Socialist Worker

Women refugees protest as Calais clearance puts hundreds at risk

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2527

A tent in the Calais jungle in January this year

A tent in the Calais jungle in January this year (Pic: malachybrowne/flickr)


Hundreds of refugees—including many children—still face uncertainty and danger in the Calais “jungle” two days after the authorities declared it gone.

Clare Moseley, founder of charity Care4Calais, was with around 100 unaccompanied children on Friday morning, she told Socialist Worker.

“We are hoping they will send more buses to take them somewhere, because if not I don’t know what will happen,” she said. “They have nowhere else to go.”

Before its demolition was announced the jungle was home to around 10,000 migrants locked out by Britain’s border. Around 2,000 fled before the demolition to stay close to the border. They are either alone or swelling the numbers in other smaller camps around the region.

Most of the remaining refugees have been scattered into small villages around France. A few hundred have been brought to Britain.

The rest were left behind when the buses stopped. They had to sleep rough with the jungle burning around them on Wednesday night. Some got some shelter by Thursday night—but not for long.

The diggers are now knocking down the shantytown. And the French government-run Jules Ferry centre for women refugees is set to close with hundreds still in there.

Liz Clegg ran the unofficial women and children’s centre.

She told Socialist Worker, “The talk in the tabloids is that there are no women and only fake children—but there are lots of women and children.

“Women and girls are the most vulnerable group. The majority have suffered sexual violence, many have been raped several times, or have lost husbands or children on the journey. They need help the most yet they are being made invisible.”

But the women fought back with two protest marches, hundreds-strong. They chanted “We want to go to England,” “Please help us,” and “We are human—where is human rights?”

Refugees face immense confusion about who will be taken where and when. Neither the British nor French authorities have done much to inform them.

Wristbands

Some people have been arrested. Others fight over the wristbands that were supposed to get them onto a coach before Tuesday—even though these are now meaningless.

So when a group of girls and young women was allowed to come to Britain under the Dubs amendment, it gave other women hope. They demanded the right to come as well.

Liz explained, “Many of them have relatives in Britain, but many don’t. They simply want somewhere they can be safe and they think Britain can be that place. In recent weeks they have really been putting themselves to the front more, now to the point of taking to the streets.”

The troubles of the people who have left the jungle aren’t over.

Those in French “reception centres” are isolated, in bleak warehouses or in buildings that racists have attacked. They could be deported after their asylum applications have been processed.

The children who got to Britain are traumatised and need help—not bigotry and suspicion.

So far this year at least 3,740 refugees and migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean. That compares to 3,771 deaths for the whole of 2015.

If the jungle does go it won’t be for long.

The Tories know this, as they are pushing on with building their wall of shame around it. So do charities reclaiming supplies from the rubble ready to use them again when it returns.

But the harshest indictment of the border closure is that for hundreds of men, women and children the jungle hell continues.

“The Dubs amendment says unaccompanied children should be brought over if it’s in their best interest to be in Britain,” said Clare. “It’s pretty clear it’s not in their interest to be here.”


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