| Calais Migrants need your solidarity! |
chiara - 15.10.2009 10:43
After the destruction of Pashto jungle the 22nd September, all other camps and squats are being dismantled,
old camps and squats as well as the new camps people set up after they are first evicted.
The tactic is always the same, massive police operations involving up to hundreds of riot police, who surround the camps from every side and arrest everybody.
After that, the diggers move in and destroy everything, the shelters with the people's few possessions.
People are usually released after a few hours
and return to the streets of Calais with nothing
no place to go to.
They rely on charities like Salam who provide some emergency relief such as blankets and clothes.
Torn photographs and pieces of legal papers have been found where the camps used to be.
People however have not gone away.
They are sleeping everywhere, in woods and in parks, under bridges, by the side of the road.
The weather is getting colder and it rains a lot.
The police won't leave the migrants alone, they go and arrest them any time day or night so they can never sleep.
Most people are released after a few hours
but some are taken to deportation centres ('reception' centres as they call them in France);
if they are not released within 48 hours something more serious may be happening to them:
they may be returned to their country,
but in many cases this is not possible because the countries they come from are too dangerous.
Unlike in the UK, in France is it difficult to deport people to war torn countries.
Most people come from Afghanistan
but also from Iran, Iraq, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Sudan (mainly from Darfur), Palestine (many from Gaza).
However, many people have been fingerprinted in some country they transited through, such as Greece, Italy, Hungary
and according to the Dublin2 agreements they can be returned to the first 'safe' third country where they were identified.
To obtain asylum in Greece is impossible
and the treatment of refugees and migrants is horrendous
there is evidence of migrants tortured by police in Greece
and two have died as a consequence of police violence.*
Many unaccompanied minors in Calais are in the same situation.
It was sad enough to see them sleeping in the 'jungle'
but there at least they had some shelter and a community around them;
now they are sleeping under bridges and by railtracks like everybody else,
in the rain,
and nobody looks after them.
When the police arrest these kids they use force;
they search them in public places in front of everybody.
One volunteer from Salam who tried to defend a group of minors who were being arrested in a park was hit by a policeman with his truncheon, in front of his little son.
The children are put into sheltered accommodation
but at the condition that they ask for asylum in France.
Many do not want to stay in France,
usually because they have family or relatives in England
so they don't want to be put into these homes
and eventually they return to the streets.
I met a 16 years old coming out from under a truck
he lost his grip and fell
so he failed to go to England that morning.
He was in the company of some younger Afghan boys
his hands and face were dirty with grease
he was smiling
he is very brave
and he is very young so he takes it as a game
but if he falls from a under a truck and goes under the wheels he can die
he knows that
but he needs to go to England
he is the oldest son
and has younger brothers and sisters to look after
who need money for food, shoes and to go to school
all things we take for granted.
To find work in France is very difficult
that's why he needs to go to England.
His dream is to bring his family to Europe one day
where they can be safe and have a good life.
The younger refugee I met is only three years old
and he is travelling with his mum and dad who are around 20.
This young family are from Iraqi Kurdistan
and they are sleeping out like everybody else.
I ask the father if he would like me to look for a place for them to stay the night,
he very politely answers no,
they are going to England tonight.
I ask what if they do not make it tonight,
he answers they try every night.
renderHe holds his little son in his arms with so much care
as if he was holding the most precious thing in the Universe.
After the destruction of the Pashto jungle
the media went away
and the show continued without so much publicity.
The Immigration Minister Besson had declared he wants to make of Calais a 'migrant free zone'.
The plan is all too obvious: he wants to make life so impossible for the migrants that they eventually leave Calais.
Besson speech is sugar-coated in grotesque declarations
that the dismantling of the camps is done for humanitarian reasons
against the 'law of the jungle'
and against the people's smugglers.
But the smugglers have not gone away,
they have got stronger
as the people have nowhere to go for protection,
and they are asking for more money:
their fare has pretty much doubled
and to go to England in the back of a truck now costs up to £1500!
After the destruction of the Pashto jungle
The Iranian jungle was destroyed and burned down the 25th September.
The Hazara jungle was destroyed the 29th September.
the Eritrean squat was evicted the 30th September and destroyed by bulldozers the 2nd October,
a squat that had been home to up to 150 people at one time,
young men and women
escaping an horrendous war and forcible conscription in the Army.
The Sudanese jungle was also destroyed Friday the 2nd , in the presence of Mr Besson who went there to supervise the operation before some media
and he said he sees 'no humanity' in this camp.
True the Sudanese men,
most of whom are genocide survivors from Darfur,
ought to have been accommodated a bit better by the French authorities,
rather than having to live in a camp with no water, no electricity and no sanitation.
They probably thought they were still in Darfur. Except that in France is colder.
