Socialist Worker

Convoy to Calais leaves to deliver solidarity to refugees

by Raymie Kiernan and Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2508

Rallying in Downing Street before the convoy left

Rallying opposite Downing Street before the convoy left (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Some 185 cars, vans, buses and lorries stretched down Whitehall past Downing Street as the Convoy to Calais set off this morning, Saturday.Other vehicles will join the convoy near Dover.

Decked out with flags and placards, they are taking aid and donations from all over Britain to refugees stuck in Calais. Around 200 people joined the send off.

Manchesters delegation and supporters - junior doctors, LGBT people, anti-racists and many more

Manchester's delegation and supporters - junior doctors, LGBT+ people, anti-racists and many more (Pic: Mark Krantz)

James from Fareham near Portsmouth told Socialist Worker, "The response when I've been collecting has been phenomenal. I've got a dozen sleeping bags, all new. I've already taken one carload to the depot and there's more at home I couldn't fit in."

John from Bolton Unison was there with his wife and daughter. He told a similar story. "We had collections of aid throughout our branch and had lots of positive support. It's right to draw attention to the plight of refugees in Calais.

"Our government should be doing more to take responsibility for the crisis it has helped cause."

S0uthampton backs the convoy

Southampton backs the convoy (Pic: Ian Hogg)

Meru and a group of her friends were there from Newcastle. They have been organising aid trips to Calais for about six months. "Someone has got to do this - it's the right thing," Meru told Socialist Worker.

"The media are lying to people that refugees want to come here and take their benefits and houses, or to use the NHS. That's just rubbish.

"The government has to pull its finger out. We can deal with taking the refugees into Britain."

Geraldine is from Labour left group Momentum in Warrington. She said, "Especially after Jo Cox's murder, it's really important to get her message out - that refugees are welcome."

Meru and friends in Whitehall

Meru and friends in Whitehall (Pic: Socialist Worker)

The French authorities have banned the convoy from passing, but after thousands signed a petition there are hopes that it could be forced to relent.

Eurostar worker Arthur, whose RMT union branch backs the convoy, was angry at the hypocrisy of those trying to block aid.

"It's all about freedom of movement when they talk about the European Union referendum - but it's only when it suits them. How can they stop us taking aid to desperate people? It's disgusting."

South London shows its solidarity

South London shows its solidarity (Pic: Cris Tóvão)

There's also no free movement for the refugees. But undeterred, the convoy is pushing ahead.

Weyman Bennett from Stand Up To Racism told Socialist Worker, "We're determined to take solidarity. I want to get the aid out and the refugees in."

Weyman told a short rally at Whitehall, "We need solidarity with refugees and also the French workers on strike. We can't let them use racism to divide us."

Labour MP Diane Abbott said, "This convoy symbolises hope and solidarity - and that a better world is possible."



For student Naima the convoy has a political edge. She said, "At a time when the EU has turned its back on refugees, what we're bringing is not just charity but solidarity."

Video of convoy setting off at

Send-offs around Britain

There were send offs for the convoy in several cities and towns.

Nearly 40 people turned up to send off the Chesterfield delegation last night. There were delegations from the local college where the UCU had collected over £100 and from an IT workers’ Unite branch which donated £100.

Leaving Nottingham

Leaving Nottingham (Pic: Richard Buckwell)

Nurses and social workers at the Royal Hospital Discharge Department attended and gave a collection of over £50 and Midwives at the hospital donated a huge box full of toiletries.

Many individuals also donated towards a total of £1,150 that was collected in less than two weeks. A report back meeting is planned to build on this fantastic solidarity.

Chesterfield mayor Steve Brunt made an impassioned plea for Britain to admit all the refugees in Calais as legitimate asylum seekers. He has seen the conditions at Calais first hand and described it as being like a concentration camp. On behalf of the Council he said he “was proud to be part of this initiative”.

In Sheffield over 40 people gathered outside the town hall to see off the Convoy. It was supported by Sheffield Labour group and joined by several councillors.

Councillor Neale Gibson talked about the 500 unaccompanied children presently in France. He pointed out that Sheffield is The City of Sanctuary, and said it's the world leaders who are to blame for the refugee crisis.

Councillor Nasima Akther thanked Stand Up to Racism saying “there is no place for racism and hatred” and that “what has happened in Syria is not the refugees’ fault.”

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