Iranian refugees on hunger strike led a 70-strong protest in the Calais “jungle” shantytown against its demolition on Monday. It was the fifth day of hunger strikes.
Protesters held signs saying, “European countries, where are our human rights?” and, “Don’t destroy our living space”.
A Sudanese refugee on the protest had been on hunger strike in a closed centre in Lampedusa, Italy, in December, demanding the right to move on.
He said, “I think I was born to struggle, it is normal that everyone has dreams and we should fight and struggle to see them done.”
Amid a layer of snow, demolition restarted after a weekend pause.
One hunger striker said refugees “are looking for peace, they are looking for a place to be safe”. Another added, “The police woke us, forced us to leave our shelters and then destroyed them.
“Our situation here in France is so sad, because of the destruction of the jungle but also because of attacks from racists and fascists.”
Regional authorities claim to have cleared over a quarter of the jungle’s southern section last week where as many as 3,000 people lived.
Some refugees have gone into the government camp of white shipping containers and a “temporary” array of official blue tents. Alternatives leave them at risk of homelessness, being deported from France or losing their chance to apply for asylum in Britain.
After overcoming opposition from the higher levels of the state, Dunkirk authorities opened the first refugee camp in France to meet international norms this week. Some in Calais could end up there.
But it has only 1,050 places—not even enough for the refugees living in squalid conditions in Dunkirk’s own Grande Synthe camp.
On Monday Calais mayor Natasha Bouchart, regional president Xavier Betrand and ten coachloads of mostly small business owners protested in Paris to demand tax breaks as compensation for refugees supposedly ruining the town.
David Cameron and French president Francois Hollande have used racist scaremongering about Calais to argue against Britain leaving the European Union (EU).
They have argued that without the EU, the agreement that lets Britain have its border controls in France would be revoked.
Bertrand said, “Right away the border will leave Calais and go to Dover. We will not continue to guard the border for Britain if it’s no longer in the European Union.”
But the agreement is unrelated to the EU, and France’s government is doing all it can to make it harder, not easier, for refugees to reach Britain through Calais.
At Hollande and Cameron’s meeting last week another £17 million funding was announced to pay France to do the Tories’ dirty work.
Whichever side of the Channel it is on, it’s Britain’s border that traps refugees in Calais at the mercy of cops, bulldozers, fascists and freezing weather.
The only meaningful solution is to open it and let the refugees in.
Refugees who survive war - but not the Calais 'jungle'
A Sudanese man died of a heart attack in the Calais “jungle” last week, a charity reported. Living conditions are dire and access to healthcare limited.
A charity said, “He survived the bombs of his country, the storms and dangers of the sea, the greedy traffickers, the long days on foot fleeing a country at war.
“But he didn’t survive the Calais ‘jungle’. Dead in the country of human rights surrounded by helmeted riot cops.”
Medical volunteers told the Independent newspaper that they treated seven boys under 16 who said they had been raped, with injuries consistent with their claims.
Up to 500 child refugees are stuck in Calais, unaccompanied with thousands more like them across Europe.
Many are in Calais trying to join family in Britain and could legally claim asylum, but are living in very dangerous situations when they could be safely with their families in Britain.