By Dave Sewell
Downloading PDF. Please wait... Issue 2519

Calais camp swells—but Tories keep border shut

This article is over 5 years, 8 months old
Issue 2519
Temporary structures in the Jungle camp in Calais
Temporary structures in the ‘Jungle’ camp in Calais (Pic: VOA-Nicolas Pinault)

The Border Force boat Valiant was scrambled on Thursday morning of last week to intercept a small dinghy crossing the Channel.

They took six men into custody for questioning.

The next step would typically be to detain or deport them.

British state agencies are currently leading what they say is Europe’s biggest operation against people smuggling.

But these clampdowns mean more people, not fewer, are risking their lives at sea.

Around 6,500 people were rescued near Libya on Monday alone. Boats can sink on the long crossing to Italy with hundreds of lives lost, and not be discovered for weeks.

Migrants in Italy were part of the relief effort following last week’s tragic earthquake.

But French police frequently clash with them at the border to make sure they don’t travel any further.

Italy became the main route for refugees entering Europe only after the European Union blocked the shorter route into Greece.


More than 57,000 refugees are now trapped there.But some 2,800 people still entered Greece in August.

The United Nations sounded the alarm last week about their living conditions and vulnerability to exploitation by organised crime.

The proportion of refugees who reach Britain is minuscule.

Twice as many refugees fled to Uganda in just five weeks this summer than claimed asylum in Britain in a year, according to the Refugee Council.

The refusal to let people in has created a horrific situation at the border in Calais.

Thousands live in abject deprivation in a rapidly swelling “jungle” shantytown.

A man died there last week. Groups of Sudanese and Afghan migrants clashed, and police dispersed them with water cannons.

Activists say armed cops marched into the intersection between Sudanese and Afghan areas of the jungle next day—and posted a close-up photo of the man’s body.

Campaign group Calais Migrant Solidarity accused cops of trying to whip up violence as an excuse for more repression, and warned that if this happens “the state will have blood on its hands”.

Xavier Bertrand, the Tory president of the Calais region, called this week for Britain to let refugees apply for asylum while they are still in Calais.

This is a demand many refugees and organisations support, as fewer people would have to risk their lives and spend thousands to cross the Channel illegally.

But the authorities find any excuse to reject asylum claims—and Bertrand makes clear that Britain doing this would help him step up deportations.

The solution is much simpler—open the border and let the migrants in.

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