Calais: only one step from the English dream

Everything stars with a hot tea. People who do not have nothing , except their desperation and determination , but they offer what rests them; a broken chair and a really sweetened tea, maybe to give some sweetness to a such bitter life.

This is the situation in Calais- – the last beach before the possible salvation.  Great Britain is the only dream for hundreds of migrants from the poorest countries and the most involved in bloody conflicts. Calais  overlooks the Strait of Dover, the narrowest point in the English Channel, which is only 34 km wide here. So close and so far.

Who are those migrants? Why Calais? What do they do there?

People who reach the small town on the Atlantic Ocean’s coast come from Afghanistan, Iran, Pakistan, Iraqi Kurdistan, Eritrea, Sudan, Palestine, Somalia etc. Their stories  are touching, but at the same time they are almost identical, telling human drama of people forced, because of wars and political repression, to look for a place in the world, but nobody wants them. They crossed mandatory Mediterranean countries, where they were supposed to apply or they applied  for asylum.  According to the Geneva Convention many of them  should be recognized as refugees, but trough Dublin Regulation II their fingerprints remained in countries like Greece or Italy , and there also the only chance to obtain the international  protection. The Dublin Regulation determines the EU Member State responsible to examine an application for asylum seekers. It should determine rapidly the Member State responsible”  , in practice in it condemn all the migrants stay in the transit countries. No one wants to return there.  “They send us back to our country or they keep us four months in prison, attacked one to an another one. Dirty, tight. There is no even place to sleep. This is no life. “- this was the witness of Y,  twenty-four years Sudanese , who  escaped from the Darfur’s genocide. Greece recognize the refugee status only to 1% of all asylum demands. Other 99% are usually sent back to their country or they continue the dangerous fugue to others European States. Some countries like Norway suspended the Dublin Convention against Greece, and other courts, like that of Great Britain, have adopted the same orientation. The same European Parliament asked “Member States ( in 2007)  not to transfer people to another State under the Dublin II Regulation if it is known that that country does not properly consider Iraqi asylum claims”. Even this recommendation many Iraqi refugees as well as Afghan and African are living under the Calais’s irregularity. In 2002  Sarkozy, minister  of Interior at the time, closed the Sangatte refugee center run by the Red Cross, the only shelter for thousands of immigrants on the French Atlantic cost. The French Minister, Eric Besson ordered in 2009 to destroy the so-called “Little Kabul” or “jungle”, the Afghan camps, located on the dunes near the beach which separates France from the English dream. 276 immigrants, 135 of whom declared as minors, were the inhabitants of the jungle. Many of them have been deported without any explanation.

There are now around two hundreds immigrants who day by day are surviving  through the hope to hide on one of the trucks directed to the ground of salvation. They try to defend themselves from ferocity of nature and from French police’s controls and assaults. It seems that the Christmas spirit dos not  regard them. Even the existence of  some tacit agreements between Great Britain and France, belong to which , the migrants should not been disturbed and arrested during the time of meals, these accords has not been respected anymore recently. The night checks in “African House”, the only indoor habitation, where migrants from the “black continent” use to live; the day flee from cold and police, and the incessant thought how to find a place in one of the camions directed to Great Britain, how to find the cash to pay the transport,  step by step destroy them physically and psychologically. France by one side does not have funds to pay flights back to the migrants’ countries, and she does not want to analyze all possible asylum demands, by the other it is not her business to clear now the cost from the unattractive foreigners figures. French government probably will take action only when the summer time will be closer . Maybe also this year, like with a touch of magic wand, almost 200 hundreds immigrants will have “chance” to cross the English Channel  and the Atlantic beach will be more hospitable for the tourists.

All winters are really cold, and this one it is particularly. Even the French government announced to unlock 100 000 euro to ameliorate the nights of Calais ‘homeless , the dormitories, which are opened only when the temperature outside is above minus 4 degrees , do not assure them to survive during the freezing days. The structure used as dormitory  has only one toilet, one toilet for almost 200 persons. To make the situation even more difficult is the strict application of the “crime of solidarity “, a French law of 1945 that provides the possibility to punish “all individuals who directly or indirectly facilitated or facilitate, through a direct or indirect aid the movement or residence of an illegal immigrant.” In this way, giving private shelter to an irregular immigrant who is freezing  in the cold, giving him a chance to have a shower or take him wounded to the hospital becomes a real crime, punishable by law.

Even when the nights are less cold nobody really sleeps. Some of immigrants creep like animals trying to avoid the police detection and to hide on one of the arrived camions, others are too tired to move from their shelters , but even that they know the policy can come in every moment. If there are not fear to be repatriated and not to imprisoned , why do they dread so much these “nights visits”? The police usually use to accompany them to the commissariat for 24 hours, but sometimes strange things happen. One of the volunteers related that once all the arrested immigrants came back only with their t-shirts and under paints, without shoes. Why? He left it imagine.

Close to the forge immigrants prepare the hot tea. “ You know, my country is dying slowly  like this fire” confesses sadly a Sudanese man . His face mingles with the dark and only the sadness of his eyes shine.  He left his wife and a daughter in his country and he is in Calais since months. He does not have money to pay the transport to UK and he sees his future in grayscales. “Come to Sudan. Come to see, how “beautiful” is the war. “- Y.  invites ironically. He laughs, only to avoid the tears.

There are many unaccompanied minors in Calais. As well as other immigrants they crossed half world with the hope to reach the freedom or a dignified life.  Unfortunately some of them became an easy bait for sexual exploitation or they became victims of drugs. M. smiles with all his teeth.  He does not speak neither French nor English, he communicates with gestures and responds in Arabic as if everyone could understand him. M. is one of few who retained his youthful freshness . For how long? For French legislation his already an adult, even he is 15 years old,  so he does not receive any particular assistance. He lives on the road with others teenagers. M. says to be Palestinian, he thinks that in this way he will have more chances to obtain international protection, once he will get to England.

While the mass media talk about the influx of immigrants, public opinion is becoming increasingly xenophobic, and European Union prefers finance extra European states  to keep there the unwanted “guests”, more and more people, like Calais’ immigrants rest outside any protection. Even the Geneva Convention clearly states that “a person who owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group or political opinion, is outside the country of his nationality “ should receive the  international protection, the situation in Calais shows that these rights show up well on paper, but are forgotten in reality.

Wirginia Loboda

© 2010, Rights Reporter. All rights reserved. Riproduzione vietata

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