Now one must ask:
where is the humanity in sending some genocide survivors from Darfur sleeping under the stars with no shelter at all?
Is this what Besson meant when he said the destruction of the camps has to be done with 'dignity'?
Where is the dignity he was talking about?
This looks more like a new persecution of people who have been persecuted already and came to Europe for looking for safety...
In the meantime, all the men arrested at the Pashto jungle except one were released by the judges, as they saw these mass arrests as illegal or at least irregular. First came back the Afghans held in Calais police station, than those who were in Lille police station, than those who were in Coquelles and Lille deportation centres, than those who were in deportation centres in the South. Those who were in the deportation centre of Tolouse, 27 men in all, were the last to come back, as they were held for one week and released with no money and no train ticket. It took them another week to come back, as they had to get down the train every time they were found out by ticket inspectors. They went without food most of this time and in Paris they slept out with no blankets, just cardboards. That's how civilized Europe treats the refugees from the war in Afghanistan – in whose invasion the UK are directly involved and France is contributing through NATO.
The minors arrested at the jungle are still being held in various accommodation centres. One centre has been deemed by the judge totally unsuitable and he has ordered the minors be moved.
A deportation by charter flight was planned to leave the 6th of October from the UK, and to pick up the Afghans arrested in Calais. The flight was cancelled by France 'due to diplomatic difficulties' with one country of transit, and possibly also because such mass deportations are illegal under international law, there were more than 30 organizations protesting and maybe also because there were no Afghans left, of those arrested in the Calais jungle, to put on the plane, they had all been released by then. The flight went ahead half empty with deportees from the UK only.
But that is no news, there are regular charter flights from the UK to Kabul every Tuesday, it is call 'operation Ravel'. They go so quietly though, that very few people hear about it.
On the 7th October the camps in the docks were destroyed early in the morning,
and everybody arrested.
A massive police operation involving some twenty vans and over a hundred police officers.
Must have cost the taxpayer a fortune.
The camps were three, Palestinians and Egyptians together, Sudanese and Eritreans. Everything was destroyed and the place fenced up.
Some Sudanese rebuild a camp
and that was raided by police the 12th October – they went there and counted everybody, which is what they usually do before destroying a camp.
The 13th October a small camp of about 25 Afghans was destroyed, the men arrested, half of them have now been released but the others are still detained and threatened with deportation.
This camp was sited in front of the 'old' jungle,
that has now became a wasteland, even the trees have been taken down and destroyed.
But there are acres and acres of woodland and bushland around Calais
and much of it is natural reserve
so it will be very difficult for Besson to take it all down
as well as it will be very difficult for anyone to stop people from travelling
who have very compelling reasons
such as war and extreme poverty.
If there was no war and no exploitation
many people would rather stay where they are
where they have family and friends
where their roots are.
Nobody wants to become a refugee
it just happens that many people are tired of war
they do not want to kill or be killed
that's why they run away
hoping to make a living abroad and send money home
to their families who are starving.
In 2002 most refugees in Calais were from Iraq
now most are from Afghanistan
the countries invaded by US and their allies.
Some Afghans support the Taliban,
they are running from the Taliban too,
but everybody hates the Americans
and all other foreign troops who are invading their country.
* Two migrants killed in Greece: Arivan Abdullah Osman, 29, from Iraqi Kuridstan. Died 27th July after 4 months in a coma after a savage beating by police in the Greek port of Igoumenitsa.
Mohammad Atif Kamran, a 25-year old migrant living in Athens arrested 26th September. Eyewitness say he was dragged from his house in a way that his head would bang on every step. He was taken to the local police station where was held for two days, during which he was subjected to severe beatings (while tied hand and foot) and electrical shocks. Released and left without medical care, Kamran died October the 10th.
Calais Migrant Solidarity has been present on the ground in Calais even since the No Borders Camp in June. We are from different countries, especially France, UK, Belgium, the Netherlands. We monitor police activity, which has resulted in police violence against migrants, such as beatings, to decrease visibly and the use of tear gas to be very much abandoned, for the moment.
Unfortunately we are powerless at stopping the destruction of camps and squats, but we provide first necessity aid, filling the gaps where the charities do not reach, build solidarity, work together with the migrants and promote spaces for self-organization. Other work includes denouncing and making public what we see, contact NGOs, MPs and MEPs, campaign against repression. We demand freedom of movement and the right to stay as solutions for the migrants.
Times are very tough at the moment and more people on the ground are needed.
Please get in contact if you are thinking of coming even for short, by contacting 0033 6348 10710 in France or 0044 7953 400 8380 for the UK
Induction, support and accommodation are available.
Other things that are always needed are:
shoes, warm clothes especially winter jackets, blankets and sleeping bags, tents, toiletries, money, English sim cards, second hand mobiles etc.