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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.
News arrived on Tuesday afternoon that the Saleh family had been given removal directions for 8am the next morning. Friends of the family immediately scrambled to get to the hated ‘Barnardo’s’ detention centre ‘Cedars’, near Pease Pottage. By midnight we had some idea of numbers – around 20, or 25 tops – and all met up nearby for an impromptu picnic and a chat about what to do. Everyone was on the ball, everyone determined to do whatever they could to hold up that bus.
While we were talking two devastating pieces of news came through. An injunction had been passed to stop the Saleh family’s deportation but after a phone call from the UKBA explaining that the Border Agency had spent £60,000 on chartering a plane to deport the family, Judge Eady had reversed his decision and cancelled the injunction.
While we were reeling from that we were told that Mrs Saleh, a personal friend to some of us and the mother of one of our closest mates, had slit her wrists.
People fell to their knees, weeping. Others held each other tightly. As phone calls were made to scrape together further news, a picture emerged. Mrs Saleh was alive and, despite the mental and physical harm done to her by this situation, was still due to be deported. In her desperation she had written a message in blood on the wall of her cell: “I only wanted to save my children.”
We turned up at Cedars in drips and drabs, approaching on foot from the north in small, discrete groups who could duck into hedges and cover the white of their faces as headlights swelled in the darkness. At around 1.30 the first group was stopped by a police car near the entrance to the centre but others slipped past and melted into shadows and hedges. Police followed, trying to pick people out with torches but couldn’t seem to get a handle on our numbers. People moved up and down the road, drifting around the gates to the centre, and gradually moving to block both gates. A line of police formed up on the left gate but left the other gate alone as a small number of people were already clinging securely to the bars – they stayed there all night.
There was a stand-off for a good hour and a half. More police arrived and blocked the left gate, asking demonstrators to get off the drive but not trying to move them. The right hand gate, with people still clinging on, was further blocked by the arrival of a police car. The atmosphere was tense, as whispered plans were formed and reformed. More cop vehicles arrived on the scene, and a dog unit could be heard, gradually moving around behind the demonstrators at the left gate. People kept milling around, with no consistent numbers on either gate but lots of movement between the two. Police numbers seemed to be around the 30-40 mark.
The bus arrived at left gate around 3am. A line of us linked arms and tried to stand in its path but were roughly pulled apart and moved aside by police – the manhandling was quite intense considering our low numbers and some of the cops seemed rather wound up, barking at us to “back off” while holding us two-on-one in assorted wrist and arm locks.
That was when the screaming started. As the ruck was broken down one of ours was lying face down on the edge of the drive with two pigs on top of her, wailing at the top of her lungs for a medic. The medic was restrained a couple of metres away but the cops would neither let him go, nor get the injured woman the attention she needed. As the bus went into the centre everyone held at left gate except for this woman was shoved onto the grassy area between left and right gate. The medic kept an eye on the injured who was now frozen in a dodgy kneeling position, and kept asking the cops to let him through, call one of their medics, get an ambulance or at least support the person’s drooping head as the back injury could have been some kind of spinal. None of the cops seemed to give a toss but eventually an ambulance was called, although one of ours had already called one.
As the bus pulled through the gates a shadow darted across in front of it, dived beneath the chassis and locked itself on to the vehicle’s front axle. Immediately the call went up NOT to drive or try to drag the hero away. The bus was immobilised!
It was a good half hour before the ambulance arrived for our injured one, during which time no support or first aid was given by the police, no medic was called from Cedars, our medic was prevented from assessing the woman and the cop assigned to ‘looking after’ her pretty much just wandered around with her hands in her pockets.
