Refugees in a large section of the “jungle” camp of Calais have been given a week to leave—or be forced off when it is bulldozed.
Many are determined to stay put. Ahmed, an Iraqi who has been at the camp for three months, told Socialist Worker, “I am going to stay here and die here.”
The water cannon lorries are already stacking up nearby. Hundreds of police have been drafted in for the operation. Some hotels have been cleared of guests to house them.
The refugees have been told they can go to the fenced area known as the White Camp—rows of converted ship containers where they will have to scan their hands to enter or leave. This site houses 1,500 people and 700 have already decided to go.
But the fear is that it is the first stage of forced registration of refugee status in France. This would prevent them applying in Britain where so many want to go, either to join family members or because their second language is English.
Another option for the refugees is to be sent to Winter Respite Homes, an Orwellian name for what are in fact ex-army barracks and detention centres sites far from Calais. About 2,500 have already gone, given a guarantee they could return in March when the weather improved.
This was a lie. Some have been finger printed and deported.
The refugees have recently been on the receiving end of unprecedented violence. Human rights lawyers are demanding the French authorities act against allegations of police brutality, including fractures, stabbings and broken bones.
Two thirds have been inflicted by the police.Marianne Humbershot of the Centre Juridique, a group of lawyers based in the camp, also has evidence of organised local armed far right “militias”.
Last week four Iraqi refugees were beaten with iron bars as they tried to board a lorry. Seven local people have been detained and questioned, two of them are local fascist organisers involved in the Pegida demonstration two weeks ago. Iron bars and a large electric cable were found in their cars.
Representatives of charity Doctors Without Borders say they are filing at least 12 charges against those involved in the attacks. The majority of their reports concern collusion by the security forces with fascist militias.
Clare Moseley of charity Care4Calais, said, “These incredibly worrying claims compound the urgency of dealing with the situation in Calais. These refugees have come here because they have no choice. They have fled from horrific circumstances. For these things to happen to them shows a total disregard for humanity.”
This week there has also been a 60-strong delegation of trade unionists from Britain, largely teachers, who have come to help teach adults and children at the newly built school.
Kathy Galashan, a retired teacher from Islington adult and community learning said, “The mood at the school has been upbeat, people laughing, engaged, joking. It showed what life for the refugees could be, what is possible. It is heartbreaking to think this school could be destroyed within the week.”
The French state’s actions are outrageous. But it is Britain’s government that creates the nightmare at Calais by refusing to open its border and let the refugees in.
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