By Dave Sewell
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Solidarity with refugees after Dunkirk fire

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Issue 2549
Grand-Synthe camp in flames
Grand-Synthe camp in flames (Pic: Care4Calais)

The Grande-Synthe refugee camp near Dunkirk in northern France burned down on Monday night. Some 1,500 people are trapped there by Britain’s border controls.

“There is nothing left but a heap of ashes,” said French regional official Michel Lalande.

Authorities blamed a fight between Afghan and Kurdish refugees. If true, such tensions are inevitable when desperate people are left to rot—and the dense camp was vulnerable to the rapid spread of fire.

The migrants inhabiting the camp were moved to a gym. At best, they can hope to be scattered through bleak “reception centres” like the people evicted from Calais last year. At worst, many of them could be deported.

After demolishing the Calais “jungle” and building a Trump-style wall, the Tories like to pretend the refugee crisis there is over.

But more refugees are again sleeping rough, braving police violence and risking life and limb to cross the border.

Six Iranians tried to cross the Channel by raft last week. They were hospitalised with hypothermia. 

Sannah: Sometimes I feel I cannot go on

Sannah: ‘Sometimes I feel I cannot go on’ (Pic: Care4Calais)

Sannah is in Calais fleeing the murderous dictatorship in Eritrea.

She told charity Care4Calais last week, “Calais is bad, the police chase me, they beat me. I am so tired, sometimes I feel I cannot go on. My whole body hurts, my heart hurts.”

The clampdown in northern France is part of a border regime that stretches from prison-like detention centres inside Britain to vindictive treaties with poorer states.

One man died in the Verne detention centre in Dorset on Sunday night. An investigation has been launched. The following night there was a fire there.

The toll of people to die either in detention or shortly after release now stands at 40 since 2000.

Emma Ginn of detainees’ health charity Medical Justice said, “There seems to have been a recent increase in number of deaths in immigration detention” and called for “urgent action”.

And Britain continues to fund Libyan authorities and take part in a European Union and Nato mission there to make the crossing of the Mediterranean even harder.

Increasing reports of abuses of refugees by Libyan militia—including “slave auctions”—hasn’t stopped defence secretary Michael Fallon trapping refugees in their hands.

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Yet refugees keep coming. Growing inequality, climate change and wars like the ones Theresa May is backing in Yemen, Iraq and Syria will only increase their numbers.

Border controls don’t stop them. They condemn them to poverty, danger and death.

The only real solution is to end the deadly blockade and open the border.

Help4Refugee Children and Stand Up To Racism have called a protest on Thursday from 6pm outside Downing Street demanding “Let the Families in Dunkirk In #SafePassage”. Care4Calais has launched an emergency appeal for those affected by the Dunkirk fire. Go to

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