Hunger strike finished – struggle continues

Statement from the hunger strikers in ‘The Jungle’ in Calais [25 March 2016]

We would like to extend our deep condolences to the people of Brussels and all the victims of Tuesday’s attacks.

It is from this same violence and terror that so many of the people of The Jungle are running. We must stand together, united as humanity, against violence in all its forms.

In the many months that we have been in The Jungle we have endured living in squalid and filthy conditions. We have all been subject to routine and systematic racist violence at the hands of nationalists, fascists and the French police. This experience of violence is common to all in The Jungle and has occurred on an almost daily basis. For many, including very young and unaccompanied refugees, this violence simply became the norm.

Despite the terrible conditions which we found ourselves living in, no practical and humane alternative was offered. The dispersal of refugees across France into frequently uninhabitable centres and the complex, protracted asylum application process left many afraid, desperate and returning to The Jungle.

On 29 February, the French State began their eviction of the southern section of The Jungle. The scale of violence was indescribable. We Iranians were in the first section to be cleared. In breach of promises and court orders the authorities smashed our shelters, beat us, choked us with tear gas and shot us with rubber bullets. We had been given no warning and no interpreters to help understand the process. We had no time to pack our few belongings, we lost everything but the clothes on our backs. It became clear to us that the problems of refugees in France, particularly in the Jungle in Calais, were being censored and all of us were being presented as terrorists and troublemakers.

Our decision to go on hunger strike and sew our lips together as a protest at the inhumane treatment of refugees and asylum seekers was well considered. Our decision was not based on anger but taken with a clear aim.

From the first day we have been demanding:

  • A fundamental change in the political and social policy governing the treatment of refugees in France.
  • An end to the violent and illegal destruction of the residences in The Jungle with no proper, humane and adequate alternatives offered for housing and protecting the refugees.
  • An end to police and fascist violence.

Furthermore, to fully convey the severity of the problems of those living in The Jungle we requested an immediate visit from a representative of the United Nations to assess the situation.

We have also asked for representatives from the British Home Office and the French Government to be based in The Jungle in order to identify, separate and expedite the cases of those individuals with a case for family reunification or asylum in the United Kingdom. We believe this is an issue of shared French-British responsibility.

After sixteen days on hunger strike a representative of the government entered negotiations with us in order to resolve the problems of the refugees in the Jungle. We set out each of the problems faced by the refugees. Over five meetings we received nothing but the same standard responses with no definitive plan put forward to change or reconsider public policy towards the treatment of refugees.

The proposals put forward by The State contained only those practical steps that should have been taken a long time ago to ensure humane conditions for refugees in The Jungle. Their plans for the Northern section should have been in place from the beginning throughout the whole camp. It is through the continual neglect of The State that we have all found ourselves in this current situation.

We consider it a victory that the French government has been forced to the abandon the destruction of the northern section of the camp and instead to start the process of improving the living conditions there, including security, medical services, legal services, assistance for vulnerable groups including minors, clean water and a paved road allowing access for emergency services to enter the camp.

We have also met with representatives from the UNHCR and the Defenseur des Droits who have assured us that they will issue reports on the conditions of The Jungle. We accept their assurances that they will take appropriate action to secure all our human rights.

Our aim was to bring awareness to the problems of asylum seekers in The Jungle. We wanted to tell the world what is happening here and we have succeeded. We have received messages of solidarity from all across the world for which we are very grateful. We want to thank those who supported us, in particular those in France and the UK who have stood by us throughout our struggle. We would also like to extend our gratitude to the Mayor of Dunkirk for creating a safe and humane environment for the refugees in his area.

We have decided to end our hunger strike not as a direct response to the negotiations with the French State but out of respect for those supporting us, who have a genuine concern for our welfare, and as a gesture of faith that the State abide by their limited assurances to protect and improve the conditions of those in the North of The Jungle.

There is clearly still much work to be done and this is not the end of the struggle for the human rights of refugees and asylum seekers across Europe. We invite you all to stand with us, united in humanity.

