Monday, 22 December 2008

'Tis The Season Of Good Will...

...Unless Of Course You Are A Migrant!

It seems fitting that in the week leading up to Xmas, and against the backdrop of the global financial downturn, that a number of so-called Christian countries should be putting up the "no more room at the inn" signs.

In Spain the recession is beginning to bite and unemployment is starting to rise. And of course the easiest and most populist option for the government is to target migrants. To this end they are proposing new legislation to limit immigration, that also allows police to hold sans-papiers for longer prior to expulsion and that will make it harder for foreign-born residents to bring relatives into the country.

Currently 10% of the Spanish population are legally entitled residents and a fair portion of these were once so-called 'illegal immigrants', cornerstones of the building industry boom in the late 90's and early '00's, together with the agricultural labourers that the Costa del Polythene depends upon, that were granted residency during the 2005 amnesty. These people have brought enormous wealth into the country but as times are getting hard they are going to be the first to suffer.

Further east, Italy has already seen widespread repression and attacks on the Roma and migrant populations (see the 1st & 5th October posts), with the Army being sent onto the streets following a state of emergency being announced in the South of the country.

In Greece during the on-going civil uprising (which, if the BNP are to believed, has been caused entirely by 'asylum seekers') there have been a series of savage attacks on migrants carried out by the police in concert with fascists from the Golden Dawn organisation. The police have also been carrying out mass arrests of migrants and an unknown number of these are currently remanded in custody, and can be held up to 18 months before they have to be tried or released. Many have also been tried in flagrante delicto [in a police or Magistrate's court] and convicted in the absence of adequate interpreting facilities.

Greece has a long history of deaths of migrants at the hands of the police, many of whom are Golden Dawn members and sympathisers. [See] Just a week before Alexandros Grigoropoulos was shot, a 29-year old Pakistani named Mohammed Ashraf was killed by the riot-police in Athens as they dispersed a group of migrants waiting to apply for green cards.

The current picture is confused but atleast 50 migrants have received 18 month sentences (without the right to parole). There are also reports that there has been an increase in the number of migrants being rounded up and suffering forced illegal deportation.

The Southern hemisphere is also lacking in seasonal good cheer for migrants. In a rapid about turn, the Australian government have gone back on their decision to end the so-called "Pacific Solution" of using remote Pacific islands to house detained asylum seeker (see the 1st July post). Kevin Rudd's government, one of whose members labeled it a "stalag", have decided to open the £180M detention centre on Christmas Island, 1,000 miles from the Australian mainland.

Meanwhile, we have slightly better Xmas news here in Brighton. Kandazi and Harvey Sisya, 13 & 15 years old respectively, and their mother Gift Mubanga, have been bailed from Yarl's Wood IRC and will spend Christmas back in Hove, which had been their home since 2001 until they were detained on 28th November. Their attempted deportation back to Zambia on 16th December was stopped following a last-minute court injunction, a full judicial review of which is due to take place on 9th January. In the meantime the campaign for them to remain in the country started by Kandazi and Harvey's fellow pupils at Hove Park School continues. We wish them well.

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