On the occasion of the EGAM training seminar for European antiracist activists, a two day long grassroots action was performed by participants, in company of young militants from Hénin-Beaumont, members of PACE, the Party of the Citizens of Europe based in the city, and the French charity “Secours Populaire”.
Hénin-Beaumont became a crucial symbol of the fight against racism when this North-French former coal-mining and industrial city – economically challenged and despaired by the progressive closing of the mining industry – witnessed the electoral victory of the Front National (French xenophobic, racist and anti-Semite far-right party) that widely won the municipality, despite a historically strong cultural and political link of local citizens to the left values, particularly concerning openness and solidarity.
In this context, on March 15th, the European activists supported a fundraising in benefit for the refugees of the Calais “Jungle” and Grande-Synthe camps by participating to a door-to-door leafleting. Doing so, they could observe the energy and solidarity that can be mobilized to fight the Front National, raising hope for the future.
The reality of this solidarity was moreover observed in the amount of donation brought to Calais, on March 16th, where participants met local activists from l’Auberge des Migrants providing the Calais “Jungle” with many basic needs.
Collecting, sorting out by categories (food, clothes, hygiene products…) and storing – before distributing the goods in several points – L’Auberge des migrants also provides daily meal for 300 persons and, before the dismantling of the southern part of the camp, used to build temporary shelters out of wood and plastic tarpaulins.
A camp that participants discovered by themselves during the afternoon, where they met and discussed directly with migrants eager to share their stories and expectations. This moment of deep emotion allowed the young European to observe the slum reduced to its northern part, the surrounding fences, the closed part managed by French government and the way life organize itself around socialization places such as restaurants, churches and schools.
Finally, these two days of grassroots actions only mark the beginning of the partnership between the EGAM and the local activists form Hénin-Beaumont in order to support their opposition to the Front National and its takeover of social and political spaces. In this context, the collect of goods for migrants in Calais will be continued over the oncoming months and several new projects are being planned.