Calais is no longer just a port for cheap cheese and wine but a microcosm of tensions around the European migrant crisis.
On Friday 12 February, Marianne Humbersot of the Calais Legal Centre, situated in Calais’ Jungle Camp, announced that they would be calling for action against a rising paradigm of violence in the city against the migrant community – residents of the camps.
While the sentiment toward refugees in Calais has always been salty, it seems that the recorded complaints of violence from camp residents in recent weeks has increased and escalated.
Authorities have already began to dismantle parts of the Jungle Camp. They promised to forcibly relocate the remaining residents making it clear that the presence of the camp is in their eyes a temporary fixture of Calais and a burden for the city.
In the past three weeks alone, more than 50 violent incidents have been recorded, some involving hundreds of victims. While details of the incidents cannot be released for legal reasons, Humbersot did say that the incidents are of grave concern, and have involved both police and other civilian militias, often armed.
Many of these have been described as ‘fascist groups’ and have even included cases of attempted murder.
Marianne says that residents have been attacked in many places around Calais, around the camp, on their way into town and the attacks against them seem to have become more organised and frightening. Vans awaiting refugees to pass for instance are parked and have their doors flung open ready to kidnap residents and attack them.
Other volunteers working around the camp have described worrying incidents as well. One charity worker, Anna, said that in the last fortnight four camp residents have gone missing. While many do disappear in their quest to cross the border into the UK, these incidents she said were of particular concern.
“There was one that was particularly suspect as he told others he was on his way to Lidl during the day and rode off on his bike. He didn’t return and after several hours people started to get worried. His bike was found dumped on the side of the road.”
Activist group and monitor, Calais Migrant Solidarity (CMS), have reported a number of incidents as well. On 21 January, three refugees from Syria were assaulted in an abandoned field near Impasse des Salines. Assailants were apparently dressed in black boiler suits that looked similar to police suits but without emblems.