Police persecution of migrants in Calais has featured on these pages nearly as often as bourbons feature in the SchNEWS office, but recent political developments following the presentation of Calais Migrant Solidarity documentation and footage could herald a bit of a turning point.
CMS have been collecting evidence against the cops for years. Last year the material was collated and the resulting correspondence co-signed by many other migrant and human rights associations. It was sent to the 'Defender of Rights', the French equivalent of a Human Rights Ombudsman, who undertook an investigation into policing tactics in the migration hotspot and has producing a highly critical report of police activity. Now the Ministry of the Interior (like the Home Office) is working to a three month deadline to explain how its going to implement the recommendations contained in the report.
Picking up on the sort of harassment which has taken place on the border town's streets week in, week out, over the last decade or two, the report highlights police abuse such as: Repeated arrests of the same person in short spaces of time, arrests made with no realistic chance of an outcome which amount to unjustified harassment, continuous and repeated raiding of living spaces, ID checks and harassment occurring at the supposedly safe spaces of humanitarian assistance like food distribution, and destruction of personal belongings and stuff just given out by humanitarian organisations. The recommendations are to basically stop the bullshit.
Although the racist and inhumane policing has been an open secret, with no political figures willing to put their necks on the line, the police version of events/lies has been accepted – or at least bandied about in a never ending 'he said/she said' scenario where the police, backed by the authorities, come out top. Not any more...
Particularly embarrassing for the pigs are the videos. For example this one, showing police vans driving into living areas with lights flashing and African music blaring in the middle of the night to intimidate sleepers. Incredibly, police spokespeople have tried to mutter their way out of it with statements like “The officers were trying to have a moment of joviality with the migrants”, and “Some of our officers may like African music, but obviously this was inappropriate.”
Whether or not there's a wholesale change for the police - and anyone who's witnessed the racist, violent police culture in Calais is probably thinking there's more likelihood they'll just sprout wings and fly - the issue has got the coverage in media and amongst politicians where before there was radio silence. On the ground the cops are trying to behave themselves – in public at least. Continuing the trend of the last few months, they're conducting more small scale evictions of squats and less raids. Although the topic's being talked about, the reality on the ground for homeless sans papiers is as hard as it always has been.