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Notre-Dame-Des-Landes, France: Communique on the meeting with the Calais hunger strikes

This Wednesday 23rd March, four 2012 hunger strikers from Nantes, accompanied by four activists, met with the Calais hunger strikers. Here is their testimony:

“We are here in support, in sympathy, in bringing our experiences, but certainly not to bring advise.

Compared to theirs, our experiences were very light: they have been on hunger strike since March 2nd, isolated in the southern part of the jungle that was destroyed, with a background noise of bulldozers flattening rubble, and the polce that surround them.

The nine hunger strikers are between 17 and 46 years old, and are starting to become marked, tired. They doubt the effectiveness of the speaker that the prefecture sends.

We willingly imagine that they could continue to suffer in total indifference, their determination is impressive but we fear it may be ineffective. They’re requesting that the northern Jungle isn’t destroyed and establishing a British Office in Calais study the migrants’ demands.

We demand that everyone make this hunger strike known. It’s urgent!

We understand that they’re badly torn between two countries, they’re human beings who want to be treated with dignity.”

Press contact:

Marcel THEBAULT / 0789639295
Cyril BOULIGAND / 0621047684

[Translated by Squat! via zad.nadir.org, March 24th.]

Saturday the 19th March

On the 16th day of the hunger-strike, a delegate of the prefecture of Pas de Calais came to hear the demands of the 9 hunger-strikers.He arrived with a following of police but he spoke only French and did not bring any translators, so other people had to translate from French to English and from English to Farsi.

The delegate tried to convince them to finish the hunger strike, offering: ‘immediate housing’ in a CAO, a fast track asylum assessment and a guarantee not to be deported back to Iran. But the hunger strikers never asked for an extra treatment for them self. They asked to be listened to, they asked for a change for everyone who is forced to live in the camp in calais.

On the 17th day of the hunger-strike, he came back, (still without any translators), to pass on papers signed by the prefecture who were supposed to give answers to their demands. But instead these papers completely ignoring everything that was talked about in the previous day.

He continued to try and convince everyone about this ‘solution’ of moving to a CAO or the container camp, in exchange of stopping the hunger-strike. They repetitively had to answer him how this hunger-strike is not for themselves/their cases, but for all the refugees in Europe.

He gave no answer to their demands, even though this strike is becoming very critical, already 3 people have collapsed and 2 of them were hospitalized. During this second lengthy meeting, 2 hunger-strikers had to leave due to dizzyness and exhaustion.

On the 18th day of the hunger-strike, the delegate returned with paperwork to sign, stating that they have been informed of two options; 1. To go and stay in a CAO. 2. To go and stay in the container camp in Calais. And a box for both options to tick whether ‘I accept this proposal’ or ‘I refuse this proposal’. He also mentioned that if they do not agree to move to the container camp then he will stop further negotiations.

1.statement from prefecture

Everyone is very disappointed with the outcome of these meetings. It was a lot of time and energy just to be told the same things that they knew months and months before they sewed their mouths shut. They didn’t know whether to laugh or cry, after 18 days of not eating and the Prefecture barely addressed any of their demands.

Refugee activists organise peaceful protest: police ignore children with flowers and crying women to destroy more houses in Calais Jungle

The girl who makes the interview has kept in touch with the hunger strikers, and supported their call for a demonstration at 8am in the snow, along with other women and children.

children pic

The hunger strikers keep their faces covered out of concern for their privacy and their family and friends not to worry about them. Here they show their comradeship with the interviewer’s ongoing support to work together to make their political voice heard.

‘They told us their objection is with the British government because they have not listened to us. With their one mouth they have spoken one hundred time.’

 

Welcome to the Adam Show on Jungala Radio. Today we went to speak with the Iranian men who are protesting the destruction of the Jungle by sewing their lips shut. Before we spoke with them they told us that their objection is with the British government because they have not listened to the refugees of the Jungle. They say that with our one mouth we have spoken a hundred times and have not been heard. Will the British government listen to us with our mouths sewn shut?

We had a short interview because they can’t talk, they have pain in their lips.

