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In August 2007 the home secretary, Jacqui Smith, was ordered by a high court judge to suspend deportations of unsuccessful asylum seekers to the Democratic Republic of Congo, after evidence of the rape and torture of deportees by Congolese officials emerged. However the Home Office has now deemed it safe to deport people to DR Congo, despite the ongoing war, corruption, breakdown of society, and severe lack of health care.  Human Rights Watch, in its recent report “We Will Crush You – The Restrictions of Political Space in the Democratic Republic of Congo” states:

“Security forces deliberately killed or summarily executed more than 500 persons in Kinshasa and Bas Congo and arbitrarily arrested and detained about a thousand more, many of whom were tortured or ill-treated.”

Titi Nzamba Bolele, and her three young children, were snatched in a dawn raid by UK Border Agents from their home in Iron Street, Adamsdown, Cardiff at 6am on Monday 1st February. On Friday, they were Read the rest of this entry »

On Saturday afternoon over 30 people joined with No Borders South Wales outside Newport Passport Office to protest against the introduction of ID cards for non-EU foreign nationals resident in the UK from this November.

Thousands of copies of our new leaflet “Big Brother is coming“, produced especially for the event, were distributed to members of the public. The leaflet lays out the government timetable for rolling out the scheme and makes the point that these new ID cards are not only a repressive measure against migrants, they are the first shot in an attack against everyone’s freedom. The vast majority of passers by who took the time out to speak with people on the demonstration were very supportive of our campaign and were adamant that they would not accept an ID card themselves.

A dozen police were waiting by the Passport office at 2pm when people arrived. The senior officer informed people that they were willing to ‘facilitate’ the protest providing only two people were stood outside the entrance to the passport office and everyone else stood on the other side of the road. The police were politely but firmly told that that was both unreasonable and unacceptable. The officer then said he would go inside the office and then return to implement “another course of action”. Unsurprisingly, this other course of action was to completely abandon his original demand and only ask us not to block the entrance, which we had already told him we had no intention of doing.

Though in this case the police soon realised we were not going to be bullied around and the protest was able to pass off without too much of their interference, it is a concern that less experienced people wishing to exercise their legal right to protest are intimidated into being sidelined into designated “protest zones”. Across the UK police forces regularly demand that protest organisers contact them beforehand, despite the fact we all have the right to gather and protest without asking for permission. Under the guise of “minimising disruption” and even protecting the protest from disgruntled members of the public(?!?), it is increasingly common for police to view an effectively policed protest as one which as few people as possible are aware is happening. A good example of this was the march against the military academy in Cardiff which the police forced out of sight down back-streets, earlier this year.

Four officers from Gwent Police’s ‘Evidence Gathering Team’ filmed participants at the demonstration constantly, both from a distance and at close range. They also frequently checked the inside of their hats where we believe they kept their ‘spotter cards’ which identify known activists. These four officers then followed a number of the demonstrators to a local pub where they stood outside patiently in the rain, waiting for them to come out and then followed them again, over the River Usk to the legendary TJs where Smash EDO were showing a film to build support for their upcoming protest before day two of No Border Fest. Their actions are clearly politically motivated. As one passer by noted:

“I didn’t know there were so many police in Newport”

The reaction of the NO2ID campaign to the introduction of these ID cards has been underwhelming to say the least. And has largely been limited to the press release quoted in a previous post and this extract from a longer comment on their website:

“Resistance to the database state is growing, but that has not discouraged Whitehall. It seems more determined than ever to sneak round obstacles using misdirection and to find new, softer, targets…

Latest of those soft targets are overseas students, and people seeking to settle in the UK with British husbands and wives. Those, people with strong reasons not to make a fuss, are the ones to be targeted for the new biometric card scheme that will act as a test bed for the ID scheme. Jacqui Smith’s launch of “ID cards for foreigners” was a shameless piece of spin to try to associate the unpopular ID scheme with the popular policy of restricting immigration.

There’s no real link. And it is unclear how much technology there is yet. But immigration law already gives the Home Office some of the powers it would like to exert over everyone, and so it has a free hand to try out, on a few selected foreign residents, the processes it eventually intends to use for everyone else.”

The discussion about this protest on the NO2ID forum certainly seems to reveal real naivety amongst at least some sections of NO2ID supporters, with one poster commenting that

“They aren’t ID cards for foreigners. They are biometric residence and work permits.

It comes to something when a supposed opponent of the database state is inventing meaningless spin for the government as they are about to introduce the first ID cards! It is a shame that this new move by the home office is not recognised by more anti-ID activists for being what the government is very open about. This unwillingness to defend the rights of migrants endangers the struggle for everyone’s liberty. Previously Defy ID has been a vehicle for opposition to ID cards from a libertarian perspective, but given the manner in which the government is using a a greater repression of migrants as a testing ground for this scheme No Borders must intervene.

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.

Jean Pierre Gueutchue is currently detained at Campsfield House IRC and is due to be forcibly removed on July 21st at 8pm on Kenyan Airways Flight 101.

Jean Pierre fled Cameroon and arrived in the UK in 2003 where he made a claim for asylum.

In Cameroon he was imprisoned and tortured for his political activity with the Southern Cameroon National Council (SCNC), a secessionist movement that has been declared illegal in Cameroon. In prison he was subjected to torture including being kicked, whipped and a practice called ‘falaka’, which is a where a victim’s legs are tied together and soles of the feet are beaten with the flat surface of a machete.

Jean Pierre suffers flashbacks, intrusive memories, nightmares about being tortured and is being medicated for depression, post traumatic stress disorder and sleep disturbances.

Jean Pierre also suffers from Hepatitis C and Cardiff’s University Hospital of Wales has stated that it is vital that Jean Pierre’s health is reviewed in relation to his Hepatitis C treatment in October this year.

In the light of the current situation facing members of the SCNC in Cameroon and Jean Pierre’s health status, he should be offered protection in the UK.

See Jean Pierre’s campaign page for more background information.

What you can do to help:

1) Send urgent faxes immediately to Rt. Hon. Jacqui Smith using this model letter, Secretary of State for the Home Office asking that Jean Pierre Gueutchue be granted protection in the UK.

Fax: 020 7035 3262 (00 44 20 7035 3262 if you are faxing from outside UK)
E-mail: Privateoffice.external@homeoffice.gsi.gov.uk

2) Send urgent faxes to Sam Okwulehie, Group Area Manager Kenya Airways using this model letter, urging them not to participate in forcibly removing a victim of torture.

Fax: 020 87455027(+44  020 87455027 from outside the UK)
Tel: 020 82831800 (+44 20 82831800 from outside the UK)

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