Socialist Worker

Jeremy Corbyn and Diane Abbott show solidarity as refugees protest in Calais

by Raymie Kiernan in Calais
Issue No. 2488

On the March in Calais

On the March in Calais (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn and shadow cabinet member Diane Abbott showed solidarity with refugees by visiting the "Jungle" refugee camp in Calais today, Saturday.

They joined Stand Up to Racism activists on a solidarity visit.

Corbyn's visit is very significant, breaking from the scapegoating seen from so many politicians. And it is a refreshing shift from previous Labour leaders.

Corbyn said he was moved by the refugees' plight and pledged to raise the issue more in Britain. He backs the 19 March anti-racist demonstrations called for London, Glasgow and Cardiff.

A 3,000-strong demonstration of mostly refugees marched into the centre of Calais chanting, "We are not animals" and, "No to the Jungle".

The march was called by undocumented migrants, or "sans papiers" groups and supported by human rights organisations, the New Anticapitalist Party and others.

Groups of sans papiers called the demonstration

Groups of sans papiers called the demonstration (Pic: Socialist Worker)

Conditions at the camp are becoming increasingly desperate as thousands of refugees have come up against a French state clampdown, supported by Britain's Tory government.

Earlier in the day French police tried to block people showing solidarity with refugees by blocking a section of motorway.

In a meeting with Diane Abbott one refugee told of how many have developed "jungle flu" and described the freezing conditions they have to endure every night. Others spoke of how they were being refused health care at local hospitals.

Risk

The refugees want nothing more than to be able to live with dignity. Many risk their lives daily to try and get to Britain.

"We face two choices - either die slowly here or die faster trying to go over there," Afghan refugee Hameed said.

"Last week five people I know stowed in the back of a refrigerated truck but it headed to Belgium. Three of them died and I have not heard about the others."

French authorities recently enforced a clearance of part of the camp, forcing refugees to live in shipping containers.

Angry refugees said the police cleared a lot more than the 100-metre area they announced.

Hameed called the new container area "a prison" with those living there subject to a curfew from 8pm to 6am. He said they are being separated from the community that has developed in the camp. Some have been there for several months.

"I crossed 11 borders in 18 days but I've been stuck here for over four months," Hameed said. "We want people to help us. A lot of families and children are not in a good situation. It's too cold and everyone's health is affected by being here.

"I want people to fight for our right to cross the border."

Some six coaches travelled from Paris to join the solidarity march. There were also delegations from Britain. Olivier, who came on a coach from Paris, was furious with Western governments.

He said, "We are responsible for the refugees with the bombs we drop on their countries. We should be welcoming them."

Stand Up To Racism demonstration  Saturday 19 March Cardiff, Glasgow, London for more details www.standuptoracism.org.uk 

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