Scottish refugee solidarity campaigners slam “sordid” Calais camp closure


Camp of 10,000 desperate people in final phases of systematic closure

CAMPAIGNERS who helped to organise a convoy of food aid from Scotland to thousands of desperate refugees in Calais have slammed as “sordid” the fate of the camp residents.

Thousands of refugees, many of them children and vulnerable people, are being bussed out of the Northern French town today (25 October) as French police move in to begin dismantling the campsite, where around 10,000 people have lived, some for over two years.

Gregor Clunie, who helped organise a Glasgow convoy of food and other aid that was co-ordniated with other convoys from around Scotland and the UK that were stopped at the French border in Dover, told CommonSpace that the UK and French Governments had not worked out a coherent plan for the refugees.

He said: “The demolition of the Calais jungle, in which many thousands of refugees have had to endure cramped, squalid conditions and brutalisation by authorities, should have been a cause for celebration. However, the lack of information on contingency plans in France and Theresa May’s government’s continued foot-dragging on implementing their most modest of commitments, is cause for serious concern.

Background read: Scots refugee solidarity convoy set for Calais despite French ban

“The whole sordid Calais affair is a result of Britain’s ideologically-driven refusal to play a reasonable part in the resettlement of refugees fleeing a Middle East destabilised significantly by its own imperialist interventions and conflicts in Africa largely forgotten by the international community.”

The UK has lagged behind most of Europe in taking in refugees, around two million of whom have entered the continent, mainly from the Middle East and North Africa, since late 2014. After his election in 2015, former prime minister David Cameron agreed to take just 20,000 refugees. However, this number would be resettled from camps in or around Syria which has been rocked by civil war since 2011.

The UK Government refused to take in refugees from the general influx, despite the fact that most of the few thousand refugees on the UK border were from countries such as Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya and Syria, areas destabilised by UK military action.

“According to Europol, as a conservative estimate, 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have disappeared since arriving in Europe, thereby becoming vulnerable to the worst forms of abuse.” Gregor Clunie, refugee solidarity activist

Over the summer a protracted battle to force the UK government to accept more unaccompanied children from the Calais camp was spearheaded by Lord Dubs.

However, as demolition of the camp begins, the UK has taken just a few hundred children and youths living in the camp.

Clunie said: “According to Europol, as a conservative estimate, 10,000 unaccompanied child refugees have disappeared since arriving in Europe, thereby becoming vulnerable to the worst forms of abuse. Despite the British government’s fig leaf of the ‘Dubs amendment’ in May, which promised to resettle unaccompanied children at Calais, progress has been painstakingly slow.”

The camp saw repeated clashes over the weekend as French police fired tear gas into the encampment, and refugees responded with stones.

The Calais camp has seen repeated violence between riot police and camp inhabitants, with frequent incursions by police to try to clear areas of the camp.

Background read: Scots outfox French border police to get aid to Calais

Clunie said: “A recent report by the Refugee Rights Data Project found that 75 per cent of refugees had experienced police violence at Calais, while the use of force was ramped up as part of the camp was demolished in February, police using rubber bullets, tear gas and water cannon on its inhabitants.

“Already this time around, police have been accused of confiscating refugee’s mobile phones and shoes to prevent them from leaving the camp.”

Care for Calais, who helped to organise the UK wide aid convoy in June have urged concerned citizens to sign a petition to home secretary Amber Rudd urging her to take more children from Calais before it’s too late.

Dubs, who was rescued as a child from Nazi Germany by the Kindertransporten scheme, has described the Calais camp affair as “a disgrace to Europe”.

Picture courtesy of malachybrowne

Check out what people are saying about how important CommonSpace is. Pledge your support today.