Already in 2015, few citizen from Calais had shared a text (FR) expressing their refusal of the concentration of the Exiles outside the city, on the site of what would become the biggest shantytown in France. This venture was done outside the associations traditionally linked to the support of migrants, some of whom had been involved in this marginalization, believing that people would not be evicted from this new place.
Last September the authorities used as excuses the “sickness” of the population and the catastrophic situation in which the presence of the Exiles had put the city to justify the destruction of the shantytown that they had created only a year and a half earlier. And it is still an individual initiative that questions the media for the image they give of the city and the situation, while most of the associations aim -above all- to preserve the positions they acquired in view of the announced expulsion.
Today, the shantytown has been destroyed and a manhunt put in place in the city, before our very eyes, a call for solidarity vis-à-vis our passing neighbors is being once again shared by the inhabitants of Calais.
Here are the three texts, going back in time.
December 2016 – cher-e-s-voisine-s-et-voisin-s.
« Dear neighbours
I live just like you all do in this troubled city that is called Calais, one of the poorest cities in the country, victim of a record unemployment rate and at the heart of the immigration issue.
We were told “Calais breathes”, Calais is beautiful, there are lights, a market, a Carousel and Pluto watches over a pyramid of gifts. We were also promised that Calais would be better off, that it would be less misery.
Except that here, when we took a deep breath and opened our eyes very wide, we felt it was cold, we saw people sleeping outside next to large empty houses with condemned doors.
We need openness, places of exchange, social ties, places to sleep; spaces to rest for a moment and to share, to know each other better also, to worry about our well-being and that of the others.
But what we see is alarming: frightening fences disfigure our city which has become a bunker, the police is nearly everywhere and controls all those of us who are not white enough. The repressive machine deployed in Calais does not only make men and women disappear, it also discourages people in solidarity, those who see, are outraged and try to change things. Nothing is created, when the forces of the order crisscross the streets and occupy all the public spaces.
I feel caught up in the politics of the city and the government. And you ?
Let us resist and fight against this will to stifle us, to silence us.
Let us be kind, let us be united and this is how we can act and make our city grow.
Want to discuss about it?
Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org »
September 2016 – you can download the original text in French here.
« Dear media, Calais is doing well thanks …
We are ordinary citizens of Calais and we want to let you hear a voice other than that of this minority of inhabitants who cry out loudly in exasperation.
We want to thank you for your concern, but Calais is doing well, or at least not as bad as they would want you to believe.
Calais is a beautiful city, bordered by a beautiful beach, with remarkable architectural elements and many cultural spaces (museum, city of lace, le Channel …).
But today, our city is known only for its migrant population and the alleged insecurity it entails.
Sure, in past years an increasing number of people wishing to go to England ended up stranded in front of our natural border, the Pas de Calais- Dover Strait. They find themselves blocked, confined today in what is known as the “Jungle”, a shantytown created by the town hall on the outskirts of the city.
For a few months now, a minority of inhabitants, not all of the people from Calais, have been making alarming remarks, evoking an impressive delinquency rate, daily aggressions, multiple degradations … to say it briefly, reading newspaper we feel like being in a war zone. Yet, it is nothing. No bombs, no hordes of migrants in our houses, no more risks if we cross the city on foot, even at night. We know it, we live there.
What is difficult in Calais is this totally negative media impact. The media only relay one voice, widely distorted by hatred and often by racism. The moderators on the social networks do not do any sorting of racist and slanderous words, worse, they relay these remarks and give them an exacerbated visibility.
Far from denying the real problems of our city, we are tired of having to justify ourselves to the people who live far away: no, we risk no more our life in Calais in the evening than we would do in Lille, Paris or Toulouse.
Yes, in the evening on the bypass, it’s better to be very careful. The hundreds of CRS that have filled our hotels for months (which, by the way, allows the hotel economy to flourish) create a climate of tension and some migrants, desperate by their situation, seem to take all the risks to try to get into the trucks. Yes, some lorry drivers, in fact, have great difficulties in ensuring their deliveries.
But apart from these concrete problems, no, all the shops do not suffer.
On the one hand, many of them benefit from this migratory presence: cafés, fries fast food and other restaurants are not empty. Migrants and volunteers add themselves to the regular Calaisians. The businesses of do-it-yourself, sports (bicycles, tents …) and the hotels are doing wonderfully well.
On the other hand, yes, some shops in the city centre are forced to close, but how many have lost their shops due to being close to large commercial areas? Refugees, we see very little of them in town, since they are invited to go to the jungle, far from the city centre.
It can be noticed that this gradual decline began with the opening of a huge commercial surface outside the city, the “Cité Europe”, and the opening of new spaces in the outskirts. The expensive rents in the downtown area are also a factor. Is it then a matter of the town? What is difficult in Calais is the lack of attractiveness of our city.
Since the beginning of 2016, we have flooded protected land, felled trees and put up fences. It is not in all the cities of France that we mow the lawn in order to (as said) ensure a better view…
And not all the cities of France have the chance to have a 4m wall which will soon enclose the citizens in their own city. Making Calais a fortress is not a solution. It has been proven that fences and barbed wire do not prevent intrusions! So what are they for? As a reminder, tourists came to Berlin only to see the wall on the ground, not before …
So yes, Calais is in trouble, but like so many other cities in our region and our country.
French people are poorer, the lace industry is nothing but a museum, there is no more French shipping company in our port, the most visited of France …
Come to see us, come to discuss with us, come to discover our city and its riches, come to see the good reputation of the people of the North, because we are part of them.
After all, we are proud to be Calaisiens. »
April 2015 – you can download here the original text in French.
« Us, Calaisians who refuse to be separated
For years, some passengers who want go to the United Kingdom have been being stopped at the border , and have found themselves in the streets of Calais.
Over the years, they are part of our life and our city. Some of them are just passing through Calais, while others have chosen to settle in it.
Calaisians of passage or Calaisians of long date, we see each other in the city, we avoid each other sometimes , we meet at other times. Our glances cross or been avoided, we have exchanged a few words or long moments, we took place in the memory of one another.
Today, the authorities want to concentrate those of us called “migrants” or “clandestines” in a space far away from the city, beyond the motorway ring road, in a state shantytown next to a place of minimal humanitarian services.
We refuse this logic of segregation. Calaisians of passage, “migrants”, “refugees”, “exiles” and long-time Calaisians must be able to live together and to share the city.
We are with and we support the Calaisians of passage who want to stay in the city and refuse to be marginalized, taken to the shantytown. We will support those who want to return to the city. »
“To live together: it’s possible!”