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The summer of 2015 has seen a massing of support for refugees in Europe. If even the typically hostile Daily Mail urges us to think of the lives lost in the Mediterranean, inflammatory and completely dehumanising remarks like those of Katie Hopkins, just seem like a distant memory – and the fear towards ‘the other’ that the media had for so long attempted to smear us all with, appears to finally be well and truly changing.
In this context, and the thousands of people who are joining social media campaigns, setting up groups and organisations, raising thousands of pounds in donations, and making trips to Calais, as well as now also contacting existing organisations to ask to find out more and offer help, and helping to bring existing campaigns (like those of City of Sanctuary, Oxfam and Citizens UK) closer together in a wider spirit of solidarity, we could be heading towards a shift from the ‘little islander’ narrative that parties like UKIP have played on, and create a new narrative of international solidarity and a shared destiny for us as 21st century global citizens. However the next months transpire in terms of the media coverage and levels of support, people will still want to seek sanctuary in Europe from military warfare and the more oppressive regimes, so we must not forget the thousands of people who are still yet to make Britain their home, at least for some time, and show people some of the same welcome that has been so inspiring to see transcribed on banners across football stadiums in cities in Germany, and at the railway stations as people arrive – including now in Budapest, as donated shoes are left for the next to arrive there.
Wales has come together to show its support – the Nation of Sanctuary campaign has been launched and Facebook groups to support people in Calais and beyond have attracted thousands of people. Here are some for west and south Wales:
Cardiff became the city it is today because of immigration. The docks in Cardiff were built by the sweat of the brow of Irish migrant labour in the nineteenth century. They brought people from around the world to settle here and build a life for themselves. We need a 21st century culture of hospitality and welcome across Wales, especially for refugees who are seeking sanctuary from war and persecution.
At midday today, Wales will hold at least three demonstrations to support refugees and migrants, and highlight the need for greater support for Syrians and other asylum seekers already in the UK. The Cardiff demonstration is called ‘Wales says #RefugeesWelcome’ – marking the hashtag that trended as opinions about this summer’s refugee crisis changed. It will assemble at the statue of Aneurin Bevan, as we remember that the NHS wouldn’t be the same without the hard work and dedication of migrant labour in Britain. It will end with a march to the Home Office on Newport Road.
This protest has been initiated by campaigners from Cardiff People’s Assembly, Cardiff Stop the War Coalition. HOPE not hate South Wales, No Borders South Wales, Rumney Forum, UNITE Cardiff Community Branch and others. It is supported by Welsh Refugee Council and Trinity Centre Cardiff. It is part of a European day of action. The activists of Europe can work together, even as the governments of the nation states argue over who is to blame and what principles of the EU might remain after this summer. It is in fact working class solidarity that is needed more than ever, and is a part of the migrant struggle. If the working class is divided, the elite find it easier to exploit us – it is only through solidarity that we can build on what we have in common, then focusing together on the need to challenge those elite powers, that, at the moment, can decide all our lives and our futures – and work together to not be dominated by them. The refugees’ struggle is our struggle, and we’ve got a world to win.
Call-out for a meeting of groups and networks involved in migration struggles in the UK and beyond.
Some of No Borders South Wales and former Bristol No Borders have been working together to restart No Borders groups in this part of the UK. We’d like to invite people from around the UK, and involved in different networks and groups active in migrant justice, to Bristol, for a discussion of how we can better unite around ongoing campaigns and struggles.
Many of us are involved in:
• Campaigns against detention
• Anti-deportation campaigning
• Solidarity with people in Calais and Morocco and other flashpoints
• Campaigns against destitution
We want to talk about ‘where next’ for many of these campaigns and how we can be stronger together and reach out to more people who may agree with us at the same time.
The proposal for the weekend is as following:
Saturday 25th April
6:30pm – 7:30pm
Meet-up after the ‘Resistance Struggles against Immigration Controls in Europe’ by Tracing Movements films at Hydra Bookshop. (Part of the Bristol Anarchist Bookfair 2015)
For those people already in Bristol for the bookfair, we will meet at Hydra bookshop and go to a pub together to kick-off the discussions around networking and solidarity between the groups. We may have some focus on where next for a local group, but the meeting is open to all and will be taken up largely with a ‘go-around’ and introductions. This will also be a chance for anyone who can’t stay for the whole weekend to feed into the discussions the next day.
