- Fifty police officers in riot gear crack down on peaceful protest by migrants demanding respect for basic rights
- Officers declare orders to destroy all migrant shelters in the area
- Escalation in repressive tactics leave migrants with nowhere to go
In a rare show of defiance, around 100 migrants camped around a gym which had been used by local charities to provide urgently needed night shelter over the harshest weeks of winter, before its closure on Tuesday. The migrants, primarily from war-torn Afghanistan, also burned some blankets and banners in opposition to the closure, which comes on theback of the repeated eviction of migrants from their camps. Within half an hour, scores of police officers descended on the site threatening to destroy the makeshift camp on failure to disperse. Following a stand off, the migrants were permitted to leave the area, but were closely pursued as they searched for alternative sites to shelter.
Having actually been advised by some police officers to do so, some men set up shelters on the site of one of the former camps, or ‘jungles’, and were given assurances that the police would not attack. But within hours, the officers had entered the camp several times, arresting six people, in what has now become a daily routine of arresting those without identity documents in Calais in an attempt to flush them out of the area. By midday on Wednesday, 20 CRS (riot police) vehicles had surrounded the new camp, and anything resembling a shelter was destroyed.
Following a relentless routine of police pursuit, arrest and assault this winter, the migrants returned in desperation to the closed night shelter and installed some of the tents that had been discarded by the authorities following the eviction that morning. The police promptly arrived at the scene, announced that they had orders to disperse assemblies and destroy shelters, before seizing the remaining tents.
Throughout the night, the hunt continued as migrants were followed by groups of police, who pre-emptively destroyed any half-erected structures they found.
“The police were quite literally swarming everywhere last night. They were pursuing migrants in case they dare set up shelter, or following any activists who might assist them,” said Joanne, a British activist from the No Borders network who is present at the scene.
“This is all part of a carefully planned strategy by the French and British governments to drive the migrants away from the area. But when you think that many of these people are coming from conflict zones like Helmand province, where else are they expected to go?” Joanne continued.
Alex has been involved in documenting – and directly intervening in – the police harassment in Calais for some time. “As shocking as it is, we find that the presence of European citizens during police raids can make a real difference, because the arrests are so arbitrary. It shows that ordinary people do have the power to help migrants defeat this enormous show of force by our governments. I really think that resistance from the migrants themselves and support from ordinary people is the only hope we have of stopping this horrendous repression.”
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