Socialist Worker

Trade unionists show solidarity with Calais refugees facing state repression

by Sara Tomlinson
Issue No. 2498

A school in the Calais camp is surrounded by debris after the French state demolished half the camp

A school in the Calais camp is surrounded by debris after the French state demolished half the camp (Pic: Sara Tomlinson)


A group of trade unionists took over £1,000 to refugees in Calais last week. The French state has demolished half the camp since our previous visit several weeks ago. It was a shock to see.

Land that was once full of tents, caravans, shops, cafes, a legal advice centre and places to distribute aid is now a wasteland. Shoes, tent poles, bits of concrete, plastic and broken glass litter the sand and mud.

Many of us had taught refugees in a school that is in the part of the camp that was destroyed. A judge ruled that the school should be protected – but it’s less viable if the community around it has been destroyed.

The school is still running and full of adults seeking lessons. Many want to learn French as they may have to stay in France. The atmosphere in Calais was a mixture of anger and fear, plus warmth, friendship and generosity.

People who have little are keen to share cups of tea and meals. On Friday a Spanish circus came and brought a lot of laughter and fun in the sunshine.

The school, the youth centre and a church remain in the northern half. The other half of the camp is still full and busy, with cafes and some shops. But refugees sense that this may be under threat and are desperate to get to Britain.

Many told us they are trying to get to Britain nightly and are injured in the process. Some are beaten by police. Police tear gassed the camp last Wednesday and the ground was littered with empty cartridges.

Refugees showed us injuries such as sprained arms and legs.

Two refugees were killed last week.

One, an Afghan man aged 22, was run over by a heavy goods lorry. He died on Thursday morning. A refugee from Kurdistan escaping the camp in Dunkirk, was killed in Banbury, Oxfordshire, when the truck he had hid under crashed last Wednesday.

A young Syrian refugee barely escaped with his life after being run over by a lorry last Tuesday. And three Iranian refugees were rescued with mild hypothermia in the Channel last Thursday.

The British government should let them in.


Trade unionists 4 Calais summit - 24 April, Student Central, London. Go to standuptoracism.org.uk for more details

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Tue 5 Apr 2016, 15:40 BST
Issue No. 2498
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