Sunday 26th April
11am – around 2:30pm
UK migrant solidarity meeting towards a UK Convergence, campaigning together to end migrant detention and support overseas struggles.
Kebele, 14 Robertson Road, Easton.
Join us for a Kebele Brunch to help kick-off the after-party hangover for some, and kick-off exploring the possibility again of a radical and inclusive UK network for all!
No Borders activists in the UK last met in London in 2012 as part of a week long convergence. Since then Movement for Justice has built a UK-wide network of activists, and other migrant solidarity groups sprung up in Cardiff, Manchester and Brighton, among other places.
11am – Vegan brunch (plus introductions?)
11:30 – 12:30pm – Updates from different UK city or region groups and report-backs from Calais and No Borders Morocco.
12:30pm – 1:10pm – Working session one – splitting into two groups
1) Working towards a UK Convergence this summer – do we have the capacity for an indoor or outdoor convergence?
2) Building the campaign to end detention in the UK – what can we do to work better together?
1:10pm – 1:20pm – Fag, coffee and tea break.
1:20pm – 2pm – Working session two – again splitting into two groups
1) What next for No Borders internationally? How can we work to build a global movement?
2) Exploring the possibility further of a Bristol and south Wales No Borders group. (This could also be moved to 6:30pm)
2pm – around 2:30pm – Summing up the working sessions, concluding discussions, and discussion on future meetings.
This week there has been a rebellion in the majority of the UK’s migration prisons.
The wave of strikes initially broke out in Harmondsworth IRC in London – the largest of what are increasingly becoming concentration camps, with people held because of their ethnicity and many sent to their death. There have been strikes in at least 8 of the UK’s detention estate. The people on hunger strike are protesting the terrible conditions they must endure in such facilities, with many of them detained for years without trail, having never committed crimes. Seeking asylum is not a crime.
“They can’t send us back. Some people have very bad situations in their countries. So they have to do something with us. That is what we are trying to do.
The home office doesn’t talk with us. Only the officers in here are trying to scare us.”
“The block is a cell with nothing inside no window no nothing and your there on your own. If a dog was in there, I would feel sorry for it. You can only speak to the wall. Nothing in there.”
#END DETENTION! STOP DEPORTATIONS!
NO BORDERS! – FREEDOM OF MOVEMENT FOR ALL – NOT JUST THE RICH AND PRIVILEDGED!
Grant Maimuna Jawo Asylum Now! Grant Josephine Asylum Now!
Women fighting to end FGM must be protected!
The demonstration, at 31-33 Newport Road is due to start at 1:30pm and is supported by No Borders South Wales – some of us will be there in solidarity.
“Maimuna’s fight is a collective fight. It will take building a movement to win, and by winning we will build a stronger and more determined movement. Maimuna’s struggle is our own struggle for freedom, and we know that when we stand together we can build on our strength as fighters and win.”
Sanctuary now for all women who flee FGM!
★ Ⓐ★☮★ Revolution Solution in partnership with The Hold Up and No Borders South Wales present: Hip Hop, Live Music and Spoken Word at The Red and Black Umbrella ★Ⓐ★☮★
Live Sets include:
★ Saturday 14th February 2015 ★
Sweet beats provided through the night by DJ Alkemy
Reggae mix by Kei Hu and Kamake
★ Doors open 7pm, acts start at 8pm till late
★ Red and Black Umbrella
★ 57-58 Clifton Street, Cardiff, CF24 1LS.
★ Open Mic and Cypher to end off the night. Local MC or Poet and feel like dropping a sixteen or some spoken word? Here’s your chance.
★ We’re looking to build something sustainable so there is a suggested donation of £4 on the door. All funds raised go back into the space and to support No Borders.
★ For any more info see Farcebook page
UKIP are due to open a campaign office in Penarth this Saturday (29th).
No Borders South Wales is working with South Wales Anarchists and others to hand out leaflets and counter their racist lies with a demonstration.
