Socialist Worker

Refugees on the streets after Calais camp demolished

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2528

The Calais camp before its demolition

The Calais camp before its demolition (Pic: malachybrowne/flickr)


Hundreds of people, including children, are still sleeping rough in and around the ruins of the Calais “jungle” as it is demolished.

Another 1,500 children and others are in French government-run shipping containers and 400 women and children in the official Jules Ferry centre.

Those in the containers rely on charities and volunteers for anything above the one meal a day provided by the authorities.

Calais Action volunteer Caroline Gregory told Socialist Worker, “It’s a really confusing and upsetting situation for them.

“They are being told different things—they keep asking us things like, when is the bus coming to take me to England?

“And we don’t have the answer. Home secretary Amber Rudd has said she won’t take in any more children, so even those with a legal right to enter Britain don’t know if or when they ever will.”

She added, “The French authorities have said they might send more buses to take the children to reception centres, but we’ve had no confirmation.”

The majority of Calais refugees have been scattered around 450 reception centres across rural France.

These include bleak warehouses or buildings that racists have attacked. They could be deported after their asylum applications have been processed.

Those who stay in and around Calais face constant police raids and stop and searches.

So 2,000 people fled the jungle in the run-up to the demolition. Others have left since to join other camps in the region—and the Stalingrad area of Paris.

Isolated

One told reporters he preferred to stay with others in Paris than be isolated far away. Another left Calais fearing arrest.

Navil from Sudan said, “In Paris it’s much harder than in the jungle. In Calais there were doctors and charities. And the police here aren’t the same.”

Women in the jungle fought back with two protest marches, hundreds-strong, last week.

They chanted “We want to go to England,” “Please help us,” and “We are human—where are human rights?”

Liz Clegg, who used to run the unofficial women and children’s centre, 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.

“The majority have suffered sexual violence, many have been raped several times, or have lost husbands or children on the journey.

“Many of them have relatives in Britain, but many simply want somewhere they can be safe.”

A week after the French authorities declared the jungle gone, there are as many migrants in Calais as at the peak of the notorious Sangatte camp in the 1990s.

There are more migrants in Calais now than any time before 2014.

Caroline said, “It’s not as if refugees are going to stop coming to Calais.”

That’s why the Tories have continued building their wall of shame around the camp even after the demolition.

The only way to stop the suffering in northern French ports is to open the border so people can travel to Britain safely.


Anti-racists a 'pleasant surprise' as Nazis target French villages

Fascist rallies, racist violence and pro-refugee welcome parties and counter-demonstrations have rocked small-town France as the refugees from Calais arrive.

A coach brought 47 migrants from Calais to the seaside village of Saint-Brevin-Les-Pins in western France on Tuesday of last week.

Hamid made his way all the way from Afghanistan hoping to join relatives in Manchester.

Fellow Afghan Nasir speaks no French but does speak good English. This could have helped him build a life in Britain.

Instead they are in an out-of-season holiday camp. Its windows had been shot at amid a racist campaign to turn them away.

The town had seen a series of hundreds-strong demonstrations both for and against refugees—and it is just one among numerous examples.

Sandra Cormier, a teacher in the nearby city of Nantes and an activist in the New Anticapitalist Party, joined the largest pro-refugee demonstration there.

“About 400 people, mostly locals, joined a rally called by a local resident’s collective set up to welcome migrants”, she told Socialist Worker.

Quiet

“That was a pleasant surprise—you wouldn’t necessarily expect such a committee to exist in such a small, quiet town.”

The racist campaign smeared the migrants as fraudsters, terrorists and criminals.

And it stirred up resentment over real economic insecurity that has nothing to do with immigration.

The clash is part of a broader political crisis in France. Wildcat marches by cops won new cash, equipment and repressive powers last week.

The campaign against gay marriage returned to the streets last month.

Sandra said, “Between the state of emergency, Islamophobia and cops marching there is a toxic atmosphere.

“In a dire situation there is a positive side, and that’s that people haven’t let them have their way.

“There are places where everything has passed smoothly, where the only campaigns are to improve the migrants’ conditions.

“Wherever racists have organised, they have faced opposition. And that’s a fight that will have to continue.”


Stand Up To Racism puts down Manchester roots

Anti-racists are getting organised in defence of the refugees—and against the broader racist clampdown.

Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) supporters were set to protest outside the Home Office as Socialist Worker went to press. They handed in a petition to bring the children in Calais to Britain.

It came days after 200 people filled the Rich Mix music venue in east London for a Love Music Hate Racism (LMHR) gig.

Local SUTR groups across Britain are preparing for Confronting the Rise in Racism rallies to build the movement in their area.

Over 100 people joined the rally in Manchester last Saturday, including socialists, students, trade unionists and Labour Party members.

Dianne Ngoza, a refugee from Congo said, “Britain is the only country in Europe to take such small numbers of refugees. This is racism.”

It followed a SUTR organising meeting of 26 students in the city last week.

Dr Siema Iqbal, a local GP and spokesperson for Muslim Engagement and Development (Mend), spoke about Islamophobia and the Prevent strategy. It requires public service workers to report people who show signs of “extremism”.

“Patients, including Syrian refugees are not telling me everything because they are worried about getting a Prevent referral,” she said.

Labour councillor Rabnawaz Akbar spoke of his family’s experience of racism in the 1970s.

“It is left to ordinary people to form a coalition to fight racism,” He said.

The next rallies were set to take place in Birmingham and Bristol this week (see box below).

A major focus for all SUTR groups will be building for the national demonstrations in London and Glasgow on Saturday 18 March 2017.


Thousands drown at sea

More refugees and migrants have died crossing the Mediterranean in 2016 so far than the whole of 2015.

A record 3,800 people had died by last week, surpassing last year’s 3,771 deaths, according to the United Nations. This is despite the total number making the journey going down dramatically.

That’s because a European Union (EU) and Nato clampdown off the Greek islands has driven people onto much more dangerous routes.

The death rate has soared from one death in every 269 arrivals to one in 88. Half of those crossing this year took the route from Libya to Italy with a death rate of one in 47.

More than 90 people died in one sinking on Thursday of last week.


Poll says let EU migrants stay

Two thirds of people in Britain want Theresa May to immediately guarantee the rights of European Union (EU) nationals living in Britain.

The finding came from a BMG Research poll.

The government wants to use EU migrants here as a bargaining chip in Brexit negotiations.

But support for EU migrant rights is popular among Leave and Remain voters.


Stand Up To Racism rallies

  • Birmingham: Wednesday 2 November, 7pm, Priory Conference Rooms, Quaker Meeting House, 40 Bull St, B4 6AF. Speakers include: Natalie Bennett Green Party, Roger McKenzie Unison, Kadisha Brown-Burrell Kingsley Burrell Campaign
  • Bristol: Thursday 3 November, 7.15pm, Broadmead Baptist Church, BS1 3HY. Speakers include Marvin Rees Bristol mayor, Dr Edie Friedman Jewish Council for Racial Equality

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