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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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