Escalation of police harassment, arrests and brutality in Calais in recent days

Update from Calais Migrant Solidarity:

Thursday 29th March and the surrounding days have seen a shocking and rapid escalation of police harassment, arrests and brutality against
people with and without papers in Calais – far beyond the normal level and in what seemed to be a premeditated assault on the migrant communities and their supporters.

This coincided with the visit of a UK ambassador to the city to meet with
officials on Friday 30th to discuss the matter of port security in the
run-up to London’s Olympic Games, and appears to be part of an ongoing offensive against migrants. This city is coming under the spotlight as part of the Olympic project as international sports teams are training in the Pas-de-Calais region, and the UK and French governments have promised a joint effort to strengthen the border regime this summer.

Early in the morning on Thursday, a large squat housing mainly Eritreans
was raided and two people were arrested during ID controls. However, the police’s energy was focussed in the evening. Multiple ID controls took place, in what one person described as the police ‘swooping into the streets’, as people travelled to and from the food distribution area for their evening meal. Another group were stopped by CRS officers near the Town Hall. Four people without papers were taken in to custody.

Around the same time, two people from No Borders were attacked by CRS officers as they walked down a quiet street, pushed against a wall from behind and asked for identification. The police violently arrested one, forcing her onto the floor of the CRS van, whilst pushing the other to the ground before driving off. The activist arrested was not told the reason for her arrest, but was released 24 hours later on bail charged with outrage.

The wave of violent repression continued into the evening as several vans of CRS police descended into one of the city’s parks at around 8pm and began ID controlling men congregated there. They made around five arrests. A group of activists present challenged the police’s behaviour. The activists and a man without papers were chased in the park by police before being pinned to the floor and beaten with batons and fists. The beating continued against the five in the police van, as they were handcuffed, and in the police station, where one was repeatedly kicked as he lay on the floor. The arrested people were released 48 hours later on bail, charged with violence against the police. Several received injuries requiring medical attention.

One person arrested stated that ‘the police in Calais can do what they
like. Beatings by the police in custody, including during interrogation is
a daily occurrence and happens with impunity’.

A small squat housing 10-12 Iranians was evicted at around 11pm, but no arrests were made as the men had already left. After the eviction of the main squat, known as Africa House, many people with and without papers have been depending on smaller squats for shelter to avoid sleeping on Calais’ violent streets.

The previous evening, Wednesday, an ID control at one of the largest
squats, ‘Palestine House’, resulted in a group of men being taken into
custody. Another small squatted building housing around 12 people was
evicted by police during a raid at 1am. On Friday, the constant circuiting
of the city by vans of CRS, PAF, Police Nationale and undercover cars has
continued, ID controls have been conducted in early morning visits to
remaining squats, and activists have been followed in their vehicles by
CRS vans.

The crackdown is set to continue as the local news reports that the
authorities are to demolish Palestine House in the coming weeks, which
they say is for redevelopment.

The violence perpetrated against people with and without papers during
these 24 hours is aimed at sustaining an atmosphere of fear for those
living with and without papers in Calais. For those facing the risk of
deportation, the police threat of arrest and detention is a terrifying prospect – whilst the evictions have left tens of people without shelter.
The repression seen over the past week is a part of the wider system of
borders and state repression, restricting and controlling the movement of people.