Calais (France): The Eritrean Squat has been evicted

Evicted squat, Rue Neuve, in Calais

The Eritrean squat in rue Neuve has been evicted, 70 + people newly in the street. Tents, sleeping bags, blankets are very much needed. Most of all we need activists to go to Calais and support!

Following lots of arrivals to Italy via Lampedusa there are now well over 100 Eritreans present in Calais. They are escaping a brutal dictatorship and a long war with Ethiopia. There are a record number of women from Eritrea and Ethiopia in Calais, most are in the safe space opened by No Borders. The ‘jungles’ where Eritreans and Ethiopians wait to go to England are full over the limit. Following the tragedy a shipwrecks south of Lampedusa, causing the death of over 350 people, mainly Eritreans, there have been protests in Italy and in many European cities.

After the Syrians went on hunger strike and occupied the pedestrian entrance to the ferry port, the camp of the Syrians in front of the place of food distribution was not disturbed by police for a while. About 50 people sleep there, including some minors. Today however a large number of police went around the place of food distribution. The Syrians in this camp are asking for support.
The Afghan jungle is still a main target, police going there every 2 days approx, usually at 7 am, sometimes they do nothing except asking for papers, sometimes they arrest people – even if they have papers. 50 to 60 people sleep there including some underage boys. 20 to 30 were in the small jungle on the other side of the motorway, there may be fewer now due to destructions and arrests. Many are deported to Italy or other third ‘safe’ countries.
The Sudanese, Chadians and other Africans still have not been able to resettle anywhere, police keep following them closing their squats and destroying their shelters.

The month of September has seen:
· Eviction of the squat in rue Mouron, Beer House where nearly 100 Africans were living for nearly one year. Twenty Syrians had occupied an adjacent cabin and were evicted at the same time. Lots of PAF (Police aux frontiers), CRS (riot police) and special police. No arrests.
· Three immediate evictions of the big squats where those people had been seeking shelter in the nights following the eviction. This time several arrests were made.
· Complete destruction of the Sudanese jungle with around twenty arrests. Police and destroyed all the tents they could find, city workers taking the blankets and personal things to the to the city dump. Everything would have been immediately destroyed if it was not for activists and volunteers from the associations going to the dump to take them back that day.
· Tents have been destroyed by the police in the Afghan jungle during their frequent morning raids usually by PAF and CRS combined. Arrests and mass arrests of whoever does not run fast enough. The water point where the Afghans used to wash and gather water for drinking and cooking has been closed.
· An illegal eviction of a new squat that would have been able to house everyone during the cold winter months based upon falsified testimonies.
· The hotel occupied by the Albanian was also evicted, some occupiers arrested. Many Albanians are being deported back to Albania.
· The Syrians who were sleeping outside the place of food distribution were arrested, about 20 people, blankets taken, place boarded up. On the same day, some shelters in the small Afghan jungle were destroyed, several people arrested, blankets and stuff taken to the city dump.
· There have also been a series of attacks by police on the garage rented by Calais Migrant Solidarity, who distribute blankets, tents, and clothes to migrants. One evening, eight Police Nationale appeared at the garage as CMS were distributing clothes and violently pushed those out-front away from the garage, smacking people across the face and kicking them from behind. This was before taking out their pepper spray and spraying everything inside, making the clothes and blankets inside impossible to use. However we cleaned up the garage, it was re-opened for distribution the very next day, and we have other storage spaces.

Cold and hunger
The local associations who have provided humanitarian aid to the migrants for so many years are no longer capable to provide, for lack of funding and lack of volunteers. It has even become a problem to find enough blankets! Food is down to one meal per day. Migrants are lacking everything, and suffering constant hunger.
People desperately need:
· Blankets
· Sleeping Bags
· Tents
· Warm clothes (sporty not formal)
· Shoes (sporty such as trainers)
· Waterproof jackets (not ponchos)
· Food (not perishable and not expired)
· Money to buy food and materials
Food is down to one hot meal per day as the associations are not receiving enough money and they no longer have enough volunteers. One of the associations who give the food, Belle Etoile, decided to dissolve because they cannot work in such conditions. The City administration is in charge of giving the associations the government money allocated to buy food for the migrants. The racist mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart is in position to dictate where and when the associations can distribute food. In 2009, the association SALAM had two vans and lots of volunteers, and they were doing regular distributions of raw food to all the jungles and squats in Calais, besides providing a cooked evening meal. Now food can only be distributed in that mousetrap that is the new place of food distribution, just a ground covered in tar, no tables, no chairs surrounded by tall fences that were even topped up with barbed wire, before unknown persons cut it off … Everybody loses between 5 and 10 kg after arriving in Calais, if not more. Some people have been wandering the streets of Europe for years, without finding a country that takes them and where they can make a living, always destitute, always homeless.
Most migrants present in Calais are refugees from the worst war torn countries in the world: Afghanistan, Sudan (especially Darfur, but there has been an increase of refugees from South Sudan and other parts of the country), Eritrea and Ethiopia, more recently Syria, including Syrian Kurdish. Most are already severely traumatized, having lost family members and often having risked losing their own lives, escaping forced conscription, persecution, arrest, torture…

A safe space
The squat in boulevard Victor Hugo is used as a shelter for women, children, families. Currently there are between 20 and 30 women, several are pregnant, four children between 3 and 8. Most women are from Eritrea and Ethiopia, but also from Somalia, Syria, Egypt. We had three families from Syria, with a total of 4 children aged between 7 and 3. It should not need saying that a woman or, especially, a child should be protected, whether they have papers or not, but if they do not apply for asylum in France they leave them in the street.

A bit of background
In 2002 the French government closed the centre of Sangatte, run by the Red Cross, where migrants could get a bed, food, showers, medical assistance. The reason for that is that the UK government put pressure on the French government, while the right wing press were claiming Sangatte was a ‘magnet’ for ’illegal immigrants’ trying to reach England. Sarkozy was then the Minister for Immigration. People were forced to go living in makeshift camps in the woods, or in derelict houses, with no electricity, no water, no sanitation. A number of associations, mostly run by unpaid volunteers, were formed to feed and support the migrants. Police brutality became a common trend, as a mean to ‘persuade’ people to quit the North of France: beatings, use of CS gas, destruction of shelters and personal belongings, repeated, arbitrary arrests and ID controls… Now police brutality has gone down very much, at least in terms of gassings and beatings, thanks to the work No Borders have done exposing what they were doing. More needs to be done.

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