Salaam aleikum

Salaam aleikum

Why have you sewn your lips and you don’t want to eat?

Because the French government are destroying the Jungle and because we want to be able to go to England. We do this for all people in the Jungle.

What do you hope from the English government?

We want the British government to help us, and we want help and support from the British people.

In this situation you are living without your family, alone in the Jungle, what is your message for the British government?

I want to say to them they should come and live here for one night. Then with their family here. Then they can imagine how hard it is to live here.

Why have you sewn your lips shut?

To protest against the unfair destruction of the jungle. In spite of the fascists who attack us here we are we are retaliating with a peaceful protest. We want the British government to witness this before they make a decision and response to us.

How long you will continue the hunger strike and what is your hope from the British government?

Until a fair solution is made for the refugees of the jungle, especially the women and children. We are hopeful that the people and politicians of England and the world will come to support us and give a fairer solution for our future. We want the British public to see us and to support us.

Thank you.

The men with their sewn lips who are leading the demonstration, they have signs and flowers. The signs say things like, “we are the human rights” and “no person is illegal”. There were some children who tried to give flowers to the police. The police wouldn’t take the flowers and this made some of the people cry. The protest happened peacefully but the police ignored the refugees and continued to destroy their home.

//fr

Bienvenue au “Adam Show” sur Jungala Radio. Aujourd’hui nous sommes allés parler aux Iraniens qui manifestent contre la destruction de la Jungle en se cousant les lèvres. Avant de nous rencontrer, ils nous ont dit que leur objection, c’est au gouvernement britannique qui n’écoute pas les réfugiés de la Jungle. Ils disent qu’ “avec une seule bouche, nous avons parlé cent fois, et personne ne nous a écoutés”. Le gouvernement britannique nous écoutera-t-il la bouche cousue ? 
 
L’interview est courte parce qu’ils ne peuvent pas parler, ils ont trop mal aux lèvres. 
 
Salaam aleikum.
Salaam aleikum.
Pourquoi vous êtes-vous cousu les lèvres, et ne voulez pas manger ? 
Parce que le gouvernement français est en train de détruire la Jungle et parce que nous voulons pouvoir aller en Angleterre. Nous faisons cela pour toutes les personnes de la Jungle.
Qu’espérez-vous de la part du gouvernement anglais ? 
Nous voulons que le gouvernement britannique nous aide, et nous voulons de l’aide et du soutien du peuple britannique.
Dans cette situation dans laquelle vous vivez, sans votre famille, seuls dans la Jungle, quel est votre message pour le gouvernement britannique ? 
Je veux leur dire qu’ils devraient venir passer une nuit ici. Et puis avec leur famille. Comme ça, ils peuvent s’imaginer à quel point il est dur de vivre ici.
Pourquoi vous êtes-vous cousu les lèvres ? 
Pour manifester contre la destruction injuste de la Jungle. Contrairement aux fascistes qui nous attaquent, nous répondons en manifestant de manière paisible. Nous voulons que le gouvernement britannique en soit témoin avant qu’ils fassent une décision ou qu’ils nous répondent.
Combien de temps comptez-vous continuer la grève de la faim, et qu’espérez-vous de la part du gouvernement britannique ?
Nous continuerons jusqu’à ce qu’une solution juste soit trouvée pour les réfugiés de la Jungle, et surtout pour les femmes et les enfants. Nous espérons que le peuple et les députés d’Angleterre et du monde entier viendront nous soutenir et nous donner une solution plus juste pour notre avenir. Nous voulons que le peuple britannique vienne nous voir et nous soutenir.
Merci. 
 