Our leaflet busts some immigration myths that have been peddled by politicians, media moguls and others in an attempt to divide us, and distract us from real issues and problems that they are causing.
Join us at 11am. Phone/text 07512238523 for the meeting point, near the centre.
The No Borders South Wales noise demo was reported on Indymedia:
You can read the full report here.
We plan to hold another demonstration soon. Come to our next meeting on Tuesday 21st October at 8pm to find out more.
Opposing borders for a free and equal world.
There are several interesting meetings coming up in Cardiff over the next few weeks:
1) Anti-Raids Network Cardiff: Tues 30th Sept, Red Sea Club, 11-13 City Rd, 7pm-9pm
Organising against immigration raids through community solidarity and practical action. London based network info here
2) No Borders South Wales Introduction and Meeting: Mon 6th Oct, Cathays Community Centre, 7pm-8pm
A welcoming session to new people, explaining the work of NB in Cardiff and South Wales.
3) Universities of Sanctuary: Tues 7th Oct, Temple of Peace, 7pm-9pm
Discussion around creating a refugee-friendly institution within Universities in Cardiff. More information here
4) City of Sanctuary: Thurs 16th Oct, Red Sea Club, 11-13 City Rd, 11am-1pm
Regular meeting of the C of S group, more info here
Hope to see you in the next weeks!
On the 14th of May this year the Queen gave royal ascension to the Immigration Bill. This bill had been launched on October 9th 2013 and sponsored by the Home Secretary Theresa May. It outlined the Coalition government’s new approach to what it considered to be the key problems of the immigration sector. Hopefully this post will highlight some of the history, contents and responses to the bill, which given its cross-societal nature, have been widespread and largely in opposition.
In overview, the bill deals with several large areas:
1) The extension of fingerprint and biometric controls, passport controls, and embarkation orders in order to better and more quickly identify illegal migrants. Increase powers to inquire into partnership and marriage statuses to prevent sham marriages.
2) Cut the number of decisions on which a migrant can appeal against asylum refusal and deportation from 17 down to 4. Create a policy of ‘deport first and appeal later’ in cases where no clear threat to life exists. Advance government pressure to reduce the use of Article 8 (EHR Right to Family Life) in court hearings. Increase restrictions on multiple requests for bail from immigration detainees.
3) Restrict access to illegal migrants in a number of areas. Firstly require landlords to check immigration status on prospective and existing tenants. Secondly enforcing a payment on those subject to immigration controls for short term stay visas or longer than 6 months (asylum seekers excluded) for use of the NHS. Others include requiring bank workers and driver licensing authorities to check applicants against immigration databases.
4) Increasing regulation over the immigration advice sector and enforcing payment of unpaid civil penalties.
A number of political factors and myths have led up to this bill being passed. As part of the general attack on the welfare state by the coalition, there has also been a policy of using immigration as the ‘sharp end of the wedge’. Nowhere more clearly has this been demonstrated than the increasing attacks on so-called ‘welfare tourism‘, in particular health tourism. The bill also plays into general public fears about abuse of human rights legislation to overstay in the UK, hence the attacks on Section 8 and other rights designed to protect family life. But far and away the bill is aimed at, in Theresa May’s own words, ‘creating a hostile environment for illegal immigrants‘, which is just what is aimed at with the removal of access to public services and private rented accommodation.
However, the reality on the ground does not bear out to these concerns. In particular the shocking lack of evidence for the claim that EU migrants are costing the NHS and the welfare state a fortune. After some particularly unpleasant comments by the Coalition aimed at European migrants, the European Commission demanded proof that welfare tourism was costing what Theresa May described as an ‘unacceptable burden’. What emerged from a leaked document was that in fact the UK does not keep figures on EU migrants who access welfare benefits, and so were unable to tell the Commission even how many migrants had rightfully accessed benefits, let alone fraudulently. In an immortal line the document stated ‘we consider that these questions place too much emphasis on quantitative evidence’. In other words, because some voter saw lots of Spanish people in an A+E once it must be the case that there is abuse, don’t let pesky evidence get in the way. In fact, figures for the cost to the NHS from migrants reveal that, at a generous estimate, migrants cost 12 million pounds a year. In perspective, this is 0.06% of the amount the NHS is being required to slash, or 0.011% of the total overall budget. So much for evidence based policy.
