By Dave Sewell
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Calais convoy is a protest at state attacks on refugees

This article is over 5 years, 7 months old
Issue 2507
Big protests in March showed solidarity with refugees and anger at the government
Big protests in March showed solidarity with refugees and anger at the government (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Hundreds of anti-racists from across Britain plan to join a solidarity convoy to Calais on Saturday 18 June in support of refugees and migrants.

It is organised by Stand Up to Racism (SUTR), the People’s Assembly and several trade unions.

The convoy is winning widespread support including from parts of the Labour Party. In Bristol newly elected mayor Marvin Rees will see off the convoy delegation.

Labour councillors in Doncaster are doing the same thing. In Sheffield local MP Louise Haigh has arranged for her constituency office to collect donations.

Some 150 people attended a fundraising meal in the city, provided by the Heeley Asian Women’s Group and the Bfawu food workers’ union. It raised over £950.

Activist Ebru Garnett told Socialist Worker, “Women in headscarves, bearded hipsters, grannies and kids all joined together in the spirit of the evening. We listened to poetry, music and what the convoy stood for. It was bloody brilliant.”

Bristol will send a big delegation to the convoy. Some 300 demonstrators marched there last Saturday against the fascist South West Infidels group.

Only 18 Nazis turned up. Protesters chanting “Refugees welcome here” drowned them out.

Four minibuses and several cars of people from Bristol are already booked on the convoy.

Meg, a student at Bristol’s UWE university, told Socialist Worker, “We should be doing everything we can to help the people in Calais.

“We’re all people, and the way they’re being portrayed is just scapegoating. They are fleeing horrible things. I’d flee too if it was me.”

Waltham Forest SUTR in east London held a “Breaking Borders” art auction last Saturday to raise money for the convoy. Local artists donated over 100 artworks and it raised £7,500.

In Nottingham, mosques, union branches and refugee campaigns are working with SUTR. The CWU communication workers’ union branch is bringing a minibus and donating £400.

Conditions for refugees and migrants in Calais remain dire—as social workers and teachers visiting there last weekend found (see below).

So supplies, including money, are desperately needed. But the convoy is about more than that. There is no reason for anyone to be stuck in Calais.

The only solution is letting the refugees into Britain—and that means building a movement that can pressure the racist Tory government.

As Meg said, “As well as practical support it’s a protest at how governments across Europe are treating refugees. We need to show more solidarity with them.”

Social workers show support

Similar events took place in Croatia, Germany, Turkey and Greece in a Europe-wide day of social work solidarity with refugees.Some 50 social workers from the Social Work Action Network (Swan) were in the Calais “jungle” last weekend.

In Calais some social workers interviewed refugees. Syrian, Kurdish, Somali and Afghan refugees talked about the horrors that forced them to leave their country. Others set up art and sport projects or helped with basic English teaching.

Reports of the visits will be published in a report to the European and national parliaments.

This is part of the Swan campaign to open borders and welcome refugees.

EU’s deal is deadly

More than 133 dead bodies from a shipwreck of refugees trying to reach Europe washed up on the Libyan coast last week.

Three quarters were women and at least five were children, most of them sub-Saharan African, the Red Crescent reported.

So far more than 40,000 people have made the crossing from Libya or Egypt to Italy this year—and over 2,000 have died trying.

A European Union (EU) deal to deport refugees in Greece to Turkey has driven more people onto the longer, deadlier route to Italy.

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