In Calais, Dunkirk and Paris we are witnessing a succession of evictions concerning thousands of migrant people. The creation of thousands temporary accommodation places in CAO (Centes d’accueil et orientation) spread all across France goes hand in hand with zero tolerance policies for camps and squats. Most people who have newly arrived in France, all those who do not find place in CAO end up sleeping rough, as well as those who do not want to stay in CAO (because they do not want to apply for asylum in France for instance). They are pushed into ever more insecure, dangerous and even life-threatening situations, sleeping in the woods or by the side of the road without even a shelter, women and children included, condemned to invisibility and exposed to violence by police, racists, smugglers and other criminals.
Some good news: the 27th April the UK government announced they will take 130 more unaccompanied minors under the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Bill. Transfers under Dubs had been stopped for months on pretext there were not places for the kids by local authorities, a fabrication since many local authorities had offered places and the report according to which there were not places was old and out of date. Though 130 objectively is not many compared to the huge and increasing number of minors arriving in Europe alone, this announce is a life saver for those 130, and further opens the door to the possibility of more transfers. Please keep putting pressure on the UK government. Transfers of children and other vulnerable people under family reunification are also being hindered both by the French and UK authorities: for instance the French bureaucrats do the paperwork so badly that the UK just send the applications back to France and the people are left hanging.
Destroying people’s shelters does not make them disappear. Seven months after the destruction of Calais ‘jungle’ there are several hundreds of people sleeping out in Calais’s streets, woods and wastelands. Many are unaccompanied minors and there are women too – volunteers and local people try to shelter the women and the youngest children. There is a shelter for minors but in St Omer not in Calais, kids can only stay up to 5 days. Police destroy any tents they find, leaving people to sleep rough with only blankets and sleeping bags that are often damaged or destroyed – for instance police pepper spray blankets rendering them unusable. Police violence is appalling . People, including women and minors, are sprayed in the face, beaten, hit with rubber bullets, have their shoes taken away, are subjected to insults and racist abuse; there are at least two allegations of people deliberately ran over by police cars. Most of the violence happens when people try for England, and police use gas grenades to disperse people but people can be attacked any time they encounter the police, kicked or sprayed in the face when they sleep and so on. Arbitrary and repeated arrests are very common. The Refugee Rights Data Project have recently conducted a research in the Calais area. They denounce the insecurity and danger for people in the absence of a camp or structure. The unaccompanied minors are the most exposed to sexual violence, exploitation and trafficking, according to this research. 89 per cent of people interviewed said they had experienced police violence during their time in Calais. 82 per cent described police treatment in France as “bad” or “very bad”. 84 per cent had experienced tear gas, 53 per cent other forms of physical violence and 28 per cent verbal abuse. Broken limbs, facial injuries and severe bruising were found to be ‘typical injuries’. http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/refugees-calais-northern-france-police-brutality-daily-basis-unaccompanied-minors-children-a7696076.html
Full report (in French): http://refugeerights.org.uk/wp-content/uploads/2017/04/RRDP_SixMoisPlusTard.pdf
This report is mostly based on testimonies, hard evidence is needed. The French authorities are in perpetual denial of any wrongdoing by police. And there is violence by fascists and racists, and in some cases by lorry drivers. A young man had an arm broken when a driver pushed him from his lorry. And there is the violence of the border. Three people have died trying to cross this year, that we know of.
2 May, at Paris’s Gare du Nord, after succeeding to climb onto the Eurostar’s roof an exile was killed by the electric arc from the catenary system above the train.
This is the third exile to have died at the border so far this year. On the 21st of January Johnsina was run over on the motorway near Calais. On the 11th of March, another exile died near Dunkirk following an attempt to cross the border.
A 17 years old from Eritrea was in a coma for two weeks, suspended between life and death after being hit by a lorry. He survived but with severe head and facial injuries, was unable to talk or to walk unaided and only able to feed through a tube inserted in his mouth. The local press have just started a migrant-blaming campaign because of a small barricade people made with some branches to try stop some lorries. One lorry driver was lightly injured and the Nord Littoral run a front page, 2nd and 3rd page, with the dramatic title: End of the Truce – as if it was a war! The Nord Littoral has turned totally racist. I never remember seeing three front pages when somebody died or was maimed for life. But deaths and serious injuries happen only to migrants, who are not treated as humans.
I probably need to stress, since it is not obvious to everybody, that people are actually being treated in the most abysmal manner, it is not me who is ‘representing them as victims’. People are braving the most appalling violence and surviving the most appalling conditions in their struggle to cross this border, and they are bearing with the most amazing courage and dignity, you see many smiley faces and very little desperation but the situation in Calais is really terrible. We need more political action to challenge this situation.
