Authorities in France began removing migrants and refugees from the Calais “jungle” camp today, Monday. It was home to some 8,000 refugees, including 1,500 children and young people.
The figure is down from over 10,000 refugees in September, as some people left ahead of the demolition.
Daniela is a volunteer in Calais with the group Help for Refugee Children. She told Socialist Worker, “It’s a complete shambles.
“People are confused, they don’t know what’s going on. A lot of children have said they’re going to leave, but they don’t know where they’re going. The amount of stress that children are going through is ridiculous. They should not be exposed to this.”
Sally Kincaid is one of several teachers who are currently in Calais to support refugees. She told Socialist Worker, “I was in the camp yesterday. People are cracking up under the strain.
“In terms of whether people want to leave, it’s very, very mixed. Some people think it’s not going to happen, because they’ve heard it before. Others don’t think they can do anything about it. Some are desperate.”
Around 1,300 unaccompanied children were still in the camp as the demolition process began. They are there because Britain refuses to allow them to cross the border.
The Tories refused to enact the Dubs Amendment to the Immigration Bill that would allow unaccompanied children into Britain. Only pressure from anti-racist campaigners has forced the government to accept some children.
Citizens UK estimates that around 200 children have come to Britain in the past week – around 15 percent of the total in the Calais camp.
Daniela said, “The British authorities have not done much. Saying that some children have managed to cross is just not enough.
“All vulnerable children should be in Britain, and should have left long before this. It shouldn’t be just a ‘good amount’ so it’s covered by the media and we can pat ourselves on the back.”
And she warned of the consequences for vulnerable children. “Children are bound to disappear because of the lack of organisation, staff and information,” she explained.
“The youth centre here has tried to do a register so they have the children’s details in case they go missing.
“But there are quite a few minors who don’t have phones and a contact number. The solution now is to stop the demolition and stop evacuating people.”
Buses are taking refugees to various centres across France where they will then be “processed”. Many are likely to be deported from France back to warzones and poverty – including Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan and Eritrea.
The demolition of the camp has pushed racists and the right to demand ever more repression.
Nicolas Bay from the fascist Front National said, “The solution to Calais is not the redistribution of such people, it is expulsion. The place for illegals is not in camps paid for by taxpayers but on flights out of France.”
French Tory MP Eric Ciotti said migrants must be removed from France as otherwise they “will go back to Calais”.
Demolishing the camp will not deal with the reasons people flee their homes and look for sanctuary elsewhere. Attacks on refugees trying to find safety in Europe have not stopped people from coming. They have only forced refugees to risk ever more dangerous routes.
Stand Up To Racism has called a protest at the French Embassy in Knightsbridge, London, this evening at 6pm. It has called for a halt to the demolition and for children to be allowed to come to Britain.
People should have every right to move freely across the world – and all the refugees should be able to come to Britain.