By KD Tait
30 July, 2015
On Tuesday night a young Sudanese man was crushed to death by a lorry. Nine people have been killed trying to cross the channel this month.
What kind of desperation would convince you to leap onto the back of a moving lorry? What kind of existence leaves you no alternative than risking death every single night?
What kind of media demonstrates considerably greater sympathy for the death of an African lion than it does for the fate of African refugees turning the Mediterranean into a mass grave?
Why is that people arriving in Britain in search of a better life should be persecuted, flung in detention centres, suffer rape and abuse – and then be forcibly deported?
What crime does that punishment fit?
These are not questions that trouble the conscience of British tabloid editors.
‘Send in the army’ shouts the headline of the Daily Mail.
‘Send in army to halt migrant invasion’ shrieks the Daily Express.
‘Chunnel Crisis: Send in the Army’ echoes the Daily Star.
The Sun joined calls for the army to go in and also managed to accuse the notoriously violent and racist French police of being “softies.”
The reality is that these headlines are silly-season scaremongering. Thousands of migrants ‘storming’ fences are in fact the same people being stopped several times in one night.
The refugee camps in Calais have existed for years. The ‘unprecedented’ and ‘shocking’ scenes filmed by media camera cews are indeed shocking – but they are not unprecedented.
Further, the media glare on Calais is never applied to Britain, where government ‘ghost flights’ routinely deport people who then disappear and refugees are held indefinitely in degrading conditions in detention centres.
There are around 3,000 ‘migrants’ in Calais, most living in squalid camps with little access to food, fresh water or legal assistance.
They are there because Fortress Britain won’t let them in. The French and British governments have colluded to do nothing about the refugees in Calais for 15 years – except to blame each other whenever the media is short of headlines.
In fact most of these so-called migrants are refugees who had no choice but to flee war, poverty and starvation. Britain resolutely refuses to accept its share of refugees, let alone accepting any responsibility for the refugee crisis.
Calls for the army to deal with desperate people looking for work, shelter and security might be dismissed as the absurd rantings of provincial UKIP councillors.
But when they are splashed on the front pages of papers read by millions, they are a sharp reminder of how the so-called debate on immigration is mired in a poisonous, xenophobic swamp.
The media uses its monopoly to saturate the debate with dehumanising imagery to the extent that politicians can justify openly racist language on the basis that it reflects ‘public opinion’.
David Cameron insists that Britain will not become a “safe haven” for refugees. He has ruled out providing people with work permits and boasted that new government legislation bans refugees from renting a house, opening a bank account or getting a driving license.
So refugees who have made a perilous journey, suffering all manner of privations, indignities and humiliations along the way, will be hunted down like rats if they reach our shores.
Meanwhile the Prime Minister is keen to make his priorities clear: “Everything will be done to make sure … that British holidaymakers are able to go on their holidays.”
Tory MP David Davis urged the government to build “camps” in African countries so refugees can be sent back “in a kind and humane fashion” as if they were dogs.
The recent spike in deaths in Calais is not the fault of the refugees. They are the consequence of the British government’s decision to fortify the crossing point with new fences, making access to the tunnel entrance more dangerous.
Let’s not beat around the bush. Deaths – whether in the Mediterranean or in Calais – are a desired consequence for our politicians. Deaths act, in Theresa May’s words, “as a deterrent”.
Clearly no number of deaths, no callous threats of death will be a deterrent for those fleeing a violent or a slow death in the countries from which they fled.
The refugees in Calais are a microcosm of the wider refugee crisis. Each man, woman and child is a human tragedy, a victim of the wars, persecution and impoverishment blighting Africa and the Middle East.
In their totality they represent the human consequences of the policies of western governments, which are fuelling the flames of the refugee crisis.
Solving the causes of the crisis will require action on a world scale by people organising to overthrow a system incapable of dealing with the consequences of its own existence.
That is a giant and historic task; one which the working class will achieve in the course of its struggle to create a society run by those with no ability or need to exploit each other.
In the meantime we can organise to alleviate the crisis that our rulers are intent on escalating.
We must extend the hand of friendship, solidarity and internationalism to our brothers and sisters in Calais, in Melilla and Ceuta, in Lampedusa and in Lesbos.
We need to demonstrate that although our rulers condemn refugees to a lingering death, we the exploited workers of Britain reject complicity in that crime and are engaged in a struggle to liberate them from that fate.
The fences kill – tear down the fences
The detention centres kill – release all detainees
Fight for full citizenship rights for all refugees and migrants – Calais migrants welcome here!