Sunday, 31 January 2010

"Factories For Producing Mental Illness"

It's been a while since we updated on Australia and the 'Indonesia Solution', so here it is over three parts.

Professor Patrick McGorry

One of the most interesting events recently was the fact that the 2010 'Australian of the Year' and eminent psychiatrist Professor Patrick McGorry condemned Australia's treatment of asylum seekers in his high profile acceptance speech the day before Australia Day (26 January), labelling them "factories for producing mental illness".

Pat McGorry, head of both the internationally renowned Orygen Research Centre in Melbourne and the federal government's network of Headspace youth mental health centres, was awarded the prize in recognition of his work on the mental health of young people. Having worked extensively with asylum seekers in the 1990s, he is also well versed in the evidence for the adverse effects of immigration detention has on the health and well-being of migrants.

Calling for the speeding up of the processing of asylum applications to be carried out more quickly and for them to be determined whilst the applicant was living within the community, not locked up on some island hundreds of miles away. Detention centres should be closed: "Detention centres were ... you could almost describe them as factories for producing mental illness and mental disorder ... and that's quite clear now with papers in The Lancet and other key journals describing the consequences of immigration detention. It's an absolute disaster that we must not repeat."

"Australia has already set the world back by creating a different model which we are trying to retreat from. And what we have been doing here until very recently, and even now . . . is actually adding to those mental health problems," he added.

Professor McGorry's stance was supported by other experts in the field in the following days, including Jon Jureidini, a psychiatrist who has more than 10 years' experience with refugees, who stated that there was no doubt that detention exacerbated mental disorders. As a minimum, Australia should drop its policy of holding asylum seekers in detention centres off the mainland. "We need to stop offshore processing. If we are going to have mandatory detention, it's essential that people are processed very quickly and people with health concerns need to be housed in the community."

Ironically, the same day Pat McGorry appeared to backtrack on what was obviously direct criticism of the current detention regime, as the government launched a justification of its policy, by claiming that his comments had not been an attack on the federal government's policy and had been taken "somewhat" out of context. "I was congratulating the present Government for digging us out of a very deep hole which we had got ourselves into through successive governments and I guess remote detention in detention centres in the desert was really what I was talking about."

Oceanic Viking

The last 16 Oceanic Viking Tamils left Indonesia on 20 January after New Zealand did an about-face and accepted 13 of them for resettlement, with the final 3 making it to their original preferred destination, Australia. The final destination totals were: 28 to the USA, 13 to Canada, 13 to New Zealand, 3 to Norway and 21 to Australia. However, 4 of the Australia-bound Tamils, one a woman with two children, failed to make it past ASIO security checks and remain on Christmas Island. They joined another man who had arrived by boat earlier last year and who had already been refused entry due to 'links with the Tamil Tigers', which is apparently not listed as a terrorist organisation by the Australian government. This leaves the 5 Tamils, and especially the children, in limbo waiting a third country deciding to accept them. There is also the possibility that some of them Australia may deport them back to Sri Lanka, despite the government claims that would not do so as the four had been deemed 'genuine' refugees.

Interestingly, the Australian government already knew that the 4 Oceanic Viking Tamils had been assessed by ASIO as being 'threats to national security' before they were transferred to Christmas Island, and appears to have been prompted by. The ASIO (Australian Security Intelligence Organization) checks have themselves come under scrutiny, with ex-ASIO officers claiming they are open to political influence and should not form the basis of Australia rejecting asylum applications. ASIO have also refused to reveal the 'evidence' that led to their security decision to ban the five. One suggestion is that 'interrogations' carried out by the Sri Lankan navy whilst they were still in Indonesian detention (Indonesia is not a signatory to the Refugee Convention) may have led to the ban. Sri Lanka have also controversially renewed their calls on sigatories to the Convention to allow their access to intercepted refugees.

The fast-track deal itself continued to attract criticism, not least because Kevin Rudd appeared to have lied about the presence of 'terrorists' amongst the Oceanic Viking Tamils, as most asylum seekers in Indonesia wait four or five years before being resettled but the Oceanic Viking refugees were processed within two months. This has added to the problems over the Merak stand-off, especially as some of the Merak Tamils had family amongst the Oceanic Viking refugees, and on the day the last Oceanic Viking Tamils left Indonesia, the Indonesian government renewed their calls for Australia to help find a solution to the Merak stand-off.

