Friday, 29 January 2010

Not That Old 'Sangatte II' Thing Again Peter?

News of the opening of the Kronstadt Hanger in Calais, an autonomous space organised for activists and migrants alike by No Borders and SôS Soutien aux Sans Papiers, has broken via articles in yesterday's Voix du Nord and Nord Littoral. In response our old 'friend', the fantasist and so-called journalist Peter Allen, has latched onto the story and distorted it in his own inimitable fashion for the Mail and Telegraph. (He gets paid twice for this rubbish?) So here we will dissect the relevant pieces of his articles, focusing on the Mail piece.

"A vast new welcome centre for Britain-bound illegal migrants has opened in Calais." - It is not a welcome centre, it is an unconverted empty hangar. The current plans for it are for it to be used as a meeting and information centre, where migrants will be given support and solidarity, away from the constant harassment and brutality of the French police. There are currently no plans to turn it into an accommodation centre a la Sangatte, nor would anyone involved in setting it up want to. But then again, we wouldn't expect the readers of the Mail and Telegraph to understand the concept of solidarity, ignorance and blind self-interest are far more their style. Sangatte was an unmitigated disaster whose only function was to try and get the French government out of an impasse, effectively passing the buck onto the Red Cross and abrogating their international responsibilities to the migrants.

"Local charities were today accepting the first new residents of the 2,000 sq ft hangar close to the French town’s ferry port." - It is not being organised by local charities, those involved are the expressly political campaign groups of No Borders and SôS Soutien aux Sans Papiers. Neither is it open "accepting the first new residents" (See above and the organisers' press release. They should know!)

"It is already being dubbed ‘Sangatte II’ after the former Red Cross centre which attracted thousands of illegal foreigners before it was razed to the ground in 2002." - The only person who is calling it Sangatte II is Allen himself, as he has labelled any and every structure that is in the slightest way associated with migrants in Calais.** He even called 2 prefabricated shower units Sangatte II recently. His source for his two article two local Calais newspapers, which he read in his eerie in Paris. He certainly has not talked to anybody involved in the project and they in turn certainly would not want to talk to a renown liar about the activities of activists and migrants in Calais (though of course he would disguise the fact that he worked for the Mail/Telegraph/Express as his fellow yellow press workers have often done in the past), just look back through this blog. [For example: Why Let The Facts Spoil A Good Story (Again)?]

"And the fact that the new hangar is on Place d’Angleterre, or England Square*, has not been lost on the charity workers." - It is NOT on Place d’Angleterre, it is on the corner of Rue de Cronstadt and Rue de Moscou. But why let the truth spoil a good story? And the "charity workers" as he calls them are more interested in the fact that it is on Rue de Cronstadt and have named it Kronstadt Hanger.

"‘It’s very appropriate,’ said one. ‘England is where almost everyone who stays here will want to end up. We’ll be able to look after hundreds at a time.’" - I repeat, Allen has NOT talked to anyone involved. That is not to say that he hasn't talked to someone in Calais about it and they gave him that quote. They may even have been a 'charity worker' (sic) but they certainly were not involved in the Kronstadt Hanger. NB. This is a regular Mail trick, the non-naming of a source. Again, why let the truth spoil a good story.

"News of the latest building comes just eight months after France’s Immigration Minister Eric Besson said he would make the town ‘watertight’ to those trying to get to Britain."

"But since then the humanitarian situation has deteriorated to such an extent that both the government and Calais council fear urgent action is needed." - Something which we have been arguing about even before the Pashtun 'Jungle' was cleared. But then again, the French government and Calais council always knew this outcome was inevitable. So it is not the extent that the "humanitarian situation has deteriorated" that has caused them to be worried, it is the accompanying bad publicity.

"While they have not yet given official approval to the new centre, the charities who are renting it believe they will turn a blind eye. ‘We don’t envisage any legal problems,’ said a spokesman for the SOS refugee and homeless charity." - They can't give official approval because it has not been applied for!

"‘This is a humanitarian gesture – we’re putting the shelter at the disposal of the migrants." - For someone who lives in Paris and can supposedly speak and, one would hope, understands French, Allen has again put works into Rodolphe Nettier's mouth. He did not mention any "humanitarian gesture" in either article and all he said was that it would be made "available to Calaisiennes and Calaisiennes for migrants" i.e. those supporting migrants. To quote the Nord Littoral article: "This is not a humanitarian approach, hastens to clarify it. We will not turn into France Terre d'Asile, or even the distribution of meals or the care of migrants. We just give them a shelter, a kind of refuge. To help them self-organise."

"‘There are showers, bathrooms and toilets. It will be heated and there will be blankets and beds.’" - There are two showers, a sink and toilets. It is an old warehouse. It is not heated and there are no beds. Again, these are Allen's fabrications. Looks at the two articles yourselves. But of course the above quotes are not directly ascribed to Rudolphe, they are from an unnamed spokesman. How convenient. In fact, in the Telegraph he makes it explicit that he was quoting one of "the charity’s employees". So he has actually done some original work on the article, not just rehashed someone else's work. Just a pity that the one person he talked to clealry knew nothing about it (not even the actual location).

"Rodolphe Nettier, president of SOS, said : ‘We have initially rented the hangar for a few months, but hope to keep it open for much longer. The first migrants are due today.’" - Unfortunately, Nettier and the paper got this wrong. This is an autonomous space that will be self-organised. For those of you only used to hierarchical structures, autonomous self-organised spaces are run by those that use them, and no decision has been made on the ground so far as far as we know that indicates that "the first migrants (will arrive) today." In fact, those that are likely to be involved in using and running the Krondstadt will not be meeting until after this afternoon's Board of Migrants meeting with the mayor at 14:30.

"Mr Nettier said the building was very secure – something which will make it difficult for the police to raid and arrest the migrants." - It is also private property, a fact which ideally should prevent the police from entering at will, but which in past experience has not proved sufficient a barrier to their harassment.

"There will be no restrictions on who can use the welcome centre, said Mr Nettier." - Again, he did not say that and is another fabrication and he could not claim this anyway, given that the space will be self-organising.

You get the picture. You certainly can't trust everything you read in the paper, especially if it comes with the by-line: by Peter Allen.

* The Mail article is even headlined ''Sangatte II' opens by Calais ferry port ... and it's on street called England Square'.
** See: MailWatch #7 - 'Sangatte II' or Not 'Sangatte II', That Is The Question and More Smoke About The Fire.

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