Convoy to Calais Report

To add your name to the open letter about the Convoy click HERE. 

Saturday 18 June, was a remarkable day... for both the wrong and the right reasons.

At around 3:00pm the Convoy to Calais, which we had been organising for months, was denied access to the French side of the Ferry Terminal at Dover.  According to the French authorities, under the special powers accorded to them under their ‘state of emergency’, the convoy was banned for fears of potential violence and clashes with Police. This was despite our assurances that this was never our intention and that the convoy was about hope and solidarity and bringing huge amounts of aid to the refugees.  As a side note, Football fans, not all of whom are by any means violent and disruptive - but certainly include those that are, have consistently been fastracked and have often be allowed to go straight through passport control to enable smooth embarkation. 

To have an aid convoy halted at the border felt to many there like a kick in the teeth.

The body of the convoy had assembled in London at 8:30am with around 200 vehicles. At 9:00am, a rally opposite Downing Street formed and speeches began including a message from Jeremy Corbyn brought by great friend of refugees Diane Abbott MP, who said the convoy was "beacon of hope in a dark time". We departed London around 9:30am.

 

We were met on the way by feeder convoys from elsewhere and by the time we formed up at a service station just outside Dover we were at least 250, including our own motorbike escort, the Deen Riders who were a formidable sight. 

 

Kent Police were caught taking car registration details in the car park of the services and were confronted by Convoy organisers. They said when questioned that they were doing so at the request of the French authorities, despite previous assurances that there had been no collusion between the two forces. The officer from the Metropolitan Police stated that the Kent force had been removed and that car registration details that had been taken down would be destroyed. 

Back in London, the Humanitas Charity and other groups held a 1 hour silence in solidarity with refugees, showing that messages of hope were coming from all parts of the country. Campaigner Denis Fernando who spoke at Parliament Square before the silence  began said, “We stood near the statue of Nelson Mandela, whose relentless struggle against the racist apartheid system are a reminder of the importance of saying ‘refugees welcome’.”

When the convoy arrived at Dover we waited patiently but as time went on we took a delegation of the principle organisers forward to negotiate with the UK police who had barred our way. After a while they agreed to let them through to negotiate with the French chief of police on the other side of border control. 

As that happened a spontaneous protest by our people came up to the front chanting; 'We've got aid let us through, refugees are humans too.' 'Shame shame, shame on you, refugees are humans too.' It was very lively and angry protest but remained peaceful. After about half an hour (and already too late to board) our delegation came back without success. Our convoy would not be allowed onto French soil. It was obviously still seen as a threat.

And it was, it was a threat to the mainstream narrative that the problem is being dealt with, that refugees and migrants are somehow criminals or worse, are nothing more than 'swarms' of potential terrorists.  By refusing to tone down our message of solidarity with the refugees we were a clear challenge to the thinly veiled racism of governments both side of the channel, and of course this would not be tolerated.

We then declared our intention to head back to London to protest outside the French Embassy. By about 6:00pm we had formed up again in Knightsbridge, central London and held our third, energetic protest of the day outside the Embassy where we dropped token amounts of aid and called on the French authorities to allow our charitable donations through. A large press pack gathered to document this symbolic gesture.

A huge amount of much needed aid was not allowed in to France on Saturday. And that is a disgrace. 

However, we had also packed an enormous amount of aid onto a huge 45 foot, 38-tonne articulated Lorry. And that was sent via Folkestone and the Eurotunnel. Other delegations that had taken earlier ferries or also taken the Eurotunnel also made it.  News reached us on Sunday night, that Care 4 Calais was able to run 6 distributions throughout the course of Sunday, the first time they had been able to give out that much aid in a very long time.

 

At the very least, twice that could have gone over and we have huge amounts still stored in London. One way or the other we will get it across. 

It is vital that we do, while we closed down the Dover port for around 3 hours, the Calais port was closed for a 7 hours because a group of refugees had decided to take very real risks to life and limb by swimming out to boats in the channel. This is a shocking illustration of how desperate people are to escape the camps in Calais and get to the UK.

Over in Calais itself Care 4 Calais went ahead with their solidarity event for the 120 or people who had made it through. A huge barn was taken over and turned into an interactive exhibition space, showcasing refugee art produced from the Care4Calais mobile art workshops. Clare Moseley from Care 4 Calais described the event as ‘amazing and very poignant’. The People’s Assembly office was sent word that the refugees were ‘feeling the love’ and were following the news about the convoy being blocked and the protests in the UK in support of them.

The rest of the aid will get through. And we have sent a clear message that defies the mainstream racist narrative, and says loud and clear, ‘refugees are welcome here.'

Read more about the open letter we have initiated about the ban on the Convoy to Calais, HERE

To add your name to the open letter about the Convoy click HERE

Showing 1 reaction

Please check your e-mail for a link to activate your account.

Donate Volunteer

Connect

Join Mailing List