Human Rights Observers denounces the new Ressourcerie ‘Chapiteau’ protocol: a system part of an evergreen policy of State harassement carried out at the Franco-British border

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.

The eviction of Tuesday, May 18, 2021 in Grande-Synthe

On Tuesday, May 18, 2021, from 8:29 a.m., a large-scale eviction operation took place in Grande-Synthe. The HRO team, whose main activity consists in observing and documenting the eviction operations, counted 110 tents and 113 tarpaulins taken from displaced people by the police. 10 manually built wooden shelters were destroyed. About 300 people, including families and unaccompanied minors, now find themselves homeless as associations working at the border are running out of their stocks of tents.

Last month, on April 16, 2021, the municipal authorities, using a tractor pulling a skip and various construction machinery, orchestrated the eviction and displacement of the people living in different living sites in Puythouck, to a new living site. This operation is part of a policy of invisibilization of displaced people in transit at the border. According to the statements of the local newspaper "La Voix du Nord", this "redevelopment" of the Puythouck woods will allow fishermen and walkers to enjoy the area during the summer period.

Today, despite this recent forced displacement of the camp, another eviction operation of the new living site has been carried out. Once again, all personal belongings seized by the police were lacerated and immediately thrown in the skip by Ramery, the cleaning team mandated by the State. These items therefore remain permanently lost. Moreover, the HRO team witnessed the systematic use of knives to destroy tents and shelters, even though some people were still inside. The dangerous nature of this practice increases the already excessive violence of the eviction.

On February 11, 2021, the National Consultative Commission for Human Rights (CNCDH) released an opinion on the situation of people in exile in Calais and Grande-Synthe. Its first recommendation was that "no evacuation operation be carried out without suitable shelter / accommodation proposals being formulated with sufficient information". In defiance of this recommendation, the HRO team was able to observe this morning the total absence of an interpreter during the eviction operation. People being evicted were informed only by means of gestures and mobile applications such as Google translate. This shortcoming constitutes an obvious violation of the right to be informed in a language one understands, as well as being an obstacle to access alternative accommodation solutions.

Signatory Organisations

Auberge des Migrants
Collective Aid
Human Rights Observers
Refugee Women's Center
Salam Nord / Pas-de-Calais
Solidarity Border
Utopia 56

The evictions of Tuesday April 6 in Calais

Yesterday April 6, between 3 p.m. and 6 p.m., six large-scale eviction operations took place in Calais. Without any concomitant sheltering operation, the displaced people were evictd from their place of residence. HRO teams counted at least 126 tents, 170 tarpaulins and 77 blankets taken from people by the police. At least 76 of these tents contained personal belongings which could not be recovered. Numerous evicted persons reported that in this operation they lost many valuable items such as identity documents, medicines, cell phones and even money.

These evictions took place as temperatures fell to 3 ° C yesterday. The authorities have chosen not to activate the 'Plan Grand Froid' - an emergency accommodation measure that is activated in case of severe cold weather - while removing nearly 300 people from their makeshift shelters, leaving them unprotected against hail and snow.

The Police Commissioner of Calais, present at the time of these operations, justified these evictions on the basis of the 'flagrante delicto' of occupation of land, even though in law this cannot be a basis for evicting people. It is particularly telling that one of these eviction operations took place only eleven days after a court decision in favor of the inhabitants of that living site. Indeed, by an order of March 26, 2021, the administrative court of Lille had rejected the request from the municipality of Calais to have the land inhabited by the Eritrean community evicted. The judge noted in particular that "the State services have erected, for the benefit of migrants, sanitary facilities, and it is where the association La Vie Active, mandated for this purpose, distributes food and 'drinking water twice a day' ".

While the administrative judge rejected the request for eviction from one of these sites, the instrumentalisation of Criminal Law to achieve this end then appears all the more abusive. This maneuver of bypassing legal channels is at the service of a repressive policy of harassment of people on the move in Calais. These evictions are a further step in the inhumanity displayed by the auhtorities and the abusive misuse of the law in Calais.

Signatory Organisations

Human Rights Observers (HRO)
Auberge des Migrants
La Cabane juridique
Project Play
Collective Aid
Utopia 56 Calais
Salam Nord / Pas-de-Calais
Refugee InfoBus