Since 2018, the so-called fight against “fixation points” has been carried out in Calais. This policy aims at avoiding people to live in informal settlements on the coast of northern France, at forcing them to be far away from the border. In addition to the physical and psychological weakening caused by everyday evictions, many belongings of exiled people are seized and defaced or even destroyed. Human Rights Observers (HRO) documented the seizure of almost 5,800 tents and tarpaulins during the eviction operations that took place in 2021. In December 2021, 199 shelters were stolen, still without any concomitant accommodation solution and despite the increasingly harsh weather conditions.
During the meeting at the sub-prefecture on January 7, 2022 in Calais, the authorities spoke about the implementation of a new protocol for recovering the belongings of exiled people, seized during expulsions. The “Ressourcerie” protocol would have come into effect on Monday, January 10 in Rue des Huttes, in a place known as the “Chapiteau”. A similar protocol had already been put in place in 2018. It provided that each person wishing to recover their property had to contact one of the authorized associations which, at their expense, could accompany the exiled people in this process. Since September 2021, HRO no longer accompanies evicted people to the Ressourcerie due to an incalculable number of malfunctions in this “recovery” system, refusing to be complicit in it. We denounce the fact that the new “Chapiteau” protocol is still contrary to the laws and procedural codes in force, which is a direct result of the illegality of the evictions.
Indeed, the old protocol, like the new one, is only an attempt to legitimize the systematic theft of displaced people’s belongings during the eviction operations. The authorities carry out operations whose legal basis is unclear and not communicated to the victims of these operations. According to the authorities, the daily evictions carried out in Calais aim at put an end to the illegal occupation of land on the basis of the flagrante delicto investigation. Evicting people from a land is not part of the acts of investigation authorized in the context of flagrante delicto and requires a court decision. In reality, these evictions are only intended to prevent people from living with dignity, and, in no case, the restitution of cases constitutes a relaxation.
According to the “Chapiteau” protocol, the belongings of those expelled would be sorted, classified, but not washed. During the evictions, HRO observes the deterioration of the seized belongings, dragged in the mud. Tent poles are sometimes broken in order to cram even more belongings into the cleaning truck of the state-mandated APC company acting under police orders during the eviction operations.
According to authorities, personal property seized during evictions since October 2021 has been stored. They also assume that the tents seized before October were thrown away and therefore destroyed. According to article 311-4 of the Penal Code, the destruction of the property of others is an offence. Also, from October to December, HRO observed the seizure of hundreds of tents, sometimes full of personal belongings and valuables (cell phones, money, etc.). The owners were never notified of a potential recovery of their personal belongings. However, the law provides that if property has been left behind during an eviction, an inventory must be drawn up with mention of the owner, the place and conditions of access to the storage room where the evicted person can go to collect them within two months.
Ultimately, not only this system is known by a very small minority of the evicted people, but it is also more difficult to access for many people who, beyond the distance, fear being arrested by the police on the route. Especially considering the overall context of the eviction operations during which their stuff is seized, that is to say the degradation of the latter by the cleaning team that accompanies the police, and the fact of being often deterred from entering the living site to recover anything.
The cynical nature of this process, which consists of stealing things while pretending that there is a system to return them, is reinforced by time slots concomitant with the evictions (1 p.m. to 4 p.m.). This policy of harassing people, illustrated by daily evictions, has already been going on for too many years. It constitutes an inhuman and degrading treatment and contributes to the precariousness of people. We recall our demands: the end to evictions as well as the end of the illegal seizure and destruction of personal belongings.