No more showers. People going to take a shower have been arrested, there is a scabies epidemic, and Secours Catholique, who were providing some showers, had to stop, though they manage to open a day centre. Local people try provide some showers in their homes, and an American woman started renting some AirBnB, offering people showers, causing a little storm in the racist local press after racist neighbours reported unusual activity to the police.
The mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart tried to stop food distributions but her order was overturned by the judge when the charities took the mayor to court: there is no law that stops charities feeding hungry people. The mayor has appealed against the sentence but in the meantime distributions continue. Police are however disturbing food distributions in the jungle: they arrive at 7 pm and herd everybody in the woods under threat of violence and CS gas; anybody who has no papers can be arrested. At 7 pm people are still eating or getting blankets or playing football with their friends but they have to run and hide in the woods like hunted animals. Volunteers are also controlled, harassed and intimidated. This video taken by a volunteer shows the violent arrest of a minor (minors are not supposed to be arrested) https://www.facebook.com/lucie.favry/videos/10212790256256282/
Police have stopped food distributions near the train station altogether, saying they cause a security hazard by drawing crowds near the station. No written order was ever produced. Volunteers giving food and tea near the station were also able to monitor arrests, and provide some support, advice and information to people who just arrived.
Food distributions near the park or in other places in the city are being disturbed by police too. It is so lovely to see the parks full of migrant people again, after many months of total segregation in the ‘jungle’. Young Africans play football with local kids, young mothers disturb the Afghan cricket by passing in the middle with babies and prams – they are clearly not afraid, elderly residents play boules next to the migrants… and people make friends, meet girlfriends, sometimes have babies, it is how integration begins. Police, however, have carried out some raids in the parks too, asking everybody for papers and arresting those without papers. Some African teenagers were sprayed in the face and told to go to the jungle. Local people and volunteers keep watch: many Calais people also hate the police and like the migrants. But police keep going there. The 25/05 there were lots of arrests in Park St Pierre. The day after police returned but they found nobody except people with papers, happily sitting around, chatting or playing cricket. The police, some big bullies armed with gas, looked baffled. All those without papers had disappeared, and returned to the park later…
However things are getting worst. A new order has been produced forbidding everybody to sit or lay on the grass, eating in the parks, sleeping on benches. New security has been hired and we are expecting repression to rise in the next weeks.
How many migrants in Calais? It is a guess. 350 according to the police, between 400 and 600 according to some associations, 800 according to others but with so many people coming and going and hiding it is totally impossible to make a count. I personally think there are more than 800 people. Refugee Calais Kitchen (RCK) prepare 1300 meals per day but the meals are distributed in various places and not all at once: some people eat twice, others do not eat from the kitchen but rely on friends or on their own resources. Most people are from Afghanistan, the Eritreans who dominated the Calais scene for a while have left in droves, there are very few Sudanese, there are quite many Ethiopians including many Oromo, few Kurds, Arabs and others. Lots of tensions and fights, also big ones, usually on the lines of different ethnic groups. Access to the ex-jungle that was razed in October is forbidden and large swathes of the Dunes are off-limits now because of the extension of the ferry port that is underway. There are too many people crammed in a relatively small area. They are competing for territory and for the few points of passage, any lorry park, any junction or petrol station – very ugly scenes when the police arrive and disperse them with gas and truncheons. Alcohol and frustration add to the problem. The facebook page of the fascistic militias Calaisiens en colere has been taken down recently but they are still active hunting migrants and passing information to the police. The Voix du Nord published an article with a map of where most people sleep, in case anyone did not know, indicating that migrants are a problem for businesses and local people – no voice given to the migrants, they are not humans, they are just a problem. http://www.lavoixdunord.fr/166504/article/2017-05-22/quatre-lieux-de-calais-ou-les-migrants-se-regroupent-et-s-abritent# People who sleep in the parks or in other places are not counted in the article.
