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Shortly before 6pm this Friday – some groups are already waiting on the corner of a vacant lot in an industrial area near Calais. The volunteers arrive and the food distribution begins. No police today – for now. Then a police vehicle drives in – national police, from Calais central police station. Then another. Then a first CRS van. Then another. The police forces get out of their vehicles, the atmosphere becomes oppressive, many of them are wearing bulletproof vests, one is handing its tear gas device, and another has pulled out its truncheon. They don’t seem to be here just for watching.

A little after 7:30 pm, an order: “let’s line up and move forward”. The policemen move without paying attention to the volunteers, the exiles leave more or less quickly, the policemen after them until everyone has disappeared in the bushes. They are not really trying to arrest anyone, they obviously want to break up the gathering around food distribution. Thus obviously again, they violate the ruling of the Administrative Court of Lille suspending the city by-laws that prohibited distributions in this area. Which authority, police hierarchy, prefecture or prosecutor is instructing them to violate the ruling of the court? We don’t know: none of them answers our questions on these daily facts.

The two cars from the Calais police station then leave while the CRS are staying. We see them moving away from their vehicles. A group of four exiles, looking very young, can be seen in a path. The CRS surround them, volunteers join. The police officers carry out an identity check, claiming they do so on requisition from the prosecutor covering this area and this time schedule, aimed at offenses against the CESEDA (Code of Entry and Residence of Foreigners and the Right to Asylum).

The discussion turns quite quickly about the selection of the people they check: only the dark-skinned people, no white-skinned is checked. Checks based on racial profiling is prohibited in France. Same discussion again and again, an ordinary matter of fact (see here, here, here and there) – and unacceptable matter of fact – in a country where prosecutors’ requisitions are used to back up such illegal practices. Then one of the volunteers says “I am a foreigner” – she is Italian, and in turn she is checked and put under arrest and taken to the police station (this time, border police) for identity check as she cannot show any document.

The four young exiles were body searched and questioned about their identity. All were 15 or 16 years old. After a long telephone call with their hierarchy, the CRS made them chose (in a very basic English) between being taken by the police to a house with beds and showers outside Calais, or just leaving. The four chose to leave. Under French law, a minor on the street and a minor who is not accompanied by an adult is a minor in danger, whom the authorities have an obligation to protect. Facing up the representatives of the authority, these four felt that the street was a better protection.

These are the same old facts – and their daily variations – over and over again, around the war on food distribution led by the authorities against associations standing in solidarity with exiles (see here, here, here and there).

 

Odilon Redon : The Fall of Icarus.

 

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