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Statement following the ruling of the Council of State

The Council of State confirms the decision of the Administrative Court of Lille

The Council of State ruled in favour of migrants, ordering the installation of access points of potable water, toilets and basic sanitary facilities in Calais. In addition, the Council ordered assistance for unaccompanied minors in order to inform them of their rights. Lastly, the Council ruled that the City of Calais must help all refugees who wish to remain in France to reach a CAO (Reception and Orientation Center) where they will receive shelter and assistance to claim refugee status.

Although this decision is an important relief for the associations working in Calais, it is merely a small step for migrants’ rights. Allowing people to shower is purely providing them with a semblance of dignity. We are awaiting sustainable, structural solutions to resolve what is first and foremost a crisis of borders, before a crisis of refugees.

Even with access to water, the living conditions in Calais are abysmal. Women, men, teenagers and children are sleeping outside, entirely depending on humanitarian aid provided by external associations.

Just this morning, Police came to Rue des Verrotières, where a large number of migrants are staying, in order to confiscate the migrants’ blankets and sleeping bags.

These last months in Calais have shown that even with the terrible living conditions, migrants and refugees fleeing from their homelands continue to arrive. Regardless of what is done to discourage them from coming, London Calling is stronger for those who have legitimate reasons for wanting to migrate there.

For l’Auberge des Migrants, the decision of the Council of the State is first and foremost a juridical victory, which will limit the suffering of people. Nevertheless, France is still far from a genuine welcoming policy.

The decision of the Council of State can be found, in French, here : http://www.conseil-etat.fr/Actualites/Communiques/Conditions-d-accueil-des-migrants-a-Calais

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In Calais, a war of place and time

 

Every night, police forces are present at the designated place of food distribution : “you have one hour.” In the game of cat and mouse, migrants and volunteers are allowed a single hour, at which point the game is “paused.” 

In Calais, the battle continues

Nonetheless, the associations won the summary judgement on the municipal order of the city of Calais, forbidding associations to provide food to refugees. This legal victory gave us authorization to distribute food within the Dunes Industrial Zone, where there is a large refugee presence.

The number of refugees continues to rise, with new arrivals everyday and a widening gap in ages and citizenship. In consequence, new places of temporary residence are emerging, scattered throughout the border of the city and park centers.

To meet this rise in need, the associations have set up a fixed distribution point in the Dunes Industrial Zone for lunch and dinner. They have also created distributions to meet the need in emerging places of temporary stay. Around these distribution points, new actions are developing to offer the refugees medical consultations, psychological support, and relevant legal information pertaining to the asylum-seeking process.

 

 

Absurdity’s role

Every night, there are one or two police cars accompanied by riot police (CRS) vans, that are parked at a few meters away from the distribution point. As an unspoken rule, the forces allow associations one hour to distribute before they intervene and push back the refugees into the adjacent forest. When asked why they do this, the minister of the interior responded, “As chief of police, I do what I want.”

In the last few weeks, the police would control all people present in order to encourage those without permission to remain in France to flee. However, at the moment they are satisfied with the woods as a place of “residence” for the refugees, but they go as far as to encourage all of them to flee into the woods, even people of color who are in actuality volunteers. Minors, the most vulnerable, are “politely” suggested to get the hell out.

These evacuations every night are mostly quiet; the true violence takes place at night in the shadows. There are some nights spent without any sleep due to the incessant hunt, the tear gas put in the sleeping bags, “get the f*** out,” at two o’clock in the morning. The disruptions of the distributions in the evenings are an absurd part of the system. The police order everyone to go into the forest and they stand their ground for five minutes before leaving. The distribution then continues.

Intensifying tactics

On May 31st, the unspoken rule of the one hour of tranquility began to be interpreted differently by police. The police came to announce that distribution of aid will not be tolerated in any place, except for those taking place between 6:00pm and 8:00pm within the Dunes Industrial Zone. The distribution of lunch around midday on May 31st was not to be tolerated.

Within that time, in municipal parks, the mayor of `calais reactivated a law from the 1970s forbidding people from sitting or standing on grass. Although this decision impacted everyone, the target population was clearly the refugees that live, eat, and sleep in the parks within the town.

These people are condemned to one meal a day, and the distributions that reach a diversity of people will not be tolerated anymore. On social media the situation is denounced. In the middle of Ramadhan, limiting access to water and food could endanger lives.

 

The associations have decided to resist and will not limit vital humanitarian aid in the face of police harassment. The game of cat and mouse continues.

To help us resist illegal harassment, we need donations to pursue justice in courts. Donate at http://www.laubergedesmigrants.fr/en/donate/

 Originally published by Margot Bernard the 1st of June
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L’Auberge des Migrants is preparing for a rough summer and calls for donations

In light of the events that have been happening in Calais since the destruction of the Jungle last October, l’Auberge des Migrants and the associations in Calais are now, more than ever, need the support of donors to continue to stand for the preservation of migrants’ rights.

For more details of the events in Calais, you can read the Human Rights Watch’s report of the living conditions of migrants and police brutality.

