Friday, 13 March 2009

"They're Back: Mass Of Migrants Queue Up At Sangatte..."

- Daily Mail Headline

Let me let you in on a secret, 'they' never went away, you just chose (like some many others including the French & UK governments) not to look, as the reality was far too embarrassing to acknowledge.

Eric Besson, in a surprising about face since January this year, when he declared he was going to make Calais an 'immigrant free zone', has said that, "with humanitarian workers and elected officials, we (he must mean the French government here) are moving towards the setting up of light structures around Calais."

Besson also said that the new buildings would "offer to foreigners without papers information services about their rights, but also sanitary facilities, and food points." This is an astounding turn of events, if it is in fact true.

But of course there will be a big catch. The migrants will become even more visible to the authorities and especially the CRS, who are at the forefront of the French state's war on 'illegal' immigrants, regularly attacking the residents of the 'Jungles' with tear-gas and batons, arresting them and burning any structures and the meagre possessions they contain to the ground.

No doubt the International Organisation for Migration will be there in force, trying to bribe the migrants into returning to where they came from with a few magic beans or their equivalent of 40 acres and a mule. Or using scare tactics, with (unfortunately all too true) tales of the terrors of migrant lives in the UK, to induce them into going home to the countries from which they have fled.

Since the new UMP mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchart, entered office, the situation for migrants and the overstretched volunteers, who provide the far from basic support structures that they rely upon, has deteriorated significantly. Systematic harassment, overstretched resources and official attempts to drive a wedge between groups such as Salam and Belle Etoile, have led in recent times to friction between some of the groups (usually referred to as associations) and to Belle Etoile ceasing to provide lunchtime meals in protest at the local council's lack of support.

Just last month Natacha Bouchart was quoted in the Nord Littoral, a local paper, as saying, "They [the migrants] have a dream life in Calais! See how they are dressed! See how they eat! Four times a day! And all this thanks to us who have put in place a WC, opened places for them in times of extreme cold, established the Council for Migrants, will make available to the Associations the homes of the lock-keepers!"*

And what of this Council for Migrants? It has met just 3 times since it was inaugurated last September and Belle Etoile, the oldest of the Calais associations, is prohibited from attending by the mayor. And no doubt the migrants will be subject to this sort of patronising and ignorant attitude, as displayed by the mayor in this quote, if these 'centres' ever actually open.

*The lock-keepers houses had previously been squatted by migrants and on February 13th this year the CRS tear-gassed the buildings, forcing some of the migrants to escape the gas by climbing on the roof. 20-30 migrants were arrested in this raid.

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