Sunday, 28 June 2009

Hundreds demonstrate in Calais against border controls between France and England

Some 1,500 migrants and activists held a mass demonstration in the French port city of Calais on Saturday (June 27) to protest tight border controls between France and England.
Security forces outnumbered the demonstrators, as violence in recent days provoked fears of further violence at Saturday's demonstration. Calais police have arrested 17 people in the area in the past week, including 4 on Wednesday (June 24) who were armed with machetes and orange-size metal balls used in a French game called "petanque".

The No Border Network, a UK-based group that defends the rights of migrants in several countries, organised the demonstration.

" "Yesterday I went to the 'jungle' and I met a 14-year-old boy from Afghanistan. who is here because his whole family had been killed by a British soldier in Afghanistan and he has travelled, he has travelled across, for one year he has travelled across to come here, and my government won't let him into our country, where he can be safe, secure, where he can go to school, where he can have health and security. And my government has caused the problem for him so I am here today on solidarity with people like that," said Sarah, a British No Borders activist.

The "jungle" is an encampment of makeshift tents in the woods near Calais where hundreds of migrants gather to await their chance to board a truck or ferry and cross the English Channel.

"There is a real problem here in Calais. The politicians really need to do something. These are human beings. I don't know what the solution is, but they need to do something," said Sebastien, a Calais resident.

France is struggling to control the growing encampment, which sprang up after French authorities closed a Red Cross shelter in the area in 2002.

French police arrested close to 150 migrants here on April 21. Immigration Minister Eric Besson said the raid was aimed at destroying a network of people traffickers, and not at detaining illegal immigrants.

"We don't have guns or water cannons. We are from No Borders, and we are here to demonstrate, debate, and try to sensitize people on the immigration issue. We don't have any guns. The violence does not come from us, it comes from the government," said No Border activist Sebastian.

No Borders activists accounted for roughly one-third of the 1,500 demonstrators.

CALAIS, FRANCE (JUNE 27, 2009)REUTERS