Socialist Worker

The Tories stoke racism with a fake crisis in the English Channel

by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Issue No. 2635

A small number of people have made it across the English Channel by boat this winter

A small number of people have made it across the English Channel by boat this winter


The Tories have manufactured a racist scare over a tiny number of refugees trying to make it across the English Channel.

Home secretary Sajid Javid this week deployed a further two UK Border Force patrol boats to keep refugees trapped at Britain’s border in Calais.

And to increase the sense of crisis, defence secretary Gavin Williamson said the British armed forces “stand ready” to step in if the number of refugee crossings goes up.

The UK Border Force intercepted a boat with 12 refugees—including one ten year old child—on Monday.

It had detained at least 94 refugees since 25 December as Socialist Worker went to press on Tuesday. This is on top of the 65 refugees, mainly from Iran, who were detained in the last three weeks of last November.

This is nothing compared, for example, to the 3.6 million Syrian refugees in Turkey.

The Tories have deliberately used the refugee boat landings around Dover to manufacture a new round of racist scapegoating.

Charlie Elphicke, the Tory MP for Dover and Deal, claimed, “We are seeing a big increase in numbers” of Iranian migrants. And he called for “investment in stronger borders all the way along our coast”.

Overplaying

Andy Brown, an NEU union member from east London, was volunteering with the Care4Calais charity in northern France during the holidays. He told Socialist Worker, “The Tories are overplaying what’s happening to make out that we’re threatened by ‘hordes of migrants’ or an ‘alien threat’.

“After the Windrush scandal they are trying to rebuild the idea that migrants are a problem, that there are ‘good’ and ‘bad’ migrants.”

Around 1,500 refugees are living in destitution across Calais, Caen and Dunkirk in northern France and in nearby Belgium.

Many are fleeing the West’s wars in the Middle East, poverty and dictatorship.

The number of Iranian refugees in Calais has gone up while there hasn’t been a dramatic increase in the overall number.

US president Donald Trump’s renewed sanctions against the country have made its spiralling social crisis unbearable even for many middle class Iranians.

And many of the refugees from Iran are in fact Iranian-Kurds, who face oppression at the hands of the regime.

Repression by British and French border authorities has made attempting to cross on lorries, the train or the ferry more difficult. This has forced many to take the much more perilous journey across the English Channel.

Labour’s shadow home secretary Diane Abbott slammed the Tories for whipping up fear over refugees ahead of the Brexit vote. She said, “It’s the Farage technique—‘hordes’ of people trying to enter the country.

“You frighten people about that.”

But Labour has only called for more cooperation with French authorities and has welcomed the new UK Border Force boats. The boats are not there to simply rescue people, but to intercept refugees in the hope of sending them back to France.

The only solution is to open the border let the refugees into Britain in safety.

And that means building a mass movement against racism that can force the Tory government to do it.

Stand Up To Racism has called a protest at the Home Office on Monday to "protest in solidarity with refugees and migrants and to challenge the disgusting racist scapegoating being used by the Tory government and the establishment". Some other cities also plan events.

Solidarity with refugees and migrants: Stop the scapegoating! Protest at the Home Office, Monday 7 January, 6pm-7pm, Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF. Called by Stand Up To Racism. For details go here

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