Socialist Worker

Crackdown exposes EU leaders’ lies on refugees

Refugee crisis sees Fortress Europe’s walls go up despite rhetoric of help, write Dave Sewell and Ken Olende

Issue No. 2472

life jackets and deflated dinghies strewn along just one part of the coast of the island of Lesvos in Greece

life jackets and deflated dinghies strewn along just one part of the coast of the island of Lesvos in Greece (Pic: Amal Azuddin)

French police attacked two squats in Calais town centre where Syrian refugees were staying early on Monday morning of this week.

The Syrians weren’t even given time to gather their possessions. They resisted attempts to drive them to the “Jungle” shantytown—but cops then drove vans at them.

There had been a number of refugee squats around Calais until this year, when cops forcibly drove them all into the Jungle. 

But the Syrians had been tolerated as an exception—until now.

At the jungle itself cops tore up tents of people with nowhere else to live. The clashes follow a new death at Britain’s border in Calais. 

A man believed to be Syrian was electrocuted on Thursday of last week trying to get onto the roof of a Eurotunnel train. More than 30 people have drowned in the Mediterranean in the past week.

European Union (EU) leaders were set to meet in another attempt to work out a plan to deal with refugees as Socialist Worker went to press. 

The German government has stated that it hopes to sort out the distribution of 160,000 refugees across EU countries. 

Given the scale of the crisis this is a drop in the ocean—some 500,000 people are expected to cross the Mediterranean this year alone. 

Germany said that it expects to take in 800,000 during the crisis. Poland has now agreed to take 9,000 refugees.


The British government has accepted just 216 Syrian refugees. David Cameron says the scheme has been “moderately expanded”.

Cameron says Britain will take 20,000 over the next five years—but only by selecting people from camps near Syria. 

He has specifically said Britain will not take anyone who has fled “illegally” across Europe.

One part of the EU plan is to set up “hot spots” in Greece and Italy. 

It wants new arrivals quickly vetted, to separate “genuine” refugees from economic migrants. 

Socialist Worker believes that no one should be stopped. But in any case this fast track system is bound to cause further misery as it decides who is “authentic” in just a few minutes.

As one border closes the flow of desperate people is redirected. So the completion of Hungary’s anti-migrant wall led to 25,000 people crossing the border into Croatia last week.

The opening and closing of the borders of various eastern European states is partly predicated on how prepared Western countries are to take refugees. 

The crisis got worse when the German government closed its borders.

Many news reports have highlighted the barbarity of the Hungarian wall blocking migrants and refugees getting into Fortress Europe. 

Yet fewer have compared it to the similar wall the British government has erected in Calais. 

And there has been no condemnation of attempts to suggest that all the refugees there are “economic migrants” or should have asked for asylum in France.

We say—let them in.

‘People arrive in shock and distress’

Refugees arriving in Lesvos

Refugees arriving in Lesvos (Pic: Amal Azuddin)

Margaret Woods from the Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees is on a solidarity trip to Greece. 

She spoke to Socialist Worker from a reception centre on the island of Lesvos. 

“The people arriving are exhausted. They are given a jam sandwich and a bottle of water. There’s some juice for the kids. It’s not much but it all costs money.”

Margaret spoke to a Syrian from a part of Damascus that the regime has bombed flat. He said, “We could see the island from far off and felt hopeful. 

“There were about 50 of us in the boat including children and babies. 


“We knew we might not survive the trip, but we can’t go back. This is our only chance to live.”

Amal Azzudin, who is also from the campaign and is herself a refugee in Britain, is part of the delegation. 

She helped refugees out of boats on the beach. 

She said, “They are all wet. The people are shocked and distressed. We’ve seen five boats come in already this morning.

“People who want to help should collect blankets or warm clothing. 

“They could just send money. The NGO we are working with here is from the Netherlands, the Boat Refugee Foundation.”


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