News from Calais: A week in November

Reports from Calais from 14-23 November (by calais migrants solidarity):

Tuesday November 23nd: The break Africa House recieved from police raids was short lived as they were hit with a huge raid at just past 8.00am this morning. No stone was left unturned as four vans worth of CRS (Unit 7) searched every room in every building arresting 21 African Migrants. CMS activists were on watch and allerted people inside with whistles and shouting, unfortunately – most likely due to the incredible rain – many people decided against running away. One arrest van was filled past capacity and four people had to stand. Activists commented on the overloaded bus but the police responded with shrugged shoulders and smirks. While waiting for the next arrest van to arrive, hot tea and pastries were distributed to the hungry Migrants (by CMS) who would be missing there breakfast sat in the police cells.

Two African and two Pashtun Migrants were also arrested, before the raid on Africa House, while walking through town.

Not satisfied with their mornings work the CRS decided to breach the “”agreement” made with the associations and visit lunchtime food distribution hoping to make more arrests. They were sorely disappointed after charity workers and CMS activists gathered to block them and they were made to leave empty handed. The same arrest vans then made their way up to the train station and around the parks hunting for people to harrass and arrest to fill their quotas.

Africa House was visited again at 11.30pm by the police but no arrests were made. Photographs were taken of the newly constructed barricades and one officer got out of the van to make a closer inspection of some graffiti reading “CRS = CRIMINALS”.

On the brighter side of things the arrival of a small group of musicians has brightened everyones mood as guitars, violins, trumpets and a drum are lugged from squat to squat filling the cold buildings with music, singing and laughter.
As usual, English and French classes are continuing to be well attended in Africa and Palestine House.

As far as we know, none of those arrested this morning have been released yet.

Monday November 22nd

Police forces have hit the camp of Teteghem, near Dunkirk, making their threats of a raid real. Yesterday, they had warned the migrants there would be a raid, and so most of them have decided to leave in advance. They arrested everyone they could find. Only some 40 of them were remaining. Africa House was spared the usual big monday morning raid, but we do not know at what cost for the people who stayed in Teteghem. The regional tv was there, and interviewed a man from Sudan named Ahmed who said that he would stay there “no matter what, and if the police arrests me, then that will be a shame for France, cause it is here that the notion of liberty was born, 200 years ago.”

Last friday, the townhall held another migrants council. Somehow they forgot once more to invite the migrants themselves. Testimonies from charities seem to indicate that the meeting mostly consists in the mayor telling the associations what’s gon’ happen ’round here. From the name I initially thought this was a sort of brainstorming session among the most important players of Calais to find out what can be done. This time, Natacha Bouchart announced she would dismantle Africa House, and wall everything up if people are still found there after the destruction has started. She said it wasn’t humane to leave them to sleep in there. A participant asked where migrants would go afterwards, she merely answered: ‘That’s not my problem.’ There’s never been more dignity and humanity in France since the authorities realized they could fuck people over with those alibis.

Calais, Saturday 20th November

There has been a decrease in police activity in Africa House: this morning a CRS van and an arrest van went there but they were not keen, and made only one or two arrests. In a change of routine, yesterday evening they did not go, yesterday morning they did not go, (the Africans were happy and saying they were having a holiday), Thursday morning they did not go, neither did they in the evening – however the CRS turned up early in the afternoon and made a few arrests. Yet the general presence of CRS in town remains undoubtedlyover the top. They went twice to the Egyptian/Palestininan squat, arresting a few people, and continued to bother people in the streets or in the parks where they hang out.

Situation in Dunkerque (Friday 19th)

Some activists visited a lakeside camp near Dunkerque where around 150 people have gathered following the destruction of Loon Plage jungle and nearby squats. The camp includes a number of Kurdish and Afghan families with small children , as well as unaccompanied under age Afghan boys. People living there said that the police raided the camp every day usually early in the morning and arrested people, which reveals an increase in the level of police activity there since when we visited in the Summer (prior to the destruction of the other squats). That is ‘normal’ when they want to reduce the numbers, but particularily worrying for the presence of families, unaccompanied kids some very young and women, one at least pregnant.

In addition, having been driven out of Calais by the police, and evicted from other camps nearby, the lake side camp is in a rural location, which can make it harder to access basic necessities (although various charities do visit and give food). However, we found that people were lacking of everything: blankets, clothes, food they can cook, pots, nappies, etc. One group of 22 Palestinians were sleeping with only one blanket for 4 people; the Afghan minors had about the same amount of blankets between them, kids were walking around with no jackets, no socks, and shoes that are too big or too small…and the weather’s getting very cold to be sleeping outdoors. We went back to Calais and filled our van with everything that we had still left in storage … it was an improvement but certainly not sufficient for all. Satrurday however Medicines du Monde and local associations will do a big distribution of sleeping bags, clothes, tarpaulin.

The local Mayor has just said, “Provided there are fewer than 50 people [in a camp], we can manage it. Now I’m ringing the alarm bell”. The local associations fear a destruction of the camp may be imminient but there is no information, and a meeting of the associations with the Mayor has been cancelled or postponed. One wonders what exactly that will lead to. Yet another destruction? Will people manage to mobilize to save it ( – and for how long…?). Watch this space.

Wednesday 17th November

Africa House raided in the morning 8 am, 8 arrests. No raid in the evening.

Tuesday 16th November

Africa House raided 7.30 am and again shortly after 9am. 15 arrests in total.

Monday 15th November

A raid took place on Africa House this morning shortly after 7am.16 people were arrested. In the evening they came 3 times, twice they raided arresting approx 10 people, the last time (1 am) they just drove round the courtyard to wake people up, did not try to arrest anyone.

Last night there was raid there at 11.30 pm, resulting in the arrest of 11 people. Two men ran away at the last moment before being put in the arrest van and are not counted amongst those arrested. On both occasions 3 CRS vans and one arrest van came via the front of the building.

Three CRS vans went to the squat known as Palestine house yesterday at about 8.30 pm. There were 5 arrests.

Sunday 14th November

The CRS went twice to Africa house last night, arresting 22 people, and again this morning, when they took 9. This is a daily occurence so if you are keen on helping defend Africa House please come forward! Other squats are also still getting raided very often, with people being held for 12 – 24 hours. Others are held in Coquelles detention centre for 2-4 weeks.

Three people (two Europeans, one African) and a dog were arrested in the night between Sunday and Monday around 1.30 pm, for making graffiti. They were held in garde-vue until Monday evening and liberated around 7pm. The humans are to appear in court the 13th January accused of vandalizing, and perhaps of insult to police officier but it seems the second accustion has been dropped after the person accused complained about a previous beating by police. There is an outstanding number of no borders graffiti in Calais, made by persons unknown.