A Death on the Eurostar in Paris


, , , , , ,

How to try and pass the border with the UK from as far away from the actual border as possible? By getting on board a vehicle bound for the United Kingdom. You could wait at one of the rests stops on the motorway leading towards the coast where lorries headed for the UK often stop. Or you could get on the Eurostar. But unless you manage to get inside a train your chances aren’t good – between the electric arc near the overhead catenary system and the and the powerful rush of air from the train’s speed, your chances of survival are nil.

This past Tuesday, 2 May, at Paris’s Gare du Nord, after succeeding to climb onto the Eurostar’s roof an exile was killed by the electric arc from the catenary system above the train.


This is the third exile to have died at the border so far this year. On the 21st of January Johnsina was run over on the motorway near Calais. On the 11th of March, another exile died near Dunkirk following an attempt to cross the border.



Police Officers vs. Judges


, , , , ,

Over the years successive laws have been passed that simultaneously undermine the rights of foreign nationals and diminish civil liberties. However, it seems that for successive governments whatever rights have stayed in place represent an obstacle to their policies sufficient to induce both the administration and the police to violate these laws, despite their severity, on a daily basis. And judges, when they sanction these violations of the law, become the embodiment of the obstacle in question. In this area, as in others, end-term Hollandism meets end-term Sarkosism.

It’s in this context that we see the meaning of the show of force put on by the police last Thursday during the distribution of meals – arrival with lights flashing, interruption of food distribution, racial profiling, and the spectacular arrest of one minor and three other individuals. Of course, the show was also intended to demonstrate to volunteers and NGO’s who’s boss at a time when some NGO’s have made appeals to the Human Rights Defender and Comptroller General of Detention Centres regarding multiple instances of police misconduct. Another object is to hinder the enactment of the March 22, 2017 Court Order handed down by the Tribunal Of Lille which suspends municipal by-laws forbidding meal distribution in certain areas of Calais, the Court deciding that such interdictions violate a number of fundamental human rights, creating a situation equivalent to inhuman and degrading treatment (see here and here).

Thus the raid last Thursday was not a simple show of police force, but an action taken by the police at the beck of local hierarchal authority (and probably of the political authority on which it depends – we don’t know at what level the decision was taken to stage the police intervention.). More than likely it was undertaken with the support of Public Prosecutor of Boulogne-Sur-Mer with the intention of blocking the application of the Court’s decision.

Because this, today, this is the Rule of Law as observed in France.



The war over distributing meals, it is constant.

Police pressure is not limited to the distribution of evening meals, organized by the associations (see here, here and there), it is diffuse and also covers all distribution throughout the day.

As of last week, there are several testimonies from volunteers who made night marauds with tea and food, and who had to undergo identity checks, vehicle control, security palpations. Volunteers were told by the police that they were forbidden to return to those places and that distributions were prohibited.

This week, meal distributions began in the industrial zone of the Dunes at noon, at the same place as those of the evening. The police are intervening daily to disperse them, batons and pepper spray in hand.

The police also intervene to disperse the distributions of breakfasts. This morning, Exiles and volunteers were gassed.

The fact that meal distributions take place in peri-urban areas with little traffic leaves the police free to act without witnesses and endangers Exiles and volunteers.

The Lille Administrative Court suspended the application of the anti-distribution orders issued by the Mayor of Calais, and the police action violates this decision in a more and more clearly assumed manner (see here, here and there). A sign of what is the end of the term of François Hollande, but also probably of what will be that of his heir.

The Age of Fences


The TGV of Calais enters Gare du Nord in Paris. It runs along a long fence that separates it from the next track, like an extension of the fences that enclose the railway tracks at the approach of the station of Calais – Fréthun, which is among others the last station before the Channel Tunnel for the traveller- Leaving for the United Kingdom. On the side of the hall of the station, the fences transform into a glass wall, visually less aggressive.

Since when have these fences, extended by a wall of glass, which defend the accesses to the United Kingdom, have they been in place at the Parisian station?

A strange negligence explains our ignorance. The oldest anti-migratory walls preventing access to the territory of the European countries listed in the chronologies are in Africa and surround the cities of Melilla and Ceuta, Spanish enclaves on Moroccan soil. They date back to 1998 and 2001.


The port of Calais was surrounded by fences in 2000, followed by the perimeter surrounding access to the Channel Tunnel on the French side in 2001 and the Calais – Fréthun station in 2002. Other French ports of the Channel, Dieppe in 2001, Cherbourg and Roscoff in 2002. These walls in the heart of Europe are absent from the chronologies.


The 1991 Sangatte Protocol provides for the British control of French access to the Channel Tunnel upstream of the opening of the Channel Tunnel (in 1994), as well as French controls on the British side. An additional protocol of 2001 extended these checks to London St Pancras, Lille Europe and Paris – Gare du Nord.

