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Refugees and supporters in Calais hold defiant anti-racist march

This article is over 6 years, 5 months old
Weyman Bennett, joint national secretary of the Stand Up to Racism campaign, joined migrants on a solidarity protest in Calais last Saturday. He spoke to Socialist Worker
Issue 2466
The protest in Calais
The protest in Calais (Pic: Weyman Bennett)

People chanted and held up home-made placards on the demonstration. 

They said “We are human beings, not animals”, “Refugees are not criminals” and “We are in danger, not dangerous”.

Given the torrent of propaganda from politicians and the media, it was refreshing how well the march was received by French holiday-makers on the beach.

The protest was organised by migrants and their supporters. 

They were protesting against racism and calling for solidarity against their barbaric treatment. 

The organisers invited us to come partly because they wanted people from Britain after David Cameron branded migrants a “swarm”. 

I spoke to one of the organisers, Beatrice from Eritrea. 

She had crossed the Sahara desert in north Africa and the Mediterranean Sea. In other circumstances, she’d be called intrepid or a hero after making a journey of thousands of miles to escape oppression. 

Her spirit is not broken. Despite the hardships and abuse she has faced, she was full of hope and resistance like many other migrants in Calais. 

It’s amazing how people with so little share what they have—no matter what their background is. 

Every socialist and trade unionist should organise to get solidarity for the Calais migrants.

The Tories are pushing a strategy of divide and rule so they can push through austerity.

We need the same spirit of resilience that the migrants have shown.

‘We want freedom,’ demand detainees inside Yarl’s Wood

Hundreds held a noisy protest outside Yarl’s Wood women’s immigration removal centre, near Bedford, last Saturday as detainees protested inside. 

Protesters from London, Manchester, Sheffield and as far away as Glasgow arrived in coach loads. They banged on the fences so inmates could hear them inside.

Runa Khanom who travelled from Birmingham told Socialist Worker, “I’m angry at what’s going on in Calais. The government is scapegoating migrants escaping poverty and war.

“So I came here to protest and give racists more nightmares about migrant resistance.”

Detained women waved signs from the windows of the centre. 

They read, “We want freedom” and “We are human”. 

One inmate’s phone message was played through a microphone.

It said, “We are waving guys. Thank you guys. Thank you for supporting us. 

“We hope you keep supporting us until this place is shut down and we are free.

“It should be made into a museum.”

Yarls Wood’s inmates have a history of resistance. 

Hunger strikes and point blank refusals to be escorted to the airport have been commonplace.

Salman Mirza

Asylum seeker who fled the war in Yemen speaks out

One asylum seeker who fled the war in Yemen and recently got refugee status in Britain spoke to Socialist Worker. 

They said, “Waiting for an asylum decision can be like slow death.

“It was very difficult to live. 

The Home Office gave me £35 a week. But that wasn’t enough to both buy food and pay for the hour-long bus journey into the city to see my solicitor.

“Luckily I was able to stay with a student friend who helped when the money ran out. And I am very grateful to Migrant Help for the advice they gave.

“There are two beautiful sounds asylum seekers wait to hear—a letter dropping through your door and the phone ringing.

“We can’t choose the land we are born in.

“But I think you will find that if you give migrants a chance we will help share and build your country.”

Police arrest truck driver

Police arrested a lorry driver after finding 18 people in the back of his vehicle near Luton. 

A motorist called the police after seeing someone was trying to force the lorry’s back doors open from within.

The authorities are trying to make drivers act as border guards. Hertfordshire police took the 18 into “for their safety”.

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