Les hommes à la bouche cousue qui sont à la tête de la manifestation, ils ont des panneaux et des fleurs. Sur les panneaux il y a écrit des messages comme “nous sommes les droits humains” ou encore “aucune personne n’est illégale”. Il y avait quelques enfants qui essayaient de donner des fleurs à la police. La police n’a pas voulu prendre les fleurs, et cela a fait pleurer certaines personnes. La manifestation s’est déroulée paisiblement mais la police n’a pas fait attention aux réfugiés et a continué à détruire leur maison. 
Bienvenue au “Adam Show” sur Jungala Radio. Aujourd’hui nous sommes allés parler aux Iraniens qui manifestent contre la destruction de la Jungle en se cousant les lèvres. Avant de nous rencontrer, ils nous ont dit que leur objection, c’est au gouvernement britannique qui n’écoute pas les réfugiés de la Jungle. Ils disent qu’ “avec une seule bouche, nous avons parlé cent fois, et personne ne nous a écoutés”. Le gouvernement britannique nous écoutera-t-il la bouche cousue ? 
 
L’interview est courte parce qu’ils ne peuvent pas parler, ils ont trop mal aux lèvres. 
 
Salaam aleikum.
Salaam aleikum.
Pourquoi vous êtes-vous cousu les lèvres, et ne voulez pas manger ? 
Parce que le gouvernement français est en train de détruire la Jungle et parce que nous voulons pouvoir aller en Angleterre. Nous faisons cela pour toutes les personnes de la Jungle.
Qu’espérez-vous de la part du gouvernement anglais ? 
Nous voulons que le gouvernement britannique nous aide, et nous voulons de l’aide et du soutien du peuple britannique.
Dans cette situation dans laquelle vous vivez, sans votre famille, seuls dans la Jungle, quel est votre message pour le gouvernement britannique ? 
Je veux leur dire qu’ils devraient venir passer une nuit ici. Et puis avec leur famille. Comme ça, ils peuvent s’imaginer à quel point il est dur de vivre ici.
Pourquoi vous êtes-vous cousu les lèvres ? 
Pour manifester contre la destruction injuste de la Jungle. Contrairement aux fascistes qui nous attaquent, nous répondons en manifestant de manière paisible. Nous voulons que le gouvernement britannique en soit témoin avant qu’ils fassent une décision ou qu’ils nous répondent.
Combien de temps comptez-vous continuer la grève de la faim, et qu’espérez-vous de la part du gouvernement britannique ?
Nous continuerons jusqu’à ce qu’une solution juste soit trouvée pour les réfugiés de la Jungle, et surtout pour les femmes et les enfants. Nous espérons que le peuple et les députés d’Angleterre et du monde entier viendront nous soutenir et nous donner une solution plus juste pour notre avenir. Nous voulons que le peuple britannique vienne nous voir et nous soutenir.
Merci. 
 
Les hommes à la bouche cousue qui sont à la tête de la manifestation, ils ont des panneaux et des fleurs. Sur les panneaux il y a écrit des messages comme “nous sommes les droits humains” ou encore “aucune personne n’est illégale”. Il y avait quelques enfants qui essayaient de donner des fleurs à la police. La police n’a pas voulu prendre les fleurs, et cela a fait pleurer certaines personnes. La manifestation s’est déroulée paisiblement mais la police n’a pas fait attention aux réfugiés et a continué à détruire leur maison. 

updates running on Jungle time

BRIEF UPDATE ON 10th and 11th March ….

The South Part of the Jungle is mainly destroyed. In the wake of losing court appeals against the eviction people have moved their houses themselves, saving what they can, knowing that the courtcase was a false hope. The last weeks have seen the work of months literally crushed.

Among this all, the hunger strikers are trying to organise …

Some of them have not eaten for eleven days.

This is about the hunger striker’s voice. There will not be an update on their demands until they are ready to give it.

The refugee activists on hunger strike have been inspiring support from a huge range of people.

Lynne Green came from Baptist Churches and is inspired to ‘urge to action’  – suggesting three requests to send to MPs

Like you, I am aware of the incredible complexity of the situation across Europe and in many ways feel powerless in the face of such international upheaval.  Yet, we overcome feelings of powerlessness by collaboratively taking small actions which add up to something greater.

Caroline Lucas, UK MP also visited.

In the evening, the hunger strikers met with refugee representatives from every community, and excluded all non-refugees from the room. One volunteer reports “people were saying the decision had been made that strike will continue until someone dies or needs are met, and that the community were standing as ‘one nation'”.

