Saint-Denis: new evacuation of camp, police violence against migrants

New evacuation of a migrant camp in Saint-Denis. Another communication operation on the shoulders of migrants!

This morning, Tuesday November 17 at dawn, hundreds of migrants were evacuated from the camp near the Stade de France. Prefect Lallement was present on the spot and willingly answered the microphones of the media, who had obviously been warned in advance of the evacuation.
Between 65 and 70 such evacuations have taken place in recent years in the Île-de-France region. The State’s solution is to evict people without any real care. It is a policy of “burying one’s head in the sand”. When it becomes too visible they evacuate. A few days or weeks later a new camp is formed until… the next evacuation and so on.
As usual we are told that it is for the good of the people present, that they cannot live in this situation (which is true). The 70 buses requisitioned (one day we may have to say what we think of the bus companies involved in these transfers) will put the people concerned in so-called “sheltered” places in the Ile-de-France region.
Of course, this will be an opportunity to place undocumented migrants in Administrative Detention Centers (CRA) for their future deportation.
Not all people could be rushed in the buses. As a result, the police have turned away migrants who do not know where to go. Blows, gas and tear gas. Approximately 500 people were left behind. In a state of shock, sometimes injured, they found themselves on the street, without solutions, after several hours of police repression.

Support migrants!

Evacuation of the Saint-denis camp

Migrants and our teams of volunteers wake up with the shock of the previous day in mind (November 17, 2020).
Yesterday, without any explanation and after ten hours of a grotesque police operation marred by violence and inhuman behavior, a manhunt was carried out on more than 1000 asylum seekers who were not offered any accommodation solution. Asylum seekers and volunteers were chased from the Saint-Denis camp to the gates of Paris with tear gas, threats and physical violence. Volunteers from the associations present, including ours, speak of a war zone.
Yesterday evening, the Prefecture of Police shared a communiqué congratulating itself on the success of the operation and the sheltering of all those present in the camp.
Lies! 1,000 people once again found themselves on the street, without tents, without blankets, without resources.
Our associations are mobilizing on a daily basis in the field to respond to the situation as best they can.
We are preparing a press release, collective legal actions against the services of the prefecture and we will contact the rights defender in order to shed light on this filthy eviction.

Police violence against migrants evacuated from Saint-Denis

During the extremely violent operation of “sheltering” migrants from the Saint-Denis camp on Tuesday, November 17, cops left nearly a thousand people homeless after destroying their tents and confiscating their blankets. Since then, systematic police harassment in the north of Paris has left them no rest.

During the night of Monday to Tuesday, the evacuation of the Saint-Denis camp, where thousands of migrants had been living for several months, took place.
At 4 a.m., the camp area was cordoned off by dozens of police trucks – CRS and gendarmes. Some of them were along the canal, along the highway slip road that formed the northern border of the camp and along the main road linking the Porte de Paris to Paris.
After 4 a.m., it was very difficult for anyone to enter the camp – most of the journalists who came to cover the event were thus confined to the press zone a few dozen meters from the camp. During the whole day, no one could leave the camp (with a few exceptions made, but only people of French nationality).

The blue lights of the police vehicles projected fear throughout the camp. It must be realized that until then (and indeed during the entire evacuation) no explanation was ever given to the migrants about what was happening.
The militant associations trying to help the camp had gotten the information through an unfortunate leak at the prefecture – such an operation mobilizes so many people that it can hardly remain secret. So everyone in the camp more or less knew that this police operation was linked to the morning evacuation.
I don’t quite understand why the people who organized the “sheltering” of thousands of people did not choose to send social workers and translators to inform the people concerned about the operation, but rather decided to have the camp surrounded in the middle of the night by armed men at gunpoint who were babbling at best a few words of English and who certainly had no orders to answer questions. The anguish of uncertainty was redoubled by these silhouettes who patrolled silently around the camp and occasionally threw their blinding torch in the face of a migrant.

During three hours, we waited in the night for the first buses to arrive. A hundred families, children wrapped in blankets to fight against the November cold, were already queuing near the main road in the hope of getting on the buses first.
On the camp, the tents were dismantled and their belongings were packed. Little by little the camp was dismantling itself, everyone being convinced that a bed would finally welcome them next night. “Oh you know, I couldn’t sleep today, it was too cold, but tonight, Inchallah, I will finally have a house.” How many times have I heard such a sentence.
In the middle of the night, here and there, big fires consumed all that was left of the jungle. The few barracks also burned down one by one. Everyone watched in amazement, still in the sleepy haze, the red flames rising into the sky. Were they bonfires? Farewell fires? Were they fires of anger? To me, the orange heat of the fire seemed to resist the blue hooting of the police cars.
Then as the day dawned and the first buses arrived, the police decided to move into the camp. They pushed back hard all the migrants in the area near the road. Some had not finished packing their things, others were still warming up around the braziers; nothing could be done, still without a word, with their batons in their hands; they advanced into the deserted camp in a martial way.

