In an order dated September 22, the judge of the administrative court of Lille rejected the request made by 12 local and national associations to cancel the order of September 10, by which the prefect of Pas-de-Calais prohibited any free distribution of drinks and food in certain places in the city center of the municipality of Calais.
The judge stated that the distributions put in place by the State were allegedly sufficient to cover the needs of all exiled people present in Calais, including those sleeping in the city center, considering that “the circumstance that in order to access them, migrants settled in the city center since early August must travel three kilometers is not such as to characterize undignified living conditions”.
This assessment is particularly questionable. Indeed, the humanitarian indicators developed either by the UNHCR or within the framework of the SPHERE project, specify, for example, concerning drinking water, that it must be accessible at less than 500m from where people live – the distances in question being in this case between 4 and 5km, which represents an hour’s walk one way, and that it is necessary to go to two distributions per day.
The solution adopted by the judge is all the more criticizable since, during the hearing, the representatives of the associations relayed the testimonies received from the exiled people, who expressed their exhaustion and the difficulty of walking several hours a day to reach the distribution sites, which are often perceived as dangerous by vulnerable people. These testimonies, as well as the inadequacy of distribution sites in Calais, were corroborated by the observations of the Human Rights Defender.
To justify his decision, the judge also considered that the associations could still carry out distributions in the city center, moving a few hundred meters outside the perimeter of the order. But by reasoning in this way, the judge ignored the reality to which the associations had come to testify, namely the police harassment to which they have been subjected since the enactment of this decree, which has already led them to have to suspend several distributions – to the obvious detriment of the people to whom they provide assistance. The deterrent effect of this harassment is all the more obvious since the penal sanctions incurred as a result of the decree are very heavy.
Under these conditions, our organizations decided to immediately refer the matter to the Council of State, through the intermediary of SCP Spinosi & Sureau, and to appeal against this order in order to establish the obvious primacy of the principle of fraternity – from which “the freedom to help others derives, for humanitarian purposes, regardless of the lawfulness of his stay” – as opposed to the incessant, cruel and ineffective pursuit, in the words of the Human Rights Defender in his 2018 report, by the state against the exiled and their supporters.
Signatory organizations: Emmaüs France, Fédération des acteurs de la solidarité, Fondation Abbé Pierre, Help Refugees, La Cimade, L’auberge des migrants, Ligue des droits de l’Homme, Médecins du monde ,Salam Nord Pas-de-Calais, Secours catholique, Caritas France, Syndicat de la magistrature, Syndicat des avocats de France.
Maintaining the ban on distributing food to migrants.
The administrative court of Lille rejected Tuesday the request of 13 associations and NGOs to suspend the prefectoral order forbidding them to distribute food and drinks to migrants in the center of Calais. Their lawyer announced that they want to appeal.
The associations helping migrants in Calais suffer a new setback. In an order issued on Tuesday, September 22, the administrative court of Lille rejected a request – made by thirteen NGOs and associations – to suspend an order prohibiting the free distribution of food and drinks to migrants in certain areas of Calais.
The situation of migrants in this city “does not [characterize] unworthy living conditions such as to justify the urgent suspension of the measure taken by the prefect of Pas-de-Calais,” the summary of the order states.
According to the said measure, all free distribution by associations not mandated by the State is prohibited until the end of September in about twenty streets, quays and squares in the city center. The authorities justified this ban by the “nuisance” caused by the distributions, the health risks related to Covid-19 and the concern for public health.
A week after the decree came into force, a group of organizations, including Médecins du Monde, l’Auberge des migrants, Secours catholique and Emmaüs France, filed a petition for its suspension with the Lille Administrative Court on September 16. According to them, this text is “prejudicial to the right to dignity, to the principle of fraternity, to the possibility of helping others”.
“The only effect of the ban is to move the distribution sites a few hundred meters away.