Emergency Rain: Associations have stopped giving tarpaulin for reasons I have not been able to gather. For two months it did not rain, or very little but now when it rains all the water that is in the heavens falls down! It is serious, considering people have only blankets and sleeping bags Please donate here: https://www.gofundme.com/calais-rain-emergency-fund All money donated is to buy tarpaulin or goes directly to help migrants with what is most needed and where the associations do not reach. Filling the gaps is something No Borders have always done until recently but I have always found it very difficult to get money from Calais Migrant Solidarity so I am doing my own crowfunding. Some associations i.e. the Auberge des migrants/ Help Refugees stopped giving tents because the police destroy them, saying tents render people more visible therefore more vulnerable to police attacks but it is strange they stopped giving tents exactly when it was snowing, it may be coincidence and perhaps they were just implementing, on the day it was snowing, a decision taken earlier in some meeting. However some associations e.g. the Auberge openly collaborated with the government destroying the ‘jungle’ , therefore they cannot be trusted. We are already doing distributions of tents, tarp and materials and we always need sleeping bags and blankets. And money to buy.
GRANDE SYNTHE (DUNKIRK)
A makeshift camp at Poithouk (a very Flemish word meaning ‘pond’), near Grande-Synthe, was evicted on the 19/05. About 250 people including many families with young children slept there. The majority are Kurds from Northern Iraq but there are also many Afghans. https://www.facebook.com/adrian.torres.71868964/posts/10158815083145061?pnref=story
People returned, sleeping without tents and without shelters. On 24/05 police returned to the camp at 7 am, ordered everybody to leave and destroyed the only shelter, a very tiny shelter where two girls aged 3 and 6 slept. People went to sleep on the side of the motorway or hiding in the bushes Most families (15) who were there had been moved forcibly to a CAO in Lille but new families keep arriving. Children end up sleeping in the woods with no shelter.
A video worth a thousand words: https://www.facebook.com/solidarityforall.be/videos/1849873178607175/ living conditions are in the middle section of the film.
A camp of 300 people not willing to disperse was evicted and destructed shortly after the demise of the official camp.
The ‘humanitarian’ camp of la Linière (Grande Synthe) was burned to the ground during a fight between Kurdish and Afghans. The ‘official’ camp was obtained by the mayor of Grande Synthe Damien Careme – the government did not want any camp in the area, and represented a more humane alternative to an informal camp at Grande-Synthe’s Basroch neighbourhood, where thousands of people including families camped in the mud, with rats running about, with a half a dozen showers and a dozen chemical toilets. In the new camp there were plenty of showers and flushing toilets; pity women and children were raped in the showers and the women’s toilets were built next to the men’s and had no keys. Volunteers from the Women’s centre started putting locks on the toilets and employees from Afeji tried to stop them. What were smugglers doing in an official humanitarian camp is another question but effectively the camp was run by Kurdish mafia and the mafia in Grande-Synthe have always been the craziest and the most dangerous. The association Afeji who replaced Utopia56 in the management of the camp did a thoroughly bad job, they had absolutely no experience but got a lucrative contract in the refugees business – like the association La vie active who managed the Jules-Ferry centre and the containers camp and had never worked in Calais before. The main mistake, however, was to amass all the people in Grande Synthe. Women and children could not go out their tiny huts at night for fear of being raped. Rather than demanding more security and that women and children are separated from single adult men, as by all child protection rules, charities like Gynecologie Sans Frontieres started distributing diapers for the women and children to wear at night so they did not have to go out to use the toilets. I really do not know what would be the ‘international standards’ by which this camp was supposedly built: the wooden huts were very small, windowless and not waterproofed, most huts were rotting with mold; fire regulations were not respected and the huts were too near to each other. I cannot understand how Medicins Sans Frontieres, who do such amazing work in other places, did such a bad job in Dunkirk with the construction of that camp. At least in Calais ‘jungle’ huts were nice and covered with tarpaulin, that could also be painted over with beautiful graffiti, huts were built where the jungle’s residents wanted them, not on endless rows of huts with numbers, people could sleep where they choose and next to their friends and so protect each other, and there were mosques, churches, restaurants, shops and even clubs and a cinema… In Grande-Synthe’s Linière Muslims prayed in the open air and there were no places for social life, apart from the communal kitchens, where people ended up sleeping, head to feet and on top of each other, on the tables, under the tables, on the floors, wherever they could squeeze in because the administration wanted to reduce numbers so some huts were removed and no new huts were built. Calais ‘jungle’ was pretty shit, but still better and a bit less dangerous than the ‘official’ camp at Grande Synthe. That was really made of the stuff of nightmares, but still better than everybody sleeping rough in the woods here and there and everywhere with police chasing them. And nobody to see what happens to them!
