Updates from Calais (July 2010)

Some updates and news from activities in Calais, from the various squats in the area and police repression against migrants and supporters.

Tuesday 27th July: Africa House II is raided & unit 7 of CRS goes on the prowl

The new space inhabited by around two dozen East African and Pashtun migrants was raided yesterday morning in a fairly large CRS operation.

The previous night, officers from the PAF (Police Aux Frontieres) cut the chain around the gate to the squat known as ‘Africa House’, and warned residents that they would be back the next day. A large number of No Borders activists remained on site overnight in anticipation of a raid.

At around 7.30am on Tuesday, approximately 5 vans full of CRS surrounded the building. Officers attempted to catch as many migrants as possible; eleven people were arrested.

They then arrested three No Borders activists for not leaving immediately. They were held on the ground, pressure-pointed and insulted, but were released three hours later.

Workers from the muncipal council then seized essential possessions, such as bedding. Residents were told that the buildings would be demolished on Thursday – ironically – with a view to replacing the warehouses with HLMs (low-cost housing).

Following Tuesday morning’s arrests at Africa House, the new unit of CRS ventured out for their first night of repression in Calais.

At 8.20pm, around a dozen CRS officers raided the Kurdish jungle while two of us were delivering water and tents to its residents. Whistles were blown to alert residents as soon as the police were spotted.

We waited for the police in a clearing where we had been about to have tea, camcorders in hand. 3 CRS jumped out from the bushes, about to draw their batons and laughing. Their expression soon changed as soon as they realised the kurds had escaped and only No Borders activists remained on the scene.

The activists followed the groups of police around the camp, filming all the while to minimise the risk of them finding and beating anyone or destroying possessions. Theey found and arrested one man.

With a largely empty arrest van, the CRS went straight to Africa House where they had arrested 14 in the raid the same morning. Activists were already on the scene, as migrants and No Borders activists were preparing a meal there and had been about to start a meeting. A line of people linked arms and defended the entrance to buy some time. Whistles were blown, and many people managed to escape. One African man was caught and put in the van along with the Kurd who had been arrested earlier.

The police left and were found heading in the direction of the bridge where some migrants have been staying.

Two activists arrived to find 3 officers creeping round the bridge, peering round the corner as if about to pounce. The activists broke their cover by alerting the migrants, and a pursuit along the canal ensued. One Sudanese man was caught, and one activist who was filming was stopped and searched.

The police roamed around some more but tonight’s hunt seemed to be over; only one person had been caught from each of the squats where we had intervened. It did later transpire however that they manged to fill some of the empty spaces in the arrest van with a visit to the Pashtun jungle, where they caught 3 people.

English classes have begun at the Palestinian squat and continue to be well attended at the African/Pashtun squat. We have also been distributing sleeping bags and tents and doing water runs in the day.