Every year on the sixth of February, people in Calais, France, gather for CommemorAction, organised by AlarmPhone, This protest against deadly border regimes began as a demonstration against the Tarajal massacre; on 6 February 2014, the Spanish Civil Guard killed at least 15 people, and dozens disappeared. CommemorAction has now become a global event to commemorate all those who have been killed, forcibly disappeared, or who died or went missing at borders and at sea.

One hundred and fifty humanitarian workers and people in solidarity from across Europe met in the evening on 6 February 2024. The individuals gathered around 50 young men, mostly from Sudan, who were stuck on the French side of the border. In their hands, they held signs listing the dates, names, and ages of those who had been killed. The Sudanese community was especially affected given the recent death of M, just two weeks prior to the event. They shared their personal experiences, as well as their calls for action, with those in attendance that night. Many took the microphone and preached about open borders, calling for the deadly policies to end.

The names of all those who were killed at the border over the course of the past year were read out loud. Last year, 18 names were read aloud, while this year, 35 names were read aloud. Six of these individuals were killed within the first five weeks of 2024. The crowd in Calais marched to the town hall, to show the French and British politicians that their politics and actions have real consequences—that one does not simply die at the border, but rather, is killed. Five killed by the politics of abandoning people in transit in unofficial camps, leaving them in dangerous conditions. Thirty killed, and four missing, due to the lack of safe routes. The victims tried to reach the United Kingdom to seek asylum by crossing the sea in small boats or hiding in lorries and on trains. Nearly 400 persons have been killed on this border since 1999.

On the night of this year’s CommemorAction, no violence took place, but the following morning the French National Police and Compagnies Républicaines de Sécurité (CRS) continued to carry out their evictions. Since 6 February 2023, the National Police and CRS have carried out 681 evictions of unofficial camps in Calais and 40 evictions of the unofficial camps in Dunkirk, according to Human Rights Observers. As reported in October 2023, countless human rights violations are rooted in the “zero fixation points” policy, which will only claim more lives at the border unless it is revoked. Twenty people have been killed at the border since October 2023.

These hostile politics in France, and the “Illegal Migration Bill” about to come into force, allow the UK to deem any asylum claim inadmissible if the person seeking asylum arrived in the UK illegally,  and deport them to a “safe third country” or their own country (read more about why this is in breach of international law here). Since 6 February 2023, 29,592 people have crossed the English Channel in small boats. Evidently, people on the border are becoming more and more desperate to cross the English Channel, taking more chances, and risking their lives more often to seek asylum in the UK. Euro-Med Monitor restates its call, made in its November 2023 press release, for an investigation into the mass drowning on 24 November 2021, in order to avoid at all costs the English Channel becoming a maritime graveyard as in the case of the Mediterranean Sea.

Euro-Med Human Rights Monitor calls for the governments of both France and the United Kingdom to end their deadly border policies. The vicious cycles of physical and psychological violence in Calais and Dunkirk, due to evictions and a widespread lack of state-provided shelter, food, and water, all three of which are meant to be mandated by international human rights law, must be stopped. The UK must listen to the countless critiques posed by the UN, ECRE, Refugee Council UK, and many other intergovernmental organisations and non-profit coalitions, particularly as the “Illegal Migration Bill” breaches international laws and basic human rights, i.e. the very basis of humanity’s legal, moral, and ethical compass. Allowing France and the UK to keep compromising our legal principles sets a dangerous precedent for other countries to follow.