Socialist Worker

Fight to open the borders as refugee dies in France

by Dave Sewell
Issue No. 2535

Activists delivered solidarity to Calais last month

Activists delivered solidarity to Calais last month

A 17 year old Congolese refugee died at the French port of Dunkirk on Christmas Eve in the 17th known death at Britain’s border in 2016.

He fell from a truck, trying to get to Britain.

Severe cold and frost were forecast throughout northern France as Socialist Worker went to press.

This includes Paris, Calais and Dunkirk where hundreds of refugees are sleeping rough.

Almost 1,100 people are camped at Grande-Synthe outside Dunkirk.

At least six camps around the Calais area are also growing again.

The French state demolished the Calais “jungle” shantytown last October.

But refugees continue to risk crossing the border there in the hope of finding safety and a decent life.

Yet local authorities have scrapped the already inadequate provision of a hangar, which was used to shelter people from extreme cold.

Some of those taken from Calais to “reception centres” around France, often in poor conditions, have tried to make their way back.

Around 35 young men, mostly Eritreans, set off walking along a motorway in cold, heavy rain from Luchon in southern France towards Calais on 22 December.


Two of them had to be hospitalised with hypothermia. Luchon mayor Louis Ferre deplored that “these young boys have been abandoned”.

They had previously held a march in the town demanding the right to come to Britain.

But they were among hundreds of youths from the Calais jungle to have their asylum cases rejected last December.

A magistrates’ court last week slammed the authorities in Toulouse for keeping 75 unaccompanied minors in inadequate conditions.

The migrant youths were kept in a hotel with no schooling or training, without weather-appropriate clothing, money or public transport rights.

The judge found “serious and persistent breaches of fundamental rights”. Youths in other sites have held hunger strikes over their treatment.

The French and British governments both hoped the demolition of the jungle would get rid of the refugee issue.

But their cruel lockdown continues to make refugees’ lot even more dangerous and miserable.

Record number drowned in Mediterranean

Over 5,000 people were killed trying to cross the Mediterranean Sea into Europe during 2016, up more than a fifth from 2015.

European Union (EU) and Nato attempts to clamp down on the most-used routes have driven refugees to more dangerous ones.

The most significant attempt was an EU deal with Turkey to stop refugees reaching Greece.

More than 16,000 people are now trapped in camps on Greek islands.

The camps are designed to hold only 7,000.

On last years protest in London

On last year's protest in London (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Greek immigration minister Iannis Mouzalas last week admitted that the government needed to improve living conditions and get people into better accommodation.

But the plans he announced included more policing and new special detention centres.

Only granting people free movement and safe passage can address the ongoing refugee crisis and stop the deaths.

But there is resistance to the border regime.

On New Year’s Day over 1,000 African migrants attempted to storm the fence around the Spanish territory of Ceuta in Morocco.

All out for March anti-racism demonstrations

Activists across Britain are building for marches against racism on Saturday 18 March. They are called by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and backed by the TUC union federation.

It will be the fifth year of SUTR marches in London and Glasgow around the time of United Nations anti-racism day. This is part of an international day of action first called by anti-racists in Greece.

This year’s marches will be in solidarity with refugees and migrants, and against racism, fascism, Islamophobia and antisemitism.

It will come at an urgent moment to defend freedom of movement as the Article 50 EU Brexit negotiations are triggered.

Some 1,500 people attended SUTR’s conference in October, vowing to build a mass anti-racist movement. SUTR is calling on activists to make 18 March “the biggest anti-racism demonstration in decades”.

Stand Up To Racism trade union conference, Saturday 4 February, 12 noon-5pm. Go to

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