You might have been shocked to hear about the brutal clearance of camp for migrants in the Greek city of Patras this week. It is now becoming clear that the Patras clearance is not an isolated action by the Greek authorities, however. Several European Union countries are taking extreme action to remove undocumented migrants.
In Patras, bulldozers accompanied by riot police cleared out a camp where asylum seekers and refugees, mainly from war-torn Afghanistan sought escape from both constant US bombardment as well as persecution by the Taliban. The action, followed by a fire that ripped through the camp, was so brutal that the United Nations refugee agency UNHCR warned about the fate of the hundreds who were made homeless, many of whom were minors.
Now the French authorities are getting ready to destroy migrant camps around Calais. Campaigners for migrants rights, including SALAM, Calais Witnesses, No Borders, Migrant to Migrant and Detainee Solidarity are calling for solidarity and protests on both sides of the Channel as the French authorities, with the support of New Labour, prepare for mass deportations.
The Flight of Death, as it is becoming known, is to take place after the authorities break up the camps known as the “jungle”, where around 800 immigrants without papers live in a makeshift tent city. They replaced a Red Cross refugee centre at nearby Sangatte, closed by the French government in 2002 at the prompting of the British authorities.
Up to 2,000 people are thought to live in the northern coastal region, hoping to cross the channel out of France. Most of them are refugees from Iraq, Afghanistan and Eritrea. Hoping to escape the horrors of war and dictatorship at home, they have travelled thousands of miles to look for political asylum, relatives or work in the UK and other north European countries.
Church sources in Germany and Belgium have also called for action against what they call “human trafficking” by the authorities as plans to deport dozens of migrants from Dutch detention centres through Holland’s Schiphol airport to Africa came to light last week.
In an Anglo-British summit at Evian on 6 July, the New Labour government pledged £15 million to prevent people entering the country through French ports alone. Dancing to the tune of the neo-fascist BNP leader, who said recently that it was a good thing for migrant ships to be sunk in the Mediterranean, immigration minister Phil Woolas boasted of the “state of the art technology being used to boost searches of vehicles and goods heading for Britain”.
The additional £15 million to be spent on border controls is on top of the total of £81.5 million which the UK Border Agency has already spent on removing immigrants by forcing them on to flights back to their home countries, often defying international and European human rights and asylum rights to do so.
Woolas said after signing the joint Franco-British agreement: “Last year we stopped 28,000 individual attempts to cross the Channel and searched one million lorries – these changes will further strengthen the ring of steel that protects Britain.” How proud he is to be such a reactionary and a member of a government whose actions reinforce the prejudices that help the BNP all the way.
A World to Win secretary