With Brexit so closely associated with intolerance and xenophobia- and the desire for immigration to be reduced such a driving force behind the Leave vote- our departure from the bloc was always going to intensify the struggles of migrants.
The referendum result has seemingly provided people with a mandate to both vocalise their hatred and treat migrants with greater contempt. After the vote in 2016, racially-motivated hate crime spiked dramatically; an early indication of how Brexit would trigger unprecedented division and discrimination.
At the time, it was hoped that this was not a sign of things to come. It was hoped that fears of both racial hatred and the ill-treatment migrants plumbing new depths would not come to fruition. Regrettably, such fears have been realised.
And now, just three days after we officially left the EU, there is news of more abhorrent treatment of refugees in the Calais camps.
Clare Moseley, founder of charity Care4Calais, has revealed that authorities in Northern France have been clearing people out of their tents and fencing off the areas inhabited by refugees.
‘It’s been a horrible week, it’s been very rough for a lot of the people here, spirits are very low and unfortunately that’s always the political response’, she told the PA news agency.
The timing of this news cannot be ignored. Friday saw those on the Leave side of the Brexit debate celebrating what they believe will be a new chapter for the UK. Given that stories of asylum seekers risking their lives to cross the English Channel were utilised by much of the British press to stoke up paranoia in the build-up to the referendum, it is as if refugees in Calais are bearing the brunt of the British government acting in response to public opinion.
After the vote in 2016, racially-motivated hate crime spiked dramatically; an early indication of how Brexit would trigger unprecedented division and discrimination.
It has long been the strategy of the authorities to make things as difficult as possible for refugees in camps such as those in Calais. This, it is believed, will deter them from seeking refuge in countries such as the UK.
In light of her recent visit to the Calais camps, Ms Moseley has said:
‘Now Brexit has arrived I can only see things getting worse. Not so much because of Brexit, because the agreements here between France and the UK are just direct agreements, but in the political climate that we’re in now, all they want to do is get rid of the refugees. It’s the same policy they’ve been following for the last 10 years. It doesn’t work, but what they believe is that if they make conditions hard enough, people will stop coming, so that’s what they do, they make it as hard as they possibly can.’
The authorities in Northern France display zero empathy towards both the desperate situations that refugees are in, and the catastrophic events that have caused them to become refugees in the first place. This lack of empathy and understanding is evidenced by the flawed view that, by making things as difficult as possible, it will deter those in Calais from attempting to enter the UK.
In the words of Ms Moseley, ‘The failure in this theory is that the things refugees are running away from – wars, torture, persecution – will always be worse than anything you can create.’
It is time for the British government to take heed of Care4Calais’ recommendations. It is a human right for people to seek asylum, yet there is currently no safe way for those in Calais to enter the UK. Rather than acting callously, destroying people’s possessions and leaving them with nothing, Care4Calais believe that providing a means for people to cross the channel safely is key to finding a solution.
This lack of empathy and understanding is evidenced by the flawed view that, by making things as difficult as possible, it will deter those in Calais from attempting to enter the UK.
Due to the UK’s ‘closed border system’, an individual must be on British soil in order to make an asylum claim. Yet with no safe means of accessing the UK, refugees are left with no choice but to attempt the crossing whichever way possible.
Care4Calais have assisted migrants since the infamous Calais ‘Jungle’ camp was destroyed in 2016. Not only do they provide food and shelter, they also assist with mental health, working to prevent suicide and self-harm.
[Header Image by Kelly Bertosi, World Socialist Web Site]