This initiative is to safe the lives of people who are living in the worst of conditions in Calais’ France.
It is our objective to ship:
- Camping Gear
- Men’s Clothing
- Sanitary Good
- and a heap of other thing to Calais
Why ship to Calais!
We cannot control where they are or where they are going to. BUT we can make life a little bit easier for them until Governments create a plan of action to relocate – rebuild and save the lives of others. This is a grass route initiative.
Since 2009, there have been anywhere from 100 to 3000 migrants in Calais attempting to cross into the UK, with many other communities scattered across the coastline of northern France. People have come from all over the world, from Iran, Afghanistan, Pakistan, Somalia, Egypt, Syria, Sudan, Palestine, Chad, Eritrea, Iraq, Albania, Senegal, Kurdistan, Libya and Ethiopia with the biggest communities often being those from East Africa and Afghanistan.
There are often many under-age children and teenagers travelling through Calais, often travelling alone. As the number of people coming from Eritrea and Ethiopia increased in the last couple of years, so did the number of women coming through Calais. Again, they are often travelling alone.
Why do people come to Calais?
UK immigration law makes it near impossible for the vast majority of non-nationals to enter the country. You need a visa to do so, for which you need money and must satisfy a strict criteria. Unless you are already in the country on a visa, you cannot claim asylum from abroad. British law therefore necessitates illegal entry to the UK for almost all those who want to claim asylum. This forces migrants, most of whom have survived war or human rights violations – and many of whom are very young – to risk their lives making clandestine entries in or under lorries that travel to the UK. Many people have died and countless others have been injured in this process.
Calais is the biggest and busiest port operating between the UK and north west Europe. It has both a ferry port and the Eurotunnel, and therefore the most amount of traffic and sailings going across the border. This also makes it the busiest place for people to be crossing from.
In 2003 the British and French governments signed the Le Touquet treaty in which they agreed to establish juxtaposed immigration controls on cross-Channel ferry routes. This meant that all travellers between the two countries would have to clear immigration in the country of departure rather than on arrival. This pushed the entire UK border to France. It was done to ensure that the majority of people caught attempting to cross the border would still be on French rather than British soil. The main outcome of this is a creation of a bottleneck in the city of Calais. At any given time hundreds to a few thousand people are caught there, the British government pouring millions and millions of euros into preventing them leaving.
The reasons that people want to go to the UK?
This is a question that comes up a lot. It is a question that people are asked often on their journeys, what was their reason for leaving their country of origin and why are they wanting to go to the UK specifically. People are forced repeatedly to recount stories of trauma, war and other hardships to justify their presence in Europe. For us this is not important.
We believe in freedom of movement is for everybody and not just the rich and white. Everybody should be able to move to wherever they want, whenever they want and for whatever reason they want. The horror of the current situation being that those with the most important reasons to move, being the people who are the most restricted and criminalised for doing so.
The real story in Calais is not, however, that there are people seeking asylum in Britain. Given the historical context and continued wars of aggression, that should not come as a surprise. The real story in Calais is the persecution of any foreigner who isn’t white in Britain’s enforcement of its border regime (and it is no exaggeration to say this is a race issue – there have been many incidents of harassment and arrest of people with the correct documents on the basis of their appearance). The real story is the violence and repression faced by migrants in Calais at the hand of the state. The real story is the unbelievable loss caused by this border.
Of course, this border is not the only place people are risking their lives in search of safety; all across Fortress Europe, and in particular, on its perimeter, thousands and thousands of people have died over the past 20 years in an attempt to attain just a measure of the safety and security enjoyed by many EU nationals.
Many of those who seek safety in Europe, go to other countries (France, Germany and Sweden each receive considerably more asylum claims than the UK). And in fact, many people living in the jungles and squats in Calais, are actually claiming asylum in France and not attempting to cross to the UK. Their presence in Calais presence in Calais due to France’s inadequacy in providing housing and support for those claiming asylum there.
Calais: Daily Life
In 2002, due to pressure from the British media, the Red Cross-run Sangatte day centre was closed. This with the signing of Touquet Treaty in 2003, marked the beginning of ‘modern-day’ tactics in Calais. It was made up of the a tightening up of security measures alongside constant attacks against daily life of migrants. A tactic of deterrence, an effort to make life so difficult for people that they leave Calais and give up on their hopes of going to the UK.
A fundamental component of the state’s attack on daily life, has been the constant denial of shelter. This was done by refusing to provide sanctioned sleeping spaces; alongside the invasion, eviction and destruction of any autonomous living places that people created. The ability to live in Calais becoming a point of struggle for migrant communities, alongside the daily attempts to subvert the physical border.
Over time, people have made their homes all over the city in disused buildings, or squatted camps known as ‘jungles’ – from ‘dzhangal’, the Pashto word for forest, both inside and on the outskirts of the city. On this blog, you will see frequent reference to places such as Africa House, Tioxide Jungle, Leader Price/Sudanese Jungle or Fort Galloo. These are the names given mainly by migrants themselves to the major squats, or jungles that have existed in Calais.
The stability of these places and the standard of living possible in these houses could vary dramatically. At times police would be invading and evicting people’s homes every day, or multiple times a day; and sometimes there would be squats in the legal process that would last months and months, with the police unable to gain entry. But eventually they were always closed, most of the time through the process of mass arrest or severe violence. Home invasions even when evictions were not taking place often involved repeated destruction of belongings including tents, blankets and other belongs they found, the nastiest tactics over the years was the use of pepper spray on tents and blankets, making them unusable and destroying copies of the Koran and Bibles.
