Late October – early November 2016: destruction of the shantytown in Calais. Several hundred exiles, mostly men and women from Afghanistan, now homeless in Calais, make their way to the Grand Synthe refugee camp. The new arrivals find themselves consigned to the camp’s margin in an area largely controlled by Kurdish traffickers. Tensions mount, and on the 10th of April, there is a violent brawl following which four fifths of the Grand Synthe camp is destroyed in a fire. The government decides that the camp will be neither rebuilt nor reopened, and part of the camp’s residents, mostly Afghans, head back to Calais.
The authorities respond by launching a police manhunt targeted mainly against the returning Afghans. As a result, one man, the father of a family, was arrested at Calais railway station and transferred to the detention centre at Mesnil-Amelot, near Paris, to await deportation to Afghanistan. His partner, an Iranian woman, visits him with their baby daughter, born eight months previously in Calais. The visit takes a wrong turn, and the baby is placed in detention with her father before being put in the custody of the Child Welfare Services. The child’s mother, meanwhile, is arrested and taken into police custody.
And so we have a sign of the clampdown on exiles accompanying the new President of the Republic’s installation.
Below is a communiqué put out by la Cimade:
« A Baby Victim of the Prefecture Clampdown in the Pas-de-Calais
12 May 2017
An illegal detention, an 8 month old baby put in foster-care, a family broken apart, the father detained and threatened with deportation, the traumatised mother separated from her family … this is the result of France’s current immigration policies.
Mr I. and his partner, Ms V, arrived in France in 2016, and lived several long months in The Jungle at Calais hoping to enter the United Kingdom where they might request asylum. Their daughter Yasmina was born in the hospital in Calais just eight months ago.
The 10th of May, 2017, while accompanying his brother to the railway station, Mr I. was detained by the police. At the Police Station, Mr I. explained his family situation to the police, but he is nevertheless ignored, and the Prefecture of the Pas-de-Calais, decides to try and deport him to Afghanistan with no consideration that the family will be separated. Alone, he is transported to the Administrative Detention Centre (CRA) at Mesnil-Amelot. A series of wrenching human dramas will result from the decision to separate the family.
The following day, Mr I’s partner visits him, with their baby, at the CRA. The situation rapidly degenerates: Ms’ V. refuses categorically to leave the centre without her husband. So acute is her anguish, that she becomes extremely distressed and is expelled from the CRA without her baby, the administration judging that the mother’s distressed condition might endanger her child. The baby is thus left with her father in detention at the CRA.
As the hours pass, the situation becomes more and more fraught. On one side, the child is, along with her father, held in detention, behind barbed wire, outside of any established legal procedure. On the other, the baby’s mother stands watch at the entrance of the CRA, screaming in rage and despair that she must be reunited with her family.
Informed by the administration of the CRA of the dramatic turn of events, the Prefecture du Pas-de-Calais refuses to budge: Mr I’s release is out of the question. In the end, the public prosecutors office at Meaux orders the child to be placed in the custody of the Child Welfare Services, and orders are given fro the mother’s arrest and detention in police custody.
And so, twenty-four hours after the events described, the small family is torn asunder. An eight-month old child is put in a foster home. A father is in detention and threatened with expulsion to a country other than his wife’s country of origin. And a mother – obviously psychologically fragile and perhaps in no fit state to care for her child without assistance – is detained in an unknown location. In the final analysis, the above episode demonstrates how the right to a normal, private family life is regularly violated by the deporatation-machine put in operation by French authorities, especially in the Pas-de-Calais department.
In regard to this particularly dramatic situation, la Cimade demands the immediate release of Mr I. so that he be able to care for his child. »
Kamaleddin Behzad (Herat, Afghanistan) : Funeral of the poet Attar of Nishapur.