Socialist Worker

Campaigners meet to plan solidarity with refugees and migrants in Calais

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2500

Previous Stand Up to Racism delegations to Calais have brought solidarity, direct aid, and political support

Previous Stand Up to Racism delegations to Calais have brought solidarity, direct aid, and political support (Pic: Guy Smallman)


Campaigners from across Britain came to central London today, Sunday, for a Trade Unionists for Calais summit hosted by Stand Up to Racism (SUTR).

About 100 took part and most had taken part in delegations to Calais, volunteering, or fundraising for refugees and migrants stuck in horrendous conditions by Britain’s border. They fed back on their experiences and talked about how to build on them, in particular with a mass convoy to Calais on 18 June.

Clare Moseley, who first went to Calais with a SUTR convoy last year, now runs charity Care 4 Calais. She gave practical advice and harrowing descriptions of routine police violence against refugees.

She warned, “French president Francois Hollande called the evictions at Calais a success. What he meant was that they sent out a message that it’s all over at Calais. Unfortunately it’s not—there are still 5,000 people there and they still need our help.”

Maz Saleem reported on the conditions refugees were facing in Greece.

Green Party leader Natalie Bennett argued that solidarity with refugees was shifting public opinion and putting pressure on the government.

“There’s a new movement I call the Refugees Welcome movement,” she said. “It’s already become a powerful practical force and it’s going to become a practical political force.”

Teacher Sara Tomlinson, coordinator of Trade Unionists for Calais, argued, “Every activist or trade unionist who goes to Calais comes back as an ambassador who will go and talk about refugees in the community.”

Angry

Sally Kincaid from We Are Wakefield stressed the importance of holding public meetings and visiting workplaces to report back, “Not because we want people to be sad but because we want them to be angry.”

Campaigners raised a wide range of actions that can be used to raise the profile of the refugee crisis and the responses to it. School teachers talked about opportunities to get special assemblies.

Some classes are involved in writing to individual refugee children in Calais, and have empty chairs in the classroom with their photo on ready for when they are let into Britain.

Solidarity with the refugees and migrants in Calais is about direct aid, but also political support and as part of raising demands in Britain to open the borders.

Refugee week from 20-26 June and Dunkirk Day on 4 June were raised as opportunities to get a broad range of organisations getting the message out. Other initiatives including a protest at Yarl’s Wood detention centre on May 7 were raised.

Solidarity with the refugees and migrants in Calais is about direct aid, but also political support and as part of raising demands in Britain to open the borders.

Campaigns including LGBT+ Against Islamophobia, Lesbians and Gays Support Migrants and Action For Esol led a discussion on pushing back against racism towards refugees and Muslims.

Brian Richardson from Stand Up To Racism argued that a big turnout from trade union branches on the 18 June convoy could have a big impact. “We know that our unions and workplaces are where we are strongest and where we can organise collectively,” he said.

“We see the people in those camps as our brothers and sisters”, he added. “We recognise not just the sacrifices they have made in crossing Europe but also their courage and determination.

“We see them not only as victims but as people fighting for their own liberation, and the convoy will send them a powerful message of solidarity.”

A model motion for trade union branches to back the 18 June convoy will soon be on the Stand up to Racism website standuptoracism.org.uk For practical tips on aid to Calais go to care4calais.org

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