France and Britain reinforce racist border controls

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Calais Jungle Evictions March 2016
Calais Jungle Evictions March 2016

In January a UK-France Summit at Sandhurst Military Academy agreed a series of treaties, including a new agreement to reinforce joint policing of the border against migrants attempting to cross from France to Britain. This continues on the path set by the Le Touqet treaty, signed by the Labour government in 2003. Le Touqet extended British border enforcement to northern France, and has been followed by a continuous campaign of state violence that has claimed at least 200 lives, including at least three deaths since December 2017, injuring many more and leaving thousands of people stranded indefinitely in squalid conditions.

The new treaty includes an additional £45m in funding from the British government for border enforcement in Calais and other parts of northern France, bringing the total to £160m since 2016. This money will be used to bolster the already formidable security apparatus, including fences, walls, infrared cameras, and deployments of police armed with tear gas and dogs. The treaty promises to speed up asylum applications for refugees with family in Britain and unaccompanied minors, but similar previous initiatives have fallen far short of what was promised.

The treaty also establishes a Joint Information and Coordination Centre for purposes including ‘management and prevention of threats to public order’, ‘crisis management in the event of acute migratory pressure’, and ‘support of action to counter the operations of smuggling rings, human traffickers and criminal networks’. In practice this will doubtless mean an escalation of attacks on solidarity networks organised by migrants and their supporters. It is a short step from treating unauthorised migration as a crime to defining solidarity organising as ‘criminal networks’. Any form of independent organising is increasingly being seen as a threat: just days before the summit French President Macron visited Calais and announced that the French state will take over food distribution from the charitable associations that currently offer food to migrants. This will enable greater control and make it easier for the French authorities to drive migrants away from the border through hunger. Calais Migrant Solidarity reports that squats are regularly evicted without court orders, and migrants’ sleeping bags and tents are removed or slashed by the police.

New agreements were also made to cooperate in the deportation of migrants ‘to their countries of origin or to a country where they are legally admissible’, as well as plans for ‘joint actions in illegal immigration source countries’. The latter is a programme for direct imperialist intervention far beyond Europe’s borders and was explicitly connected to military cooperation in summit discussions, including increasing British operational support for French military operations in the Sahel region of Africa.

The summit has shown that Brexit will not prevent cooperation between the French and British states to enforce racist immigration controls, from Calais to the Sahel. They must be resisted.

Tom Vickers

Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! 262 February/March 2018