Calais Migrant Solidarity have been doing solidarity work with some of the hundreds of migrants in Calais on a daily basis since June 2009.
There are currently around 200 migrants in the Calais, sleeping in the streets, and constantly subjected to police chases, arrests and beatings. Any attempts to set up shelters are promptly crushed. The repression is severe, but the growing movement of resistance there has been inspiring.
Following the No Borders Camp in June 2009, French, British, Belgian, Dutch, German and Italian activists set up a permanent presence in Calais. We do a variety of activities, aimed at showing resistance to the police harassment of migrants, raising awareness about the situation in Calais, showing solidarity with the migrants, as well as simply trying to make people's lives easier. We are overtly political and in the long run we aim to build a stronger transnational movement against migration controls, comprised of those with and those without papers.
Work we are doing in Calais:
- Monitoring police activity, and directly intervening in the daily raids and arrests. These can be very successful at times, as we can alert people in advance and give them time to get away. This activity works best with more people.
- Working with the migrants to hold public protests and take direct action.
In February 2010, we were involved in organising a rented warehouse for migrants and activists. This coincided with one of the longest and coldest winters in Western Europe in recent history. It also came at a time where the Franco-British policy of driving migrants away from the port by persistently destroying tents and indeed anything that resembled a shelter was in full swing. 75-100 migrants and half a dozen to a dozen activists broke through police lines to access the legally occupied shelter and everyone had a warmer night's sleep. However, determined, the French police evicted the legally rented space the following day.
- Distribution of water, blankets, tents and firewood. However, we favour solidarity over pure charity. This means that we strive to do 'humanitarian' work in an empowering and migrant-led way. For example, we often live and prepare food with migrants rather than just hand it out.
- Doing outreach with the local community to try to get more Calais residents involved in challenging the repression and to show solidarity; through posters, stalls, leaflets, etc, giving out information, such as legal information on the situation for migrants in France and in the UK, and holding English and first aid classes, doing humanitarian work, such as first aid, providing emotional support, giving out tents, blankets, clothes, tea, SIM cards so that people can call home, English books, footballs & other stuff for minors, taking water and firewood to the squats etc.
"I can't come to Calais, but I want to help…."
There is a huge amount that can be done beyond Calais, both to support the ongoing work here, and in the form of solidarity actions. We are always looking for people to help with the following – if you can help please contact us:
- Fundraising and information nights to raise awareness and pass on much needed funds. Click here to donate.
- Regional autonomous support for people who have made it across to the UK and are seeking asylum, especially for minors.
- Generally making people aware of the situation in Calais; putting journalists and NGOs in touch with us
- Donating tents, blankets, clothes, bikes etc.
- Providing support for people who have been in Calais – whether for a short time or if people are working in Calais over a long period what you see and witness is very affecting and people need to have a chance to try and make sense of what they experience. This can happen face-to-face or by phone or email. See activist trauma support.
Please publish details of solidarity actions to any of the following sites: