by Tomáš Tengely-Evans
Police have cleared the two largest refugee settlements in Calais, northern France.
Cops began breaking up the biggest make-shift camp located near the Verrotieres Road on Tuesday morning. They tore up tents and shelters, forced refugees onto buses and made preparations to seal off the area with metal fencing.
Care4Calais is one of the charities helping the 1,500 refugees who are trapped at Britain’s border in northern France and Belgium. A statement said, “All roads and exits were blocked, people were rounded up and put on coaches, and tents and possessions cleared.
“The police presence was heavy and intimidating.
“This was the first area where people began to gather when they returned, months after the closure of the main ‘jungle’ camp in 2016.
The Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff this Saturday are an opportunity to build the anti-racist movement
“Yesterday it was home to hundreds of refugees, with Africans predominantly on one side and Iranians predominantly on the other.”
The police also cleared another settlement at the other end of the road. Diego, a member of L’Auberge des Migrants charity, said,“The police and the border police supervised the evacuation.
“There was little press, few witnesses.
He added, “Everyone knew that there was going to be an eviction, some went to other shelters, others to hide elsewhere in Calais.”
The clearance follows the High Court in Boulogne-sur-Merruling ruling in favour of firm Enedis, the owner of the land around Verrotieres Road. Enedis manages electricity distribution on behalf of local authorities.
The pretext was the safety of refugees who are forced to live under high voltage power lines and transformers.
Refugees settled near the Verrotieres Road after French authorities bulldozed the “jungle” camp in 2016.
The French and British authorities have sought to make life intolerable with near daily harassment. L’Auberge des Migrants reported that in the last week alone “a person fell from a truck and was hospitalised for several days” and “a displaced person died in a truck”.
And in desperation “someone threatened to set himself on fire as an SOS against police repression”.
There have been similar clearances with people transported by bus to “welcome centres”. While they are free to leave, the centres are located away from the coast in a bid to stop them from going back there.
Refugees have often returned to settlements after clearances, but the French authorities now want to make that impossible by putting up fencing. They won’t succeed—they will only make life even deadlier for people who have risked their lives fleeing war, poverty and dictatorship.
Care4Calais said, “As with previous clearances this solves nothing as it does not change the underlying conditions that lead to these illegal settlements springing up.
“Those reasons are the terrible things that force people to flee their homes”.
The only solution is to open the border and let the refugees in—and that requires a mass movement against racism that can force the government to do it. The Stand Up To Racism (SUTR) demonstrations in London, Glasgow and Cardiff this Saturday are an opportunity to build that movement.