Wednesday, 17 June 2009

Sustained Media Campaign Against The Calais No Border Camp

The location for the Calais No Border Camp and the Camp programme have both been released. This is against the backdrop of a concerted media campaign to demonise No Borders activists as baby-eating monsters who, as one Daily Mail journalist fantasied, have "pledged to help illegal migrants 'tear down border controls and make for Britain'."

Why would we seek to make the situation of the migrants any more precarious that it already is, with their daily harassment and arrest by the French Police. It doesn't make any sense - then again almost all of the press coverage doesn't make any sense!

The mayor of Calais Natacha Bouchart clearly considers herself to be the anvil on which the solution the the migrant 'problem' in Calais will be forged. She has sought at every occasion to demonise the migrants, migrants support groups and of course les Rosbifs, who she considers to be the cause of the migrants gathering in her backyard to try and cross the Channel - never mind the fact that most are fleeing wars and persecution across the globe and do not wish to stay in France a minute longer than they have to because of the persecution they face there from the French police and politicians like Bouchart.

Now the No Border Camp is her latest target of her ire. She has vehemently attacked No Borders in the local press. She has also chosen to turn Calais into a ghost town for the week of the Camp, cancelling the 1900 Parade festivities and inviting her constituents to flee town for the week - all blamed on No Borders. This is the last thing that we want to happen. We want to engage with the Calaisiens, not drive them into the surrounding hills.

She, the préfet of Pas-de-Calais Pierre de Bousquet de Florian and Jean-Philippe Joubert the Boulogne-sur-Mer prosecutor, have sought to paint as dark a picture of the Camp participants as possible.

Bousquet de Florian has said that, "Whenever a No Border Camp was organized, there have been ultra-violent tendencies." At the Gatwick No Border Camp in 2007, attended by more than 300 people, there was only one arrest and that was of a journalist on the Saturday march of more than 500 people, and he was released without charge.

Jean-Philippe Joubert in turn said, "We don't know exactly what this group intend to do." Well maybe if the local authorities has sought to engage more with the organisers rather than be obstructive at every occasion* then maybe they would be more in the picture, Anyway, all they need to do is go to the Camp website where a full programme is laid out.

Bouchart has complained that all they have heard about the camp is an anonymous letter at the beginning of April announcing that we are coming. Yet the camp organisers have been meeting openly in Calais on a regular basis at the Maison Pour Tous, a fact that she has been well aware of. Almost all No Borders' attempts to interact with the local authorities have been rebuffed until the last few weeks when it became obvious that their strategy of ignoring No Borders and maybe we'd go away.

Well we wont. We will be there and we will be seeking to minimise any disruption to the local community. In fact we invite them to come to the Camp and see that we are not the baby-eating monsters depicted in the press. To join with us in a debate about how to reach a sensible, humane solution to the situation in Calais faced both by the migrants and the Calaisiens themselves.

*Philippe Blet, president of the Communauté d'agglomération du Calaisis has consistently been abusive and sought to obstruct negotiations between the Camp organisers and his Commune over the land issue at every turn. And even when the Camp organisers thought they had successfully negotiated a site with the sub-préfecture they found that it had 'mysteriously' been double booked!

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