News from Calais, Spring 2017

by Caroline Kraabel

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This hour-long piece combines field recordings, interviews with volunteers and refugees, and music played on saz and duduk by Beshwar Hassan, plus a saxophonic walk along the Calais wall. You can listen online, but if you buy the piece as a download all of your payment will be donated to three of the charities working to help refugees in northern France: Care4Calais, l'Auberge des Migrants, and Utopia 56. Thanks!

Last summer, the ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais was emptied and destroyed by the French state, and its 10 000 residents were forced to leave. Some went to accommodation centres in France, some travelled further afield, some stayed in Calais sleeping rough. But many of the people who’d lived in the ‘Jungle’ moved to the La Linière 'official' refugee camp near Dunkerque, increasing its population to bursting point. Throughout last winter there were 600 Afghan men sleeping on the floor of the communal kitchens there – large shelters with roofs but no walls.

Just a few weeks ago, on 10-11 April 2017, this La Linière refugee camp burned down after fighting broke out between different groups of refugees and, later, the French riot police (CRS), as a result of the appalling living conditions and overcrowding.

Now the local governments in the region are washing their hands of the refugees, saying they will neither build nor tolerate any refugee settlements. Again, after a few nights in gymnasia, from which they were then kicked out, some refugees went to the French accommodation/reception centres (from which many have since returned to Calais), and some went to Belgium. But many of the people from La Linière have chosen to remain in Calais and Dunkerque, where they are now living and sleeping in fields and on the streets, with no facilities or shelter, constantly being harassed, chased, beaten and tear-gassed by the riot police, who are very numerous and high-profile, and funded in part by the UK. In the ten hours or so that I spent in Calais I saw literally dozens of the distinctive CRS vans (maybe hundreds – they were everywhere), and many more groups of them, in robo-cop style uniforms, armed and patrolling the streets on foot.

Later, as I was driving back to the ferry, I passed between the two UK-funded "security" walls along the motorway, and felt like the protagonists of the film Brazil, when they drive between two rows of hoardings bearing ridiculous propaganda advertising, behind which stretches a desolate landscape, unseen. We are that desolation if we cannot help people in such severe need.

credits

released May 26, 2017
Interviews with Nassim and Aylesha (Care4Calais); Charlotte and Thomas (Utopia56); Beshwar Hassan, who also plays saz and duduk; two refugees who preferred not to give their names. Saxophonic walk, interviews and recording/editing by Caroline Kraabel.

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