Socialist Worker

Calais refugees attacked by French police, blocked by British state racism

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans in Calais
Issue No. 2634

Muhammed and is family

Muhammed and his sisters at the 'hospital site' settlement in Calais (Pic: Socialist Worker)


French police have launched a renewed wave of repression against refugees trapped at Britain's border in Calais.

Around 1,500 refugees are scattered across a number of makeshift settlements in northern France. Many have tried to use the French police's preoccupation with the Yellow Vest protests to make it across the channel to Britain.

Police have responded with brutal violence against the refugees.

Muhammed, a 13 years old Iraqi Kurd, has been in Calais for two and a half months. His parents and three sisters—the youngest of whom is three years old—have endured near daily harassment from the cops.

"The police come every two days," he told Socialist Worker. "They come in the morning shouting, 'Wake up, wake up, wake up'.

"One morning about a week ago the police came and shot at one of the people."

Blnd, a 17 year old from Iraqi Kurdistan, has an impairment that affects his legs. "The police threw me onto the floor to take my fingerprints," he told Socialist Worker. "It's always like that with the police.

"Sometimes they come and spray gas on us."

Kurdistan

The police brutality comes amid worsening weather conditions in Calais. Raber, a 17 year old refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan, told Socialist Worker, "We were here a few days ago without our tents and shoes in the mud.

"My brother is disabled and is in a chair. I managed to get him into a social centre, but he has to leave on Monday and we don't know what will happen to him after that."

The settlements aren't official refugee camps, which means the cops have free rein to try and break them up on a regular basis. Muhammed, a refugee from Iran, told Socialist Worker, "The police come and they break out tents.

"All of our stuff, the food, the tents—they took it all away.

"Afterwards we didn't have anything to make a fire with."

Another refugee from Iraqi Kurdistan, who had been in Calais for four months, told Socialist Worker, "Often the police come and they hit you, they cut you."

He added, “The problem is that France and Britain divided our country into five parts.

“We're between Iran, Syria, Iraq and don't have any rights."

Solidarity

Over 90 trade unionists, students and others came as part of a solidarity delegation organised by Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and Care4Calais this weekend.

They brought much needed supplies—but the solidarity delegations are about more than charity.

Dave, a GMB union member from the North West and Irish Region, told Socialist Worker, "I came through seeing the plight of the refugees in the news, the undignified way they are treated.

"It's to show some solidarity."

He added, "Part of coming is to report back what we've seen against the negative press that there is about refugees."

Many of the refugees in Calais have fled the West’s wars in the Middle East, dictatorship, devastating climate change and poverty. Having made the perilous journey across the Mediterranean, they are trapped in Calais faced with the barbed wire of the British state.

The blame lies with the Tory government and its racist laws and scapegoating of refugees and migrants.

The only real solution is to open the border and let them come to Britain. And that requires building a mass movement against racism that is capable of forcing the government to do it.


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