The major problem that this bill faces is the totally unethical and unworkable proposal that private landlords should become an arm of the immigration service, on pain of a £3000 fine. There has been an outcry from various organisations ranging from landlord advocacy groups, to homeless charities. If the bill goes through, the future of the rental sector will become thus: when someone applies for accomodation or is requested a property in the private sector through a Local Authority (LA), they will become subject to an immigration control. Every person regardless of skin colour or accent is in theory supposed to be checked. But overwhelmingly the concern is, even from landlords, a default to only accepting a UK passport or worse, a white UK passport. Given that there are in theory over 200 types of European ID documents, it’s not a surprise that landlords aren’t happy. In fact there is an endless list of ways in which this bill could go wrong, including – the changing nature of immigration statuses, surcharge by letting agents for immigration checks, clash between s.193 homelessness duty from an LA and immigration status and people fleeing violence or domestic abuse who may not have access to their documents. Overall this is an ill thought out piece of legislation, but the pilot schemes will be rolled out on the 1st of December in various cities. Despite this attempt to drive out illegal migrants, all this bill will do is make life harder for ordinary people, create discrimination where there was none and force illegals into the hands of criminal landlords. A recipe for housing exploitation and homelessness is to be expected.
To prevent this becoming an excessive length piece, there will be a follow up to cover the responses and opposition to the bill. For further information on the contents of the bill click here. A
Hidden among the stories of the past few months, the crisis in Iraq, conflict in Ukraine and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa, there have been the occasional underplayed article involving boat loads of migrants drowning in the Mediterranean. By and large these stories refer to migrants attempting to sail from Libya to either Italy or Malta and suffering terrible consequences, drownings from capsized boats, dehydration, vessels rammed and tipped over, people being forcibly returned to the Libyan authorities. So what exactly is going on here? Who are the principal actors? And who are the people who seem to risk everything to get to Europe?
The route from Libya to Europe is referred to as ‘the Central Route’ by Frontex, the European Union’s central organisation responsible for intelligence and joint operations on the borders of the member states. Data collected by Frontex since 2008 reveals a striking picture of the results of numerous deals and interventions by players as diverse as NATO, Italy, the EU Commission and Libya’s National Transition Council. Libya and the Central Route are considered a major source of illegal migration into the EU. Since 2008 Libya has seen Gadaffi be overthrown and deposed by a revolution which has desecended into a civil war – with militias taking over responsibility for various government departments, including immigration and asylum. With neighbours caught in internal repressions and conflicts (Eritrea, Somalia, South Sudan), and an increasingly xenophobic EU demanding the prevention of migrants using boats to cross the Mediterranean, Libya has become a hell on earth for refugees.
Back in 2007/8, the Central Route saw a sharp rise in the number of illegal crossings. Frontex figures reveal that in 2008, approximately 40,000 migrants were recorded making the crossing. Such numbers prompted the Italian government to push for a bilateral agreement with Libya and Colonel Gadaffi, in an attempt to slow the movements. This agreement saw Libya using highly repressive actions to stop migrants leaving in boats, and Italy paid for a new militaristic infrastructure to identify, detain and deport migrants attempting to cross into Italy. Frontex figures show the success of this agreement, with 11,000 making the journey in 2009 and only 4,500 recorded in 2010.
However, with the advent of the Arab Spring and the rebellion against Gadaffi in 2011, a space was opened up for migrants escaping the Horn of Africa and North African regimes such as Tunisia to cross the Mediterranean. With internal conflict and the forcible expulsion of sub-Saharan Africans the figures show that a staggering 64,300 people crossed that year. With the border regime in Libya in turmoil and increasing numbers making the crossing Italy again responded. In 2012 the National Transition Council (NTC) in Libya made a deal with Italy to prevent boats leaving. It also allowed the Italian coastguard and Navy to patrol the waters, push back any identified vessels and hand them over to the NTC authorities. This action was a flagrant breach of several acts to protect human rights, including the EU Human Rights act and the Geneva Convention on Refugees. An EU judge ruled that any vessels intercepted by Italian authorities were under the protection of the Italian government and as such deserved their rights as potential asylum seekers. Italy also signed an agreement with Tunisia to return the majority of the Tunisian migrants. Even so, these illegal actions were highly effective, and figures for recorded crossings dropped to 15,900 in 2012. Also implicated in these illegal actions were NATO warships and vessels. Goldmiths University produced a report using sophisticated oceanography technology and claimed that NATO vessels had spotted several distressed boats of migrants and refused to help, and in some cases pushed them back. Survivors reported NATO helicopters and boats observing them for hours without offering assistance.