Then, after around 45 minutes, the Fire Brigade arrived to cut away our lock-on hero. People tried to persuade them they were enabling an illegal deportation and that the family would face honour killing, violence and rape if they complied with the police. Unfortunately the fire crew did not show their usual courage and made no attempt to delay their work. This horrific system is made up of thousands of people ‘only doing their job’. Lock-on guy was busted for aggravated trespass but has now been released on bail without charge. Perhaps the CPS is unsure whether a lock on in this case counts as disruption of a ‘lawful’ activity, as the deportation itself is so dodgy…
Then came a quiet spell. Some of us watched silhouettes – possibly those of the family – waving from a first floor window. Others attempted to engage individual cops with the issue. Mostly we got blank faces, and cowardly rubbish about ‘following orders’. However, we pressed on, talking to them anyway undeterred by their refusal to talk to us. Eventually some of them wavered, clearly interested now. We attempted to persuade them that they, as individuals, had full autonomy at every moment of their lives but were using their energy and choices to protect an activity they couldn’t actually defend in conversation. Another cop was welling up when we explained that Mrs Saleh’s 17 year old daughter now faces FGM, rape and forced marriage. She was wiping tears away as we told her about our friend in Cardiff, desperate for her mother not to be sent away to her death, and wondered aloud what we would do without our own mothers. We explained that her shield of passive aggression, training and discipline was a barrier to her expressing the healthy emotions she clearly felt about the situation, that we were there because we felt something and she was there because she wasn’t allowed to. I hope a degree of soul searching has followed that conversation.
More cops arrived on site, and around 5.30 we got the message that the family had been moved from their rooms to board the coach. This was make or break time.
The cops around left gate had surged and now an escort van was waiting for the bus in the driveway. We were hideously outnumbered. Someone counted 30 cop vehicles on Brighton Road – more than one car for each of us – and who knows how many cops. The bus moved to the gate at around 6.30am, running very late. It had been held up for hours but was now implacable. One of ours tried to stand in front of the escort van and collapsed rather than be moved away. Physically restrained and overwhelmed, we could do nothing but shout and struggle as the coach drove past.
We piled into cars and tore down the motorway but could find no trace of the bus. One car went to Heathrow but no-one would tell us anything, the others went to Gatwick and came up blank but ran into a ton of armed cops, who weren’t too pleased by the sudden appearance of ‘No Borders’ types and gave our crew some hassle. Sadly, the Saleh family was deported at 8am but we couldn’t even confirm this for hours.
We now have more details. The day after the Director of Prisons issued a damning report ordering G4S to stop using force on minors in detention centres, Mrs Saleh’s 17 year old son was beaten up under the noses of sell-out charity Barnardo’s for resisting deportation. The family called us from an airport in Italy before being bundled onto a Denim Air charter flight and landing in Cairo that evening. They received some form of hassle from Egyptian airport staff and are now lying low, waiting for the next move.
Before their plane even touched down an appeal launched by Mrs Saleh’s solicitor was gathering serious momentum. Due process has been undermined in deporting this family before their judicial review hearing. A judge has reversed an injunction based on the cost of the family’s charter flight after being leaned-on at the 11th hour by some UKBA scumhole. And a minor was beaten up at a Barnardo’s-run detention centre within 24 hours of fierce condemnation of such practices by the Director of Prisons. These people are going to learn that they are not invulnerable and there are serious legal consequences to their actions.
Love and rage to all people facing detention or deportation, and to everyone fighting this sick, sick border regime.
PEACEFUL DEMONSTRATION in Support of SALEH FAMILY!
Saturday 27th October, 11.30am
Aneurin Bevan Statue on Queen St, Cardiff.
Bring signs, banners, instruments and friends!
On Thursday 29th January 2009, around 25 people braved the freezing cold conditions to hold a picket for about 2 hours outside the UK Border Agency at 31-33 Newport Road, Cardiff. These offices are where decisions are made about who gets detained, deported or in rarer cases granted leave to remain. ID cards are issued here for non-EU students and spouses and immigration ‘snatch squads’ operate from this address. This is also the local reporting office, where asylum applicants must ‘sign on’ as part of the conditions of their continued residence in the UK and then sometimes are detained prior to deportation. It is the face of Britain’s racist immigration policies right here on our doorstep.
Whilst holding our regular pickets we witness asylum applicants attending to ‘sign on’, their papers being inspected before they are granted admittance. Any accompanying friend or family members made to wait outside while they go in. We often also see Read the rest of this entry »
While the image of Britain as a tolerant country that welcomed migrants is a debatable one, if you read the right-wing press you might be forgiven for thinking that any welcome that did exist had disappeared altogether, and in terms of its migration regime it most definitely has. Despite increasingly draconian laws however, there are still many people who believe that somehow the UK Border regime is too tolerant and needs to ‘toughen up’. Take Paul Goddard over on The Lone Voice blog, who recently commented on Babi Badalov‘s deportation:
“it is rather satisfying to see that the Immigration Agency actually do throw people out when they find their cases wanting.”
