Created: Wednesday, 25 February 2015 13:19
Written by FRFI
The town of Calais in the north of France is witnessing a drastic situation, as asylum seekers and migrants from Eritrea, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria and Ethiopia, continue to arrive, fleeing hunger and war and seeking a normal life of the kind that everybody should be afforded.
Across Europe there are twice as many empty houses as there are homeless people (‘Scandal of Europe's 11 million empty homes’ The Guardian, 23 February 2014). In the Calais area there are over 2,500 migrants living in the streets, in tents and on mattresses. This is a problem created by capitalism, which in turn cannot find a solution. The physical conditions which the asylum seekers face are inhumane. The very fact that they call the places where they live ‘the jungles’ shows that they are treated like animals. Most of the migrants have no shelter from the cold and rain; they have no sanitation and very limited access to running water. During a recent visit by Human Rights Watch (HRW)*, daytime temperatures were as low as 1C, with below freezing conditions at night time. Zeinab, a woman from Ethiopia interviewed by HRW, explained that ‘more than food, not having a bathroom is a bigger problem’. The majority of migrants depend on food provided by local organisations and volunteers.
The inhumane living conditions are worsened by abuse from the police. Migrants have been subjected to harassment, abuse, beatings and attacks with pepper spray; a number have suffered broken bones. Salamou, another migrant interviewed by HRW, described his experience: ‘I was walking along as normal,’ he said. ‘Four policemen got out of their van and kicked me and beat me with a baton. After they beat me a policeman shone his torch on me and laughed. “Just help me”, I said, but he laughed. They kicked me on the ground, just like a dog.’ Reports like this are very common and include violence against women and children. Some reports say that the police pursue the migrants in order to scare them and force them to try to escape onto the motorway. At last 15 migrants died in 2014, the majority of them on the motorway.
Of course, the police and state authorities always deny committing abuse. The prefect of the Pas-de-Calais department and Thierry Alonso, the outgoing director of public safety, don’t want to admit to police violence. They have also the audacity to say that migrants’ injuries are caused by problems between migrants and not by police attacks on migrants.
Antifascists are mobilising in support of the migrants. It is not an easy struggle but it is an important and urgent one. It is not easy, because it has to face both the French government and the forces of fascism. Some fascists are now carrying out racist attacks against activists as well as against migrants. These racists have already fire-bombed a migrant camp and shot and injured three migrants with live rounds.
Life in the camps is precarious with the constant threat of eviction. The next round of evictions is expected to begin when it gets a bit less cold in April. Antifascist activists are preparing to support the migrants in their fight against eviction, and in the wider battle for citizenship, housing and employment within Europe.
Migrants are gathered in Calais in large numbers because the governments of France, Britain and other imperialist nations are waging war against their homelands, stealing resources and oppressing the poorer nations. The anti-racist solidarity we offer must therefore also always be linked to the fight against imperialism.
Calais Migrant Solidarity offers practical and political support to the migrants. To support their actions see https://calaismigrantsolidarity.wordpress.com/coming-to-calais/