This last week has seen a rapid increase of police brutality against migrant communities and their supporters in Calais. On Thursday 29th March seven people were brutally attacked and beaten up by mobs of police.
The escalation last week just so happened to coincide with the visit of the new UK ambassador to France, Sir Peter Ricketts, who arrived in Calais on Friday 30th March to meet with French officials and discuss port security in the run-up to London’s Olympic Games.
Firstly two people were pounced on by riot police as they walked down a quiet street. They were smashed up against a wall in another 'ID control'. One person was pinned face to the ground while the other was violently arrested and beaten whilst handcuffed on the floor of the van. No reason was given for the arrest, after 24 hours in the cell she was told her charge was 'outrage'.
Next a large number of riot police descended on the central park, racially profiling people for 'ID control' and began making arrests. As soon as people challenged this they were attacked. Four No Border activists and one migrant were forced to the ground and beaten with batons and fists.
They were continually beaten by riot police whilst handcuffed in the police van. Later they were handed over to the border police who beat them again in custody, with one person repeatedly kicked as he lay on the floor and another continually punched whilst he was spitting out blood. Their cells were also gassed with an unknown gas. They were held for 48 hours and the four activists were charged with 'rebellion'.
Laying heavy totalitarian charges like 'rebellion' and 'outrage' on people supporting migrants has become a common police tactic, aiming to deter people from challenging state abuse against migrants in Calais. This is as well as threat of being busted for 'aiding or assisting' migrants, now a criminal offence.
One arrestee told SchNEWS ‘the police in Calais can do what they like. Beatings by the police in custody, including during interrogation, is a daily occurrence and happens with impunity’.
It's not just one bad apple amongst the many arms of law-enforcement either. The riot police (Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité), the border police (Police Aux Frontières), undercover cops (Brigade anti-criminalité) and the 'normal' regional police (Police Nationale) are all working together.
It is not unusual for the police to attack people just for kicks but this current surge in beatings seems to be a more co-ordinated effort. “Whether spontaneous or premeditated, these attacks are backed up by a macho, nationalist, xenophobic state apparatus, where persecuting people because of where they are from and how much money they have has become a normalised and accepted way to 'deal' with migration” one activist told SchNEWS.
One young man without papers says, “they are making me want to go back to Afghanistan. At least there when I die I will be buried in the ground. Here they will kill me and put me in the dump.”
A few weeks ago migrants say a squat was raided by armed officers. Up the coast in Dunkirk, migrants and welfare associations also say that police have been raiding the camps at gun point. Last month someone was jumped on at night in the park in Calais by plain clothed men who claimed to be cops, threatening him with a gun and demanding to see his papers. All of these were solely in relation to 'ID controls'.
Violent attacks are common and most of the time they happen out of public view in police cells, in detention, at the border, at night on the streets or in the jungles and squats.
Sometimes they do happen in broad daylight. Two weeks ago another migrant was pounced on by a white plain clothed man swinging a metal bar at him in the middle of the road. Soon after a cop car pulls up, police beat the
migrant and arrested him before shoving him into the police car and driving away.
After the eviction last month of the main migrant squat, known as Africa House, many people with and without papers have been depending on smaller squats for shelter to avoid sleeping on Calais’ violent streets. But these spaces
have continually been raided and at least another four squats have been evicted since, including an Iranian squat, a Somali squat and some mixed 'global' squats with people from Sudan, Eritrea, Chad, Iran, Afghanistan
Local news reports say in the coming weeks the authorities are set to demolish another of the larger squats, Palestine House, claiming the need for redevelopment.
A bad case of Rickett's
The recently appointed ambassador already has a lot of blood on his hands having had a long-standing cosy relationship with the defence and security industry as the UK Prime Minister's National Security Advisor, rep to
NATO, director-general of the Foreign Commonwealth Office and former Chairman of the Joint Intelligence Committee.
After becoming the UK's stooge for France in February this year Ricketts stated, “our defence and security links with France are as strong as they’ve ever been... There’s a whole range of things to do, amongst which, certainly, is continuing the momentum behind this security relationship.”
For the Olympic games the authorities are running a schizophrenic dual operation, on the one hand launching a 'Welcome the World' campaign to boost tourism from passing athletes and spectators whilst at the same time cracking down on migrants, driving the undesirable foreigners out.
Meanwhile Nicolas Sarkozy ramped up his hate campaign against migrants in a highly nationalist re-election speech last Saturday, stating immigrants are a threat to the 'civilisation of the French Republic' and if re-elected he will use 'all of [his] strength to make France stronger'. He promises to intensify security on migration and threatens to pull out of [European open border treaty ] Schengen to achieve it. This was also a clear attempt to win over voters from the far-right National Front party, away from their leader Le Penn.
Sarkozy will be visiting Calais on April 17th, probably trying to glean praise and glory for the 'enrichment' of the city pre-Olympics, whilst reinforcing his position on migration.The UK and French governments have promised a joint effort to strengthen the border regime this summer.It is very likely that in the coming months Calais will be on lock down for people without papers so that the privileged who have the 'right' kind of identity can shop freely and fine dine without their view being spoilt.
ID controls and the enforcement of identity papers, check points and patrols in order to control the identity of populations has, and always will, result in persecution. Time and time again ID controls by authorities scanning populations in order to pick out certain categories of people is a telling sign that systematic abuse against those people is happening.
The war against migrants is a combination of age old racism tied up with the mantra of 'national interest' where people profiting from the system are quite happy to reap all the benefits of the global militarized onslaught to 'free up' capital and trade but are not willing to share any of the benefits or bear any of the consequences.
As industrial capitalism kills people and the world, accumulating economic crisis' and ecological catastrophes with the climate changing irreversibly, you can guarantee more people will be moving en masse. And of course states are well aware of this.
Border controls, surveillance systems and the immigration police are strengthening rapidly. From the thirty new detention camps across Greece planned to imprison 30,000 migrants to the 'unmanned aerial vehicles' used to hunt down immigrants along the Mexico border.
Multinational arms companies and defence industries are increasing expanding into the realm of immigration control, building fortresses to protect the privileged and surveillance systems to control the poor, all while making a handsome profit of course.
For regular updates on the situation in Calais and ideas about how to get involved see: