Anti-fascists: Solidarity with Calais migrants!

Refugees at sea, April 2015

In less than two weeks time hundreds of neo-Nazis and racists will descend on the coastal town of Dover calling for Britain to “close the border”. It is vital that anti-fascists and anti-racists join the counter-protest.

In less than two weeks time hundreds of neo-Nazis and racists will descend on the coastal town of Dover to try and capitalise on the humanitarian crisis currently unfolding in Europe. As hundreds of thousands of migrants flee from war and instability, predominantly from Africa and the Middle East, the far-right are calling for Britain to “close the border” and stop people in grave need from seeking safety and protection. It is vital that anti-fascists and anti-racists from across the country travel to join the counter-protest being organised by the Anti-Fascist Network.

This is the third time the far-right has held a protest in Dover in the last 12 months. In September last year former British National Party (BNP) leader Nick Griffin joined a rabble of activists at a protest organised by the local branch of the neo-Nazi National Front (NF) and an English Defence League splinter group called the South East Alliance (SEA). Four months later in January they visited Dover again to call for the border to be shut, with a large anti-fascist bloc mobilising to effectively oppose them.

This time, all signs point to a significantly higher fascist and racist attendance as the far-right seek to capitalise on recent events in Calais, where migrants have been trying to reach Britain through the Eurotunnel terminal in nearby Coquelle. The National Front is mobilising members from across the country and nearly every group which has split from the EDL in recent years has said they will be attending.

Recent events from across the continent show how important it is to oppose this. While racism and violence is already deeply embedded within the European Union’s border regime, pressure from far-right political parties and street movements is having a major impact on the lives of migrants. In the Saxony region of Germany far-right activists have been attacking refugee shelters; in Northern Italy fascists from CasaPound have forced the evacuation of migrants; across the border in Calais a paramilitary group called Sauvons Calais have been attacking refugees; and on the Serbia-Hungary border, HVIM - a group associated with Jobbik - have been holding regular anti-migrant protests.

Back in the UK, on top of their protests in Dover, supporters from the Pie and Mash Squad recently targeted migrants from Calais temporarily staying in British hotels in a vicious online campaign, while other far-right activists held a small protest outside one hotel in Wigan. Members of the South East Alliance - an extreme EDL splinter group - have also been been conducting what they describe as "border patrols" where groups of racists check under parked lorries with torches at night, looking for migrants.

At the moment the far-right is fractured and weak, but initiatives like this protest give them an opportunity to regroup and consolidate. Those familiar with UK fascist history will know the NF was founded by several far-right groups merging to create an organisation which went on to mobilise thousands of racists. The far-right are aware of this history and many of the people on the Dover protest are keen to imitate it. The regular calls for ‘unity’ are calls for far-right activists to put their differences aside and create a more threatening and dangerous street movement.

Failure to effectively block the Dover protest will tell racists, fascists, and the government that we cannot or will not stand up for migrant rights and would be a signal for these groups to continue targeting migrants. A large mobilisation in Dover opposing calls to "close the border" will, on the other hand, help balance the rampant xenophobia we are seeing in the media and remind many that an alternative perspective on migration exists: one which demands borders are opened and a decent life is offered to everyone. Campaigns against Yarl's Wood detention prison, anti-raids activism and the surge in grassroots collections for Calais are other examples of resistance to the current border regime in the UK which is responsible for so much pain and suffering.

Last month anti-fascists in Liverpool completely humiliated the neo-Nazi youth group National Action (who have been banned from attending Dover by the NF). Until Liverpool they were regarded as one of the most dangerous groups on the extreme right. After getting locked in a lost luggage office they have become a national joke, being mocked on national TV and losing a huge amount of support on the far-right. If they had marched and anti-fascists hadn’t opposed them this wouldn’t be the case. We need to apply the main lesson we took from Liverpool to Dover: that mass collective action by people prepared to confront nationalism and racism in different ways can stop the far-right from marching, making themselves heard, and building popular support for their ideas.


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Sep 3 2015 09:24


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Sep 3 2015 18:32

Good article and of course I support this event. However I don't like the continued referral to "migrants". While of course I oppose border controls in principle and think that we should be able to migrate where we like, the vast majority of these people are refugees fleeing war and persecution, and the media and the Right are desperately trying to label them "migrants" so that more people will oppose letting them live here. We shouldn't help that agenda

Sep 4 2015 13:12

I don't agree there Steven. A public outcry seems to have caused a shift in tone of the BBC and even the tabloid press over the last 48 hours or so, but the potential problem with that is that a new dominant narrative will emerge, of 'deserving refugees' as opposed to 'underserving migrants'. If we're against borders, we can use migrant without making concessions to those who want to make it a dirty word, while stressing that most people who move illegally across borders are forced to do so.

Sep 4 2015 16:27

Agree with Dannny, stressing some migrants are refugees is really liberal. It also concedes to much by accepting what is rapidly becoming the new dominant narrative. The British government's position now is to accept thousands of people from refugee camps in Syria, while maintaining the repression at the border in Calais. We shouldn't be accepting their logic.

Sep 4 2015 18:36
Tommy Ascaso wrote:
Agree with Dannny, stressing some migrants are refugees is really liberal.

On what basis? I could equally say that "stressing refugees are migrants is really Conservative".

It also concedes to much by accepting what is rapidly becoming the new dominant narrative.

The "narrative" of international law is that refugees have rights to asylum, but economic migrants don't necessarily have rights to live somewhere.

However what has become the dominant narrative now is worse than this: that even these refugees are "migrants" seeking a better standard of living. Have a look at the media coverage. Like Danny says, since the tragic death of that young toddler, the BBC has started saying "refugee" more, but practically all of the media coverage outside of the Guardian and the Independent have referred to "migrants".

