They can destroy "the Jungle", but not those who braved oceans and deserts to get there!

Workers' Fight workplace bulletin editorials
26 October 2016

Today we see the final attempts to demolish the Calais Jungle - and the consequences: confusion, chaos, refugees dispersed to unknown destinations around France, frightened children running away, their meagre possessions stolen or destroyed.

Of course nobody should live in such squalid conditions. That's indisputable. But then one has to ask why on earth proper facilities were never provided for a refugee population that has been stuck by this border, on and off, since 1999 - for 17 years!

As for the latest 8,000 who were in limbo in this purgatory, only around half are now being registered. Very few are being placed in "holding centres" to be considered for the asylum in Britain, which they long for and which so many (if not most) are "legally" entitled to. And even then they are subject to inhuman delay.

Yet these are people who have fled war, grave danger and destitution, across deserts and oceans at great risk and wish only to get to a "safe haven" where they have relatives or friends - in this case Britain. Many have, in fact, undertaken feats which could be hailed as heroic!

But such is the cynicism of this government - and the governments which preceded it - that nothing has been done by British authorities to prepare for this situation, let alone to open the border! Even though the refugees could so easily be accommodated and indeed warmly welcomed, not least because of their obvious resourcefulness! Or maybe that's what the British authorities are afraid of?

Many of these refugees are now literally being abandoned to their fate. And yes, this includes hundreds of "unaccompanied" young children, despite the admirable efforts of Labour member of the House of Lords, Alf Dubs. Dubs's own experience as a child refugee from Nazi Germany led him to fight for an amendment to immigration law, so that all unaccompanied children - even if they don't have relatives in Britain, would have the right to come here. But forget it. The British authorities are doing as little as possible. Only a few young adults and children (200 out of 800 who qualify) have so far been allowed in - and probably rather thanks to protests by celebrities like singer Lily Allen and various generous unofficial organisations, than to government initiative.

Their intended consequences

So what is the responsibility of the British government when it comes to such refugees - and not just from the Calais Jungle, but the hundreds of thousands still in European refugee camps, the millions in Turkey, etc? Unlike other countries, Britain has never taken its share. Out of the 4.5m refugees who have fled the Syrian war alone, Britain admitted only 1,000 by the end of 2015. It agreed to take a mere 5,000, and has still not even allowed in the additional unaccompanied Syrian children it pledged to take.

But worse, after having had such a bloody hand in the creation of the Syrian war and the birth of ISIS (a blow-back from the unfinished Iraq and Afghanistan wars) - the British military is now involved in another offensive in Iraq's city of Mosul, which has a population of 1.5m. And this is already creating another huge refugee wave.

To give just one instance: by 19 October, 5,000 people from the area had already crossed the border into Syria and into the Al-Hol camp. But according to Save the Children, "Conditions there are among the worst we've seen, and we expect thousands more people to be on their way soon". The camp was built to house just 7,500 people and already has 9,000.

This latest war is also already killing civilians - blown up by aerial bombs and by suicide bombs - ISIS reaction to the western attack - including in nearby Kirkuk. Last week a bomb killed 15 women attending a funeral there, which could only have come from one of the West's airforce line-up, since ISIS has no planes. Not to mention the dozens of civilian dead from the latest suicide bombings in Baghdad.

There is even another appallingly cynical dimension: if ISIS forces flee Mosul and regroup over the Syrian border, there is a hope among British/ US authorities that they will finish the job of bringing down Assad - an unspoken "policy" which has, all along during the 6-year Syrian war, meant that they turned a blind eye to the supply of weapons to ISIS and the al Nusra front fighting Assad's forces. These arms came from sources in Saudi Arabia/Qatar (and the Turkish government) because they all share the desire to see an end to Assad's Syrian regime. Never mind the consequences: 300,000 dead, cities destroyed and the fuelling of self-interested rivalries among rebel warlords which have added to the deadly violence.

Welcome to our ranks

So this latest episode in the story of our Calais refugees - and they are "our" refugees, because they belong to our class of the poor, oppressed and exploited - is just one more episode in the story of the capitalist system's inhumanity.

Since this system relies entirely on its successful exploitation of the working class, it needs to have borders and controls and ways to separate, divide and rule us. Breaking down these borders and divisions is a vital aspect of our fight against exploitation - and doing so can only strengthen us as a class. Just as we deplore the war-mongers' latest bloody interventions in the Middle East, we deplore the attempts by these same politicians to prevent refugees and migrant workers from joining our ranks here in Britain.