Merak Tamils

The calls by Indonesian Foreign Minister Marty Natalegawa, amongst others, for Australia to be "part of the solution" to the impasse that is largely of Australia's creation as they requested the Indonesians intercept the Jaya Lestari on their behalf, have been rejected by the Australian government. "The disembarkation of the passengers on the Merak vessel is a matter for the Indonesian government to resolve," stated a Department on Foreign Affairs and Trade spokesperson, promising that they would be sending Australia's bizarrely titled Ambassador for People Smuggling, Peter Woolcott, to Indonesia soon. However, 3 weeks after the visit was first announced, he has yet to arrive.

Meanwhile, the Tamil refugees who have now been on board the Jaya Lestari for four months in total, with all but 2 weeks of that in Merak Harbour in West Java, have more or less slipped off the radar. The health situation of some of those on board deteriorated with one facing the loss of his leg and another the possibility of giving birth amongst the 240 other Tamils on board the crowded leaky wooden hulk. Three refugee advocates, 2 Australians and a Canadian who were in Indonesia to meet Indonesian officials and arrange humanitarian supplies for the Tamils, were arrested on 26 January near the Jaya Lestari and questioned for 11 hours. The Indonesians claimed that they entered an exclusion zone around the boat in contavention of their visa conditions and conficated their passports.

They were eventually deported after 3 days without charge and banned from returning for six months. They denied entering the exclusion zone around the boat and claimed that Indonesian police tried to intimidate them by alleging that one of the women, Saradha Nathan, was married to a known people smuggler (she merely shared the same surname). Ms Nathan claimed that the Indonesian were trying to send a message to humanitarian workers not to go there to try and help the Merak Tamils and that she thought "Indonesia is trying to give a message to the Australian government by harassing Australian citizens." The second Australian Pamela Curr agreed, saying: "The senior department of foreign affairs official was quoted in the BBC as saying this is the last time we will do this for Australia - they also said exactly the same thing to us in a private meeting on Friday morning."

Coming soon: Part 2 - Christmas Island hunger strike / Abbott 'plays the race card' & more.

Border Agency Pay Out For False Imprisonment

A refugee family is to receive thousands of pounds in compensation for false imprisonment, after the Home Office admitted they should have been freed when they applied for a judicial review against deportation. Carmen Quiroga, originally from Bolivia, and her four children, aged three to 11 at the time, spent six weeks in Oakington detention centre in Cambridgeshire in 2004.

Bhatt Murphy Solicitors, representing the family, argued the detention was illegal for reasons because it was not used as a last resort, the welfare of the children was not given priority, in contravention of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child, the use of force in detaining the family was "entirely disproportionate" and that the family had suffered inhuman and degrading treatment in contravention of the European convention on human rights.

The solicitors claimed that being detained in a dawn raid and held at the immigration centre had left the three eldest children with ongoing psychiatric problems. Ms Quiroga gave evidence that the family had suffered verbal abuse and threats from detention centre staff, were denied access to medicines and appropriate children's food and, during two unsuccessful attempts to deport them by plane, were threatened with violence. On one occasion she was also struck by a contracted security guard when she failed to maintain eye contact, as the children looked on.

In an interview with the Guardian, Ms Quiroga also said that: "This case was about being heard, and it's in this way that [I hope] what happened to me won't happen to other people." The trauma, she said, "is not something you are inventing. You feel it, you live it, and it's there all the time." Part of the settlement was an agreement by the Home Office to outline to Quiroga the steps it has taken to prevent the abuse recurring for other families.

Sarah Campbell, research and policy manager at charity Bail for Immigration Detainees, said: "This shocking case demonstrates the serious harm caused to children by detention. We regularly see the horrendous effects detention has on children, many of the children we work with experience depression, weight loss and even self-harm. There is no evidence that the detention of children is necessary for immigration control. The fact that this family had an ongoing legal case while they were in detention, and were eventually granted status to remain in the UK, raises very serious questions about why they were detained at all."

