Monday, 28 September 2015

Showing solidarity with Calais migrants

In light of the on-going attempts from west European government to prevent migrants in Calais from gaining a comfortable way of life, this article examines how the left can show solidarity with migrants in their struggle.
What has been quickly labelled a 'migrant crisis' by all of the mainstream media outlets, started in about 1999 when growing numbers of refugees from Africa, Asia and the Middle East were found sleeping rough, in and around the streets of Calais. Since then the number of refugees has grown to about 2000, and despite the often repeated claims from the tabloid press labelling the Calais migrants as a 'swarm', mixed with the phony claims from liberals that all the 'crisis' requires is a bit of kind hearted charity and petition signing, it remains a reality that the refugees are subject to horrendous living conditions on a daily basis. Since the Calais situation started, French authorities have declared a war of attrition on the migrants staying there. In addition to preventing the migrants from seeking Asylum in France or Britain, there have been numerous examples of police in Calais abusing their authority, by destroying shelters and using weapons such as Tear Gas. In addition to this, UK immigration law makes it practically impossible for migrants to enter the country without a visa, ironically necessitating 'illegal immigration' for almost all of those that want to claim asylum. In light of such dehumanizing conditions, it should come as no surprise to Anarchists and Socialists that such oppression does not strictly concern the fact that there are people attempting to move from one place to the other, and Instead boils down to the persecution of any foreigner who is not white, in accordance with UK border enforcement law. As such, taking direct action, should be seen as an important task for anyone who wishes to show solidarity with the refugees.

Directly Supporting migrants in Calais

There are already continuous efforts to directly support migrants in and around Calais, as police brutality becomes more aggressive, such actions need to be continued, with a large body of support.

 It goes without saying that one of the most important actions activists can take is ensuring the migrants can have a somewhat comfortable way of life, in their current position. In 2010 the group Calais migrant Solidarity were involved in helping to organise a rented warehouse for migrants and activists, this came at a time when the franco-british policy of destroying migrant shelters was in full force, as a result the legally rented warehouse was evicted the following day. Calais migrant solidarity defines squatting as an 'absolute necessity' also stating that there are numerous 'empty buildings around the city (of Calais)'. In the spirit of this, it is important that efforts to give migrants a comfortable way of life are stepped up. Not only must we continue to provide food and shelter but we must also defend such actions. Some effective ways to do this, may be to occupy all empty property in and around the Calais area and restricting police access  to all shelters and food supplies, through the use of blockades.    
Another way of supporting the migrants in Calais is to monitor and record police activity. While police will do what they can to prevent themselves being monitored, maintaining regular communication with refugees about police activity, can ensure the migrants safety, by allowing them to escape prior to any police raids or attacks. Furthermore, reporting any police violence that does happen, and making this information available to amnesty groups and other activist organisations, can help to hold authorities accountable for their actions and educate people about the dangers that police brutality pose.     
What any person supporting the migrants in Calais should of course be focused on to some extent, is getting the border opened. By organising regular pickets and demonstrations at the border, migrants and activists can express to authorities and members of the public, their discontent against border controls. However, as previously highlighted authorities in Calais will not react well to this, as such, it is important to maintain safety at demonstrations. While considering the fact that should the police retaliate, migrants and activists are going to want to escape fast, blockades may not be the wisest move in these circumstances. Despite this, other methods such as forming into small affinity groups, and using things such banners, placards and regular movement of protesters, can also serve as useful defence mechanisms, rather than just as things to express anger. Don’t fight for the furthering of state violence, fight for freedom of movement!

Organizing your own communities, against Calais Violence

It goes without saying that not everybody will be able to come to Calais to directly assist in the migrant’s struggle, however there are ways of supporting the migrants from our own communities.
As the Calais situation intensifies, and the media and politicians continue to weave their lies and bigotry, it is likely that a certain amount of resentment will begin to grow amongst the public, towards anyone who even appears to be of a different religion or race. As such, it is important to try and foster some general background knowledge about what is happening in Calais, Why it is happening and what can be done about it.  By organising anti-war and anti-racist groups, in our communities, workplaces and college campuses we can continue to stress the importance of migrant solidarity. Activities of such groups need not be off-putting for people, instead they can involve organising regular protests and pickets, setting up community run charities and engaging those who might be sceptical of such movements in debate.
The activities already mentioned serve well in raising awareness of the issue, however we also clearly have to be prepared to aid migrants in their struggle. One such way of doing this is by occupying all empty property and using them as community spaces, for migrants (or anyone else in need) to seek refuge. Furthermore, by sending as many unused resources as possible to migrants in Calais we can counteract statist efforts to make the lives of refugees as uncomfortable as possible.
These tactics not only assist asylum seekers in their struggle, but also serve to combat the capitalist belief in individualism and greed, that such situations arise from!

A Final Point

The Activities mentioned here are only some of the ways we can support migrants in their struggle. furthermore, as my readers will be aware, Calais is not the only place in the world where this struggle continues. The fight against borders and nationalism is one that effects the whole world and is therefore one we must fight in solidarity.