Adieu la Linière:
On the 10th April there was a big fight in the ‘humanitarian ‘ camp between Afghans and Kurds that started on around 6 pm, with stones being thrown and men running after each other with knives. Children were terrified and screaming, parents desperate to get them out the camp. By 8 pm most people were outside the camp. At 9 pm gunfire was heard inside the camp and fires started: first burned the first of three communal kitchens where Afghans slept, and where the 6 pm fight had started. The Afghans retaliated and there were molotov cocktails flying everywhere and the entire camp started burning. Police did nothing except throwing gas grenades that notoriously cause fires too. By 10 pm 80% of the camp had gone up in smoke and everything was quiet again. Many people lost everything. It seems that the origin of the big fight was tensions and rivalry between Kurdish and Afghan mafia inside the camp. Shortly before the fight that destroyed the ‘humanitarian’ camp there was another fight between Afghan and Kurdish smugglers for the control of a certain lorry park.
Video taken by some of the camp’s residents: https://www.facebook.com/chiara.lauvergnac/videos/10154831564969092/
People were moved to shelters improvised in crammed sports halls, except most Afghans, including many unaccompanied minors, spent the first night in the woods hiding from the Kurdish mafia who had threatened to kill them and they have many guns. It was cold and they did not have blankets but the day after most Afghans turned up in the shelters. – there were shelters especially for Afghans who had to separate from other nationalities. The Kurdish families did not want to stay in the sports hall, they went and sat with their children in front of the riot police who were stopping access to the camp demanding to re-enter because the overcrowding in the sports hall was extreme and they had no privacy at all . They were not allowed in.
https://www.theguardian.com/world/2017/apr/12/riot-police-stop-refugees-returning-to-dunkirk-camp-destroyed-by-fire The article is quite imprecise but the pics are very very interesting.
1200 people were later transferred to CAO by coaches, dispersed across France. There were over 1600 people in the camp. Some of the unaccompanied minors who were in the camp went to shelters but others disappeared. There were at least 120 minors according to the children’s services and the Dunkirk Legal Centre. Many of the people who were sent to CAO have left already and have returned to Calais or Dunkirk to try pass to England. The authorities announced there will be no more official camp in the Dunkirk area.
UNICEF ‘concerned’ about the minors evicted from the official camp, reports of violence and exploitation http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/europe/child-refugees-migrants-dunkirk-calais-france-unicef-people-trafficking-smugglers-a7689051.html /but not ‘concerned’ enough to do anything about it, they are not even here, like the UNHCR, the Red Cross and all big NGOs, all absent from Calais, Dunkirk etc.
NORRENT-FONTES AND OTHER CAMPS AND SQUATS THREATENED WITH EVICTION
Norrent-Fontes (Isebergues) is also threatened with eviction. The camp has existed for over 20 years and is hosting about 70 people mostly from Eritrea including many women. The association Terre d’Errance provides help to the camp and not only in terms of blankets and food: people are also supported in terms of accessing services and defending their rights. Terre d’Errance have written a letter to the new President of France asking not to destroy the camp until real solutions are found. The letter is signed by other associations too. Steenvorde (Hazebrouk) camp, also in the region, has been destroyed again and again but people keep returning – good news has it that over 20 people have recently passed to England from there. Similarly, people keep returning to Calais and Dunkirk without even a tent to sleep in.
Elsewhere, at least fifteen camps and squats are threatened with
destruction and several hundred men, women and children
fear eviction: in Champs sur Marne, more than 90 people
are targeted by a scheduled eviction . In Choisy Le Roi, 80 people are threatened with eviction.
In Sucy en Brie, 30 people are threatened with eviction.
In Alfortville 15 people could be evicted at the end of
the school year.
In Rungis, an eviction of 180 to 200 people has been announced for the
end of school year.
In Evry, 80 families are threatened with eviction.
In Osny, a hostel of 11 people and another of 4 people, all citizens of the European Union could be evicted.
In Triel sur Seine, 42 families are afraid of being evicted.
In Villeneuve Saint Georges the Town Hall have issued an
eviction order that concerns about a hundred people.
In Aix, Arles, St Denis, Lille and Ronchin, evictions are also announced.
Source: Terre d’Errance, Norrent Fontes
PARIS LATEST EVICTIONS
1600 people were evicted on the 12th May, kicked out early morning from their tents at porte de la Chapelle under threat of violence by numerous riot police and put into buses for CAO. All tents and bedding were destroyed.
