Socialist Worker

Convoy to Calais blocked, but still a big success

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2508

Rallying at the embassy

Rallying at the embassy (Pic: Socialist Worker)


Campaigners from the convoy to Calais rallied outside the French embassy in London this evening, Saturday, after French authorities refused to let them enter into France earlier in the day.

Hundreds chanted "Say it loud, say it clear - refugees are welcome here!" And "Brick by brick, wall by wall, racist borders have to fall!"

Almost 200 vehicles had set out from London to deliver aid supplies collected from all over Britain to refugees stuck in Calais. They were joined by others in Dover. But nearly all were turned back at the border.

One of the Convoy organisers, Weyman Bennett from Stand Up To Racism, said over the megaphone, "The solution is simple - we want those people over there brought over here."

To cheers he added, "We're not going to stop. We're not going to give up. You can't stop solidarity."

Obstacles

Student Aishah came on one of the biggest delegations, from Manchester. She told Socialist Worker, "I knew we'd face some obstacles but I didn't expect to just be turned back completely. It's infuriating - if we'd just been tourists they'd have let us through. It's because we were bringing aid that they stopped us."

Aiden from Bristol said the closure was "disgusting".

Aishah (centre) said, They stopped us for bringing aid

Aishah (centre) said, "They stopped us for bringing aid" (Pic: Socialist Worker)

But campaigners were defiant and determined to fight on. Maria from London said, "By protesting here, we're showing them that it's not acceptable to try and make the problem invisible.

"We won't accept that the refugees in Calais have to live in those conditions, and we are going to shout about it."

Many protesters were cheered by the media coverage the convoy had received, helping get the pro-refugee message across.

For Natalie, an office worker from Swindon, the convoy had been well worthwhile despite the blockage.

"We caused a lot of trouble for the French after they shut us out," she said. "We've also showed a lot of solidarity - it was great to see so many people travel all that way, and so many organisations come together in unity. We've got to keep that going and keep up the fight."

Weyman urged local groups to set up report-back meetings on their return to continue spreading the word. The Stand Up to Racism Summit on 8 October is also crucial.

All the organisations and unions involved in organising for the convoy should be proud of this initiative. People who have been collecting money, supporting the fundrasing and strengthening the message of solidarity have done important and valuable work.

The authorities' action underlines their lack of concern for people fleeing war, poverty and climate change.

The struggle in solidarity with refugees and against racism continues. 


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