By Dave Sewell
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French cops ramp up terror as refugee numbers grow in Calais

This article is over 5 years, 9 months old
Issue 2517
Police intimidation is a daily feature for refugees in the ‘jungle’
Police intimidation is a daily feature for refugees in the ‘jungle’ (Pic: Beatrice Lily Lorigan)

A wave of state harassment and the arrival of new refugees are making conditions in the “jungle” shantytown in Calais even more intolerable.

Thousands of refugees who are trying to cross Britain’s border live in the camp. Charities working with them reported last week that the population had hit 9,000 and was projected to pass 10,000 before the end of the month.

This is a new high—despite the demolition of around half the shelters earlier this year.

But for several weeks French police have been raiding the shops, restaurants and bath house built by refugees and charities.

Nikki is a volunteer at the Kids Cafe, providing food and shelter to some of the hundreds of unaccompanied children in the jungle.

She told Socialist Worker, “The police came in here and trampled on me. They confiscated all the kids’ food just as they were about to serve up.

“It’s clear the police don’t want the jungle to be here.”

The local authorities went to court last Wednesday to try and get all the jungle’s “businesses” evicted.

There was a protest outside the hearing in Lille, and another was called at the French embassy in London.

Thousands signed a petition for the Kids’ Cafe to be spared. In the end the court ruled against the evictions. 

It is a small but important victory.

Neha, another volunteer, told the London protest, “There isn’t enough food for all the people in the jungle.

“The French authorities aren’t providing enough, the charities can’t provide enough and people are coming to us hungry.”

Volunteers also provide shelter for dozens of new arrivals to the jungle who would otherwise be outdoors.


Calais volunteer Neha

Calais volunteer Neha (Pic: Guy Smallman)

But the French state is pursuing its campaign of terror. Neha described the horrific violence meted out to one 16 year old refugee.

“They kicked him in the head and stamped on his face—I could hardly recognise him,” she said.

Teargassing of living areas is now routine and conditions continue to worsen.

A fire last Sunday night tore through around 20 people’s tents and burned down a volunteer-run school.

Refugees and supporters from France and Britain have organised to try and alleviate the jungle’s hardships. The authorities hope that by making refugees’ lives hell they can drive them away—but most have nowhere to go.

The only lasting solution is to open Britain’s border and welcome them.

The London protest went ahead despite the court’s decision.

Up to 50 people called on the British government to implement the Dubs amendment to the Immigration Act.

It calls for refugee children to be brought to Britain.

Teacher Lucy, newly returned from volunteering in Calais, said, “There are 700 children in the jungle who should be here to start school in September.”

Join the demo for refugees

Next month marks one year since the death of three year old Kurdish refugee Aylan Kurdi. His family was fleeing to Europe.

Photos of his body washed up on a beach horrified people across the world.

This year has so far been even deadlier for refugees.

A European Union deal with Turkey, which clamps down on refugees fleeing into Greece, has forced them to take deadlier sea routes.

The crossing from Turkey to Greece is deadly, but the route from North Africa to Italy is much longer and more dangerous.

Shortly after Alyan’s death some 50,000 people marched in London in support of refugees. Another march has been called this year. It is backed by charities, the NUT union and Stand Up to Racism.

It’s vital to keep mobilising against the barbaric border closures that see thousands languishing in Calais or drowning in the Mediterranean.

Solidarity with Refugees—Saturday 17 September, Assemble 12.30pm in Park Lane, central London. More information at

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