Anonymous CRS testimony recorded in French by Haydée Sabéran in ebdo, translated by Haydée Sabéran, Garance Pellet and Maria Haygun. This article was written for and published in Refugee Info Bus’ Medium blog.
Emmanuel Macron stirred controversy on Tuesday 16th January 2018 when he announced that police forces in Calais would receive more funding and resources at the expense of the UK. Additionally, he called out associations for making supposedly unfounded accusations of police brutality towards refugees, suggesting that they should be done for defamation.
Macron stated that his “critics have a single purpose: to undermine Government policy”, and thanked the police “who intervene in difficult situations to ensure the safety of French citizens and the movement of goods.” He declared that he would not let the work of the police be “caricatured” by associations who denounce brutality among the forces.
Refugee Rights Data Project’s latest report “Twelve Months On” displays that 91.8% of displaced people in Calais have experienced police violence, and a Human Rights Watch report in July triggered an internal police investigation which found that “police in Calais use excessive force and otherwise abuse migrants, including children.”
On page 94 of a small journal called ebdo, an anonymous CRS officer recounts his testimony:
“Oh, I have destroyed many encampments, I have emptied canisters of tear gas to contaminate blankets…In Calais I follow orders and I don’t think. I unplug my brain, I know that all of this is useless. I even have colleagues who set tents on fire so badly that the fire brigade had to be called. Sometimes a police officer loses control because he’s tired, exasperated or lack of experience. I have hot-headed colleagues who don’t think like me: ‘Let it go man, don’t worry about it. Gassing more migrants, beating up a migrant or stealing their covers is not going to change the world.’ ”
A recent exposé in La Voix du Nord investigated three suicides in the space of two days within the Nord-Pas-de-Calais police force. Ridiculously high arrest quotas, a culture of violence and lack of psychological care were highlighted as factors leading to these events.
“It’s not the CRS’s fault, it’s the system’s. We are asked to make the public think that something is being done, to evict and arrest people…What’s important is my security and that of my colleagues. That we come home at the end of the day, safe and sound and without any injuries. I detach myself from the all of this. Maybe one day I’ll confess my sins to the Lord!”
The UK has just pledged a further £44.5m to France to be spent on border security, on top of the £80m they already spend on fencing and security in Calais.
“All of this is very expensive, it costs us millions. For example, every time we come here on a mission, we stay in family resorts or hotels for a month. But when we need more people on the ground, like during the dismantling of the jungle in 2016, some of us had to sleep at a hotel…an hour and a half drive from Calais. I wonder if you understand just how mad this all is.”
Natacha Bouchart, Mayor of Calais, last week accused volunteers and associations of “using migrants to exist”. Her rhetoric misses the point entirely. It is clear that even if all the organisations and volunteers in Calais went home tomorrow, refugees would continue to gather in Calais — it has nothing to do with volunteers and everything to do with the proximity of Calais to England — even this CRS officer, questioning the futility of his job, agrees.
“We could put 1000 CRS officers here — but as long as the lands of England are over the border from Calais there will still be migrants here. Even without blankets and water. Politicians are trying to deter them from coming, but that’s not going to happen. Maybe it’d disgust someone unconvinced and undetermined — but it won’t deter these people.”
The officer finishes his testimony with this.
“But let me tell you, I have a harsh vision of all of this. If war broke out in France I would stay and fight, even with my family here. I have empathy for the migrants because of the travel conditions, that’s true, but at the end of the day I don’t have a lot of respect for them. I think they are cowards who refuse to die for their country. I have never had a conversation with a migrant. It’s been years since I’ve seen one from less than ten meters away.”
With the benefit of this being on my own blog now, I would like to add my opinion that this man is a top-tier arsehole, at best. How can you call a child a coward for wanting to live, to breathe, to enjoy what this messed up world has to offer? Oh, wait, of course, you haven’t actually had to look a refugee in the eye for years. Dehumanisation. I have little sympathy for his realisation that his work is futile. Don’t accuse others of being cowards if you’re going to hide in anonymity on the back pages of a barely known magazine, and take some responsibility for your actions. I hope you are judged long before the Lord hears your confessions. Thank you, Haydée Sabéran, for writing and sharing this piece – I hope it spreads far and wide. Mr Macron can’t sue associations for defamation when his own officers defame themselves so spectacularly.