However violence and arrest in Calais, has never just been confined to living spaces. It is a daily reality that people face both while attempting to cross, but also whilst going about other aspects of daily life. The train stations, parks and just the street are repeatedly places where people have been targeted for ID controls, violence and arrestations. As well as constant surveillance and intimidation at the places where people go to eat at the different food distribution places there have been in Calais over the years.
The violence faced by people trying to cross the border is the constant that never changes in Calais. People are beaten, caught by dogs, gassed – by pepper spray or more serious gas – and routinely threatened and humiliated. And this is all alongside other injuries or dangers that people face while making attempts to cross. While violence in public places and living spaces has fluctuated over the years, the police have never shied away from violence in these places where often no body is watching, where no body is filming.
The police are not the only people who contribute to this policy of violence, repression or discrimination in Calais. The way the UK border operates and the fines imposed on truck drivers found with migrants inside means that violence at the hands of lorry drivers whilst crossing is also a significant risk.
The threat of fascists is also a reality to face in Calais. In 2013, an organised fascist group ‘Sauvons Calais’ (Save Calais) was established. They are responsible for a number of gatherings of far right thugs in Calais, with varying levels of effectiveness. This included, in March 2014, for a week long attack against a squat, including the use of molotov cocktails and eventually setting the building on fire. Even outside of an organised fascist group existing in Calais, violent and racist attacks is a regular occurrence for migrants, especially a danger for people moving around in small groups or alone. Attacks against people with weapons, by people in cars or on motorbikes are common, and other incidents of vandalism against facilities for migrants, including burning down the showers of the association Secours Catholique twice.
Many people and businesses in Calais have also been aiding the state in establishing of apartheid regime in Calais. Multiple shops, bars and cafés in Calais do not allow migrants to frequent them them, often turning away black or coloured people on the assumption that they are migrants. Supermarkets that do allow people inside, often having security guards who obviously target non-white shoppers when they do. The treatment of those who are seeking medical assistance in France is often appalling- including the local hospital refusing to allow migrant women to have abortions, not adequately treating people which has caused many people to be living in constant pain and discomfort for years, and in some tragic circumstances, death.
Uncountable lives are wasted and suffer from the violence of the border. Whether from the direct attacks by police and border forces, or in the attempt to escape their controls, or through the dangerous methods of transit, or at the hands of gang-masters and mafia, an unthinkable number of people have died in Calais. Alongside the increased security measures over the last couple of years, the number of people being killed whilst attempting to cross in more and more dangerous ways has increased. These people are always in our thoughts.
Many times over the last years, these tactics of deterrence from Calais have been met with resistance and defiance. Demonstrations, occupations and resisting evictions have been common place over the years. Most importantly, people have always kept coming to Calais, always carrying on crossing the border and finding ways and places to live while they are here.
The current situation
Since the opening of the Jules Ferry Day centre in early 2015 and the closure of the majority of the autonomous spaces, most people are now living in the area surrounding the centre. It is a non-official, but tolerated jungle, that is far out from the city centre. The centre provides basic services such as showers, one hot meal a day, a house for women and children, toilets and phone charging. And the ability to create a jungle and shelter without the threat of imminent eviction.
Although it may be tempting to consider this as a victory and positive response to the high profile legalized squats and political struggles that had taken place around migrant accommodation over the years, this would be a naïve assumption. It is an aspect of the coming together of the British, the French and the Calaisien local government finding a new compromise on the basis that no body wants the people who are in Calais. The deals are making it more difficult to get into Britain and simultaneously creating a migrant-free Calais city centre.
For the authorities in Calais, this day centre and tolerated jungle are in fact part of a larger strategy to finally defeat the autonomous living spaces created by migrants and their supporters, and fulfil the mayor’s declared goal of “zero squats” in Calais. The move to the new jungle coincided with the adoption of the mayor of Calais’ new anti-squatting law through which she is seeking to remove the previous legal protections for squatters in all of France, which came into effect at the beginning of the summer. They also serve as a ready made political justification for the eviction of any future squats, because there is ‘alternative accommodation’ available.
By concentrating the migrants into such a small area they make the population as a whole much more easy to police. There have been a number of instances since the beginning of the jungle, where the police have shown, through force, how easy it is for them to shut down access to and from the jungle, and how willing they are to do it. The recent changes are an obvious creation of a ghetto on the outskirts of Calais, furthering the segregation of the town that already existed. The springing up of shops, bars, churches, mosques, a hospital across the jungle, adding to the feeling that a new town has been opened up outside of Calais. The two hour daily pilgrimage across the city to the tunnel, is often the only time people are in the city.
This concentration has also created some tensions between the different communities, who have very rarely chosen to live all together. Added security on the crossing routes, is also playing into this, people and communities are pitted against each other in the effort to cross.
This increase in security is due, in large part, to massive and detrimental interest in Calais and the alleged ‘migrant crisis’ of Europe from the British media and pressure (and money) from the British government. There has been huge tightening of the border and a rise in the security measures around the port, the tunnel, the highways and lorry parks, over the last year. And a very big drive over the summer.
The new priority clearly stated as concentrating on humanitarian provision to justify tightening controls at the port and tunnels. A new fence has been erected on the highway leading up to the port, massive increases in police numbers (which was already significantly high for a city the size of Calais), more dog-handlers are being hired for everywhere, and for the first time British police forces are actively getting involved in policing in Calais. A serious consequence of the tightened security measures at the port, has been a devastating rise in deaths and serious injuries at the Channel tunnel.
This has been a brief overview of the situation here. Welcome to Calais.