Since mid-January, our spotting crew for the No Nation Truck has been on the road in northern France, providing us with an overview of the situation of refugees in the region. Along the coast there are several ports with daily ferry connections to the UK or Ireland. The Brexit created another external border of the EU here this year (2021).
The goal of this crew is to find out the needs of the refugees, to find out how the relationship of the people to the residents, local support structures and the so-called security authorities is and finally to prepare the arrival of our truck.
For various reasons, some of the people are trying to cross over to the UK or Ireland by ferries. On the one hand, due to the colonial history, there are larger migrant communities of people from some regions (e.g. Sudan). Also, with English as the official language, people hope to have easier access to work and social participation. Brexit is now causing big questions for everyone and we can already see that routes are shifting to Ireland, for example. We know of several wild camps in the area and have already visited some of them to get a picture of the situation and assess the needs. Due to the current Corona situation and the new mutation of the virus in the UK, there are much fewer trucks driving, there are tougher controls with dogs and there is a technical upgrade taking place. Border facilities at ports are being reinforced, more cops are being hired, and high-tech scanners and other surveillance technology are being installed.
At the end of last summer, two people from our collective were already here, gaining first experiences in this region and networking with some local structures. In the past weeks we have been in contact with many people and groups, who have welcomed us very warmly and actively and supported us in many ways.
The situation here has, compared to last summer, unexpectedly (but fortunately) improved: First, many local groups are regularly with the people in the wild camps. They distribute cold and hot food there, bring water and watch the cops when they come with a city cleaning service to demonstrate their power.
Second, some people have been relocated to hostels (though there is a lack of cooking facilities), and French law hardly allows evictions of squatters during the winter. However, local groups expect tougher laws and an increase in repression against squatters in the upcoming period.
On the other hand, we fear that the situation could quickly worsen again with the onset of spring and falling Corona numbers, as people are put back on the streets as soon as the state no longer fears ugly images of cold and Corona deaths.
What needs to be observed in addition, as in many other border regions, is systematic racist violence by local authorities such as Frontex, the gendarmerie and the police. We have heard stories of police violence where people were kidnapped by the cops 30 km away and left without shoes and phone in the night and had to find their way back on foot. Borderviolence monitoring would be very useful here to show systematic border violence.
Overall, we notice that there are a lot of refugees stuck in France with different destinations, usually coming together in groups of 20-50 people to support each other and move forward on their way or to survive the long waiting periods for the asylum processes. According to statements of active locals, repression in form of evictions, controls, new laws and violence is increasing significantly. With the No Nation Truck it would be possible to offer first aid and warm food, in order to react mobile and flexible to the intensification of violence.
On The Way:
At the moment, we are dealing with the task of reacting appropriately to the changed situation. It is important for us to deal with our supporters in a responsible and transparent way.
Therefore, we have decided that the No Nation truck will start rolling towards Normandy in a few days. We will change our focus to work with already existing structures in solidarity with everything the truck has to offer. We want to strengthen the connection of the local scene to the european wide No Border network, to document and publish border violence.
Our goal remains to bring the truck as soon as possible to the Balkans, because the circumstances for refugees in this region of Europe are certainly the most catastrophic and our vehicle was designed to meet the needs of the people there.
Until we are able to make our way to the Balkans with the truck, the truck and crew will be on mission in Normandy, France to support the people who have been abandoned here by the EU and to make visible and denounce the blind spots of the European policy of foreclosure.
P.S.: We continue to keep our ears open to react quickly when we hear of new wild camps that have a greater need for mobile infrastructure (electricity, water, kitchen, first aid).
So be sure to let us know if you know of any such places in Europe!
In Solidarity, NNT.