Socialist Worker

Refugee from Darfur: ‘I’m not coming for work but running from fear’

Issue No. 2171

A group of refugees from Darfur sit by a fire (Pic:» Guy Smallman )

A group of refugees from Darfur sit by a fire (Pic: » Guy Smallman)

Abu Jabr is not someone you would normally find among the Calais asylum seekers.

The 57-year-old village elder fled from Darfur and settled in the so-called “Palestinian Camp” – a collection of half a dozen shacks that housed Palestinians, Eritreans and Sudanese.

We were invited to meet them, and offered cigarettes and sweet milky coffee they boiled on an open fire. With Abu Jabr were some younger men, including Osama and Ibrahim.

We asked why a man of his age would take such a risky journey. Abu Jabr replied that however hard it was in France it was better than in Darfur.

“We made the journey across the Sahara though Libya,” he told us. “Then we took a boat to Europe.

“This journey was the hardest of my life. For the three days we were in the boat we were between life and death.

“I had to flee from the militias and the army,” he explained in cultured Arabic.

While others in the group spoke only the dialects from Darfur, Abu Jabr was respected for his knowledge of Arabic, various African dialects and his command of the Berber language.

Osama and Ibrahim told of the terrible conditions in the Sudan, with endless wars in the south and the west of the country.

“For 50 years we have been living with these conflicts,” Ibrahim explained. “But now it has become impossible.”


I asked Abu Jabr if he was hoping to find work in Britain.

“It is every man’s duty to work,” he said. “But I am not coming for work, but running from fear.”

The group were waiting for a police raid. News of the demolition of the “jungle” camp had put them on edge.

We joined a small group of Palestinians sitting nearby. They were deeply suspicious of us when we said we were British journalists.

They told us they were from Gaza and had been in Calais for seven months.

One had a broken leg. Asked how he hurt himself he nodded towards the docks and said “camion” – French for lorry.

He had fallen badly during an attempt to board one, and was now immobilised.

They became uncomfortable when asked about the CRS raids, and asked us to leave.

One of the Sudanese men told us later that the Palestinians had been badly beaten during a recent raid.

The CRS had arrived early one morning and ordered them to leave their shelters. When they refused, the police began demolishing the structures on top of them.

They only stopped when one Palestinian leapt into the docks in a suicide attempt.

“Police are always attacking the Palestinians,” the Sudanese refugee offered as an explanation.

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