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Syrian refugees stage bridge occupation as Calais migrant crackdown continues.

Over the last few months the French state's treatment of migrants in Calais has plumbed unprecedented depths of repression and brutality. Temporary shelters in empty buildings that once provided some level of protection have been subjected to repeated raids and evictions. This anti-migrant sweep seems to be a burst of aesthetic cleansing in anticipation of upcoming visit by the Interior Minister.

Of course many of the refugees in Calais hail from war-torn Syria. With the West girding itself up to bomb Damascus in defence of Syrian civilians you'd think those who'd escaped the carnage would be welcoemd with open arms – not so. Dozens of Syrians have been forced to take direct action to highlight the suffering they have faced in the border town.


SchNEWS caught up with a No Borders activist to get a grip on the latest developments.

There's been more destruction of living spaces than there ever has in the past.”

In the last three weeks, there have been raids across virtually all of Calais migrant communities. The “Beer House” squat, a huge abandoned warehouse home to nearly 200 African migrants, and an Albanian squat have been evicted, with an Afghan squat threatened. The Afghan jungle was also raided, resulting in the arrests of fifteen migrants and four activists. Just one of the evictions, that of the 'beer house', was legal, the others were carried out by cops without any legal process.

After the turmoil, new sleeping spaces were essential but attempts to establish them were unsuccessful: “There were three or four attempts at new legal squats – that involves occupying a place for over 48 hours, and then trying to enforce the police and the mayor to go through the legal process, which they have systematically failed to do for the last three or four years. They were also evicted.”

The 'jungles' (encampments near the beach) have also been targeted. The Sudanese 'jungle' was wrecked with brutal efficiency. “They were totally destroyed, with everything smashed to pieces and people's belongings taken to the dump. They do these things on a fairly regular basis anyway, but they have these moments where they just do a sweep. This is a lot to happen in the last two or three weeks, it's mad.”

At the same time, the police are working to 'pick off' people from certain communities. At the moment, it's the Sudanese who are threatened to be deported to Khartoum. There is no right to appeal, so if the travel documents are granted they're gone. The fear it creates sends ripples into the whole community, leading people to 'disappear themselves' voluntarily – and making the cops job easier in the process. Our source explained, “The last time something like this happened was about a year ago, and again it coincided with the evictions”.

Overt violence is slipping back.”

Whatever abuse the authorities chose to keep hush-hush over the last months - after a critical report by the Defender of Rights - is seeping back onto the streets, according to our NB activist:

No one ever expected it [the report] was going to change the border regime, but it was very good at exposing the systematic police brutality against people from the banal name calling to the daily humiliation, to beating people up quite openly. Since then there was a period of about a year where it changed the game quite significantly. There wasn't the daily raids of the parks or so much overt violence as there was before. But instead they went more for people's sleeping spaces. Without somewhere to sleep, that destroys people's strength just in a slower way...

The report by the Defender of Rights was far more damning than we thought it would be, but the Interior Minister has just fobbed him off. That's not surprising, its the Immigration minister, they don't give a fuck. But the overt violence is slipping back. It's not like it was a year and a half ago, but it's coming back in for sure, particularly out of sight, in the detention centre, during raids, within the police station. Street controls are increasing again. They're making it as hard as it's ever been to live in Calais.”

There can be 40 or 50 Syrians arriving in one day.”

Many people who have fled Syria's civil war have ended up facing this reality in Calais. The situation in Syria is so dire nobody knows exactly how many refugees have fled their homes - there are believed to be as many as five million internally displaced persons, on top of the estimated two million refugees that have fled the country. In Calais, “there can be 40 or 50 Syrians arriving in one day”. France, along with the UK, is continuing the tradition of pissing all over their obligations on the protection of refugees by ignoring the problem.

In response to the latest round of persecutions, around fifty Syrian refugees are currently (as of the 2nd of October) blockading the foot passenger bridge to the Calais ferry port terminal. Their demands are not radical - they wish to legally seek asylum in the UK but have no legal way of travelling here. They are demanding that a UK Home Office official come to Calais to witness their situation directly.


Below is a statement from the group of Syrian blockaders:

We are Syrian people here in Calais.

We have been here now between one and two months. The French government and police have been very bad with us and do not care about us. They have kicked us out of our house into the street. Any time we find a place to stay the police comes and arrest us, destroy our belongings, close the place.

There is nowhere safe for us to shelter in Calais, we are here just for one thing and that is to have asylum in England. Many of us have family and friends in England who we would like to see and be able to live with. There is also a strong Syrian community there, more than in France.

We are now demonstrating in the port of Calais, we will not leave until they let us go to England. We demand one person from the UK home office comes here to speak with us, and to see our situation. We have the right to claim asylum in England, but how do we get there? There is not a legal way to cross.

We are about 65 people from Syria at the port at the moment, with our families, old women, mothers, children the youngest being three years old, friends, and they are over 50 police officers.

We have the right to live a peaceful life and we have unfortunately war in Syria. We need help quickly. We are looking for safety and shelter in Europe but we have not found it yet and we hope to find it in UK.


For information on how to help the Syrians' campaign:



Solidarity efforts from No Borders are focussed on the crisis in living spaces, through supporting squatting and rebuilding to distributing tents, building materials, sleeping bags and warm clothes. The collective's wish list includes functional tents and tarps, good mens coats, cooking equipment, and rocket stoves.

Local activists have organised a United People's Festival in October, a week of music, workshops and info sharing from the wider border struggles, which aims to get local Calaisennes rubbing shoulders with migrants with and without documents.

The bike workshop garage project in the centre of town is going strong, enabling people to fix their own transport. Always needed are bikes, repair kits, parts, trailers and locks.



Stories about similar subjects...

A week of action and workshops for activists campaigning for freedom of movement and an end to migration controls, ending with a 500 people strong demonstration through the city of Rotterdam.

As raids and immigration controls proliferate, individuals are coming together to resist in solidarity. SchNEWS spoke to a member of the Anti-Raids network. 

More updates from Calais No Borders Network

'Non-citizens'  take to the streets of Berlin in the latest instalment of the Refugee Strike shaking things up in Germany.

Following evidence of cruelty against migrants submitted by solidarity activists, French police are under scrutiny from Defender of Rights.

What is known about the death of a Ghanian man in Harmondsworth IRC on October 30th? And who are GEO Group, the private prison firm desperately trying to shift culpability?

Refugees set up a protest camp in front of the historic Brandenburg gate in Berlin and go on hunger strike over abysmal treatment in the hands of the state.

Activists and friends pull out all the stops to prevent UKBA sending family to persecution in Egypt.

Twitter: @SchNEWS