[ 22. Oct 2011 ]

Calais: This Border Kills. Documented police violence, June 2009 - June 2011

This border kills - police harassing migrants in Calais

This dossier of violence is detailing two years' worth of human rights abuses perpetrated against migrants in Calais, is available to download as pdf in :: english and in :: french.


This report presents the evidence of the various methods of repression the British and French states employ against migrants in the area, which have been carefully documented by Calais Migrant Solidarity of the No Borders Network over the course of two years. The report was submitted to France's new Human Rights Ombudsman earlier in the summer, and he has since launched a public inquiry into policing there.

With a chronology and an exploration of the politics underpinning the policies played out in Calais, the report gives a relatively comprehensive account of the policing of this border region.

Download the report as pdf in :: english or :: french.


This report details the human rights abuses perpetrated against migrants in Calais, and outlines the politics that underpin them. Observing and directly intervening in gross violations against those seeking sanctuary over the course of two years compelled us to explore all possible avenues to addressing the crisis, including legal ones. Originally written in French as a dossier of evidence to be submitted to France's new Human Rights Ombudsman, it is at times repetitive and pays close attention to detail. It nevertheless provides a relatively comprehensive record of policing tactics, substantiated by testimonies and other evidence. For practical purposes, that evidence, being largely in audiovisual form, has not been included here.

Since the submission of the dossier and the accompanying evidence, the Ombudsman has called for an inquiry into policing in Calais, the results of which are expected in September.


1. "Killing us by heart". The mechanics of repression in Calais
1.1 Crude violence: the use of direct physical force
1.2 A programme of harassment: the systematic use of ID checks and arrest
1.3 Making life unliveable: raids and attacks on shelters, food, water, sleep and dignity
2. A shameful history: a chronology of repression
3. Harassment as a political weapon

Calais: this border kills

This report details the violent, even deadly, repression of refugees(1) in Calais at the hands of the police and other apparatus of the French State. It is written by activists from Calais Migrant Solidarity, an organisation which forms part of the No Borders network, and summarises the evidence we have collected in Calais in over two years working here. In that time, apart from what we ourselves have witnessed, we have worked and lived closely alongside refugees and have collected their personal statements and eyewitness accounts. We have also collected substantial video, photographic and audio evidence. Brought together, this material paints a hideous picture of brutality and profound disregard for the common humanity we share, wherever we are born, as well as a disregard for the very laws and values that the authorities claim to uphold. As a document of cruelty, the reports gathered here speak for themselves. But it is also important to understand the causes and motives for what is happening in Calais. This is not a story of a few 'bad apples'. The repression in Calais is systematic, involving actors from bottom to top, from minor officials and frontline police to the highest authorities, whether they actively participate or merely look away in silence. Brutality and harassment in Calais are deliberate weapons used in the service of French, British and European immigration policy. The idea is a simple one; drive refugees away from the border by making their lives unbearable.

Structure of the report

The report is structured as follows. In section 1 we examine the workings of the repression in Calais in three categories. First, we examine the way in which the police inflict bodily harm on migrants through assaults such as punches, kicks, as well as the use of batons, tear gas and other weapons. There are also the injuries and deaths that have occurred 'indirectly' during police raids and chases. Yet this crude violence is only the tip of the iceberg.

We then examine the way in which fear and anxiety are maintained through a constant everyday harassment of migrants in the form of repetitive race-based ID checks and unlawful arrests.

Finally, we document how the police work with the local authorities to further undermine physical and mental health by depriving refugees of adequate access to water, food, shelter, sleep, and other necessities of life. Police repeatedly raid dwelling places, destroy shelters, contaminate food and water, take or destroy possessions; from bedding and cooking pots, to money and documents.

Through intimidation tactics, they drive people away from facilities such as the charity food distribution or the PASS medical clinic, inflict sleep deprivation with repeated 'drive-by' raids at night, and humiliate people through racist abuse or attacks on religious symbols such as Korans, Bibles and prayer mats.

Section 2 gives a brief chronology of the repression in Calais. We set the scene by looking back at significant events before CMS activists established a presence in the area, starting with the closure of the Red Cross camp at Sangatte in 2002. Then we frame our evidence with a more detailed chronology of major events over the last two years.

Section 3 looks at the different roles of key players in the repression, and raises questions as to the role of various authorities and interest groups. Different police forces, most obviously PAF and CRS, and also local officials working for the Mairie (Town Hall) of Calais, are the most obvious protagonists. But this repression is supported, and indeed instigated, by high level politics. As well as the French state we point out the role of the British Government in the 'clampdown' on migration in Calais. We also discuss the central role of the media, in particular, the British press.

The presentation in these sections is supported by examples and references to the exhibits included in the evidence pack.

The report was compiled by Calais Migrant Solidarity of the No Borders network in June 2011. Download the full document as pdf in :: english or :: french.


1 By 'refugees', we refer to foreigners who, for various reasons, have had to flee their countries of origin and find themselves living in exile in Calais. They may or may not have sought asylum, attained refugee status, or subsidiary protection. The term as used here therefore covers de jure and de facto refugees.

Source ::