look on the streets at all times, many fights and assaults were stopped, and several fires in the camp put down. The businesses were full of people at all time, charging their phone, meeting their friends, sheltering from the rain etc. Licensed shops are very far, the shanty town being 7 km from the town centre. The restaurants also provided some accommodation at night and were somewhere new people arriving could turn to for help and directions. When the restaurants are closed the streets are dark and empty and there is no one to look out!