Albanians are not the only people from eastern European countries who found themselves stranded on the British border, and especially in Calais, but they are the most visible and well-identified group (even if, what do we mean with “Albanians”? Albanians from Albania? From Kosovo? From Macedonia?). Occasionally we can meet as well people from Serbia or Kosovo, who are in the same situation of those coming from Albania: simple tourists in the Schengen area, but that need a visa to travel to the United Kingdom as it is not part of it. Or also people from Russia or Ukraine, who need a visa separate from the Schengen visa to enter the UK.
But in stranger ways citizens from states part of the European Union are also blocked at the border, occasionally but repeatedly over time, usually those who come from eastern and southeastern Europe countries .
Some of these people crossed the life of camps and migrants squats in Calais. One can thinks about this young Lithuanian girl in the summer of 2009 who had been refused at the border in Calais because she was a minor. She had come out of the harbor by the pedestrian bridge and was going back to the town when she saw a camp with some shelters under the roof of an hangar. That camp was called the Quai des Africains, and were living there mainly men from Arab countries and East Africa. She had thought of sleeping there, but the residents saw the risk for her to sleep in the middle of a few dozen men -and for them, in a camp where the police was doing raids at all hours of the day and the night. They had called on volunteers who had then hosted her. She had come back to visit them the day after. Then she disappeared, toward new horizons. She had been refused at the border, but at no time the so-called competent authorities did worry about what would have been of this minor stranded there.
Sometimes we don’t know anymore if people try to go to the United Kingdom or have just settled there, in a life on the streets, squats and camps. Like those Romanians, between one and three depending on the time, who slept under a shed in front of the squat Pagniez, named after the former abandoned factory where it was, inhabited by exiles from East Africa, from the winter of 2009 – 2010 until its eviction and demolition in June 2010. Or this couple from Poland who had their tent in the Syrians camp, which over time was inhabited by migrants of all origins, in winter and spring 2014.
Even more unusual, it is possible to remember this young Japanese man who was staying in an emergency refuge while his administrative situation was unraveled, and who regularly attended the French classes held in the squat of Rue Descartes in 2011, that at the time was occupied by people from East Africa, and showed a great curiosity.
In general, citizens from a European country who are blocked in Calais find themselves in between the street and the emergency accommodation, such as homeless people living in France, but may be more frequently in contact with people involved with the exiles, as if they were a bit part of both worlds.
In the United Kingdom, the Home Office now maintains a policy of arrest, detention and expulsion of homeless with a European nationality, who have sometimes spent several years in the country. It is likely that some of these people will try to return, since they have made their lives there, and will pass through Calais or the other ports.
The Glienicke bridge, between West Berlin and the GDR.