We are sad to say that the UK Border Agency (do try to keep up Paul!) carry out around 180 deportations every day – that’s a person every 8 minutes – with these often being to countries which the government knows are unsafe. Some contributors to “a lone voice” seem fully aware of the dangers people are deported into, commenting:
“Lets hope he gets killed asap back in his homeland.”
and from another
“If Babi faces execution … will the video be available on You Tube?”
It’s quite common for advocates of “stronger borders” to be revealed as nothing more than racial supremacists. MigrationWatch, for example, possibly the foremost anti-immigration organisation in the UK was founded and is still partly run by Professor David Coleman, a long-term member and sometime office-holder of the Eugenics Society and its successor the Galton Institute (sneaky name change due to the highly discredited theory being widely recognised for the racist nonsense that it is!). Amongst other things he thinks Ethiopians should have fewer babies, and Europeans more. In a similar way MigrationWatch chairman, Sir Andrew Green, has publicly stated that
“We have no problem with immigration from Poland, which is valuable to all sides.”
but has great concerns about people from
“the distant cultures of Asia and Africa”
To these “balanced migration” advocates, Europeans = good, Asians and Africans = bad. Whitey is welcome, darkie has got to keep out. These outspoken voices often bemoan being labelled as racist for their views, claiming to represent mainstream opinion, or the ‘silent majority’.
Our experiences as No Borders activists paints a very different picture. Even though we hold what those in government, sundry influential right-wing nuts, and their apologists in the tabloid press might consider an ‘extreme position’ on borders and migration, we have found our views usually go down pretty well with the people we meet.
We do a lot of campaigning ‘on the street’, putting our message out there and making the case for the abolition of borders and in favour of individual migrants’ campaigns to stay. And far from continually meeting with abuse from knuckle-dragging racists we’ve found that once we make our case, and explain the human stories which lie behind the faceless (and dubious) statistics trotted out by the likes of Migrationwatch, people are usually quite quick to express support for what we do.
For too long now we have allowed popular discussion of migration issues to be dominated by the unthinking right and their allies on both sides of the mainstream political spectrum: a big part of our job now has to be to get out there and put our ideas in the public domain. We have to speak to our friends, our neighbours, and those in our communities; we need to produce our own media and sometimes engage with the corporate press. If our experiences since setting up this No Borders group are anything to go by, we’ll find more support amongst the general public than the shrill and callous ranting of a lone voice might suggest.
On Thursday, No Borders Manchester activists attended an event at Manchester University where the recently appointed Minister for Borders and Immigration, Phil Woolas was speaking. They first asked him for his passport, presented him with the very 1st ‘No Borders eco-nationalist award’, and then proceeded to chuck a cream pie in his face!
Since becoming Border and Immigration Minister, despite remarking that;
“when immigrants get here I think we’re cruel to them as a society” and “the asylum processes has caused untold human misery and division within our communities.”
Phil has come out with some incredibly draconian and reactionary comments;
“I think [the immigration system] has been too lenient and I want to make it harder”
“We need a tougher immigration policy and we need to stop seeing it as a dilemma. It’s not. It’s easy. “
“We have to have a population policy and that means at some point we will be able to set a limit on migration. This Government isn’t going to allow the population of this country to go up to 70 million.”
We’re not sure if the last quote, pandering to the overpopulation myth means Phil wants to put a limit on the number of births in the UK (perhaps with a Chinese style ‘One Child policy’), but it is hard to see how else the government is going to be able to fully control the size of the population.
The first UK ID cards have been unveiled, and come into force from 25th November. The card will hold the holder’s photograph, name, date of birth, nationality, immigration status and an electronic chip with biometric details, including fingerprints and digital facial image. All indefinitely held on the UK Identity and Passport Service database.
