Approximately 20 members of No Borders North East are in Calais as part of the first transnational camp aimed at highlighting the situation of migrants stranded in Calais, most of whom are trying to reach the UK and claim asylum. The camp is made up of about 1000 people, some of them activists, some of them migrants, whilst others are simply local people concerned with the escalating humanitarian situation. Members of No Borders North East have been distributing food to local migrants, as well as protecting a squat used by a number of Eritrean migrants against police eviction. Although the squat eviction was successfully resisted, the police later tear gassed the premises preventing the migrants from getting back in.
Some of the migrants in Calais are as young as thirteen years old, and come from places such as Afghanistan, Iraq and Northern Africa. We have witnessed extensive police harassment of both migrants and activists, and have heard numerous reports of migrants being emotionally and physically abused and brutalized by the local police. The police response to the camp has been huge, with over 2000 officers drafted in to the city. The attitude of the police is quite intrusive and is often one of confrontation and intimidation. Last night the police unsuccessfully attempted to gain access to the site of the camp in order to make further arrests of migrants but they were prevented as people woke up. It appears that the police are trying to find ways to distort the message of the camp through stimulating aggression and confrontation.
In contrast to this, the response of many locals has been positive and supportive. This is especially true of the younger generation who helped with the construction of the camp and who have been a constant presence throughout the week, joining in with migrants and activists. Everyone is gathering momentum for the planned march tomorrow. Up to 2000 people are expected to attend to protest racist border controls, show solidarity with all migrants and to call for an end to the system that denies dignity to people who are fleeing some of the world’s worst violence and criminalises the whole process of migration.
FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT FOR ALL! NO BORDERS. NO NATIONS. NOBODY IS ILLEGAL!
Steadfastness and solidarity at the Rafah border
Under pressure from the Egyptian army and the police, the International Movement to Open the Rafah Border ( IMORB), is maintaining their camp at the Rafah Border. The group is growing; now 26 people from France, USA, Germany, Egypt, Belgium, and Sweden.
Yesterday, our Italian friend left us for his job in Italy, but a German woman, Alona, married to a Palestinian from Rafah, joined us with her six children, aged 2 to 12. She wants to return to live with her husband and other three children in Gaza. After Egyptian authorities denied her entrance, she said, “I am coming from Germany and I don’t wish to go back to sleep in El Arish. I come here and I only want one thing: to go to Gaza.” By phone, her husband asked his family to join the IMORB camp.
This morning we were joined by a Palestinian refugee, Mohammad, a PFLP (Palestinian Front for Liberation of Palestine) activist who spent 24 years in Israeli prison and has been living in Belgium. Mohammad’s daughter, a diabetic student in Gaza, is now in need of insulin. “Since June 8, the Egyptian authority has denied my exodus from Egypt. I heard about your camp and I decided to come and stay with you. The rumor says the border will be open Wednesday [6/17] so I will stay and wait.”
Nine Swedish Palestinians, including four children, have also joined the border camp.
Since we set up camp two days ago (6/13) Egyptian police and intelligence agents have been visiting us periodically. Each night Colonel Mohammad speaks to us, but allows us to stay, after first threatening to expel us by force.
When he came to us last night he showed more tolerance and ordered the toilets, adjoining the cafeteria, opened, which had been closed by General Khalil Harb to pressure us to leave.
This morning policemen came and asked us to put down the tents. We explained that we need the tents for the children to take their naps later. They pressured us no more on this issue.
After yesterday morning’s visit, General Harb, came after midnight and said, “this is a closed military zone, and your presence here is unacceptable. We will use any means necessary to remove you.”
In spite of all this pressure, the IMORB persists. They stated, “we will leave only when the border will be opened.”
Our presence is reinforced by support from the Egyptian population, some of whom have brought us blankets, mattresses and other supplies. This morning an unknown man brought us fresh bread. Then a child brought some fooul, a traditional breakfast meal, that was most delicious.
Yesterday evening a policeman came to us wearing a Palestinian kifeyeh around his neck and offered us some chai.
All these demonstrations of support help us to persist in spite of the precarious situation, what Alona calls a “five star hotel.”
For all those who haven’t direct contact with those at the Border, we will try to set up a discussion for daily updates from the growing members there. ❤
International Movement to Open Rafah Border
1pm, Sunday 14 June, Phoenix Centre, 201 St. James Rd, Glasgow, G4 0NT
People from No Borders North East recently travelled to a dayschool on borders, migration and freedom of movement, supported by the Unity Centre, No Borders Network, and the Anarchist Federation, which saw over 50 people attending workshops including asylum and destitution, the UK border regime, immigration profiteers and much more. Several working groups formed around particular issues, including setting up a voucher exchange scheme, working against deportations, solidarity with migrant workers, and action on Angel housing, who profit from housing people seeking asylum in substandard accommodation. It was also an opportunity for people from across Scotland to get together and discuss developing a No Borders Network in Scotland, and there was enthusiasm for meeting again to develop this network further.
The next meeting of the network, 1pm, Sunday 14 June, at the Phoenix Centre, 201 St. James Rd, Glasgow, G4 0NT, will look at logistics like communication and structure, and will be an opportunity to join in with and hear news from working groups. Also on the agenda will be discussion of the forthcoming No Border Camp in Calais 23-29 June. Come along to find out more about what will be happening at the camp, the reasons why a camp is being organised, and how to get involved! More info on the camp at http://calaisnoborder.eu.org/
There is also an email list for the Scotland network. You can subscribe to this list to receive updates on No Borders news, actions, meetings, campaigns etc. firstname.lastname@example.org
Recent wildcat strikes earlier this year by construction workers against the divide-and-rule tactics of unscrupulous European firms, and the rolling out of ID cards to foreign nationals in the UK are reminders that we are increasingly living in a heavily controlled ‘Fortress Europe’. At the same time, you don’t need a crystal ball to see that the economic recession will be used by the far right to scapegoat immigrant workers and other migrants.
In Scotland, in recent years, there have been major successes in defeating efforts by the Home Office to escalate their barbaric dawn raids on asylum seekers. As a direct result of this success, over eight hundred families in Glasgow have been granted Indefinite Leave to Remain in the UK. Crucially, direct action and community resistance played a central role in this campaign.
At the same time, the Unity Centre has continued to play a unique and crucial role in supporting asylum seekers at risk of being deported without warning. Since it opened three years ago, over 1,800 families have registered with the Centre and on average thirty asylum seekers come into the centre everyday.
The Unity Centre initiative grew directly out of No Borders activity around the 2005 G8 summit and the formation of a Glasgow-based No Borders group. The Unity Centre collective is supportive of the development of the UK-wide No Borders Network and hosted an early gathering in Glasgow, sent supporters to the Gatwick camp as well as distributing practical information and regularly sending a delegate to UK No Borders Gatherings. More recently, people in Edinburgh have also become active agitating against border controls and against companies profiting from the border regime.
No Borders is a network of people committed to practical solidarity, mutual aid and direct action in resistance to migration controls and the persecution of refugees and other migrants. No Borders calls for the freedom of movement for all, an end to borders and to all migration controls. We call for a radical movement against the systems of control, dividing us into citizens and non-citizens, into the documented and the undocumented.