Thursday, 17 September 2009

Calais: Latest News

In an interview on France's main TV channel TF1 yesterday, French Interior Minister Eric Besson intimated that the destruction of the Pashtun 'Jungle' in Calais would happen within the next week. Whether this will actually be the case or he is anticipating that his statement will induce more of the 'Jungle's' inhabitants to leave, as has happened in recent months, with numbers down to less than 400, half the number present at the beginning of the summer, time will tell.

Some of these have clearly been warned off by the government's statements about the 'Jungle's' destruction, others have been intimidated by the constant round of raids which have included daily sessions of forced filming and photographing of the 'Jungle' inhabitants. Another possibility is that it is going to be the mooted 'trial run' that Besson has mentioned in the pass. It should also be noted that Ramadan ends this weekend and even Sarkozy's government, despite its obvious anti-Islamic tendencies, would not carry out a full-scale destruction of the Pashtun 'Jungle' during this religious festival. We'll just have to wait and see.

One major concern is what is going to happen to the migrants when the shelters are destroyed. Will there be a series of mass deportations or will the migrants merely be driven out from where they have lived to wander the French countryside again, as happen when the Sangatte camp was closed. It is intimated by the French authorities that they will all be rounded up and held in detention centres prior to be offered the alternative of either applying for asylum in France of being deported. Besson has claimed that the vast number of arrests in the past 6 months* have only resulted in 170 people applying for asylum, with a further 'voluntarily' accepting deportation.

In the meantime, activists continue to monitor the police as the raids continue. On Tuesday around 200 migrants were arrested in police raids on the 'Jungle', with almost all being released within 24 hours. When the CRS turned up at the Pashtun 'Jungle' late last night, one migrants asked them if they were there to "arrest all of us?" "No, only 15" was the reply. Earlier in the day PAF (border police) officers arrested 25 Afghans near the town centre, 3 of whom were beaten in plain view of passersby.

We are also preparing for the aftermath. With winter coming, provison will have to be made on the ground by the associations and activists that will inevitably be left to pick up the pieces. To that end groups are starting to organise appeals for tents and sleeping bags and good old-fashioned hard currency.

* Almost all of which end up with the migrants being released within 24 hours, having been fingerprinted and photographed.

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