Initially the ID cards will be issued to non-EU students and marriage visa holders then, foreign nationals wanting to enter the UK. From next year other foreign nationals living in the UK will begin to be issued with ID cards. These groups will be forced to enrol on the scheme and use the card, rather than their passport, for identification,
Once migrants have been used to test the scheme, in 2009 anyone, regardless of nationality, who works in an area the government deems “sensitive” such as airports will be required to have an ID card. From 2010, students will need ID cards to get a student loan and they will be available to the rest of us on a “voluntary” basis, with them being paired with passports in 2011.
The Driver and Vehicle Licensing Agency (DVLA) will produce the physical plastic cards, and use IBM to provide the technology. Foreign nationals who boycott the card could lose their right to stay. Those who refuse to make or turn up to an appointment to scan their fingerprints and facial image will face a £250 fine, rising to £1,000 for persistent refusal. Those who fail to tell police if they lose their ID card will face a fine of £125. Employers and sponsors of foreign nationals will be forced to keep records on them, including a copy of the employee’s ID card. Businesses found employing workers who do not have valid ID cards will face fines of up to £10,000 per person.
Nearly every section of society outside the government has voiced opposition to ID cards. Let no-one be fooled by this cynical nod to racism as anything other than an attempt to introduce ID cards by stealth.
“The government is picking on soft targets — people who have no choice but to comply. They’re actually targeting people who are completely justified in being here.”
Phil Booth, national co-ordinator of No2ID
It is patently clear that this card is the thin end of the wedge, the first blow in an attack on civil liberties we all enjoy. The government is open about their plans, it wants everyone in the UK tagged, numbered and repressed, using migrants as a testing ground for it’s authoritarian desire to increase the size of the surveillance state. The opposition to ID cards must begin now.
No Borders South Wales will be holding a demonstration against the new ID laws on Saturday 4th October at 2pm outside the Passport Office, Olympia House, Upper Dock Street, Newport, NP20 1XA (map). Come and join us.
“an immigration removal centre can never be a suitable place for children”
Anne Owers, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons.
Two recent reports on full announced inspections of two privately run detention prisons provide extremely damning evidence of the treatment of asylum applicants incarcerated within them. The report on Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre and report on Tinsley House Immigration Removal Centre were both carried out by Anne Owers, HM Chief Inspector of Prisons. These are the places where single women and families – men, women and children – are locked up, often for extended periods of time, despite having never committed any crime, apart from coming to the UK in search of a better life. Both reports focused particularly on the effects that such imprisonment has on children.
Some key findings from the report on Yarl’s Wood
- Escort vehicles with caged compartments were inappropriately used to transport children
- the average length of children’s detention had increased and this had a detrimental effect on children and their families
- overall provision of health services was a concern
- Children staying for more than a few days received an unsatisfactory educational experience and there were few activities outside school hours
- There was no evidence that children’s individual needs were systematically taken into account when decisions to detain were made. Our interviews with detained children illustrated the effect of sudden arrest and detention on their well being and reflected how scared they were while held in detention
- The standard of care delivery was reasonable for basic primary care, but some serious gaps in provision, including poor access and communication, impacted negatively on detainee wellbeing
- Services for children were under-developed
Some key findings from the report about Tinsley House:
- Our principal concerns about safety related to children. While staff in the family centre made considerable efforts to support children and their families, they could do little to mitigate the damaging effects of their detention
- We were disturbed to observe some unprofessional conduct by external escort staff
- We were particularly troubled by the plight of single women …the conditions for single women were extremely poor …Their situation should be addressed as a matter of urgency
- there were examples of detainees given tranquilisers inappropriately without their consent
- Prolonged detention was not adequately explained or reviewed. When detainees made bail applications for independent review of detention by a court, BIA disclosure was sometimes prejudicially late and inaccurate
- there had been no progress on substantive areas of care since inspectorate recommendations as far back as 2002
Both these reports highlight the terrible conditions and human rights violations that asylum applicants must endure within detention centres, and as the final quote from the Tinsley House report highlights, nothing much has improved since the last inspection. The idea that such places could ever be made happier, more caring, or humane is pure fantasy. You know what we think. Close all detention prisons!
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