I agree we should be wary of strengthening the idea of "deserving refugees" as opposed to "undeserving migrants", but what the media is doing at the moment is saying they are all "undeserving migrants". So I think we should point out that the vast majority of the current wave of refugees (from areas which our foreign policy has destabilised) are refugees, and also of course mention that we believe in free movement.

It's not a big deal, I just found it jarring to see an article on a libertarian communist site using the same language as the Daily Mail and the Daily Express.

The British government's position now is to accept thousands of people from refugee camps in Syria, while maintaining the repression at the border in Calais. We shouldn't be accepting their logic.

I agree on the latter, as I don't accept their logic. I think it's worth pointing out that while "thousands", the number of refugees the government is offering to accept is absolutely tiny, especially compared with the UK population and wealth, and the scale of the crisis.

fingers malone
Sep 5 2015 08:31

I sympathise where people are coming from with the 'say refugees not migrants' position but I agree with Danny. There is already a lot of 'only genuine refugees' commentary happening already. One politician is saying we should only take 'unaccompanied children and raped women' which is disgusting, should parents have to give up their children to see them safe? Should raped women be separated from their husbands and brothers? I'm worried by a lot of this 'help the women and children' stuff as women and children are being portrayed as innocent victims and vulnerable but also non-threatening, but men refugees are being portrayed as non-legitimate and also dangerous. Huge numbers of people are (rightly) outraged by the children drowned in the sea, but there wasn't that kind of press coverage and outrage that the French police were deliberately chasing people into traffic, which caused several deaths.
Furthermore what an averagely decent human being thinks refugee means- my friend told me a refugee is 'someone seeking refuge' which is fine as a definition- is not at all close to what the government says it means when denying people status and deporting them. Refugee legally is a very limited definition and people fleeing for their lives from a great many horrific situations are not granted refugee status. I know people are not narrowly defining 'people we should help' as the same as 'people the govt say fit their criteria' but people are getting graded and refused and we need to be able to counter that narrative.

Anyway this is not really the big issue here.Apart from sending tents and blankets- which is a good thing, don't get me wrong- but apart from that, what can we do about this?

Sep 5 2015 14:09

As with most political debates around language, I think the important thing here is not to fetishise individual words outside of the context in which they're used. The thing is to bear in mind the media narrative around "refugees", "migrants" etc. when using these words, not argue about whether one or the other is always better or more correct.

In the case of this particular piece, I don't really think Steven.'s objection makes sense, since the very first use of the term "migrants" is in the phrase "hundreds of thousands of migrants flee from war and instability," so to anyone reading the article it's pretty clear we're talking about people who are migrating to escape from fairly dreadful situations. The advantage of using "migrant" rather than "refugee" here is that it jars with how that word is generally used, so a reader accustomed to the usual tabloid bilge about migrants "swarming" over the channel to steal British jobs and benefits is then forced to re-evaluate their assumptions about the word.

That said, I don't think there's anything wrong with using the word "refugee" either. Yes we should oppose the narrative of "undeserving migrants" vs "deserving refugees" as utterly toxic and awful, but that narrative is not contained within the word "refugee" and simply saying "refugee" does not conjure it up out of the aether (and conversely, insisting on always saying "migrant" is no defence against it; it's perfectly possible to talk about this dichotomy without saying "refugee"). The advantage of saying "refugee" is that it evokes the idea that people are in need and deserving of help, without having to explain it in detail as the above article does. The slogan "Refugees Welcome" works because of this; even someone with basically no political background understands why people would want to welcome refugees. The alternative slogan "Migrants Welcome" on the other hand only makes sense if you are already ideologically on board with opposing borders and xenophobia - it might be technically more correct but it's much less affective.


Sep 5 2015 15:03

Thanks for those comments. Anyway think people have adequately covered both sides of this discussion so don't need to derail the discussion any further

Sep 5 2015 18:43

I was talking about this with a friend recently. I said I found it odd that the right wing seems to have two main issues at the moment:

1. Talking about how much of a threat IS are
2. Making sure the people fleeing IS are not welcomed on our shores

Maajid Nawaz has a great piece about the two extremes going on at the moment, bigoted Islamists and on the other side anti muslim bigotry. It was nice to see all the locals in Austria lined up awaiting refugees and giving them bottles of water and food.

Sep 6 2015 15:32

Nice to see the pope call on christians and parishes in Europe to open their homes to refugees. Fun to see right wing christians frothing at the mouth about it too.

Sep 11 2015 12:28

This is happening tomorrow, looks like it will be big.

On the same day there's also some shitty liberal protest in central London.

Sep 12 2015 22:58

Any reports from this?

Joseph Kay
Sep 13 2015 08:19

Around 200-250 fascists attempted to march to the port to demonstrate against refugees and for a closed border. The AFN and locals opposed them, drawing around 150 people in a militant bloc.
We took the initiative early on by occupying the fascists meet-up point in the Castle Pub before their march had a chance to set off. Despite coming under sustained attack from bricks and bottles, antifascists held their ground and put flight a few groups that came looking for a fight (grabbing a couple of trophies in the mean time).

The police kettled us, attempting to move the fascists onto their march route. We broke out of the kettle, and re-occupied their route. Riot police kettled us again, and held us while they marched the fascists on to their rally point in the port. Antifascists then marched unopposed and un kettled through the streets of central Dover, back to Pencester Park.

There's also a few imho unnecessary digs at the refugees welcome demos. Seems unfortunate it fell on the same day when 1-2% of those in London going to Dover could have made a big difference, but I guess it's just frustration talking.

Sep 13 2015 10:06
Apr 26 2018 03:45

Hi All im rookie here. Good article! Thx! Love your stories!

Apr 26 2018 03:45

Hi All im rookie here. Good article! Thx! Love your stories!