Utopia 56 during the evacuation of the Calais jungle and post evacuation
Utopia 56 volunteers accredited to come in the Calais jungle have supervised the evacuation conditions. They interposed when they witnessed a « tri au faciès » (looks-based checks) for unaccompanied minors. They contacted the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees) for 17 unaccompanied minors to be sheltered by the authorities just before night. As part of the fire organised by the Auberge des migrants, they removed sixty gas cylinder left near the Provisional Welcome Center (french “Centre d’accueil provisoire”) where were housed 1,500 minors. At night, they gave blankets and tea to refugees sleeping under the bridge at the entrance of the jungle. They have warned the reporters on some informations given by the authorities. At last, during the dismantling, they tried to best inform and reassure the refugees, despite of the disorder of the french state plan.
Since, night teams are working and marauding in Calais and Grande-Synthe, with two emergency phones for adult refugees and minors refugee. Around CAO (welcome and orientation centers), with local associations and behind computers, in connection with the refugees, it woooooooorks !
A interim relief
Utopia 56 is one of the 11 associations that filed a interim relief at the Lille tribunal to try to delay the evacuation. We were not against this operation but we felt that it was premature, that the refugees were poorly informed, that the issue of minors was poorly managed, etc. Specifically, we asked “the suspension of the expulsion decision.” Justice did not take into account our concerns and the evacuation began Monday, October 24. At first we saw the smiles of happy refugees to board the bus …
Documents distributed to refugees
Before and during the evacuation, we distributed 15,000 small business cards that inform in cinq languages (tigrinya, arabic, english, pashto, amharic) the address of a Facebook page and an email address for refugees. It is an initiative from « CAO platform, L’Auberge des Migrants and Utopia56 ». This small text says: « From the volunteers in Calais, we care about you ! If you have any problem in your accommodation CAO center, contact us through this FB page or email ». We also distributed and made complete by the refugees what we call the “pass”, that is to say, documents that refugees can present to the police in case of arrest. We continue to do it.
« Looks-based checks » for unaccompanied minors
Sunday, Monday, Tuesday… We witnessed shocking scenes about treating teenagers, including a « looks-based checks » by social workers authorized by the french State and by the police. (See press release of Tuesday, October 25, also online on the Utopia56.com). Teenagers are sleeping on the floor in front of the Sas (provisional hangar of the french state), for fear of not being the first in the queue the next day. It’s cold outside…
The Utopia 56 emergency phone for minors
Utopia volunteers were trained for oral recognition of pashto, amharic and tigrinya. Unaccompanied minors speak little english. We made and printed a flyer in english, french, arabic, amharic, pashto giving an Utopia 56 emergency phone for minors. This flyer will not be distributed if the evacuation goes well, fort not to add confusion in the minds of teenagers, already faced with contradictory informations. We gave this flyer to volunteers from other associations that may be in contact with children. We informed the juvenile court at Boulogne-sur-Mer (next to Calais) and the sub-prefecture of the initiative “Utopia 56 / Auberge des Migrants”. Until now, this system allows us to take care of 4 children of the Jungle (3 arrived at Grande-Synthe and 1 in Paris).
Ensure that minors do not sleep outside
Wednesday, in the early afternoon, the care of unaccompanied minors by the french State was stopped because of the lack of seats in the Provisional Welcome Center (french « Centre d’accueil provisoire », 1,500 seats). These children are refused at the Sas. Christian Salomé, President of Auberge des migrants requests the sub-prefect if we can distribute tents to teenagers. These young people can not sleep in their shelters, destroyed by fire, or near to the fire risk. The sub-prefect answers no and ensures that solutions will be proposed. In the early evening, the SAS doors have reopened. Then, in the early evening, the doors were reopened. But minors were not informed about it. No information, no megaphone, not professional translators… Contacted by Utopia, UNHCR confirms at 7:45 p.m. possible sheltering for minors, but just for a few minutes. For 45 minutes, Utopia volunteers went to a group of refugees to another to identify the young ones. Some, 13, 14 years old, didn’t want to hear about “beds” or « sheltering ». They prefer to stay with the same nationality adults, even if they are not parents. In small groups, other minor trust us. 17 agreed to not spend the night outside.
We game them our phone numbers before seeing them back in the shed. The next day, one of them, A., 17 years old Somali orphan, indicated us that it was sent in Charente-Maritime (west of France). Yet he wants to go to England. He is awaiting a family reunification procedure. We are in contact with the direction of this welcome center and the mayor of the town. To be continued…
Clear out gas cylinders
In the night from Tuesday to Wednesday, September 28, fires started in the jungle. However, the gas cylinders used by the 10,000 refugees were still there. We note that firemen and policemen didn’t clear out them. Accompanied by two volunteers fire safety officers, some Utopia 56 volunteers moved out of the jungle sixty gas cylinders, targeting areas near the Welcome Center Provisional (containers that host 1,500 minors). Other associations have done the same job. We have no estimate of the total number of gas cylinders evacuated by associations.
Trying media denials
Who fired? The investigation is not completed. The Pas de Calais prefect Fabienne Buccio explains on BFMTV (french TV) that this is “a tradition of the migrant population to destroy their accommodation before leaving ». In the field, we shake our heads in disbelief ! How the french state can says such a thing? It is shameful and dangerous while in some french villages, the people fear the arrival of refugees.
We immediately sent text messages to fifty journalists we know to be in position to cover the evacuation. Utopia 56 and L’Auberge des Migrants reject any tradition of this kind. We call for a political and media distance until the end of this police investigation.
Blankets at night
Three Utopia 56 teams conduct night rounds, with blankets, tea and « pass » to fill to refugees and to use in case of arrestation.
We observe a helicopter running, including at night. Probably to identify potential mini-camps
Phoning 80 town halls of the Hauts-de-France (north of France)
Meanwhile, non-accredited volunteers called around 80 town halls of the Hauts-de-France to seek emergency accommodation for families refused at Grande-Synthe. Mail exchanges took place with some… It is a current folder. Other volunteers worked in vehicle maintenance and cleaning of our accommodations. And frankly, Utopia people, you could do a little housekeeping (lol, whatever …)!
We continue our watch and help to refugees in Calais area and Grande-Synthe. Tents and equipment were sent from Calais to Paris … We bump.
Throughout in France, volunteers are involved on Facebook platforms as Info Cao (one for each administrative french region) to support associations invested in or around Cao.
Volunteers also work behind their computers to answer refugees that contact us by email or on the Facebook page Info Refugees.
Thank you for your trust. We love you. The “office of love” (french « bureau du love ») Utopia remains open. This is an private joke with Utopia long terms volunteers… but the office really remains opened…