Before it even started, the Calais No Border Camp was attacked in the right-wing press.
The Mail on Sunday denounced the camp with the headline: ‘Police arrest 17 anarchists threatening to lead swarms of illegal migrants through Channel tunnel to Britain’. The Calais No Border camp is being held from 23-29 June 2009 and is a joint venture between French and Belgian activists, migrant support groups and the UK No Borders Network. The camp aims to highlight the situation in Calais and Northern France for asylum seekers, to build links with the migrant communities and migrant support groups and to protest against increased repression of migrants and local activists alike.
According to organisers of the camp, Calais was chosen for two reasons. Firstly, it is an important location in the history, development and practice of European migration controls and has long been a major bottleneck for those seeking passage to Britain. Secondly, and more importantly, it is also a focus of the struggle between those who would see an end to all migration into the EU and those trying to break down the barriers that ‘prevent the freedom of movement for all, not just the privileged few’.
Since the mid-nineties, tens of thousands of people have lived in destitution, sleeping rough in Calais. Between 1999 and 2002, the Red Cross ran a centre at nearby Sangatte but this was forced to close after political pressure from France and Britain. Since then, a massive police presence in Calais has forced men, women and children to wander the Calais region and all along the north coast of France, Belgium and Holland. According to the organisers, people ‘are routinely brutalised by the police; tear-gassed, beaten, arrested and repeatedly interned at the Coquelles detention centre … The police regularly burning shelters and possessions’. The local groups that support migrants by providing food and other humanitarian aid are coming under increasing attack from the police and a number of activists have been arrested in recent months.
According to reports from the camp: ‘Police presence in town is very heavy and both activists and migrants are being stopped and searched in the area’. Furthermore organisers have also stated that they ‘denounce in the strongest terms the attempts to criminalise us and to intimidate local people into silence on an issue that affects them directly. We denounce completely and call for an end to the extreme violence and intimidation being directed towards migrants by the police’.