Socialist Worker

Rulers' empty rhetoric is leaving refugees to rot

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2474

Life jackets left behind by refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos

Life jackets left behind by refugees on the Greek island of Lesvos (Pic: Amal Azzudin)

A month after David Cameron pledged to take in 20,000 Syrians from refugee camps near Syria, details remain vague. 

The Home Office stated that some refugees have arrived, but won’t say how many or where they are.

Cameron’s plan is an extension of the Vulnerable Persons Relocation Scheme (VPRS). Last year it was supposed to resettle 500 Syrian refugees, but only managed to find 216.

Meanwhile the bodies of 95 refugees who drowned trying to cross the Mediterranean washed ashore in Libya over the past week.

The plight of refugees seeking safety in Europe has inspired an outpouring of sympathy. This has had some impact.

Glasgow council is the first in Scotland to announce it will welcome a handful of refugees. It is set to receive 63 Syrians at the end of this month.

The first council in England to make a similar gesture is Bradford, where new arrivals will join 106 of last year’s VPRS refugees.

Cameron claims that he will deter refugees from making risky journeys by only helping people who have remained in refugee camps.

But without  the border controls he has tightened the journey would not be dangerous. 

There would be no hellish situation at Britain’s border in France.


Two men aged around 20 were killed trying to enter Britain from Calais last week.

An Iraqi was crushed by a pallet in the back of a lorry early on the Tuesday morning. An Eritrean was hit by a freight train in the Eurotunnel the following night.

They brought the total number of deaths to four in September alone, making it one of the deadliest months Calais has seen so far.

Those who stay there face an increasingly dire situation. 

Around 200 mainly African migrants stormed the Channel Tunnel in the early hours of last Saturday morning.

Some 110 made it a third of the way along the tunnel before being rounded up by police. Trains were held up for eight hours.

A French police federation representative claimed the charge was directed by “extreme left elements”—in particular British anarchists.

Britain’s right wing media seized on his claims.

The anarchist-led No Borders said it was “insulting and deeply racist” to argue that refugees “need us to lead them or show them how to fight”. It added that it supported the refugees’ actions.

Dozens of solidarity initiatives have brought aid and political support to the migrants in Calais. 

Activists are organising fundraising and rallies across Britain (see page 18) for a convoy on Saturday of next week.

It is organised by Stand Up to Racism and the Social Work Action Network is sending activists.

As well as bringing donations, they plan to march alongside the refugees in protest against the fortified border.

Join the convoy at

Camp conditions are health risk

The first academic study of conditions in Calais’ “jungle” shantytown last week found dangerous levels of bacteria in drinking water apparently contaminated with human waste.

Researchers from the University of Birmingham also found rat infestations and a wide range of health problems. 

Refugees struggle with tuberculosis, scabies, post?traumatic stress and injuries sustained in war zones, from police or attempting to board trains and lorries.

Activists also accuse police of dragging their feet in investigating violence against migrants. Several refugees have reported being dragged into a car, sprayed with teargas, robbed and abandoned.

Maya Konforti of the Auberge des Migrants charity asked, “Will it take another 15 of these attacks for something to be done?”

Another charity Emmaus broke off all cooperation with the French government over its treatment of the refugees last week. 

It promised “active resistance” and added that “to help human beings without shelter, healthcare or food we must defy any law”.

Mass solidarity in Vienna

Organisers said 70,000 people marched through Austria’s capital in solidarity with refugees last Saturday. 

A mass movement has risen up to defy government attempts to make helping refugees a crime. 

Revolutionary socialist group Neue Linkswende hailed “a rebellion against Fortress Europe”.

Around 3,000 people marched in Paris last Sunday, where authorities have targeted refugees.

Migrants staying in Victoria Square in Athens rallied with Greek anti-racists last week. 

Fascists had tried to organise a “shopkeepers against refugees” campaign to legitimise racist harassment.

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