Are you one of the more than two hundred million passengers who spend each year in Gare du Nord, do you know what year a wall was put up in the heart of the station to materialize the border with the United Kingdom , The image we have of British migration policies and the collaboration of the French government?

The plan of Albert Mathieu-Favier for a tunnel under the channel, dating back to 1802, with enormous ventilation chimneys.

Calaisian Solidarity

Due to a temporary lack of translation capacity  links remain in French

The oldest traces of solidarity-based associative action for the Exiles who were blockaded in Calais on the British border date back to 1986.  Some of these people find themselves on the street without any means of subsistence. Some of them are potentially refugees, refouled at the border of a state that is a signatory to the Geneva Convention.

For nearly thirty years, solidarity has been based mainly on Calais residents and associations anchored in the social fabric of Calais.

With a three-year bracket, between 1999 and 2002, during which the Sangatte Centre brought a state-funded response to meet some basic needs under the roof of a large hangar far from the town. Outside common law as well, it was a “humanitarian emergency shelter and reception center (CHAUH)”. The people housed were not refugees or asylum-seekers, or homeless people, but a sort of separate category under the “humanitarian emergency”.

The center closed, people then belonged to a category of people who do not have to be here, and numbers of people and associations showing solidarity varied more or less according to the period of the power relations the law or delinquency.

But, year after year, solidarity was organized, managed to conquer spaces to work, to obtain answers, fragmented, from the public authorities (the opening of a gymnasium in the framework of the cold weather plan, orientation towards the Exiles. The permanent access to health care at the Calais hospital, the provision of an open-air space for the distribution of meals, provision of prefabricated toilets for showers and day care …), without challenging the overall policy.

Beginning in the autumn of 2013, an increase in the number of Exiles that precedes what the media would later call in 2015 “the refugee crisis” began to become noticeable in Calais. In 2014, Emmaus France mobilized its communities to take over and organize convoys to Calais. It is still the local associations that distribute this aid which comes from all over France, at a time when local collections are no longer sufficient.

In the summer of 2015, international NGOs and volunteers and associations from all over Europe, notably the United Kingdom, arrived. Faced with what was to become the largest shantytown in France, local solidarity continues, but is marginalized in terms of its capacity to respond.

The state recreated what has sometimes been called “Sangatte on the cheap” There was an under-dimensioned day-care centre, a place for the reception of women and children, which was also insufficient, and almost a year later a container camp, for some of the people. The other people found themselves in a shantytown. By September 2016, ten thousand people lived on this site.

The dismantling of this site and the destruction of the shantytown reduced the number of Exiles in Calais blocked at the British border to an average equivalent to that of 2003 (after the closure of the Sangatte Centre) before the large increase elsewhere in Europe in 2013 ).

But the logistics of solidarity remain in the hands of actors disconnected from the local reality, the Calaisian solidarities no longer having the material means to work , even if only the capacity to prepare several hundred meals. Hence, among other things, the choice of a place for the distribution of meals in an industrial zone away from the city, which places tension in the community (see here, here, here and there).

Hence also the news of the day. The Secours Catholique reception will remain closed until the elections (without knowing which election it is, presidential or legislative, or the relationship between the political calendar and the needs and demands of the Exiles ). The showers managed by Secours Catholique are also closed: they take place in prefabricated buildings, which can be installed for three months without having a building permit , for lack of the permit, they stop, unconnected with the needs of the people).

There just remain the Calaisians who open their doors – and everything has to be rebuilt

Van Gogh : Wheatfield behind Saint-Pauls hospice with a cutter.

Fire at the Grand Synthe Camp : minors have been abandoned

The Grande-Synthe refugee camp near Dunkirk was a place of contradictions. It had been created by the municipality and Médecins Sans Frontières to respond to a disastrous material situation on the site where an Exile camp was once and for several years. A disastrous situation due to the very rapid increase in the number of Exiles, from less than one hundred people in the Spring of 2015 to nearly three thousand in November of the same year. But also because of the intervention of the State, the Police controlling access and blocking the supply of tents and materials to build shelters (see here and there). The State tried to prevent the opening of the new refugee camp to international standards (see here and there), then agreed to finance it and changed the reception rules, following a logic of denial that new people might arrive and that the capacity for reception must accompany the variations of the number of people welcomed (see here, here, here and there). After a decline for several months, the number of people then doubled as a result of the destruction of the Calais shantytown at the end of October 2016. Since then, the situation has been deteriorating  until the final fire on the night of 10th / 11th April. Beyond these vicissitudes, the question remains whether refugee camps should be set up in France, one of the richest countries on the planet, where there are already reception facilities for both asylum-seekers and refugees, minors or homeless people.

