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  • Writer's pictureMobile Refugee Support

Cruelty at Sea

Yesterday, the pullback tactics of the french police and gendarmerie were revealed. Shocking video footage showing policemen and military on speed boats purposefully endangering the lives of displaced people on dinghies. Such pullbacks and pushbacks are illegal. Yet they are strategies used and well documented both in the central Mediterranean by the EU funded so called Libyan coastguard and in the Aegean by Greek and Turkish police and coastguard.

While we were horrified to see the footage. We were not surprised. We have been hearing about the increasingly dangerous, violent and demeaning tactics of the French police force for months. In the accounts of those who come back from failed attempts at crossing the Channel there is invariably a story of police violence. More and more often we hear of how those behaviours go beyond the initial interception on the beach before anyone is in the water and extend to interceptions and endangerment in the water. Far from shore. Far enough that the water is deep enough for someone to drown.

The French authorities have already tried to justify these tactics as deterrents. As a means to an end to stop small boat crossings and "protect" those attempting the crossings.

Through the testimonies of the victims we know the result is not deterrence but rather more trauma, more cruelty and an even stronger wish to reach a place they think will be safe.

“The boat was already in the water. The police followed us into the water. They slashed the boat. We all fell in. I had water up to my neck. I was holding a baby above my head. I can’t swim.”

"They sprayed us with gas. All of us. Even the women and the children. There was a pregnant lady with us. They had already broken the boat. Why did they need to spray us as well"

"Can you give me shoes? Yesterday there was water in the boat. We used our shoes to try and take the water out. It was pointless, there was more and more water coming in"

"I have been here with my children for 3 months, we have been to the water many times. Every time they stopped us. Every time they are violent with me and my children. Do you think the policemen have children?"

"France no good, police no good"

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