Socialist Worker

'Let us into Britain', say refugees freezing after snowfall in Calais

by Dave Sewell in Calais
Issue No. 2584

Refugees struggle to keep warm

Refugees struggle to keep warm (Pic: Guy Smallman)

The snow that fell on much of Britain and northern France on Saturday night made conditions worse for refugees trapped at Britain’s border in Calais. Hundreds of refugees are forced to sleep rough.

Sahil, who’s from Afghanistan, has been in Calais for four months. “I can't even have a tent, because whenever one of us gets a tent the police tear it down and beat us,” he told Socialist Worker. 

“All I have is a piece of plastic sheeting that I had to keep poking with my umbrella to stop the snow building up.”

Cops carry out nightly raids on refugees’ tents. A number that had been spared caved in under the weight of the snow.

Several refugees spent the night in portable toilets desperate for shelter.

One Eritrean refugee told Socialist Worker, "I couldn't sleep at all for shivering."

Alex had changed his name after fleeing the murders of his family in Pakistan. With this winter, this cold, people are going to die here,” he said. “There isn't much hope."

Charities including Care4Calais do what they can to support the refugees. They had the help of a convoy of aid and volunteers from Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) on on the weekend. 

But it's harder to get support now the refugee crisis has faded from the headlines. And the cops undo much of what's done to help refugees. 

Hassan is an NHS worker from Manchester who volunteers providing first aid. "I've seen the CRS police stop one of the sub-Saharan refugees and kick him in the stomach for three or four minutes,” he told Socialist Worker. 

"The CRS hit people in the head, they fire teargas canisters at them. We've had to take people to hospitals that don't want to treat them, with injuries including basal skull fractures."


Britain’s border shame one year after Calais ‘jungle’ demolished
Britain’s border shame one year after Calais ‘jungle’ demolished
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And for all their persecution by the French state, the refugees' real problem is Britain's border. As Hassan said, "However much we do, the solution won't be here, the solution is political."

Sahil had a direct message for Theresa May.

"You say you support human rights, but you then you don't let us in and you deport people. You say Afghanistan is safe, but my challenge to you is to survive just one week in my village."

Alex added in frustration, "This could be so easy for Britain solve. Germany took in a million refugees, can Britain really not take a few hundred?

"We could be there in an hour—Britain could fit all of us in one village.” 

SUTR and Care4Calais's winter appeal made a difference, but a temporary one. The fight for a permanent solution—the fight against a racist government and its racist border—is more urgent than ever.

Sahil urged activists in Britain, “If you want to help refugees, take to the streets, hold protest marches and put pressure on the government."

Join the Stand Up To Racism Trade Union Conference on 10 February to discuss taking the fight against racism into your workplace 
Stand Up To Racism national demonstrations on 17 March in London, Glasgow and Cardiff 

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