We will have to improve and expand our actions in order to provide the necessary humanitarian aid needed. We will continue distributing water, meals, clothes, blankets and hygiene products. In order to continue these activities, we need financial support.

You can support us at : http://www.laubergedesmigrants.fr/en/donate/

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Shoes Love

By Dan Chadder

In ‘The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy’, two of the wisest humans ask a stupendous super-computer to calculate the answer to the ultimate question: the meaning of life. Returning in exactly 7 and a half million years, the answer they receive somewhat dampened the jubilant mood of the cheering crowd. It was 42. So there you have it. The official meaning to life, the universe and everything is 42. As if this number were not already significant enough, volunteers in Calais have now developed an even greater personal connection to the number 42 than as merely the meaning of life.

I recently left L’auberge des Migrants after 5 months volunteering in La Liniere refugee camp. My role involved the distribution of non-food items to refugees such as clothes, bedding and hygiene. The team had to work with limited resources so distribution was based upon a strict assessment of needs. In general, we could offer hygiene most freely. In terms of shoes, the available stock of certain sizes was always low so we had a limited capacity to provide for needs. We could only give shoes to individuals with exceptionally poor shoes or none at all. One particular size was notorious for being commonly requested above any other. It was size 42.
Size 43 and 41 shoes were also in high demand, but not at the same level as 42. The discrepancy between supply and demand of size 42 was so great that a handful of volunteers felt compelled to get a tattoo of the great number. Even though my shoe size is actually 43, I too will have to live with that tattoo for the rest of my life. In much the same way, I will have to live with the degrading memories of having to constantly reject perfectly reasonable requests for shoes by fellow human beings during the winter, particularly to children. In an unlikely twist in the tale we, as the volunteers wanting to help, could be made to appear heartless. In as much as the tattoo was perhaps a stupid thing to get, it was in equal measure a statement of desperation.

 

Having been asked for shoes, it was not always as simple as giving a yes or no. We would also have to decide on the quality of shoe we should offer. If they were for a vulnerable individual, such as an unaccompanied minor sleeping in a communal space, we could not give a brand new pair of Nike (not that we had any of those anyway). That would put them in danger and their new shoes would likely be stolen. In this case, we would opt to bring an ugly but functional pair of shoes.

Most of these complications are due to a shortage in stock. We need size 41, 42 and 43 shoes. It’s quite simple really. A pair of shoes will not change a life but it will make the struggle at least a little bit more bearable. Having moved on from volunteering in Northern France, I can reflect upon a similar sentiment. I haven’t changed much but I have played my part in making small, positive changes in a dark place.

If you would like to donate, please visit http://www.laubergedesmigrants.fr/en/material-donations/

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The associations win the battle against the municipal order ‘anti- food distribution’

It is with pleasure and relief that on the 22nd of March we have learned the favourable decision of the Administrative Judge for our demand to suspend the municipal order in the city of Calais prohibiting the gatherings in the Industrial Zone of Dunes and the Dubrulle Wood. This order had the direct consequence to stop us from releasing food where we had got into the habit of doing it, close to the living spaces of the refugees.

The explanatory statement

It is worth reading the text of the ordinance, because it is very comprehensive and it exposes a very interesting motivation. The associations have taken part in the hearing and the Rights Defender envied written conclusions.

As indicated in the decision, the associations have been listened and their work taken into consideration. The paragraphs endorse this.

The second paragraph analyses the current state in Calais after the dismantling. The Judge underlines that the report’s recommendation Aribaud and Vignon about the ‘after-dismantling’ have not been followed and he describes  the present living conditions of the refugees in Calais, as laid down by the Rights Defender: “These people are in a state of deprivation, move from place to place to sleep and try to hide, exhausted, incapable of having a shower, while some of them have scabies and have to heal the wounds caused by their attempts to arrive in the UK”.

In the tenth paragraph, the recurring theory excluded by the Judge of the ‘fixation point’ returns. He recalls that “Calais will continue to draw  migrants because of his geographic position”, according to the Aribaud and Vignon words,  and in addition he affirms that stop humanitarian aid is not resolving the migration crisis.

In the name of the right to not be subjected to inhumane and degrading treatment, the Judge suspended the municipal order. However, he didn’t accept the association’s request to obtain a proper distribution centre in Calais.

The distributions start again in the Dunes area

To ensure this decision, on the 23rd of March we started again with our distribution in the industrial area. This decision allows us to reduce uncertainty about our work and also to organize two food distributions a day instead of one.

On the date of the Judge’s decision publication, the Major published this press release:

The Major attempts to commemorate a triumph because she didn’t lose on the issue concerning the association request to have a proper distribution centre. Also, she emphasises that the order was suspended and not cancelled… in addition, she says that it was the only decision that the Trial Judge could have taken in the context of this judgement and that the order was also contested on its merits by the associations.

We regret that the words ‘air flow’ continue to be used in the political speeches. Despite all, we share her point of view regarding the government’s failure concerning the respect of refugees’ dignity in Calais and we can understand her anger.

But attacking the humanitarian associations, the Major is wrongly identifying them as enemies.

 

L’Auberge des Migrants

 

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