Socialist Worker

‘Refugees dying at border need you to protest now’

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2495

A child cries as migrants cross a river, north of Idomeni, Greece, attempting to reach Macedonia on a route that would bypass the border fence, Monday, March 14, 2016. Hundreds of migrants and refugees walked out of an overcrowded camp on the Greek-Macedonian border Monday, determined to use a dangerous crossing to head north. (AP Photo/Vadim Ghirda)

Refugees cross a river north of Idomeni Greece to get into Macedonia (Pic: Press Association/Vadim Ghirda)

Thousands of refugees marched out of the camp in Idomeni, northern Greece, on Monday of this week, looking for a way across the Macedonian border.

Around 15,000 people have been trapped there in mud and rain because European Union (EU) member states want to keep refugees out.

Refugees hiked through the freezing Suva river to defy the violent police blockade. At least three drowned. Almost 2,500 who made it across were arrested and sent back to Greece.

Nisreen is there with her three year old son. She has been told to apply for the EU relocation programme—but it won’t guarantee letting them join her husband in Germany.

Hussein from Aleppo in Syria joined a sit-down protest blocking the road. “We don’t want to stay here,” he said. “We don’t want any food or drink, we just want to pass—just to go.”

In Calais the French police are doing the Tories’ dirty work in smashing up the “Jungle” settlement of refugees trying to reach Britain.

After weeks of demolition of the Jungle’s southern half, a fire devastated its centre last Saturday, tearing through refugees’ ramshackle shops and mosque.

This horror could stop if Britain opened its border and let refugees in.

The persecution continues inside Britain, with prison-like detention centres (see page 16) and mass deportations. The latest charter jet full of rejected asylum seekers is set to fly to Nigeria next week.

Up to 2,000 joined a protest outside Yarl’s Wood detention centre last Saturday.

Afghan refugee Belal is not allowed to work and could be locked up at any moment. The worry has driven him to self harm. “I’ve been asking for asylum for eight years but they still won’t grant it,” he told Socialist Worker. “My family are all dead—and if I go back I’m dead too.”

Edith from Nigeria spoke to Socialist Worker from inside Yarl’s Wood where she has been detained for almost five months.

“Like other people here I have severe depression, but when you ask for help they say you are just pretending,” she said. “The food here makes me ill whenever I try to eat it.

“There are people here who have lived in Britain for many years then been detained. We have contributed to this country. We have skills that are going to waste.”

Eritrean refugee Omar Salahi in north London will die if his brother is not let into the country to give him a kidney. But the Home Office has refused permission three times.

“I am dying and my time is running out,” Omar said. “The hospital wrote to the Home Office saying he needs the visa. But they don’t trust him to go back after the operation.”

Omar has lived in Britain for three decades. He may be left with no option but to fly to have the operation abroad—his doctor warns this has a 50 percent chance of killing him.

Sussex University student Luqman Onikosi faces deportation to Nigeria—where he would not have the support he needs to survive chronic liver disease Hepatitis B.

“It’s a matter of life and death for me,” Luqman told Socialist Worker.

The Home Office rejected his leave to remain on medical grounds last month—and forced the university to stop him studying.

More than 10,000 people have signed a petition for him, and students marched and occupied on campus last week.

Luqman said, “The state wants to take us on as individuals. We need collective action.”

Thousands of people are set to join anti-racist protests in London, Glasgow and Cardiff on Saturday to demand refugees are let in.

Edith said, “It’s good there are protests at Yarl’s Wood, but we say now you have to protest at parliament and at Downing Street. Tell the government nobody is illegal.

“Tell them to get rid of the detention centres, and use the land to build homes for the refugees who are dying at the border.”

Sign Luqman’s petition

Click here to subscribe to our daily morning email newsletter 'Breakfast in red'

Mobile users! Don't forget to add Socialist Worker to your home screen.