It was strange to see in a few hours this camp disappear, the braziers extinguished for good. There were several dozen braziers in the camp. It was around these fireplaces that the life of the last weeks was organized. People met there to fight against the cold and, when we managed to find a few eggs, a leftover tomato paste, an oil base, we cooked succulent meals to which everyone sitting in the circle was invited. Firewood – pallets, old furniture – was gleaned here and there in the city, and was brought back in whole carts.
For two weeks, barracks had been open where balanis, fried bread stuffed with potatoes or corn soup was served for one euro. A man was cutting his comrades’ hair: “So which model will it be for you? 2019 or 2020? I’ll make you my special one! ». We always asked where we could find French courses or showed the youtube channels of French courses that they follow online.

What was the daily life of the people that the police had just swept away? French classes and administrative appointments at the prefecture. They were frequently asked to translate their administrative papers issued by the prefecture, papers that the migrants could not understand because all immigration documents were written in French. I have never seen anyone taking so much care of their documents, wanting to follow the procedure so well. After a translation, we would invite each other for a cup of tea that was too sweet. In a corner, we regularly played marbles with Afghan rules (very complicated!) and pretty cat-eye marbles. And so, as the days went by, the daily life took over the ignoble camp and recreated a warm and welcoming world.
Many people had known each other for a long time. Some had travelled together from Sweden or Germany, from where they were expelled after living there for four or five years.
Few of them have just arrived in Europe, most of them have been tossed around for years by the European administration, crushed by the arbitrariness of the Dublin Regulation and asylum procedures in general. The majority of the camp’s inhabitants came from Afghanistan, a country with which several northern European states have signed an agreement to facilitate the deportation of migrants to their country of origin and limit the number of asylum applications accepted. Several hundred Sudanese and Somalis were also present in the camp, including several families.

Once the police finished their gruesome job of “cleaning” the camp and checked every unfolded tent to make sure that no one escaped their control, the most violent part of the evacuation began.
Thousands of migrants are crowded on the esplanade at the entrance to the camp, near the road where the buses are parked. The buses fill up extremely slowly, and I am told that every person is searched thoroughly because, almost laughing at a migrant, “They think we are terrorists. ». He has just told me that he left for Europe to flee the arrival of the Taliban in his village, the idea that he and his comrades in misfortune could be terrorists seems absurd at best.
While the wait has been going on for six hours now, there is still no information given to the migrants, so they instinctively rush to the buses. I find a migrant friend who has just left the queue, he couldn’t bear to see the policemen threatening the people close to the barriers to spray them with tear gas: “You know, it reminds me too much of the war scenes I experienced in Afghanistan. As soon as I see violence, my memories overwhelm me and I feel like I explode. “How did it come to this: a French police force that is reemerging war traumas?
A few minutes later, the first gases are launched and provoke a panic movement on the whole esplanade. A man cries, a woman faints – the police won’t let her evacuate – and children start running around.
Then, recalling the law in an elliptical fashion, a police officer grabs – at last – a microphone and says, “Watch out, I’m going to use force. I will use violence. First summons”. This is the first time that a word is addressed to people that the police have parked like cattle for hours in the cold. Probably no one understood it as it was in Frenglish.
The gassing resumes, the baton blows are raining down. Some people defend themselves as best they can by throwing their shoes, but what can they do? Most people are exasperated and panicked. They are prisoners on the esplanade – only people of French nationality are allowed to leave the camp. I see an elderly woman desperately showing an officer the keys to her accommodation to prove to him that she just wants to go home, that she was on the camp to take care of acquaintances but that she has no intention of leaving on the buses. The agents do not even answer her. Nor do they answer the French and German statutory refugees who show them their precious documents.

Buses fill up as best they can all day long. I went home enjoying – once again – my privilege of being French. Around 5pm Afghan friends called me: there was not enough room for everyone. More than a thousand people were left without housing solutions. The police violently dispersed them, ordering them to leave the camp without letting them get their tents or blankets back.
A migrant friend who tried to reason with them was taken into custody for a few hours. His phone was broken during his arrest. In addition, the tents and blankets that the migrants and activists had patiently folded and put away were thrown away by the police, and the associations were unable to redistribute the material. After waiting for days for this shelter operation, more than a thousand people found themselves tonight without any resources. The French police destroyed the camp where they were living and stole everything, even their blankets.

I can imagine what must remain of the camp tonight, remains of the blazes, disemboweled tents. Perhaps there is still this draft notebook, which I left there, on which a young Afghan boy patiently copied his first words of French.


Note: Since Tuesday the situation has worsened. The almost one thousand people thrown out on the street are subject to daily police harassment, day and night. The slightest grouping of migrants is dispersed with truncheons and tear gas. The police gave them no respite and conducted a ruthless manhunt in the north of Paris.
You can mobilize with Utopia 56, Wilson Solidarity and other associations that day after day denounce with the migrants the violence they suffer.

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