Graffitti found in Africa House
One of the many CRS raids on Africa House
Regional CRS units take turns to be deployed in Calais and the current group, Compagnie II/12 which is based in Lille, has been particularly violent to everyone, including No Borders activists. New evidence indicates that they may have neo-Nazis in their ranks.
English classes have commenced in Africa House at the request of those living there.
The Pashtun are being repeatedly hit, but we are avoiding working there for the time being due to issues with some powerful smugglers.
In another negative development, some migrants are reporting that they are being given harsher treatment during police interrogation if they say they are part of No Borders or have any NB paraphernalia. This is part of the police attempt to break down bonds of friendship and trust which have been built since the Kronstadt Hangar was opened.
Raid on Africa House. Residents were alerted in advance by No Borders activists staying there, and a number managed to get away. One activist standing on the wall was slapped by CRS in an attempt to make him get down. About 25 cops came in, removed us from the scene and arrested the migrants. CRS officers made repeated attempts to hit or grab activists on the other side of the wall. A journalist present on the scene was assaulted by a cop with a baton, and although he was hit several times, he refused to get down. An activist was punched hard in the knuckles as he hung onto the wall, and his camera phone was knocked away and smashed. Police then started throwing shoes, rocks and at one point a large, heavy plastic road-block section at the photo journalist, trying to knock him off the pallette used to get over the wall.
That night, activists managed to predict a CRS raid on the Hazara camp, and alerted residents who got away.
Given the number of times Africa House has been raided, we stationed ourselves in various places in proximity to the squat. The police drove around many times but did not attempt to enter.
The Hazara jungle was raided again around midnight when we weren't there, but people managed to escape.
Activists prepared for another morning raid of Africa house, positioning themselves in front of the entrance to a carpark near the squat. In doing so, they blocked the access route of the five CRS vans that attempted to enter at 7.30am, in what has now become a predictable routine. The cops seemed somewhat surprised – perhaps the current unit of CRS aren't used to people resisting them.
We radioed in to people in the squat, allowing them to escape. The police then beat us out of the way, and smashed the radio, but each time the troglodytes moved us, activists would get back in the way of the vans. At one point, an activist was strangled by a CRS holding a baton against his throat, and another was batoned and kicked as he lay in front of one of the vans.
The cops eventually got in and arrested five people who were still in the building, but three of them managed to escape out of the arrest bus when the cops got distracted by someone taking photos of them.
Footage of that raid:
English lessons started on Thursday at the request of some guys in Africa House and drew a large crowd. The first lesson covered some basic phrases such as how to say who you are and where are you are from?
That evening, the police came back as a large group of Sudanese and No Borders were chilling out outside the squat discussing tactics. Two activists who were leaving sounded the alarm when they saw some CRS vans heading towards the squat. Lots of people fled before the police got to the scene. They carried out an identity check, but those who remained were in possession of the necessary documents. The only arrest was that of an activist for allegedly insulting the police. An officer slapped him a couple of times before they decided to take him down to the station.
The police returned again at midnight, shining their headlights at the building on main beam in another blatant attempt to intimidate.
We made our presence known to the police near Africa House. They didn't raid it – there may or may not be a connection. English teaching continued in the afternoon with more complicated phrases on how to claim asylum and how to ask for a lawyer, then an extended session on buying things in a shop designed to familiarise people with British money. This was a real morale-booster for the migrants, many of whom live in a state of depression and near-hopelessness about their chances.
The Hazara jungle was raided around 7am when we weren't there, although people managed to escape and apparently no arrests were made.
After doing a water delivery for the Hazaras, two of us noticed a CRS van pull up on the road near the ferry terminal. The police poured out and began to chase around a dozen Pashtun migrants. We ran towards the police to film the pursuit, which took the cops by surprise. Everyone got away except for a boy of around 15 years old, who was chased into the road and made to dodge speeding traffic. The CRS took their anger out on us, snatching my phone and attempting to delete my photos, while my friend was pinned up against the fence by three cops, one of whom held his fist in front of his face, repeatedly making as if he was going to punch him unless we left and stopped recording the event. They were absolutely furious.
The third English lesson at Africa House covered telling the time in English, and asking for directions. These lessons are ongoing but should be kept up if possible when the current group of activists leave.
After English we discovered four symbols written in soap on one of the posts in Africa House. Among the symbols were the swastika and a white power Christian cross. The other two symbols are more obscure and are currently being identified by French activists, but if anyone can shed some light on their meaning please do so. From the smell and texture of the soap it appeared to have been written in the last couple of days, and the only people with access to Africa House who could have written fascist graffiti are the CRS. This is a highly significant development as it confirms what we suspected all along; that for some cops working in Calais is more than just a job, it is a chance to carry out racist violence with the full backing of the French state.
For some of us this was to be our last day in Calais so we went to Coconut Bar that night with some Sudanese and Eritrean friends. A good night was had around the pool table, and you could almost convince yourself that the extreme stresses of migrant life had melted away. However, at closing time a mixture of alcohol and depression erupted into a fight between two of the African guys. As No Borders activists and other migrants attempted to intervene Police Nationale and undercover cops waded in with excessive force, batoning one activist hard on the head and assaulting three others with batons, fists and dogs. An Ethiopian friend of ours came out the worst; he had been trying to calm everyone down but the police immediately punched him to the ground. Four cops started kicking him mercilessly in the ribs and stomach and one of their dogs took a small chunk out of his elbow with its claws. The police made no arrests – the intention was obviously to cause as much damage to people as possible. Activists provided first aid to migrants and to each other, and escorted our battered and badly shaken friends back to Africa House.
Later that night as activists were walking back to the No Borders office we noticed that we were being followed by two skinny white guys dressed in black with combat boots and a nasty glare in their eyes. We stopped immediately and they passed us, went round the corner and then peeked back round. We spent the next 40 minutes evading them in the back streets. From the look of them it seemed unlikely that they were police, but it is possible that they were either fascists or cops, or both.
Over the Easter period quite a few of us have been active in Calais, and the events described here illustrate what can be done with a few more people. With the Tories pledging to cut immigration by 80% and in light of our recent revelations about fascism in the CRS we need to step up our presence on the ground so please come to Calais if you can!
Check the website for more info on coming to Calais.