Calais: the tension does not fall back

On Saturday, September 26, 2020, more than 400 people walk in the rain for freedom and human dignity.

Calaisians, activists, volunteers and migrants found themselves in the pouring rain and set off in a demonstration from the camp next to the hospital in Calais. In spite of the wind and rain, the migrants join the parade by dancing to the sound of drums, leading the march and parading with joy and determination in the rain.

At the arrival at the Place de Norvège, a few words from supporters and migrants alternate with music and hip-hop improvisation in all languages. In spite of the cold, it is a moment of euphoria and unity between people who don’t have the opportunity to mix in the city otherwise.
At the microphone, migrants testify to their fatigue and exasperation in the face of daily harassment by the police who evict, destroy tents and confiscate their materials, calling for them to be treated as human beings and not as animals.

At the corner of the street, associations set up a small table and serve tea and coffee, respecting an imaginary and laughable limit of the prefectoral decree restricting the distribution of goods.

The humanitarian issue related to the recent news of the prefectoral decree banning food distributions crushes most of the claims in the media coverage. This while this mobilization was reflected as early as the month of July in reaction to the arrival of Gérald Darmanin, the numerous unnecessary evictions this summer, the forced removals, the deprivation of hygiene and access to drinking water, the material destruction and daily police harassment of people on the streets in Calais.

If it is true that people are cold at night and survive in undignified, degrading and inhuman living conditions (read the report of the human rights defender), and that pressure is mounting with the arrival of winter, the September 11th decree only serves to deepen an already unacceptable situation by aiming once again at solidarity, thus attacking even more the social bond by seeking to further isolate people.

At the time of the Brexit and the discussions around a re-negotiation of the Dublin agreement, the demands go far beyond the situation in Calais alone.
Indeed, the call for solidarity resounds from Moria to Briançon and throughout Europe.
Collectives are rising up to put an end to the stigmatization and violent and dehumanizing policies towards people in exile.

Currently, solidarity marches have started from all over France to converge on a major national mobilization in Paris on October 17. This symbolic date commemorates the massacre of October 17, 1961, during the murderous repression by the French police of a demonstration of Algerians organized in Paris by the French federation of the FLN (National Liberation Front).

On Saturday, September 26th, we were happy to see migrants, Calaisians, militants and volunteers expressing themselves by dancing, singing, and demonstrating in the streets.
We are happy to have taken part in the organization of this moment which did everyone good, but in the current situation, we can only be satisfied with that.

We will therefore continue to warn you of future mobilizations, the inhuman situations that the authorities voluntarily create will no longer remain invisible.

Hundreds of activists and migrants demonstrated on Saturday in Calais to denounce the decree that prohibits associations from distributing food to migrants. The day before, the Council of State refused to suspend the text considering that “this ban does not prevent associations from carrying out their missions in the immediate vicinity of the city center”.

The associations helping migrants in Calais maintain pressure two weeks after the publication of the decree prohibiting humanitarian aid workers from distributing food to migrants in the city center. On Saturday, September 26, hundreds of people demonstrated in Calais to denounce the text and the living conditions of migrants as winter approaches.

According to AFP, about 250 activists and migrants walked the streets in the rain. The associations evoke the double of participants. “Initially, there were a little over 200 of us, but as the day progressed, the march grew bigger,” said Juliette Delaplace of Secours Catholique.

The Council of State does not suspend the decree

The day before, the Council of State, urgently seized by the associations, refused to suspend the prefectoral decree which is controversial, just like the Administrative Court of Lille a few days earlier. The Council of State stated in a press release that the ban “does not prevent associations from carrying out their missions in the immediate vicinity of the city center” and that “the ban on distribution is strictly limited to the zones defined by the prefect”.

The judge “observed first of all that the State has set up water and toilet facilities in the east of the urban area and, through the association La Vie Active, distributes food and drink” but also that the ban “does not deprive the associations of the possibility of carrying out their mission outside the zone prohibited by the decree, including near the places where migrants live”.

“Under these conditions, the judge of the Council of State, who did not pronounce on the justified and proportionate nature of the ban, considered that there was no urgency to order, within the 48-hour period provided for in terms of summary proceedings, the suspension of the prefectoral decree,” the press release explains.

On the same day, four deputies from la France insoumise (LFI) carried out a symbolic action by bringing lunch baskets to migrants from Calais. The elected representatives were subjected to an identity check and were given four fines, which they did not sign, said LFI deputy Ugo Bernalicis, explaining that he did not recognize that it was an offence.

Believing that the meals distributed “legally” by the association La Vie active, mandated by the State, “were less elaborate” than those served by other associations, Ugo Bernalicis deplored “the health hindrance operated by the prefecture and the city hall of Calais, which prevents the migrants from being properly fed”.

The decree “constitutes discrimination on the basis of nationality”.

On Thursday, September 24, the Defender of Rights also denounced the text after a two-day visit to the city. “By depriving the migrants of access to a good – the distribution of meals – the disputed police measure constitutes discrimination on the basis of nationality,” denounced Claire Hédon. “Access to food, water and hygiene is difficult and complex,” she added.

“Some migrants do not manage to eat every day. The distribution of meals, with variable schedules and not always respected, are sometimes far from the places where people live,” continued the Defender of Rights.

During her visit, Claire Hédon noted “the desire to invisibilize the migrants in Calais,” where about 1,200 to 1,500 migrants wishing to reach Great Britain, including women and infants, “sleep on the ground, hidden under bushes, whatever the weather conditions.

“At the very moment when the European Commission” unveiled on Wednesday its plan to overhaul the asylum policy, “the Defender of Rights hopes that discussions will finally begin on the legal channels of immigration and urges the public authorities not to persist in what appears to be a denial of the existence of migrants who, present on our territory, must be treated with dignity, in accordance with the law and international commitments that bind France”.

On Sunday, the umpteenth eviction of migrant camps took place “despite the rain and the wind,” according to Human Rights Observers (HBO). “Six tents, blankets and tarps were seized. Six tents, blankets, and tarps were seized. One person was not allowed to get his shoes back,” warned the activists, who affirm that “fundamental rights are still not respected. According to HBO, “no less than 750 evictions” have been recorded in Calais since the beginning of the year.

Refugees related groups in France
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Groups (collectives, social centres, squats) in France:
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Passeurs d’hospitalités