Access to safe water and sanitation is a basic human right that around 1500 homeless migrants in northern France are being denied.
Illustrating access to water for transit populations in the north of France, “Point d’eau” - French for water point or no water - denounces the French government’s restriction policies. The project highlights the solidarity and hospitality of citizens in response to the government’s negligence. The deprivation of water is used to discourage migrants who, passing through France, wish to reach the United Kingdom.
The project will continue in Paris and along the French-Italian border, made possible by the Center of Documentary Studies at Duke University who awarded "Point d'eau" the 2018 Documentary Essay Prize.
- Context -
The project begins in August 2017 a few weeks after the local ngos won a court battle forcing the right-wing mayor of Calais, Natacha Bouchard, to provide access to safe water and sanitation, food distribution points and appropriate shelter (Ordonnance du 26 juin 2017 No.1705379 Tribunal Administratif de Lille). The ruling refers to Article 1 and Article 3 of the European Union Convention for the Protection of Human Rights and Fundamental Freedoms, living a life of dignity and prohibiting the inhumane treatment of any persons.
Despite the court ruling, the Regional and local government of Calais, including those of Grande-Synthe and Norrent-Fontes, have been implementing a “no fixation point” policy to impede the creation of another “Jungle”, the shanty town in Calais demolished in October 2016. This translates into barely meeting basic rights and the daily destruction of temporary shelters and confiscation of migrant’s personal belongings by the French National Police (CRS). Migrants and volunteers are also victims of police violence, such as unnecessary use of pepper spray on migrants’ faces, bodies, tents, and water points. In addition, the extreme-right and fascists groups, particularly in Calais, physically and verbally harass French citizens working with migrants and migrants themselves.
- On ethics -
Due to the complex and particular context of the north of France, participants prefer to conceal their identity for personal safety. French citizens wish to protect themselves in fear of being identified by the extreme right groups. Migrants do not want their loved ones to see the inhumane conditions they are living in. In addition, if they are deported back to the country of origin the government might identify them as traitors and risk imprisonment and torture. Lastly, migrants fear that visual proof of being in Calais can be used against them during their asylum process in the UK. Respecting participants’ choice and following my personal code of ethics, “Point d’eau” bears witness protecting participants’ identity.