The court, however, did not find the associations’ arguments sufficiently strong, and the situation was not so problematic. The court found that an association mandated by the State [La Vie Active, editor’s note] made available to a migrant population estimated today at about a thousand people (…) water on the basis of an average of 5.14 liters per person per day and 2,402 meals per day,” it wrote in the summary of the order of Tuesday.
La Vie Active is indeed present in Calais, near a camp located near the Virval traffic circle, nicknamed the “‘Hospital”. But the associations point not only to the fact that this place is an hour’s walk from the city center – where migrants driven out by the dismantling are forced to sleep – but also to the fact that this association alone is not in a position to take care of all the migrants in the city – 1,500 of them, according to the activists.
The court also downplayed the impact of the ban on the work of aid workers, finding that “the applicant associations continued to distribute food and beverages near the city center. “The only effect of the ban was to move the locations of the distributions by only a few hundred meters,” reads the summary of the order.
“An unbearable limitation of the right of association”.
Following the ban, the associations had explained that they had to go into hiding to bring food to this vulnerable population. Worse, at least two associations, L’Auberge des migrants and Salam, claimed to have been subjected to “police harassment” and even fines while carrying out distributions outside the perimeter prohibited by the authorities.
As a consequence, these new rules combined with these “obstacles to distributions” have “an immense deterrent effect on solidarity”, says Juliette Delaplace, a representative of Secours Catholique, contacted by InfoMigrants, who works with people living in exile on the northern coast. “A lot of people and volunteers are not comfortable with the idea of being repeatedly checked by the police, it’s understandable,” she explains, assuring that the collective “will obviously appeal” this decision.
“This is a missed opportunity,” the lawyer for NGOs and associations helping migrants, Patrice Spinosi, told AFP. This decree represents “an unbearable limitation of the right of associations to help the most vulnerable people,” he castigated, a few days after having invoked the principle of fraternity at the hearing.
According to the lawyer, an appeal should be filed before the Council of State to obtain a real debate on the merits.
In observations presented to the court, which AFP obtained, the rights defender Claire Hédon, for her part, considered that “by depriving exiles of access to a good – the distribution of meals – the contested police measure constitutes discrimination on the basis of nationality”. A practice prohibited by law.
CALL FOR MOBILIZATION FOR THE RESPECT OF FUNDAMENTAL RIGHTS AND DIGNITY OF EXILE PEOPLE, in Calais and everywhere else.
Saturday 26th September 2020
4:00 pm: in Calais, meet at the beginning of the Boulevard des Justes, Virval roundabout, near the Hospital Center.
17h: start of a protest march.
19h: arrival Richelieu Park: seated gathering, speeches, music, singing.
Donations can be collected at the place of departure and arrival.
> Sneakers 42/43, coats, comforters, tents, underwear for men and women …
Come masked! And make sure that distances are respected.
Come with something to make noise and be visible !
In case of prohibition or obstruction, it will be possible, in small groups, to walk on the beach, on the sidewalks, in parks and squares of the city with messages of protest and demand inscribed on our clothes, on signs, on our masks, etc…
Volunteers are always needed to distribute gel & masks.
// More info: 0772388510 – calais-rises [at] riseup [dot] net
Simultaneously, a mobilization will be held in London this weekend in response to the call of the People Not Walls collective – a cross-Channel human rights initiative. A video press conference should be held simultaneously between France and England.
At the same time, it will echo the mobilization NOUSAVONSDELAPLACE part of Germany following the fire in the Moria camp.
Thus this call for mobilization and solidarity resounds far beyond Calais, for an end to the infinite categorization of people, for the creation of legal protection for all. And that all “political refugees”, “economic exiles” and “climate-displaced persons” be finally considered as suffering persecution that forces them to leave their country.
Refugees related groups in France https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/FR/topic/sans-papiers
Some squats in France: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/FR/squated/squat
Groups (collectives, social centres, squats) in France: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/FR
Events in France: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/country/FR
Passeurs d’hospitalités https://passeursdhospitalites.wordpress.com/2020/09/22/calais-se-leve-calais-rises/