It was known that there were isolated minors in the former camp on the Basroch site, but their visibility became greater with the creation of the refugee camp at the Linière at least for the associations that intervened. Because in this camp which was financed by the State, and which set up an association to manage it, the AFEJI, an association which is active in the field of child protection in particular, kept the minor children mixed with adults and beyond any protection framework. As if in this refugee camp the French law did not apply (see here and there).

And when the camp burned following violent confrontations between Exiles, no action is taken for the minors. Some have been relocated to gyms, mixed with adults, still outside any legal framework. The rest scattered, simply disappeared, without any follow-up.

Four associations are urging the British government to urgently welcome those minors who could enter the United Kingdom legally if the procedures permitting it were in place:


They also note that “at the moment no measures have been taken by the French or British authorities to provide safe accommodation for unaccompanied children at the Dunkirk camp, creating a real risk that children will disappear into chaos. ”

Victor Hugo : Paysage aux trois arbres.

Continuing Development of Extreme-Right-wing Activity


, , ,

! Some links may not yet be translated, sorry for the inconvenience.

The excessive media coverage of the Calais shantytown has been used both as a sounding board and a bullhorn by Calais’s extreme-right-wing. It began with masked press conferences following vigilante night patrols with the police near the camp and the ring road leading to the port. Likeminded groups from all over France come to Calais to lend a hand to extreme-rightists in Calais and the surrounding region, using the situation as a means of broadcasting and spinning events to propagate their own vision via posts and videos posted on social media (see here and here).

Meanwhile, in the shadows, individuals have used vehicles to stage swift violent attacks on exiles sometimes leaving their victims for dead. In February 2016, one vigilante group was arrested immediately following an attack, which in turn led to further arrests. News of the arrests sent a shock through extreme-right groups in Calais, causing schisms in some groups and causing some individuals to drop out. The group dynamic began to lose force, even though it didn’t entirely disappear.

Then came the destruction of the encampment, the closure of State sponsored shelters and local protective structures, and the expulsion of the camp’s inhabitants.

Almost as soon as the shantytown was taken apart, extreme-right activists began searching for the slightest evidence of “returning migrants.” These searches for evidence quickly became a hunt for those places where exiles found shelter. These discoveries are filmed, revealing locations where people are hiding, then diffused on social media and passed on to the police.

Once filming ends, and the camera is turned off, if the vigilantes are numerous enough, the fun begins – insults, intimidation, destruction, violence, as a number of exiles have testified. At this point a sophisticated game of “candid camera” ensues. When the camera is off, provocation, and if the victim responds the camera is swiftly turned back on to record am excellent image of “aggressive migrants.” The general situation is growing tenser, exacerbated by the fact that the police are never far off, and the complicity between police officers and extreme-right activists remains significant.


Dürer The Apocalypse

Dürer: The Apocalypse

Minors from Calais in the UK


, , , ,

Below is a short briefing paper, four pages long, prepared by the Greater Manchester Immigration and Aid Unit on the minors from Calais who have arrived in the Greater Manchester region.

It describes Reception Conditions in the United Kingdom and the difficulties encountered by the children subject to them. In doing so, it is useful both for our own understanding of the situation, and as a source for the information we give minors about what they should expect on the other side of the Channel.

It also describes the psychological scars many of these children may bear as a result of violence experienced during their journeys, most particularly in Calais. Among these latter, there is the destruction of the shantytown itself – their home – and the ensuing stress among children sent to CAOMI (French Reception and Orientation Centres for minors – see here, here, here, here and here) where they often linger in complete uncertainty about their futures. The paper also provides information important for our perception of the situation at the border. Of the 40 minors from Calais who found their way to the GMIAU from January to February 2017, 18 crossed the border legally within the context of established procedures, while 22 crossed over illegally. In the cases of those children who entered legally, we are operating within the context of procedures established by the Home Office at the time of the Calais encampment’s destruction. However we are also working in a context in which both French and British authorities insist that the border is sealed and impossible to cross illegally.

The situation raises questions. Even when British authorities put extraordinary procedures in place permitting minors to legally enter British territory, more than half of the 40 minors discussed in the GMIAU’s briefing entered illegally.

And yet, at the same time, if nearly half the minors were allowed legal entry into British territory on the basis of criteria linked to both EU legislation (Dublin III) and a decision taken by the British parliament (the Dubs amendment (in French)), shouldn’t the maintenance of procedures then established be permanent?

However, today, nothing is in place that would allow unaccompanied, minor exiles stuck in Calais access to procedures leading to their legal entry into the United Kingdom. Today, the only possibility open to them is to hide themselves in lorries.

You can download the GMIAU’s briefing letter (in English) here.

Richard Estes -The Ice Cream Truck

Richard Estes : The Ice Cream Truck.

Distribution under police pressure


, , , ,

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.