Socialist Worker

Calais crisis caused by clampdown on migrants

by Ken Olende
Issue No. 2464

Migrants demonstrating in Calais in June

Migrants demonstrating in Calais in June (Pic: Socialist Worker )


A teenage boy’s body was found on the roof of a Eurotunnel train at the Channel Tunnel terminal in Folkestone, Kent, on Friday of last week.

It is thought that he was electrocuted by overhead wires in France and his body only discovered when the train arrived in England.

His death was one of ten in the past two months. 

Mohammed Ibrahim Abd El Majed was buried on Sunday of last week, after having been kiilled trying to join his brother in Britain on Tuesday 7 July

Mohammed Ibrahim Abd El Majed was buried on Sunday of last week, after having been kiilled trying to join his brother in Britain on Tuesday 7 July (Pic: Calais, Ouverture et Humanité)


Rail inspectors found the body of a Sudanese refugee in a freight train on Tuesday 7 July.

A 23 year old women from Eritrea in east Africa has died since—run down while trying to board a lorry. 

Neither of them has been identified.

The mainstream media is focusing on holiday makers facing delays —but the real story isn’t about late trains or gridlocked roads.

The tailbacks of lorries are down to the drivers’ strike in Calais, not migrants (see box). 

But desperate migrants are taking any opportunity to escape to Britain. 

Up to 3,000 migrants have to face the grim reality of living in the “new jungle” camp near the French port town. 

The majority have fled countries devastated by Western imperialism, poverty and crisis—including Afghanistan, Syria, Sudan and Eritrea.

European governments and the freight bosses want to dehumanise the migrants.

 They don’t want anyone to question what drives migrants to make their perilous journey.

But even Eurotunnel spokesperson John Keefe told a journalist, “The desperation of these people is such that they don’t see the risk as significant.

“They have already crossed the Sahara, they have already come across the Mediterranean.”

Hundreds

Each night hundreds of migrants try to rush the Eurotunnel Le Shuttle terminal, where cars and lorries board freight trains to go through the tunnel. 

They are trying to use the terminal because it is safer than trying to board moving vehicles or get to the tunnel through fences. 

They hide themselves on trains or among freight, hoping to claim asylum in Britain. 

Migrants often look for police to hand themselves over to, unaware that they will be arrested and often detained.

But Keefe was arguing migrants’ desperation means more rigorous ways of stopping them should be brought in. 

Eurotunnel bosses are demanding the British and French governments pay £6.7 million in compensation for increased security and lost revenue. 

Yet both their income and profits have actually gone up. 

They’re also piling on pressure to make sure trains get through the tunnel. Some rail workers have suggested this could compromise safety. 

Migrants trying to get across the English Channel didn’t cause this problem.

It was created by the British and French governments’ attempts to restrict them. 

The ten migrant deaths highlight the reality of immigration controls.

Politicians and the media want to use it to whip up more racism against migrants. 

But anti-racist activists in Kent are already organising a protest against the backlash (see below). 


Bridget Chapman on a protest

Bridget Chapman on a protest


Activists organise in Kent 

Kent Anti-racists have organised a migrant solidarity protest in Folkestone. 

Bridget Chapman from Folkestone United told Socialist Worker, “I know a lot of people who are fed up with the damaging media coverage about migrants. 

“When that young boy died last week a lot of people found it heart-breaking.” 

They decided to show that many people in Kent oppose the scapegoating of migrants.

She said, “We set up Folkestone United to support diversity—recently that’s meant challenging Ukip. 

“We hope to get all sorts of people on the protest like we did during the election campaign.”

Sat 1 August, 11am
UK Terminal 
Folkestone, CT18 8XX.
Go to Facebook page Stand with the Calais Migrants

Tougher security drives migrants into danger

Ten people are known to have died in less than two months trying to get from Calais into Britain—up from 16 known deaths during 2014.

Not all their identities are known. 

Houmed Moussa, a 17 year old Eritrean, drowned on Sunday 19 July.

Mohamad Achrat, a 23 year old Pakistani, died from his injuries three days after an accident in the Channel Tunnel on Monday 13 July.

A Sudanese refugee was also killed in the Tunnel on Monday 13 July. 

A young Eritrean woman, 22 weeks pregnant, was sent into premature labour after she fell from a lorry on Saturday 4 July. 

Her baby, Samir, died around an hour after he was born.

Workers haven’t been able to follow up the woman’s health because migrants have to use false names. 

Motorway

Zebiba, a 23 year old Eritrean woman, was run over on the motorway on the night of Monday 29 June. 

Getnet, an Ethiopian man aged 32, died of a fractured skull after falling from a freight wagon on Friday 26 June.

Another Ethiopian was killed on the motorway in the early hours of Monday 1 June.

There may be others whose bodies have yet to be found, or who survived the crossing only to die of their injuries in Britain.

It took months to identify Syrian refugees Mouaz 

Al-Bakhli and Shadi Omar Kataf, found dead in the sea off the Netherlands and Norway this year. 

They tried to swim the Channel last October.


Seafarers blockade channel links

Striking seafarers in France forced ferry company DFDS to divert its Dover to Calais services to Dunkirk on Monday of this week.

The 600 strikers blockaded the port of Calais in dinghies. And last Tuesday they burned tyres on the road as part of a two-hour blockade of the Channel Tunnel. 

Police in Kent have been forced to use miles of motorway as an emergency lorry park. 

Strikers ended the blockade after the French government called for a sign of good faith, but have stepped up the action again after being offered nothing concrete.

They’re also occupying two boats, which Eurotunnel bosses want to sell to DFDS. Much of their crews would lose their jobs.

Workers also accuse Eurotunnel of withholding money for wages.

Responding 

Bosses in Britain have responded to the strike the same way they have responded to the refugee crisis—with calls for a clampdown.

Freight Transport Association officials called for making Calais a “strike free zone”.

This follows Road Haulage Association chief Richard Barnett’s call last month for the military to keep migrants away from lorries.

Yet Britain’s Competition and Markets Authority triggered the dispute by demanding Eurotunnel sell off its ferry subsidiary MyFerryLink. 

The ruling was later overturned.


Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.