Solidarity with refugees and migrants

Submitted by AWL on 8 September, 2015 - 5:28 Author: Hannah Webb and Zoe Salanitro

The situation of migrants journeying through Hungary has been covered extensively in the news, showing chaotic scenes at Keleti Station in Budapest.

A recent rush of migrants when people heard rumours of a fence being built on the border between Serbia and Hungary, on the orders of Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán. People wanted to try to cross the border before the fence was complete.

The Hungarian government, unsurprising to those who are aware of their nationalist politics, have done everything they can do to make Hungary a hostile environment for refugees. They want to discourage migrants from travelling through Hungary, the first entry-point to Europe's Schengen Area, and to encourage people to take a different route — perhaps through Croatia and Slovenia.

The government has also been cancelling international trains travelling West from Budapest, and forcing people, sometimes by tricking them into believing they’re being transported to Austria, into refugee camps of purposefully poor conditions.

The startling film of a young family lying in the railway tracks to prevent a train taking them on to a refugee camp says everything about how bad the conditions are. In late August there were reports of people having been locked in cells of 3 metres by 4 metres with 27 people; it was reported that there was noticeably not enough oxygen in the cells due them having just one small window high up. Parents were shouted at by guards for holding their babies up near the window to ensure they got enough oxygen.

However, the material response and displays of solidarity by people in Hungary has been commendable. At the distribution centre at Keleti there was huge amounts of donated clothes and food. recently convoys of cars have been organised to transport people to Austria, despite the government threatening to prosecute those who did.

Additionally, the self-organisation of migrants in Budapest has brought about serious concessions. On 4 September thousands marched from Budapest towards Vienna, along the motorway until (after many hours walking) the Hungarian government was forced to provide buses to transport them to the border.

It is clear that solidarity, self-organisation and widescale civil disobedience can be of significant help in helping those looking for a better life.

Migrant and refugee support and solidarity groups

This is not an exhaustive compendium of solidarity organisations. There are many efforts to get resources and help to the various locations of the refugee crisis, lots are decentralised/loosely formed. This aims to collate some of the more prominent and organised efforts. Much of the UK effort for obvious reasons has been focused on Calais.

Calais Migrant Solidarity are a group formed following the No Borders camp in Calais 2009. There is a clear political motivation to their work. They explain that they are not an organisation for the distribution of donations (although they do do some), but are focussed on solidarity activities such as monitoring police activity and intervening in the daily police raids, squatting empty buildings in the locality, working with migrants to organise demonstrations, outreach into the local community, providing legal information and organising English classes. They specifically request tools for fixing stuff, phones and sim cards, good cameras and people.

CalAid are a volunteer group focused on the collection and distribution of donations. They are quoted in a recent Guardian article which highlights serious disruption at Calais after the arrival of spontaneous convoys of aid, saying "it is vital that people donate through a centralised distribution system", and that "material donations are needed for November or later, but they had to be given in a “respectful manner” that does not dehumanise the people in the camp.

Calais People to People Solidarity are a UK Facebook group for collaboratively organising aid collection and donation, they have a list of trips from around the UK to Calais.

Worker solidarity with refugees and migrant workers is a Facebook group of socialists and trade unionists organising labour movement solidarity action, such as drafting motions for union branches, requesting union funds with talk more focussed on more political and practical solidarity than basic aid. There is some discussion of organising a day action on the 10th October.


L'auberge des migrants international are French non-profit organising donations, drop offs and relatively non political solidarity events such as letter writing and art activities.

MIGSZOL (Migrant Solidarity Group of Hungary) describe themselves as an informal and non-hierarchical grass roots movement advocating the political and social rights of migrants, refugees and asylum seekers in Hungary.

Refugee Solidarity Network (Turkey) are a non-profit type group.

Refugee Solidarity Movement Thessolaniki (Greece). Ensuring Food Security and basic supplies for refugees in Thessaloniki

Events coming up

September 12th has been earmarked as a day action and there are events going on. Stand up to Racism and Solidarity with Refugees are organising a rally from Marble Arch to Downing Street.

The Anti-Fascist Network are organising a mobilisation on the same day to confront an alliance of far right and fascist groups who are descending on Dover.

17 October, Open Dover, Open Europe demonstration.

The demonstration will be taking place simultaneously in Dover and Calais.

It is in response to many migrants trying to enter the UK. We’re seeing a lot of anti-migrant rhetoric. We also want to challenge the dichotomy between migrants and refugees, where migrants are undeserving but refugees are deserving. We think that everyone should have the freedom to move where they like. The demo was called by NCAFC, but we have also brought in other groups, like Left Unity, Workers’ Liberty, RS21 and Right to Remain.

This is an issue that affects many different aspects of our social fabric. The issue affects students, because of the treatment of international students; and some students, like Majid Ali, are even deported, to uncertain fates. Attitudes to migrants are also behind the closure of ESOL courses.

The issue of borders affects so many aspects of life. It’s important to be political. Lots of people have done great work sending relief convoys to Calais. NCAFC supporters sent one in August as well. But the issue is very political. There wouldn’t be people living in abject poverty in Calais, or drowning in the Mediterranean, if politics surrounding migration wasn’t so dire.

All these things are the result of really bad, right-wing politics on immigration.

• “Open Dover, open Europe” demonstration, Dover and Calais, Saturday 17 October. Organised by National Campaign Against Fees and Cuts (NCAFC) and others. Email us here

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