Photos and report of the eviction:
But people keep arriving. The official ‘humanitarian’ camp opened by the ‘socialist’ mayor of Paris Anne Hidalgo (400 places) absorbs only a minority of the numerous refugees who arrive in Paris. People queue all night to get in. Often they still are told there is no place and to come back the day after. Very ugly scenes every morning when people who have been queuing all night and are told to go away try to enter anyway and are attacked by police, watch the video: https://www.facebook.com/edu.granados.9/posts/1442504379171264
In the ‘humaitarian’ camp they sleep in containers inside a squalid disused hangar, behind the absurdly bright bubble that is at the entrance. Clothes and facilities are minimal, really there isn’t much. The humanitarian camp functions as sorting place for people towards CAO. People are not given the correct information, for instance they are not told that if they have fingerprints in Dublin countries they can be deported there. The camp is run by Emmaus, Utopia56 helping. Many more people sleep outside, in many different places but the highest concentration is at porte de la Chapelle. Police destroy tents and blankets. The Town Hall even put stones to prevent people from sleeping – the stones were cut and removed by citizens in solidarity with refugees. Like in Calais and Dunkirk people sleep out in Paris with only blankets and sleeping bags, exposed to police violence, exposed to arrests and police destroy blankets too. The official camp only takes adult men. The promised camp for women and children never saw the light. Many women and children are accommodated by volunteers and concerned citizens, at at their own expenses, the French State does not put a penny. The 115 number for emergency accommodation is always full. The Red Cross, who run some services for minors, keep refusing accommodation to all minors who cannot prove their age. Bed spaces moreover are totally insufficient. Many minors end up sleeping out.
DEMONSTRATION 2nd June
What’s wrong with CAO?
Dispersing people in temporary accommodation simply is not working, not for all anyway, not for all the new people who arrive and do not find a place, not for all the people with Dublin fingerprints, who can be deported back there but often are not told that or they are lied to, there are protests and hungers strikes in CAO against deportations. Living conditions vary very much and some CAO are nice others are truly horrible. CAO stands for Centre d’Accueil et Orientation but in fact the orientation is absent, except where there are local associations and volunteers to provide it. No information, not enough interpreters, no much chance to make a good application for asylum leading to a larger number of deportations. Dispersion and making people invisible. CAO are not detention centres and not close camps, people can come and go as they wish and they can leave any time but if they leave they are not entitled to any State support for two years. They can stay unconditionally for about 2 months but after the only solution on offer is to apply for asylum in France. Not all people want to apply for asylum in France and many want to go to England or other countries. There are ever increasing numbers of people sleeping in the streets or in the woods, in Calais, Paris, Dunkirk etc, in ever worsening and more life-threatening conditions: people who have just arrived and people who are leaving CAO because it does provide a solution for them.
What is wrong with associations?
The associations are not challenging the very politics that lead to this appalling state of affairs; quite the opposite, there is often collaboration of associations with government, even in implementing policies that are not in the best interest of the migrants and against their will. The issue is an old one, most associations seem to have double loyalties: to the institutions and to the people they are supposed to be helping. Only, the collaboration and written approval of the destruction of Calais ‘jungle’and dispersal of people to CAO by the presidents of Secours Catholique, Auberge des migrants, Emmaus, Medicins du Monde and FNARS seems to open a new era of open collaboration of charities and NGOs with the French State. I do not feel I can trust them after that and I do not understand how can anybody trust them or want to work with them. They are often not very capable of managing anything more complex than aid distributions, such as court cases and political matters in general. (I am not saying out of spite or anger, I am saying because it is what I really and truly think). Most associations (the Auberge for instance) claim to be non-political but they do not limit themselves to giving blankets, instead they meddle with politics an awful lot. I really think we need a new network of volunteers, activists and associations who are not inclined to collaborate with police and government and can be trusted by the migrants. And above all we need political action, solidarity means fighting the border regime not just giving humanitarian aid – though that is also vitally important, nobody can survive without food or blankets or walk without shoes, and is important in what way aid is given. Solidarity not charity! I am afraid the governments are going towards a final solution Nazi style, war and genocide are of their making, you see how many people are dying in the Mediterranean, the EU States do not care as long as they can get away with letting people drown; people are pushed in the woods without means of survival, like in France, or are put into State camps where they would die of cold and starvation , like in Greece: 13 people died last winter in camps that had not been equipped for the winter but they would have died by the hundreds if it was not for the independent volunteers. People are deported back to countries at war, the UK and other Northern countries are sending people to their deaths, and Europe is preparing to deport many thousands more. Then how would you expect the same imperialists who are causing or fuelling wars worldwide to be kind to people when they come to Europe as refugees? It is politics, the refugee crisis is not an humanitarian crisis, it is the result of politics. Giving blankets and food can keep people alive, maybe not even that as living conditions deteriorate further and become increasingly life threatening, but what future for the people?