Between 1,000 and 1,500 migrants live at Calais, north of France | Photo: Reuters
Between 1,000 and 1,500 migrants live at Calais, north of France | Photo: Reuters

Following the brutal eviction attempt of the 'Old Lidl' camp in Calais, another violent incident took place on January 2. Migrants were forced out of the site in the early afternoon. According to the authorities, the process was to facilitate the evacuation that had not been possible a few days earlier and "if possible, to proceed with arrests."

Police charged, tear gas was fired and independent observers were removed in the latest round of violence in Calais last Sunday. This one came three days after clashes broke out between migrants and police during the dismantling of the 'Old Lidl' camp.

Sunday's operation had "two purposes," according to the deputy prosecutor of Boulogne-sur-Mer, Patrick Leleu: to carry out the evacuation which could not be carried out on Thursday because of clashes and "if possible to make arrests" in connection with this incident.

The site is located near a traffic circle where migrants regularly try to board heavy trucks in the hope of reaching the United Kingdom.

Activists present at the site reported a "really violent" expulsion, with a very large number of police and gendarmes, tear gas used "for no reason" and migrants "chased so that they can't take their possessions".

"There was a megaphone announcement (of the expulsion, ed. note) by the commissioner of Calais, in French, and two minutes later a police cordon formed, nobody had time to recover any of their things, all the tents except one or two were seized," said Emma, a member of the inter-associative network Human Rights Observers (HRO), speaking with AFP. She believed it was done in "retaliation for what happened on Thursday."

According to her, about 200 migrants, mostly Sudanese and many minors, lived in this camp, already dismantled several weeks ago. "It is a forced displacement, without proposal of accommodation," she pointed out.

Read more: France to offer evicted Calais migrants shelter, envoy says

Clashes on Thursday

On Twitter, HRO posted a video of one of its own observers being evicted from the area by police. "The rights of migrants continue to be always flouted," the Auberge des Migrants association complained.

"The operation went well, there was no particular violence," said Alain Castanier, secretary general of the Pas-de-Calais prefecture, accusing aid associations of "constant disinformation."

On Thursday morning, clashes first broke out between police and migrants during an attempt to dismantle the camp. According to the associations interviewed by InfoMigrants, the situation degenerated because the migrants were prevented from gathering their personal belongings.

According to HRO, a total of 32 tents were confiscated that day. "Before, people could recover their belongings at the Ressourcerie [a solidarity store where migrants' belongings were stored after the evictions]. But since its closure, if they cannot recover their belongings at the time of dismantling, they lose them permanently."

Castanier reported that "15 policemen and 8 gendarmes were injured" that day, including one police officer who was still in hospital on Sunday with an open fracture of the tibia (shin bone). Pierre Roques, from Utopia 56, told InfoMigrants that three migrants had also been injured.

Several injured in a brawl

In Calais, the transition to 2022 was also marked by a violent fight between migrants and a local resident, reported La Voix du Nord. The brawl took place on December 31, around 10 p.m., in a bar in the Beau-Marais neighborhood. "The fight pitted migrants of Eritrean nationality against a man of Algerian origin, aged 26, who was in the neighborhood with his girlfriend. At this stage of the investigation, it is not known if the man is a Calais local," the regional daily said.

The men had argued, with alcohol playing a role on both sides. According to Leleu, quoted by the regional daily, the man was beaten several times by his alleged attackers with "a metal chain." "The man wanted to defend his girlfriend who was being harassed by the migrants," claimed Leleu.

Then, while the beaten man was lying on the ground, his brother got behind the wheel of his car and drove at high speed over the migrants. A shocking video, filmed by a resident from a high-rise window, was posted on Facebook and shared hundreds of times. It shows a vehicle driving into people and running over one of them. Two migrants were hit by the car and the third was run over.

"The assaulted man has multiple traumas on his face but his life is not in danger. He was able to leave the hospital on Saturday evening," said La Voix du Nord. The two Eritreans who were hit have fractures. As for the third migrant, his condition is still serious. "He was transferred to the University Hospital of Lille, with a suspicion of internal bleeding," according to La Voix du Nord.

Three people were taken into custody following the violence. Two of them - an Eritrean and the driver of the vehicle - were arrested immediately after the events, the first for the violence with the chain, the second one for having run over the migrants. On Saturday, another Eritrean was taken into custody on his release from hospital. According to La Voix du Nord, "a judicial inquiry will be opened this Sunday by the public prosecutor's office in Boulogne-sur-Mer for 'attempted voluntary manslaughter with violence in a group'."

 

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