Calais: associations denounce the “systematic theft” of migrants’ personal effects

When migrants are evicted from their place of residence, there is a protocol for returning their belongings to them after evacuation. But, according to the associations that come to their aid in Calais, this is only a “smokescreen”. Also, this Monday, October 18, they denounce what they consider to be “theft”.

L’Auberge des migrants, Salam, Women’s refugee Center and other organizations recorded 849 expulsions between January and September 2021. These are all procedures in which migrants are stripped of their personal effects which, according to the protocol put in place in 2018 by the prefecture, must be stored in a “resource center” until their owners come to collect them.

But, in fact, this system does not work, according to associations. Worse, it “allows the State to legitimize a systematized and institutionalized theft”. Denouncing “the ever-growing obstacles put in place by the Pas-de-Calais prefecture”, the activists list them: the very restricted opening hours, the obligation for migrants to be accompanied by an authorized organization, or the difficulty in finding a person’s property “among several tons of others amassed in unsanitary conditions”.

According to their data, the problem is such that “out of the few people who had access to this device” in 2020, “72.6% did not find these value effects”. A particularly high figure which, according to associations, is partly explained by the fact that the police order “on a recurring basis […] people to leave the evicted area without giving them the possibility ”of recovering all of their belongings.

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Activists on hunger strike

This, even though the protocol stipulates that migrants must be able to collect their personal effects at the start of deportation operations. Added to this is the fact that “many backpacks are seized full by the cleaning teams and are subsequently found empty”, underline the activists.

Finally, the concomitance of the evictions with the distribution of meals by the state operator La Vie Active, considered to be more and more frequent, only reinforces the problem. The associations emphasize that this forces migrants to “choose between protecting their property or having access to water and food”. To denounce this situation, three activists began a hunger strike eight days ago.

At the same time, this Hunger Collective at the Borders launched a petition in which he asks for “the opening of a reasoned citizen dialogue between public authorities and associations” concerning “the constant deterioration of the living conditions” of migrants in Calais. The “suspension of daily evictions” and the “end of the confiscation of tents and personal effects” during the winter break are among their demands.

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