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Since the 3rd February, arrests of Sudanese migrants have steadily increased in Calais, and a high proportion of those now imprisoned in Coquelles (the Calais detention centre) are from Sudan. Last Thursday (16th) one person who was arrested in Calais was taken to Frankfurt to be deported back to Khartoum, and on the same day, three people who had been arrested in Paris were also sent back.
A fifth man was also due to be deported, but refused to get on the flight in Frankfurt, so was returned to Calais. A second deportation attempt was made in the early hours of Tuesday (21st), but the flight from Paris to Frankfurt was cancelled, and again he was returned to Calais. A third deportation attempt is expected in the next few days.
Three other Sudanese detainees have been given deportation orders in Coquelles. People who are arrested have only five days to put in their claim for asylum, but this information is not being made known to the migrants by the French authorities. One man who was not told of the time limit made a claim on his sixth day of incarceration, so has had it automatically refused.
Until last week there has never been a deportation to Sudan from Coquelles, mainly due to the European Court of Human Rights ruling that allowed a person to appeal against the decision to deport, even if they had not put in a claim for asylum. This case law appears now to be being ignored , so now if you don't claim asylum when arrested, then there is no way to stop deportation. The only possible way to evade getting sent back is if the Sudanese embassy refuses to give travel documents. This situation is especially worrying for the Sudanese refugee community in Calais, and the rest of Europe, as once deported back to Khartoum, there are horrific reports of the treatment people face; those who have come from Sudan state that if they are deported back they are certain they will be persecuted, tortured, or killed.
If the threat of deportation wasn't enough, the situation for those arrested and taken to Coquelles detention centre in Calais is particularly grim at the moment. People inside are reporting the institution to be at double its maximum capacity, with rooms so overcrowded people are sleeping in the corridors. Detainees have also complained that they are not getting enough food. As well as the limited portions, the meals that are served are often not Halal, so Muslim prisoners are able to eat little else than white rice. The detainees are also being denied access to the outside yard and visitors have been refused access inside several times for no legitimate reason.
To show solidarity with those inside, and also to co-ordinate with the No Borders Carnival in London, a noise demonstration was held at Coquelles on Saturday (18th). People made their way around the back of the detention centre with pots and pans, whistles, megaphones and a massive bass drum. The back fence of Coquelles is around 2m away from the building, with windows of detainees' rooms along the side. When the group approached the fence and started to chant and make noise, many people incarcerated inside started waving and shouting back out of the open (but barred) windows.
The border police, Police Aux Frontières, immediately removed detainees from the nearest prison wing and shut them into the rooms furthest away. This just made chants louder between people inside and out. The demonstrators chanted slogans in French, English and Arabic and banners written by friends saying ‘Stay strong. We are with you.’ in different languages were hung on the fence. The border police didn't approach the demonstrators, but stayed to take photos and film people from the other side of the fence.
The protest was the second successful noise demo recently held at Coquelles. The first took place on Tuesday 7th February, in the snow. More noise was made and food and cigarettes thrown to the inmates. As the protesters were leaving the detention centre, several police vans drove in, obviously having been called in as a result of the demonstration. The activists were then tailed for the half an hour bus journey back to Calais, with police vans following the bus until the demonstrators got off.
For those not being imprisoned and deported, homelessness looks inevitable. Over 60 migrants and refugees, both with and without papers, currently face eviction onto the streets of Calais. A complex of derelict university buildings which has been home to groups of people from Eritrea, Sudan, Chad, Somalia, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq and others, for over a year is due to be evicted at any moment.
The half-demolished ruins, nicknamed Africa House, are owned by the Office Public de l’Habitat de Calais (OPH) which is, ironically, a social housing organisation, and responsible for providing the majority of social housing in Calais. On the 30th January 2012 a court order was obtained by the OPH, giving them the right to evict people from the derelict university building anytime from that date onwards. In a prime example of the backwards thinking of capitalism, people who have absolutely nothing are being made homeless and turned out onto the streets to make way for a new housing development designed for those with low incomes.
A demonstration was held last Wednesday (15th) outside the offices of the OPH to voice three demands: that the OPH do not evict people who have nowhere to live onto the street, especially when it is winter and freezing outside; that they do not demolish shelters where many people without homes live, it is inhumane; and that they do not give authorization to police, or instructions to bailiffs, to enter the site at ANY time.
A group of activists, made up of some of the occupants of Africa House and those standing in solidarity with them, arrived at the offices at around 3pm with banners, whistles and megaphones. While one group stayed outside to hang banners and hand out flyers to passersby, a few demonstrators entered the building to give the list of demands to the director. He refused to take the letter or enter into dialogue on camera, and confirmed that Africa House would be demolished as soon as possible. This from the director of an organisation that has recently built an apartment complex of 67 homes, just 5 minutes walk from Africa House, named Droits de l'Homme, or Residence 'Human Rights'. You couldn't make it up.
After the rest of the protesters entered the building, the whole group were violently removed by police. One person said “We are humans we are not animals, we must have somewhere to sleep, we are asking for some humanity. People are treated like they are not human. This is the situation. There is no solution yet.”
The eviction of Africa House will be the fifth big squat eviction in seven months (see SchNEWS 777), alongside the many evictions and destruction of camps in the jungles, in town, in the parks or under bridges as well as several evictions of the food distribution area – a concrete yard surrounded by barbed wire where people have resorted to sleeping. One of the few remaining jungles close to Calais was destroyed last week when police raided in the middle of the night, arresting two people and taking away the tents and blankets people had been using to keep warm and dry.
With the largest migrant squat on eviction alert and the worsening prospects for those who are caught and detained, the situation in Calais remains desperate. If you would like to support those currently in Calais, visit www.calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com for information on how you can help.
More updates from Calais No Borders Network
Sudanese refugees and supporters protest in London to highlight the 10 year anniversary of the conflict which ripped apart their regions.
'Ground the Drones' demo to take place in Lincoln this Saturday as UK expands armed drone programme - and international resistance to the Drone Wars amps up.
'Non-citizens' take to the streets of Berlin in the latest instalment of the Refugee Strike shaking things up in Germany.
UK ISM activist expecting imminent deportation after arrest by Israeli military
Despite reports from pro-Israel newspapers to the contrary, race war is not about to break out in front of Brighton's crappiest fizzy drinks seller.
Civil liberties activists in Germany and elsewhere are taking a novel, and militant, approach to CCTV culture.
SchNEWS interview's one of the ZAD crew