Since April 17th 2020, a new Utopia 56 team is working with exiled and homeless people in Grande-Synthe, near Dunkerque.
During this difficult period of health crisis and ramadan, access to water, food and first aid for these people is compromised, while they are surviving in the camps scattered in the woods. The police harassment is constant, similar to the situation in Calais. Unaccompanied minors are hidden and can hardly access to the information on their rights, and even less to an adapted accomodation.
Several hundreds of exiled people, families with children, isolated people and minors are living and surviving in Grande-Synthe with the hopes of going to the UK. For this reason we have decided to intervene in the spirit of Utopia 56: act where there is an urgent need. We are going back to this place, as Utopia 56 was previously worked in Grande-Synthe in the camp of la Linière.
Several camps are in a critical sanitary situation in the Puytouch forest.
A coordinator has been employed to ensure the continuity of our actions on the long term. This team, destined to grow, has already set up emergency maraudes for people in the woods. They have also started distributing water in the camps, and bring a generator to allow people to recharge their phones.
The intolerable survival conditions for dozens of families with children, in the hangars of Grande-Synthe.
What is the situation of exiled homeless people in Grande-Synthe ?
- Access to water is particularly problematic for the people in the numerous camps scattered outside la Linière. A fire hydrant of the Puythouck forest has been sealed with a chain and lock, covered with grease to prevent its use. Some people have told us that they drink water from the lake, which they also use to wash themselves as wells as pots and dishes.
- Access to healthcare is endangered by the scattering of camps in the forest: the violent police evictions have led the people to hide themselves further away.
- People have important material needs, as they are missing tents, tarpaulins, sleeping bags, clothes, shoes and hygiene products.
- Information to prevent contagion risks are missing and the basic sanitary gestures (such as washing hands, not being too close to others, or not sharing the same blanket or cutlery) seems extremely complicated in such a context of bare survival.
- Police harassment is constant, as in Calais, even if the people present in Puythouck have not been evicted by the police since the beginning of the quarantine. We have collected some testimonials concerning arbitrary arrests followed by a release of the concerned person dozens of kilometers away, the disproportionate use of gas and batons as well as the destruction and/or confiscation of their personal affairs.
- Unaccompanied minors, hidden in the woods, also want to reach the UK, risking their lives like the others.
The encounter of a Kurdish family that has just arrived, with two children of 4 and 5 year of age, is particularly representative of the journey of exiled homeless people in Grande-Synthe. They had nothing, only the clothes they were wearing. They had arrived from Finland, where their asylum demand had been refused after 5 years. He is a psychologist, and she is an English teacher. We saw in their faces the anxiety and the despair when they realized that they will be trying to survive in the camps in the woods, while waiting to arrive in the UK.
Information and contacts
- To follow the news from the field and the activities of the Grande-Synthe team, please follow the Facebook page “Utopia 56 Grande-Synthe”
- Support these actions through a donation.
- To contact directly the team:
Maraude in Grande-Synthe: exiled people are hiding from police violence.