Yesterday, thousands of demonstrators marched in the streets of Calais to support migrants. Fifty people, including a majority of migrants were able to board the ferry connecting France to England. Thirty five of them are still under arrest. French version / version française →
In Paris, the call for protest was so successful that a sixth bus had to be chartered. We arrived around 13:30 in the jungle, just in time for the start of the event. The jungle is very impressive for whom discovers it. Here are some pictures taken at our arrival:
Life in the jungle is tough, and the difficulties are further enhanced by moisture and cold. Migrants, currently 6000, often spend several months in it before eventually crossing the border. Those arrested during their attempts are mercilessly abused by the police, beaten and sprayed with tear gas and have their personal stuff confiscated. Listen to explanations from an Afghan refugee and a Pakistani refugee:
From 5,000 people at the departure, we were not more than 2000-3000 on arrival1 of this beautiful and outstanding demonstration. Activists from all over Europe were also present. Listen to a few revendications (in French) :
If the police was discreet at the immediate vicinity of the event (except in one place where tension with riot police officers posted on a pavement could be felt), it completely sealed off the town centre with riot trucks :
Apart from Calais citizens who support the migrants, the few people we met along the way were unfortunately rather reserved, even hostile, some proudly displaying the French flag from their balcony:
Two notable incidents occurred with people frankly marked on the far right. A resident even threatened the demonstrators with a gun (Taranis News) :
The demonstration arrived at 16:00 at the place d’Armes. One hour later, a group of hundreds of enthusiastic people, including many migrants, headed for the ferry to Dover, which was docked, breaking several fences that blocked the access to the port. Fifty managed to get on board, blocking the departure of the ferry until 20:30 (see also the video by Skynews). 35 people, including 24 migrants, are still currently under arrest, charged with intrusion on a secure zone and intrusion on the ship. Nevertheless, this action remains a real victory for the migrants and their supporters.
🔴URGENT CALAIS Fermeture du port après intrusion de migrants sur le ferry « Spirit of Britain » pic.twitter.com/JTJh2ymjKe
— infos140 (@infos140) 23 Janvier 2016
The police finally arrived on the scene, throwing down several people (I was one) and blocking all access to the port. Except the occupants of the boat, 110 people were escorted back to the city center.
In the evening, a Syrian refugee was found near the jungle in serious condition, people thiking at first that he was dead. The police spoke of a « heart attack », but several witnesses saw the officers hit him. This morning, hospital staff representatives spoke of a « heart attack as a result of blows, » according to one of our contacts who is still there.
The difference may be explained by the understandable fear of many migrants to leave the jungle and possibly being arrested in the city centre, or be faced with hostile looks. ↩