Through this procedure (‘assignation devant le tribunal de Boulogne-sur-Mer’) Mohammed1 and the other applicants are asking that “the decision-makers, the governments in France and in Europe, look at us with the eye of dignity and fraternity”. They will be represented by lawyer Me Thieffry at a hearing scheduled for 18 November.

In Calais, on 29 September 2020, the Prefect of the Pas-de-Calais department evicted the so-called “Hospital” site, where more than 800 displaced people, including women, men and children, were living, using public force.

Mohammed, an applicant and witness to the eviction, explains: “From the first day we were in the camp next to the hospital, the police started to harass us and take our tents. On 28 September, volunteers came to tell us that the police intended to abolish the camp and evict those who were there. Some people took this seriously and left the camp that evening to sleep under bridges, in the middle of the forest or by the sea. I was one of those who left.

On 29 September, I woke up in the cold morning near the camp. I observed a terrible number of police around the camp, many buses and media cameras. Hundreds of refugees were led by the police to the eviction buses like animals. The scene was terrifying, and although my friends and I watched from a distance, we left our field out of fear, and took a very bumpy road so that no one would see us. We spent a whole day without food and in the rain, moving from place to place for fear of being arrested.


HRO Human Rights Observers Press Releases Personnes ExilesPhoto credit: Paloma Laudet. On September 29, 2020, the gendarmerie chases people during the eviction of the so-called “Hospital” living site.


We tried to look for the points where the associations were distributing food for two days but we couldn’t find them because the police prevented them from doing so. I remembered the days of the Gaza war when we spent our days without food but we are in France and we are not at war, so what is going on?

On 2 October, on the third day of the eviction of the camp near the hospital, my friends and I were in three tents among the thick trees. We woke up to the sound of a drone overhead. We were very worried and tried to look for another place to sleep but could not find one. Under the bridges, many young men were sleeping and there was no room.

We returned to the same place, but woke up to the shouts of heavily armed soldiers, and the sound of rain drowning our tents: “Wake up, the police are surrounding you”. They took us out of the tents, without us being able to take our belongings, to take us by bus to a town an hour away from Calais. They put us in a centre where there were no services, so the director of the centre told us, as soon as the police left, “you can now go back to where you came from, we can’t receive you for more than three days”.

We returned to Calais, and I looked for a new and safer place under a thorn bush. I slept alone so as not to attract anyone’s attention. I asked my friends at Care4Calais for help and they gave me a tent and blankets to protect me from the cold. Many others slept with pieces of cardboard without heat because the police prevented the associations from providing them with any help. I sometimes have the impression that refugees, like us, will not rest until they are dead.”

On the basis of direct testimonies and observations, displaced people and associations decided to take the Prefect of Pas-de-Calais to court following this eviction. This eviction took place outside of any legal framework and once again flouts the most fundamental rights of displaced people.

The prefect of Pas de Calais invoked “flagrante delicto” as the legal basis(2) for this eviction. However, this procedure allows for the collection of evidence in the context of an investigation, but does not authorise the eviction of people deemed “undesirable”3. The decision to carry out the forced eviction of the Hospital site using public force was therefore taken by the Prefect of Pas-de-Calais without having the power to do so.

Secondly, this eviction, presented as a “sheltering operation”, does not respect any of its principles. It is therefore urgent to remember that sheltering cannot be carried out under duress. However, the contested eviction resulted in the requisition of an armada of public forces (national gendarmerie, CRS, national police, border police, … ), the obligation, in the early hours of the morning and without any prior information, to board buses to accommodation centres far from Calais (Toulouse, Nice, Brest, where 340 people were actually taken), the encirclement of the evicted area by the police forces, the cordoning off of the perimeter preventing the intervention of humanitarian associations from 6am to 1pm, the arrest of people refusing to board the buses (22 people, including 5 minors, were arrested), etc. Several evicted people spoke of a “manhunt” to characterise the chases with the police which aimed to get them on the buses.

At a time when we are in the midst of a health crisis, this eviction, like those that continue to follow it, has permanently worsened the survival conditions of displaced people in Calais. During the eviction, people’s personal belongings (tents, blankets, papers, telephones, etc.) were confiscated and sometimes destroyed. The area where the people were settled was cleared and the police are now permanently present in order to prevent any new settlement, without at the same time any dignified, voluntary, unconditional shelter being offered to the people along the coast. Access to water and food, provided by the State services, has been largely degraded, while the teams of associations are regularly threatened or even prevented by the police from intervening in this area.

The Defender of Rights in October 2016 and then in December 2018, in relation to Calais, already recalled that a new evacuation could lead to accentuating the state of vulnerability of displaced persons already exhausted by a very difficult migratory journey and that the attempt to make them disappear, without dignified and lasting shelter, at the same time as their shelters would be futile4. In fact, today, the majority of those evicted are back in Calais in an even more destitute state.

While the prefect, Louis Le Franc, commented on the eviction by saying that he wanted to “avoid any new concentration and fixation point in Calais and [that] this area of Virval would be made inaccessible “5 , the result of this operation is a violation of the legal framework and an infringement of the essential rights of every human being.

Signatory Organisations

L’Auberge des Migrants
La Cabane Juridique
Fondation Abbé Pierre
Help Refugees
Refugee Rights Europe
Salam Nord-Pas-de-Calais
Secours Catholique Pas-de-Calais
Utopia 56


1 Name voluntarily changed to protect its anonymity.
2 Press release from the Pas-de-Calais Prefecture dated 29 September 2020.
3 Article 53 paragraph 1 of the Code of Criminal Procedure defines flagrance.
4 Decision of the Defender of Rights dated 14 October 2016 n°2016-165.
5 “Dismantling of a large migrant camp in Calais” Le POINT, 29 September 2020.