The hunger strikers have not officially made any statement.

Support is spreading in the Jungle for the hunger strikers’ urgent call for people to listen to the voice of refugees at this time of crisis. Admiration for the activists’ determination and hope is paired with concern for their well being – and the question arises – if these people paying so much attention to refugees when they sew up their lips paid the same attention to all refugees, as the hunger strikers are asking them to, what could refugees ask for?

 

Tomorrow, we will be making a campaign office in the Jungle.

In the meantime… what are you going to do to support these activists?

Dissapointing UNHCR visit leaves hunger strikers resolved to take this further

We have lots of problems. We are not only the nine. We worry about the others- about all the jungle.

Update of 9th March: discussion of day’s events by hunger strikers with one Farsi/ English translator transcribed by a british friend and approved for publication on http://www.calaishungerstrike2016blog.wordpress.com

This afternoon Veronique Njo from the UNHCR (United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees), Jean-Francois Roger from FTDA (France Terre D’Asile)  and Fanny Bertrand from the Conseil Départemental Pas de Calais met with the 9 hunger strikers, four of whom have had their lips sewn together since Wednesday 2nd March,  and a small number of the many other refugees who support them in this action. Some european friends and volunteers who have been supporting them were also present. This was the UNHCR “enhanced presence” that has been present in Calais since 8 February.They did not bring their own translater, thus solely relying on a man who has been on hunger strike for several days to interpret for his friends, until another of the exhausted, overworked English/Farsi refugee volunteer translators arrived to support.

To meet with a representative of the UN was one of the hunger strikers’ demands, and the UNHCR is the UN body concerned with refugees. This meeting, however, was highly dissapointing. Here is the hunger strikers’ response-

“This meeting was not what we were expecting. They were supposed to be here to be solving some crucial problems but all they were discussing with us was the options we already knew were available – the choice available to us as individuals to go to the CAP (container camp) or the CAO (advice and respite centres across France). We already knew these possibilities.”

From the start Veronique set out her unwillingness to discuss issues raised that are the problem of the British and French Governments. She relayed today’s news from the European Court of Human Rights that they can do nothing about the evacuation of everyone from the Southern part of the Jungle – as it has already started.

Veronique explained the limtations of her personal power and of the UN itself to intervene in this situation. She has been stationed here for one month now but hardly anyone in the jungle knows of this. There is also no online communication about the UNHCR presence, and no comment whatsoever on the evictions.

“She needed to have been talking to some of the people in the Jungle from each community not just the hunger strikers. We are wondering if she just comes because she is curious to see if we have really sewn our lips like all the journalists who have been knocking on our door everyday. She saw all nine of us with our lips sewn. But we are interested in people visitng us who want to work with us to change the situation here. Not people who want to persuade us to stop our action.”

When ased “what can you offer as a UN?” Veronique said “Are you in need of international protection? If so claim asylum here in France”. She assured us that we could remain all together if we went to a CAO and that we are unlikely to be deported if we apply for asylum in France. But we didn’t ask for help in applying for asylum here. We don’t have any good reason to stay here. We suffer violence from fascists and mistreatment from police.”

“The problem is the French state doesn’t repect its own laws. It says there will be no people forced to leave their houses during the eviction. They were supposed to be destroying houses without anyone inside. But there were many people in there who they forced to leave, even puttng fire into their houses so that they were destroyed and they could pretend they were keepng people safe by making them leave. They should have made options that are good enough that people actually choose them and provide enough information that people can trust these options before they started destroying houses.”

“The truth is that no one wants to stay in France. If they wanted that then they wouldn’t be here. They would already be in a centre. But here in the Jungle they have no good contact from the government – only they are beaten by the police. These people are coming from places where they have already been treated badly. They have come all this way with the hope that they enter a European country and find they are protected but they find there is not much difference between this country and theirs.”

The French government is just trying to solve this problem one way or another. They try everything. We have already heard too many lies from government about these CAOs and CAP.

