A “Let them Work” demo took place on Saturday in Cardiff city centre, organised by STAR (Student Action for Refugees). This was part of a national day of action by STAR around the issue of the right to work for people seeking asylum, there was singing from the Red Choir and several speakers including the CEO of the Welsh Refugee Council Mike Lewis, Labour MP Julie Morgan, Liberal Democrat AM Jenny Randerson and Harris Nyatsanza from Oxfam. The campaign is also supported by Refugee Council, TUC and Brighter Futures.
No Borders South Wales activists were in attendance and we fully support the demonstration’s demand for the Right to Work. The way in which asylum seekers are forbiddento enter employment is abominable and indefensible, but we have our concerns about the way the campaign makes a distinction between ‘asylum seekers’ and other kinds of migrants. STAR state that:
The UK’s wider policy towards migrant workers is an entirely separate issue.
On the contrary, we see the treatment of refugees and other migrants as intimately interlinked and as being part of wider regime of labour and mobility control. We understand that this strategic demand could fundamentally change the living conditions of thousands of people seeking asylum, but arguments that explicitly separate migrants in this way also serves to bolster the governments division of people into manageable and controllable groups. Asking for more rights from the state is a limited strategy as immigration control cannot be ‘fair’ or ‘just’, new legislation will simply add to the multi-tiered system of control, coercion and exploitation. Similar points are raised in a new pamphlet on ‘amnesties’ (pdf) just published by No One Is Illegal.
We need to build campaigns for practical improvements in peoples lives whilst clearly rejecting divisions between ‘deserving’ and ‘undeserving’ migrants, as well as wider divisions between ‘citizens’ and ‘non-citizens’. It is only though fighting for ’freedom of movement and equality for all’ that the dignity for refugees that the STAR group are fighting for will truly be able to be realised.