Research by the charity Help Refugees and the Refugee Rights Data project has revealed the shocking extent of the police brutality, racist attacks and poor living conditions faced by migrants at a the Calais “Jungle” camp.
According to the research, three-quarters of refugees in the “Jungle” camp near the French port have been the victim of violence at the hands of police. The charity also says it believes nearly half of the Calais’s refugees have also suffered violence directed at them by citizens, mostly carried out by far-right groups.
The survey, which interviewed 800 inhabitants of the camp, is published as the French police have continue to violently dismantle a large part of the southern section of the camp. It represents the largest independent data collection project carried out in Calais so far. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the living standards at the camp, a majority of those interviewed were experiencing health problems, many of them related to the unsanitary conditions in which they are forced to live. 73% of inhabitants had suffered some sort of violence at the hands of the police, ranging from tear gassing to physical assault. There were also smaller but significant reports of sexual violence.
Around 40% had suffered physical violence at the hands of civilian French citizens. Much of this was connected to the mobilisation of far-right organisations near the vicinity of the camp. Nationalist anti-migrant rallies have repeatedly taken place in Calais, despite officially being banned by the local authorities. Arrests at these rallies have revealed that some far-right demonstrators are carrying weapons. At one demonstration organised by the anti-Muslim organisation Pegida, the former head of the French Foreign Legion, Christian Piquemal, was arrested.
In the event that the camp is dismantled, a big majority of the refugees interviewed said they would stay in Calais. The big majority of them are trying to get to Britain, citing their hopes of being re-united with family and friends, as well as the fact they have English language skills but not French. In a sign of desperation, 3% reported considering suicide if they were unable to get to Britain.
Two organisers of the survery, Lliana Bird and Josephine Naughton, gave the following statement to the press: “We remain deeply concerned for the physical and mental wellbeing of the refugees in Calais, in particular the 423 unaccompanied children, and believe that the French and British governments’ continued failure to provide residents with any clear information regarding their rights and options only serves to add to their trauma.”
Meanwhile in Britain, a small demonstration against the police demolition was organised at short notice outside the Institut Francais in London. Socialists in Britain must agitate for the government to allow the people stranded in Calais into the UK, and more broadly, for a Europe of open borders and an end to the persecution of migrants.
EU leaders do deal to deport migrants to Turkey
EU leaders have made a deal with Turkey for the ″large scale and rapid″ deportation to Turkey of migrants currently in Greece.
Since the closing of the Greek-Macedonian border there has been a buildup of about 30,000 migrants in Greece, with a further 100,000 expected by the end of March. Macedonia is allowing only Iraqi and Syrian refugees through its border, and then only if they are from a city ″considered to be at war″, meaning refugees from Aleppo may be let through but those from Damascus or Baghdad may not.
All this remains entirely at the discretion of Macedonian border police as many refugees are not carrying identification. However instead of demanding that Macedonia reopens its border to avoid refugees being trapped in one of the poorest countries in Europe, EU leaders are doing a deal with Turkey for them to accept migrants deported from Greece in return for aid and maybe progress towards Turkey’s entry into the EU.
There are fears that refugees sent to Turkey would be deported to Syria, and that particularly Kurdish refugees would not be safe in Turkey. The EU′s already inadequate relocation scheme has relocated just a few hundred migrants to other areas of Europe, despite the 160,000 target. The focus now seems to be shifting to ″containing″ the crisis in Greece, avoiding new routes northwards opening up and relocating or, more likely, deporting migrants to Turkey.