One example is that of an old lady. She left all her grown up daughters back in Iran. Her husband has been in UK for 16 years but can’t do anything about her. But as long as she was desperate – she was sick as well – she had to go to the accomodation for a while just to get out of this situation, out of the cold. Nobody forced her to go there. She went there on her own free will because she had heard a lot about the accomodation and she thought it might be a good place at least for the winter. But now she regrets it. She was hopng to get some legal support and health care. But she is alone there in a room with no television in a centre where there are only men. She has no friends there who could help her to get any information. They promised her that if she goes to accomodation centre they will take care of her case to join her husband in UK as soon as possible. But they give her not any information. Nothing.

She now keeps calling me and she wants to get back here as fast as she can. The problem with her is that she doesn’t know how. She has talked with some people in Salaam but there is no bus to bring her back. They only have buses to get people away from here.

Today in this meeting this lady did not seem to understand that we do not do this for ourselves.”

“Another problem with this meeting today is that it was not officially recorded in any way. We do not trust what was said here to be passed on to those higher up in the UN.”

“Why do the UN think that one woman can solve the problems here? She has no translator and about everything she says the governments are to blame not her. So why is she here?”

The dissapointment in today’s visit has renewed the hunger strikers’ resolve to take this action further.

“We need to have a meeting with representatives from every community: Sudan, Syria, Eritraea, Ethiopia, Afghanistan, Kurdish people …

We want to do this tommorow. This cannot just be Iranians. We need to discuss about this with everyone.

Everyone is looking at us now. But some are sayng they are just some crazy Iranans that sew their mouths together. Many people are only concerned that we should cut the threads on our lips – they do not want to help us to try to change the situation here.

We should do somethng that every person in the Jungle can jon together. We want to get everyone here involved in this situation.

This is not easy here. The problem is everyone here is scared about ther own future – and how they can get across the border. Most people here have experienced injures when they have tried to cross a border. Everyone here suffers violence from police.

People around the world don’t know a single thing about the situation here. If they did then we would not have had to have sewn up our lips before they started to pay attenton to us. But now they must make some written promises. Tomorrow we start to focus on what these written promises should be.”

About the media

“Now everyone knows that there were Iranians who went on strike but in some places it was reported there were some syrians. It is very obvious that we are Iranian. We don’t need to make a big deal out of this but this is a problem with the media – they can lie and they can repeat inaccurate information. Some journalists are trusted but some are not. We will give some accurate information here but also it is not so important what our jobs were in Iran or how old we are – you do not need to know this to support our attempt to change our situation. .

To those concerned about the physical wellbeing of the hunger strikers

“Why did we have to sew our lips before you started to pay attention? If we stop now, will you ignore the situation again? Please, we are asking for your support to change the situation here. We do not sew our lips because we want you to look after us.”

flower in snow

8th March Update

This was the 7th day of the hunger strike. Two more joined and sewed their lips this afternoon. They requested that this be filmed, and the videos are linked below. Content warning: these videos show the act of men sewing each other’s lips with needle and thread.

There are now 9 refugees currently on hunger strike. This brings the total number who have been on hunger strike to 12. Three have stopped due to different personal reasons, but the group remains resolved to continue until their requests are heard, and they recieve a response.

Today the destruction of houses has continued around the community space the hunger strikers are currently staying in. They have been using it as a base since their own houses and those of their neighbours have been destroyed, and this morning it was confirmed by the prefecture that it would not be destroyed. However, friends and supporters were unable to access the building for part of the day due to the cordon of CRS police.

The hunger strikers recieved one visit today from a volunteer from Defenseur de Droits. Their message is ‘Defenseur de Droits, look around you. The associations and volunteers help us but the government does nothing’.  They discussed  issues around the evictions, the dangers, including rape, for women and children in the camp, the attacks by fascists and bad treatment recieved in hospital. The volunteer from Defenseur de Droits, who does not himself have power to influence the situation, having seen nine ‘very determined people’  in a bad situation will pass on a report to his seniors in the organisation tonight.

The hunger strikers still await a response from anyone with power and responsibility.

now will you listen

Statement of friend and volunteer

Videos of the sewing of the lips of the two hunger strikers who join today.