Defiance in Calais

Saturday, 20th February 2010 at 8:28 UTC Leave a comment

Away from the lens of media coverage, the crackdown on migrants in Calais continues, but amongst the failure to respect human rights and the clamp downs on all charitable work in the area, a group of highly motivated and skilled activists has re-opened its sheltered space after violent police actions closed it down.

Its been a bitterly cold winter in northern France, as Eurostar travellers learnt just before Christmas. What began as the clearing of the Calais Jungle under the pre-text that it was not fit for human habitation has resulted in migrants being less able to face the weather. Despite this, the police have effectively forced migrants onto the streets against all humanitarian reasoning, refusing churches and aid organisations all permission to open shelters for the refugees, even for a limited time whilst the risk of hypothermia and life-threatening illness is highest.

Where legally ratified charities and large-scale organisations cannot handle state aggression, a small band of activists has stepped up to the challenge of accommodating the migrants. They have hired a hangar for two months, but after being shut down 24 hours after public opening, the group has now established a members-only system in which migrants who agree to membership of the group (presumably free) get accommodation, whilst others must leave after 6pm. Hopefully this will allow the medics and legal helpers amongst the group to work in a bit more peace and privacy as well.

Its unlikely the police will simply sit by and watch the situation develop, but I suspect they will have a harder time going for an all-out eviction, especially after the BBC covered the closing down of the hangar in “Round 1”. Overall, its a reminder of just how comfortable European governments are becoming with suspending human rights as and when it suits them. Many of those around Calais have stories intimately entwined with the wars and poverty that countries like France and Britain have perpetrated for their own national interest, and to simply ignore the human consequences is inhumane in the extreme.

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Entry filed under: Activism, Europe, France, Human Rights, Immigration, News.

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