Calais migrant camp razed

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The operation to clear and demolish the ‘Jungle’ camp situated near to the French port of Calais began on 24 October 2016. Hundreds of people were herded towards the warehouse where processing was to take place. They were not told where they would be sent and went because they had been threatened with deportation if they failed to co-operate. Before dawn, the CRS (riot police) closed the gate out of the camp and kettled hundreds of youths, forcing them to sit on a muddy bank. Police vans and fire engines were positioned around the perimeter to control and threaten the queuing people, who were separated into four queues (adults, families, unaccompanied children and ‘vulnerable’ people) and assigned a wristband. Across the three-day operation the CRS attacked teenagers and deliberately destroyed their wristbands, meaning that they would be treated as unprocessed adults. The State of Emergency (see ‘France – secularism becomes racism’ on our website) was used to impose a ban on entry to the camp during the operation. ID checks on anyone suspected of being a migrant were carried out at the train station and in the park in front of the town hall.

The demolition began on 25 October. Just like the demolition of the southern half of the camp in March (see FRFI 250), this was carried out by Sogea Nord Hydraulics, a subsidiary of construction company VINCI. According to the CGT union, which represents workers at VINCI and publicly opposed the eviction, the company advised its workers to wear neutral clothing so as not to be recognised in the media. Another VINCI subsidiary, Eurovia VINCI, has the £2m contract for the Calais security fence. In the UK VINCI is implicated in the blacklisting of unionised workers and in Russia is embroiled in a corruption and bribery scandal. The workmen were protected by a wall of riot police. That night and into the next day fires blazed throughout the camp where hundreds slept among the debris.

On 26 October the police announced that anyone remaining in the camp the next day and not registered would be arrested. In the afternoon, 50 teenagers were lured out of the camp with the promise of transport to a reception centre to be assessed for asylum or reunification with family in Britain. Instead, after an hour standing in the cold, police with riot shields, teargas and tasers descended, forcing them onto an industrial estate where they were left overnight. The remaining minors (excluding those whose wristbands had been deliberately destroyed by the police or private security) were let back into the debris of the camp to take shelter in an abandoned, unheated school building.

On 3 November the last residents were cleared out: 291 left on ten buses to Centres d’Accueil et d’Orientation (CAOs – ‘welcome and orientation centres’) across France. The centres house people for a maximum of four months while their cases are examined. The majority of asylum claims will be denied and President Hollande has promised that anyone who does not apply for asylum in France will be deported. The CAOs, presented by the liberal wing of the ruling class as a humanitarian solution, do nothing other than make deportations easier. According to data collected by the Refugee Rights Project, only 22.1% of Jungle residents were willing to go to CAOs.

Three days after the last buildings were destroyed at the Jungle, 2,000 people were woken up before 6am and evicted from a camp at Stalingrad, northern Paris (France’s biggest camp following the demolition of the Jungle). According to the Paris Préfécture, nearly 600 police and soldiers were mobilised: one for every 3.3 migrants. Paris’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, announced that Paris would accept 450 ‘vulnerable’ migrants and announced the creation of a ‘Humanitarian Welcome Centre’ with 400 beds (50 fewer than the number Hidalgo claims Paris will accept, and 1,600 fewer than the number evicted from Stalingrad). The ‘Humanitarian’ Welcome Centre will pass people on as quickly as possible to the CAOs.

The EU operates the Dublin System, meaning that the member state which first registers a migrant is solely responsible for their asylum claim. Of course, the point of entry into Europe from Africa and the Middle East can never be France or Britain, for, in the words of French Interior Minister Bernard Cazeneuve, ‘obvious geographical reasons.’ Migrants seeking asylum in Britain because they have friends and family here or speak the language are forced to register at the peripheries of Europe and are not allowed to reapply for asylum in Britain. This is why many resist being registered in Calais.

Capitalism is in crisis, and imperialist countries are trying desperately to restore their rates of profit, both by ratcheting up war and plunder abroad, and by attacking living standards and workers’ rights at home. Immigration controls ensure that only a small number fleeing that war and plunder make it into the imperialist countries, and that when they get here they are subject to super-exploitation. Migrants have the same enemy as the rest of the mass of the working class: the ruling class. We have the same interests: the overthrow of imperialism. Only by standing together do we stand any chance of winning.

Séamus Padraíc


Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 254 December 2016/January 2017