The images were horrific – men and boys dragged out of the camp in the Pas-de-Calais by around 300 French police. Then the bulldozers destroyed ‘the Jungle’ – a collection of makeshift shelters, including a mosque, which had ‘housed’ asylum seekers, mainly from Afghanistan. Of the 278 people arrested, 132 were children.
This brutality had been demanded by the British government, and home secretary, Alan Johnson, expressed his “delight” at the “swift and decisive” action. It is, in reality, a savage measure, designed to inflict pain, misery and fear on the victims.
Many of the residents of ‘the Jungle’ camp had escaped before the police onslaught, retreating to Paris and other places. It is predicted that they will be back in Calais very soon.
The refugees congregating at Calais are from parts of the world where imperialism, chiefly Anglo-American, is waging aggressive wars, occupation, fomenting proxy wars and/or creating conditions of dire poverty. In Afghanistan, for example, British soldiers and air crew regularly shoot or bomb civilians, besides inflicting brutal torture, some details of which are emerging in the current inquiry into the brutal murder of Baha Mousa by British soldiers in Iraq.
It is Johnson’s Labour party and its government that instigated and oversees such atrocities. How dare he piously complain when people try to escape the carnage so created? He cynically referred to “asylum shoppers”, and maintained that they should apply for asylum in the first country of the EU that they enter. This deliberately ignores all the calculated obstacles that are put in the way of desperate asylum seekers, who risk death on dangerous journeys and are prepared to put up with appalling conditions like those in ‘the Jungle’ camp.
Even The Guardian leader of 23 September said: “ despite the rule that claims should be lodged in the first EU state reached, the French have made it so awkward in Calais that this summer the United Nations high commissioner for refugees announced it was setting up shop in the town. Consequently most of the Afghans have not yet made a claim, so neither the Home Office nor anyone else can know whether their stories are genuine. Furthermore there are unaccompanied children in Calais seeking to link up with relatives in Britain – hardly an ambition to dismiss as shopping. ”
Not only were some of the men and boys evicted from ‘the Jungle’ in tears; so were some local residents and support workers. Some shouted “Shame on France”. An aid worker wept as an Afghan boy was torn from her arms by police. Another woman held back tears as she said “I cannot believe this happened in France; we cannot do anything.”
It is important that ordinary people are shocked by, and stand up to, the brutality of imperialism. There is something more we can do – it is urgent that we set about getting rid of the cause of this brutality, imperialism itself.
The CPGB-ML’s position on refugees and immigration is published in its pamphlet Capitalism and Immigration , 2009