Migrants in the Verrotières camp in Calais in the winter of 2018. Photo: InfoMigrants
Migrants in the Verrotières camp in Calais in the winter of 2018. Photo: InfoMigrants

Calais police tend to dismantle the city’s illegal tent camps in the mornings, just around breakfast time. This is a time slot when many of the migrants leave their tents to get breakfast at one of two food distribution points located a few kilometers away. Police insist there is no correlation.

For several months, migrant aid organizations in Calais have criticized police for dismantling illegal camps on a daily basis. "Every day between 8:30 and 10:30 a.m., there are police operations," Antoine, a member of Utopia 56, told InfoMigrants just after witnessing yet another tent camp dismantlement.

Other NGOs in Calais confirm his observation: Aside from rare exceptions, the dismantlement operations of “fixed points” always take place in the morning. “During those two hours, many migrants go to the places where breakfast is distributed, and they’re pretty far from their tents and their camp,” Charlotte, another Utopia 56 member in Calais, says.

The food distributions  are organized in different areas of Calais. “From the Marcel Doret camp to the food distribution point on Rue des Huttes, it takes more than 20 minutes to walk, for example,” Charlotte explains. The amount of time a migrant is away from the camp can therefore be long.

Translation: In #Calais, dismantlements continue every day.  @Prefet62 collect supposedly unused tents. #Migrants cannot find their belongings after having left for breakfast...

Are officers taking advantage of the fact that migrants have to leave their tents to dismantle the camps? Michel Tournaire, a police spokesman in Calais, insists it’s not the case.

"There is no correlation between the police operations and the morning food distributions […] Police officers are not waiting for the camp to be empty before they start dismantling." According to Michel Tournaire, the timing is simply due to "organizational issues."

Translation: Migrants collect their belongings after a dismantlement operation at their camp near Calais port, on Thursday, February 24.

Yet police raids around breakfast-time are not unproblematic. "Some migrants may hesitate to go to the food distributions. That’s a bit of a dilemma: Either you eat, or you keep your tent,” Charlotte explains. Her colleague Antoine, who has witnessed several tent camp dismantlements, adds: “When security forces arrive at 8:30 am, they give the people who are present a few moments to collect their belongings, but for those who aren’t there, they won’t have anything when they come back.”

The police deny these accusations. “Those who are absent can retrieve their belongings,” Tournaire says and goes on to explain that if police come across personal belongings during their operations, they leave them at a local charity shop  (La Ressourcerie) where the migrants can then go and pick them up after filling out a special form.

According to Utopia 56, more than 100 dismantlement operations have taken place in Calais since January 1 this year. “It’s like a ritual,” Charlotte says. Police confirm that the frequency of such operations has indeed increased. "The police proceeds by geographic sector and intervenes every two days,” Michel Tournaire says.

- Food distributions in Calais take place at: Rue des Huttes, between 8:45 am and 10 am, as well as near the Virval camp, close to the hospital, between 10 am and 11 am. These distributions are organized by authorities via the association La vie active.

- La Ressourcerie is a charity shop located on 365 Avenue Saint Exupéry in Calais. The NGOs often help the migrants to retrieve their belongings from there.

- There are several tent camps in Calais:

The Verrotières/Pont Trouille camp: 150 residents

The Virval camp (near the hospital): 50 residents

The Marcel Doret: 50 residents

The Old Lidl camp: 20 residents


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