As anti-racists in Britain prepare to deliver solidarity to refugees in the Calais region, the French authorities are preparing to herd refugees into shipping containers.
Ten of the metal boxes that previously made up a state-run camp next to the Calais “jungle” are to return, it was announced this week.
Nine will serve as dormitories, the other as a shower block. Opposite a charity building the state has reluctantly allowed to install showers.
A hangar may also be opened as a shelter if the winter weather worsens.
The demolition of the jungle last winter was meant to be the end of the Calais refugee crisis. And the French state has done everything to hide and deny its re-emergence this year.
But with hundreds sleeping rough in the cold winter, regional authorities admit that their “humanitarian and legal obligations” are now undeniable.
That hasn’t stopped them from ignoring a new law that should protect refugee squats, shantytowns and camps from evictions during a “winter truce”.
The new law was introduced in January, and its truce should extend from the beginning of November to the end of March.
But cops continue to break up any attempt by refugees to settle in one place. They evicted people camped out under a Calais bridge on Tuesday morning.
Ever since the jungle was evicted, they have routinely moved refugees on and confiscated or chemically destroyed their possessions.
It’s a strategy designed to keep the refugees invisible and avoid the state having to admit failure.
One justification given for this treatment is that the refugees have somewhere else to go—they can hand themselves in to the French immigration system.
But that means the risk of being detained in grim, prison-like centres and potentially deported.
Riaz from Afghanistan told French journalists, “If you go in their accommodation they send you back to Italy. It’s not accommodation, it’s a trap.
“When they keep taking our things the message is clear—we’re not wanted in France.”
Detainees in one centre at Bois de Vincennes in Paris refused to be brushed under the carpet this week.
Eight detainees attempted to escape in the early hours of Tuesday morning. They smashed a window and climbed out but were rapidly recaptured, officers told the French media.
Then they tried to rally the other detainees, and managed to kick off a riot. Fires were started in a number of the cells, gutting the building.
One cop said afterwards, “Given the insanitary the centre is and the lack of personnel, what happened is hardly surprising.”
It’s no surprise that many refugees choose to remain at liberty, desperately seeking to cross the border and find a more permanent home.
Many have little choice but to try and reach Britain. Some have relatives there, others speak the language or have contacts in immigrant communities who could support them.
And for all the callousness and cruelty of the French state it’s Britain’s border closure that creates the refugee crisis in northern France.
The government has even shut down the Dubs amendment scheme, named for campaigning Labour peer Alf Dubs, to bring unaccompanied youths and children into Britain.
Dubs is set to see off the Stand Up To Racism and Care 4 Calais convoy from Downing Street on Friday night.
It will deliver much-needed aid—money to support refugee charities and warm clothes and coats to distribute.
It also highlights the need for a mass movement to get a real solution for the refugees by winning them the right to safe, legal passage to Britain.