As liberal news outlets congratulate France for welcoming one solitary Chechen refugee into the country, this is the reality of how France can really treat those fleeing persecution and war. At lunchtime in Calais, June 2017, hundreds of people are getting illegally denied access to food and water by the Police Nationale, the Gendarmerie and the UK-funded CRS.
Up until three days ago, lunch distribution in Calais was a chilled out affair, and provided a space for people to hang out in relative peace and safety for the afternoon until the end of our dinner food service. Two days ago, things changed. An enormous police presence descended on our distribution and blocked our attempts to serve food – with myself and fellow volunteers being physically manhandled and thrown around for trying to carry on with a completely legal distribution. Yesterday, we attempted an operation involving a decoy vehicle which worked to some degree, but today we had clearly been sussed out. This led to an absurd couple of hours in the industrial area where we have been serving food, wherein a large group of young men were chased away from our food and water by the Gendarmerie, our identity documents were checked and written down several times, and we were stuck in this horrendous Cat and Mouse game of driving to various spots to give people food, all whilst being followed and continually controlled by different police organisations, with increasingly hungry and thirsty people running around the streets of Calais in the vain and ultimately nonexistent hope of a safe place to sit and eat some lunch. We are being bullied and intimidated with increasing aggression and force but we will continue to feed people as long as they need fed, and will not rise to the police’s bait. The temperature in Calais is hot and humid and the need for water in particular is beyond critical. I am absolutely seething with anger but I can at least say that our team (eventually) managed to distribute a large amount of food by driving around and essentially throwing boxed food into people’s hands quickly before the police caught up with us and moved us on.
We are currently serving around 1300 portions of food every day in Calais and Dunkirk, and feeding smaller camps with cold food deliveries each week. Donate here or come and join us! As one of our volunteers said recently, “if you want to see what love looks like in action, it’s in a warehouse in Northern France.” We cannot sit back and let people be denied drinking water for political means, or because people are “following orders”. “All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing”. Come help us try and give people a bit of dignity after everything they’ve been through.