Down with the jungle of imperialism!
Since the end of the workers' movement against the Loi El Khomri last July, the government and the reactionary forces in France are back on the offensive. One example of this is the recent clearance of the Calais migrant camp, known as “the jungle”, at the end of October.
The reason for this camp, in which almost 10,000 people lived in precarious conditions, is that many migrants from Africa, Middle East and Central Asia wish to move to UK for several reasons, including the presence there of large communities from their countries. At the end of long and difficult journeys to Europe, usually lasting months and at risk of their lives, they try to enter the UK by whatever means they can, often on trucks through the Tunnel. After the UK-France agreement of Touquet, the border is just at the entrance of the tunnel, a few hundred metres away from the camp.
This is nothing new. As long ago as 2002, Nicolas Sarkozy, then Minister of the Interior, decided to close the Sangatte centre, located in an empty Eurotunnel warehouse, and run by the Red Cross, which then hosted migrants from the Balkans. New waves of migrants followed, trying to escape from other wars like Afghanistan or, more recently, Syria. In 2009, Sarkozy's minister, Eric Besson, decided to clear … the jungle of Calais, a previous version of the same shanty town. Although Emmanuelle Cosse, the Minister of Housing in the present government, has declared that, “It is out of question to leave these people in the mud and distress any longer” and that, “Our action will allow the migrants to have a future that is not on the streets or in the camps, because this would destroy them and not allow them to develop in dignity” the real reasons are quite different.
The right-wing mayor of Calais and other forces have long campaigned against the camp, organising a demo that attracted hundreds of people in September, including locals, truck drivers and even some disoriented trade-unionists. The Front National, with more than 40 percent support in the region, is certainly also active behind the scenes, stressing the high burden for this small town of so many refugees. In some cases, in the towns where some refugees will be temporarily located, reactionary forces have tried to exploit fears and to spread racism. Several centres have been partially burned and anti-migrant events have been organised. It must, however, be pointed out that many people of Calais have continued to generously provide help, food and assistance to the migrants through the years, with little or no help from the government.
Behind the humanitarian posture of the government, the true reasons for the clearance are different. The goal is to make the migrants invisible in the eyes of the public and the media. Dispatched to 280 small centres throughout France, the migrants have been lured with the promise that they will be able to apply for refugee status in the country. However, nobody told them that only 30 percent of the applications are accepted, and only after a long delay. The others will be simply deported or obliged to go back to another jungle, in an even more precarious situation.
Indeed, just a few days after the Calais clearance, a camp inside Paris swelled to 3,500 people, sleeping in tents in the middle of a boulevard. Several thousand CRS (riot police) cleared this Paris jungle on November 4 in an even more brutal way, with bulldozers destroying the tents.
For the government, the jungle of Calais and the treatment of the migrants are simply problems in preparing for the next presidential election in 2017. While the term, “the migrant problem” has become a commonplace in the media, there is no problem on a national scale. France has given asylum to only 5,000 Syrians, while Sweden has hosted ten times that number. The true problem is the wave of racism, islamophobia and xenophobia that the FN and the right-wing party Les Republicains are fostering in the working class, with the complicity of President François Hollande and PM Manuel Valls. And, while French politicians blame the UK for the Calais camp, they ignore the similar situation of migrants in Ventimiglia, at the Italian-French border.
The reaction of the left has been weak, given the imminent danger that the working class could be infected with the racist poison. A few months ago, Jean-Luc Melenchon outrageously attacked EU workers for “stealing jobs from French workers”. Only the New Anti-capitalist Party, NPA, is standing on the principled slogans ”Welcome to migrants” and “Freedom of movement” while at the same time trying to build migrants' self-organisation and solidarity actions. Lutte Ouvrière is limited to abstract statements like “Calais migrants are tomorrow's European workers” or “The workers' movement knows how to integrate newcomers into its ranks” without any more concrete demands or actions.
It is clear that the imperialist wars and plundering of vast areas of the planet will create even more numerous waves of migrants. The only progressive position is to demand the opening of the borders of EU to stop the thousands of deaths every year in the Mediterranean and to provide decent conditions for the migrants who want to come to Europe.