Socialist Worker

Refugees abandoned on our doorstep

Exclusive report from Calais reveals war refugees blocked by Britain

Issue No. 2081

Refugees in Calais try and find shelter from driving rain after receiving their food rations (Pic: http://www.guysmallman.com/» Guy Smallman )

Refugees in Calais try and find shelter from driving rain after receiving their food rations (Pic: » Guy Smallman)


Gordon Brown’s government is complicit in the misery of tens of thousands of refugees attempting to flee the “war on terror”.

Many of these “non-people” are trapped in the French port town of Calais. They risk their lives trying to enter Britain.

Socialist Worker visited Calais and spoke to refugees. They were from Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, Somalia and Eritrea. We found Kurds fleeing sectarian and ethnic hatred and educated women forced out of Eritrea as the “war on terror” washed up on their shores.

We met Palestinians who have no country to return to, Africans living in fear of French police and racist gangs, Iraqis fleeing sectarian killers.

Among their number was a 14 year old Afghan boy who had travelled across seven countries looking for some kind of future.

According to the United Nations there are “8.4 million refugees and as many as 23.7 million uprooted civilians in their own countries”.

The vast majority of these refugees wander from country to country – only to find doors slamming in their face everywhere they go.

There are four million refugees from Iraq alone – driven from their homes by the US and British invasion and the death squads that followed in its wake.

This year the US has accepted a paltry 7,000 refugees from Iraq – cherrypicking the educated and those with money. In 2006 Britain accepted only 950 Iraqi refugees. Over 90 percent of applications are refused.

Britain has a moral duty to care for the victims of the war this government helped to unleash. Instead Brown has found it easy to hide behind cheap tabloid headlines.

Refugees are denounced as “scroungers” and treated as criminals and outcasts in “fortress Europe”.

In 2002 the British government forced the closure of the Red Cross shelter in Sangatte outside Calais. They hoped that by making life for these refugees unbearable they would “disappear”.

Instead we found them living in woods, under bridges or in abandoned factories. Many were ill and hungry, fighting each other for meagre resources as the winter closes in.

Recent attempts by the council in Calais to open a day centre for refugees were scotched by the British government following a media frenzy that branded it “Sangatte II”.

Many of the refugees told us that even this precarious life as a refugee is better than random death back home. They are demanding Britain take some responsibility for their fate.

“Let them just come and see the conditions we live in,” one Iraqi told us.

Last week 51 refugees drowned as they attempted to cross the Aegean Sea into Turkey. This winter an unknown number in Calais will perish and be buried in nameless graves.

They are victims of government policy, official indifference and moral cowardice.


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