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Let Calais migrants into Britain, say anti-racists

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Campaigners taking aid to refugees say the only solution is to open the border, reports Dave Sewell
Issue 2582
Refugees such as these are trapped in northern France
Refugees such as these are trapped in northern France (Pic: Guy Smallman)

Labour peer Alf Dubs is set to see off anti-racism campaigners taking aid to refugees in Calais.

The solidarity convoy on Friday 8 and Saturday 9 December will be a central focus of the Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) and Care 4 Calais (C4C) winter appeal.

Hundreds of refugees are trapped outside in the cold by Britain’s border in northern France.

Their numbers have crept back up since the Calais “jungle” was demolished last year. Many people have nowhere else to go.

They face regular police repression and the risk of serious injury and death trying to get on lorries to Britain, as well as the extortions of ruthless traffickers.

Dubs, SUTR and C4C also called a “Dubs now” day of action on Friday of this week, 1 December. They are demanding the government enact the “Dubs Amendment” to the 2016 Immigration Act.

The amendment was intended to bring over 3,000 unaccompanied children and young refugees from Europe.

But the government removed any reference to a number, and declared the scheme closed with just 480 refugees—only 200 of whom have yet made it to Britain.

Many of those in Calais would be eligible to come to Britain under a re-opened Dubs scheme.

SUTR campaigners in Islington, north London, collected £100 for the appeal from shoppers last Saturday.


They had already received donations from local trade union branches, including £200 from the lecturers’ union UCU.

Both local Constituency Labour Parties emailed all their members about the appeal, and Emily Thornberry MP’s constituency office was made available for dropping off donations.

Teacher Viv Whittingham brought several bags of donations from students in her English for Speakers of Other Languages class. “The reaction was really warm and supportive,” she said. “Everyone said something about how they wanted to help.”

Meanwhile in Birmingham, SUTR campaigners including Labour Party members, trade unionists and socialists raised £60.

They are also building for a fundraising dinner on Sunday of this week, with speeches from eyewitnesses to the ethnic cleansing of Rohingya Muslims in Bangladesh.

The proceeds are to be split between C4C and the Human Relief Foundation working with the Rohingya.

The plight of refugees trapped in Calais could be ended with an open border allowing them to get to Britain safely and legally.

In the meantime, bringing aid donations such as sleeping bags and clothes can help the refugees survive.

And collecting for them helps bring the issue to wider attention and build a movement to get the border open. The appeal should be a priority for all anti-racists in the coming weeks.

How you can show support for refugees

Refugees resist in Greece and France

Refugees and their supporters in Europe are fighting back as governments and European Union (EU) clampdowns trap them in worsening conditions.

Hundreds of refugees and their supporters marched last Saturday in the Greek island of Lesvos—and occupied the offices of Greece’s governing party Syriza.

A shameful EU deal with Turkey has slashed the number of refugees able to cross the Aegean Sea to the Greek islands.

Those who get there are trapped, banned from proceeding to the mainland and onward to other European countries. They are locked in five EU detention camps.

The one at Moria in Lesvos now holds 6,500 people—almost triple the 2,330 it was built for.

They lack adequate food or shelter from the heavy rain.

Refugees, some of them on hunger strike, had occupied the central square of the island’s main town until last week.

They were attacked by fascist and right wing groups including the mayor.

But many locals support the refugees. Trade unionists and left parties Antarsya and Popular Unity marched with them.

Meanwhile in France several buildings were occupied by or in support of homeless refugees last week. Students and activists occupied a building at the University of Nantes. The occupation gave them a temporary shelter and demanded that the local government found them a more permanent solution.

A similar student-led occupation took place in Lyon. One of the migrants said, “Fortunately they support us. If only the French state would do the same.”

And in Marseille around 40 young migrants occupied a church for three nights.

They left on Friday morning after winning the right to emergency accommodation from local authorities, but warned that their struggle would continue to secure their rights.

Challenge to deportations

The High Court is considering a challenge to the government’s policy of deporting people for being homeless.

A three-day judicial review hearing took place last week, brought by three homeless men, two from Poland and one from Latvia.

The government can use the fact of sleeping rough to show that someone doesn’t have “genuine and effective” residence in Britain.

This counts as an “abuse” of the European Union’s freedom of movement rules and can be used as grounds for deportation.

Homelessness charities have colluded with the border cops. Freedom of Information requests found 133 rough sleepers in eight London boroughs were detained after joint visits by charity workers and immigration officers in just eight months.

The three men want the practice to be banned as discriminatory. A verdict could be delivered early next year.


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