In the past year Libya has seen a tremendous upsurge in violence and internal repression. Refugees and migrants are treated with an appalling lack of respect. Human Rights Watch and Amnesty have made several reports outlining the degrading and brutal treatment of detainees in Libyan detention facilities. Torture, sexual assaults, whippings, refusal of medical treatment, lack of access to legal infrastructure and other violations have been outlined here and here. Libya remains a nexus for migration, due to its geographical location and existing trafficking networks. In 2013 the greatest upsurge of demographics were in the Syrian refugee population which increased by 8,699% from the previous year to 9,591 recorded crossings. Also highly visible were Eritrean and Somali populations. With no end to the militia based conflict inside the country, refugees remain trapped between the need to escape their home countries, earn some money working in Libya and then attempting to leave via a boat.
Despite the whipping up of anti-immigrant sentiment in the UK, which portrays all asylum seekers and refugees as opportunistic parasites coming to claim hard working cash from British people, the people crossing the Mediterranean come from a few specific countries. By and large the Eritran, Somali and Syrian populations are currently highly represented. This is not surprising given that Somalia is a failed state gripped by warfare, Syria is in the midst of an endless civil war, and Eritrea may qualify as one the most brutal dictatorships in the world (Eritrea is such a closed regime even the Minister for Information fled the country in 2013 as a refugee!). It makes a mockery of the aspersion that these people know the ins and outs of the UK benefit system.
The situation that these refugees find themselves in, crossing in small wooden boats – overcrowded and under-stocked with fuel, food and water, is not a natural or inevitable one. It is one of design, created by specific pieces of legislation. The implementation of lethal border regimes forces this journey on people and so must bear the responsibility of the deaths, which are fast becoming a daily occurrence. It’s time we recognised that the consequences of Europe’s borders are not statistics, but real human misery and death. Changing this would require political courage and a strong demand from civil society not to tolerate this situation in our name or in the name of our security.
Youtube documentary on the situation
No Borders South Wales, with Stop NATO Cymru, has called for a day of action against racism, prisons and borders.
This is Tuesday 2nd September. There is a planned demonstration in Cardiff. We welcome other solidarity actions for those unable to make it to Cardiff.
A key means through which NATO and its constituent members maintain their power is through the control of the mobility of all but the richest few, which has given rise to increasingly militarised border regimes across the globe.
You can tell what country NATO is currently terrorising by who’s desperately trying – and often dying – to get to the “safety” of the UK. Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and other parts of North Africa, and more recently Syria. Countries that the West – frequently with their Saudi friends – have turned into “failed states”.
People fleeing death, rape, their homes destroyed. Drowning in the Mediterranean. Being battered by cops in Calais, asphyxiated on container lorries, locked up in the prisons laughingly referred to as UK detention centers, put in solitary confinement or regular prisons if they standup for themselves. And then deported, often to their deaths.
Immigration control – aka racist state terrorism – is not just about UK racism. It’s about global capital’s strategy of free movement of capital. And selective control of labour, where wanted skills are allowed entry and the rest are expected to die quietly.
No Borders South Wales calls for a day of action on the theme of borders and anti-racism.
We call for a “noise demo” at 12noon on September 2nd outside the regional headquarters of the Home Office, 31-33 General Buildings, Newport Road, where life and death decisions are made and dawn raids ordered and carried out.
We also call for decentralised actions by affinity groups throughout the day (see Stop NATO Cymru maps for ideas).
For more information on days of action and opposition to the 2014 NATO summit see: http://network23.org/stopnatocymru