Less than 100 miles from London, the French authorities are using threats of violence to corral refugees into a new prison camp.
Bulldozers descended on a wide zone of the “jungle” shanty town in Calais this week, after refugees were handed eviction notices.
They were given just days to move, making conditions in the rest of the jungle even more cramped.
Mohamed from Afghanistan told Socialist Worker, “They are saying its people’s own free will to move, but they are pressuring people.
“People are moving to be on the safe side rather than wake up in the middle of the night to teargas and bulldozers.”
One aim of the operation is to move refugees into a new fenced-off government camp made up of refitted shipping containers.
But it has room for only 1,500 people—less than a quarter of the jungle’s population—and conditions are more like a prison.
People would have to cram into containers full of bunk beds, but with no bathrooms, cooking facilities or social areas.
And they have to show a handprint to get in or out.
Mohamed said, “They have built a 17 million euro prison for us.”
Some of the funding for repression in Calais comes from Britain’s Tories. Refugees have now named one of the muddy passages through the jungle “David Cameron Street”.
Some families have begun to move into the containers. Many others prefer to risk the squalid conditions of the jungle where they can at least self-organise than submit to the jailers’ regime.
They are rightly suspicious of a state that wants to get rid of them. But the jungle is no alternative—as hundreds of activists who have taken support to Calais in recent months have seen.
South London teacher Sara Tomlinson was there last weekend preparing for a Stand Up To Racism trade unionists’ solidarity trip in February.
She told Socialist Worker, “People are increasingly desperate. We were told of psychological problems. A man talked about how his friend, a 15 year old who shared his tent, had died falling from a truck.
“A man talked about clinging on to a truck for 11 hours, but having to let go when he could no longer feel his legs due to the cold.
“We met two girls aged eight and ten, able to speak English, cheerful and smiling, who said they were not attending school in the camp.
“The great hope is to travel to England to join friend and family members.
“They do not want to live like this, they are desperate for a solution.”
A memorial was held in central London on Monday of this week for Masud, a teenager who died trying to leave Calais to join his sister in Britain.
Trapping some refugees in containers to more easily get rid of the rest will only make the journey more dangerous.
To stop the horror we must force the Tories to grant them safe passage to Britain.
Solidarity and refugees’ protests unite in Dunkirk
Refugees and their supporters protested at the entrance to the refugee shanty town at Grande Synthe near Dunkirk last Saturday.
Teacher Sally Kincaid was one of 25 activists from Wakefield in Yorkshire distributing aid inside the camp at the time.
“Refugees had put up a big banner at the entrance saying ‘open the border’,” she told Socialist Worker.
The protest disrupted the police’s ability to restrict aid getting in.
Sally said, “People were far more confident than the last time we went.
“Boys cheered as we went in.”
Up to 100 people also protested at London St Pancras rail station where Eurostar trains leave for France, some lying down in a symbolic die-in.
A demonstration was planned to take place in Calais this Saturday, as Turkish and Greek activists march on the EU’s land border at the River Evros.
Assemble 2pm French time in the jungle to march to central Calais
Fury at arrests for saving lives
French magazine Charlie Hebdo ran a cartoon at the expense of drowned refugee child Aylan Kurdi last week as refugees continued to drown in the Aegean Sea.
At least four people including three children drowned off the Turkish coast when their boat capsized on Friday of last week, according to initial reports.
Greek cops arrested volunteers.
These included a group of Spanish firefighters, who had been rescuing refugees off the coast of the Greek island of Lesvos.
Hundreds protested in their hometown Seville in solidarity.
The arrests come as the cops and European Union border force Frontex say they are to start vetting refugees.
They plan to limit support for refugees to a few approved organisations.
lFormer soldier Rob Lawrie was last week cleared of a smuggling charge in a French court.
He had tried to bring four year old Afghan refugee Bahar Ahmadi from the jungle to Britain to be with her family.