In a typical piece of Border Agency sophistry, David Wood, strategic director of 'criminality' and detention, claimed that: "Treating children with care and compassion is a priority for the UK Border Agency and whenever we take decisions involving children, their welfare comes first," despite all the evidence over the years to the contrary. If "their welfare comes first" why do you continue routinely locking them up?

Saturday, 30 January 2010

What Planet Are These People On?

Under the wonderfully inane headline 'Geert Wilders is not 'far Right' ', the Telegraph has an article bemoaning "the lack of British media interest in Geert Wilders’s martyrdom in Amsterdam." Martyrdom? It then castigates "the Equality Gestapo" for prosecuting Wilders for ‘on multiple occasions, at least once, (each time) in public, orally, in writing or through images, intentionally offended a group of people, i.e. Muslims, based on their religion’ in what he calls the "show trial of the century", even if it is only a decade old. Or as Ed West (yes, we've never heard of him either) puts it "on trial for “insulting” Islam by comparing the Koran to Mein Kampf, and for saying that Moroccans commit many street robberies in the Netherlands."

This drivel comes from someone who then proceeds to call the Dutch "retarded", label the Holocaust denial legislation "stupid", claim that the BNP is "not “fascist” in any meaningful sense" and that "Wilders’ Freedom Party* is not in any sense ‘far-Right”." He is also the person that came out with this wonderful piece of sophistry: "The Richard Dawkins-led anti-religious movement in many way resembles the totalitarian regimes of the 20th century, on both Left and Right, which hated religion as rival sources of loyalties, and sought to drive it out." Guilty of the crime of Reductio Ad Hitlerum Ed? Surely not?

* Surely this cannot be the same Ed West who wrote 'We Need A Freedom Party Of Britain'?

Daily Express - Better Never Than Late

Today saw the Express catching up with yesterday's old news, and repeating the same errors as in the Mail and Telegraph, but adding their own brand of outrage. "French authorities were last night accused of shamelessly washing their hands of the battle to prevent illegal immigration to Britain" we 'learnt' under the banner 'England Is Where We All Want To End Up...'*

"The row flared as a new base camp was opened yesterday in Calais to help migrants illegally enter Britain. Ironically, it is in the town’s Place d’Angleterre – England Square." Err, no it's not (see yesterday).

"Last night Tories slammed the camp and the massive influx into Britain as “an example of Gordon Brown’s lax immigration policy”." Two birds with one stone there. Needless to say one of the two Tories 'slamming' the 'camp' was Damien Green. The other was Philip Davies, MP for Shipley, West Yorks (who?), who is quoted as saying: “One of the main reasons they come is because they know once inside Britain their chances of being kicked out are nil.” Just as the 68,000 people who were deported or 'departed voluntarily' (i.e. left before they could be deported) in 2008 if the "chances of being kicked out are nil".

The article then went on to commit exactly the same errors as the other 2 articles (local charities, being dubbed Sangatte II, etc.) except they embroidered on the previous untruths by saying: "The facility will provide FOOD, shelter and asylum-claim advice...", where did they get that one from?

We're afraid we have to agree with Andrew Green, sole member of MigrantBotch, on this one: “This is getting increasingly ridiculous." It cetainly is but he obviously couldn't resist offering a quote when the Express rang him up (I bet he's definitely on speed-dial).

The bottom line is that there is currently (if you'll excuse the pun) no electricity or water in the building and nobody will so much as moved a blanket into the building until Monday!

* Note the nonsensical caption "Immigrants hanging around an old building in Calais" stuck onto a photo of migrants waiting in a queue for food in Calais.

Friday, 29 January 2010

Not That Old 'Sangatte II' Thing Again Peter?

News of the opening of the Kronstadt Hanger in Calais, an autonomous space organised for activists and migrants alike by No Borders and SôS Soutien aux Sans Papiers, has broken via articles in yesterday's Voix du Nord and Nord Littoral. In response our old 'friend', the fantasist and so-called journalist Peter Allen, has latched onto the story and distorted it in his own inimitable fashion for the Mail and Telegraph. (He gets paid twice for this rubbish?) So here we will dissect the relevant pieces of his articles, focusing on the Mail piece.

"A vast new welcome centre for Britain-bound illegal migrants has opened in Calais." - It is not a welcome centre, it is an unconverted empty hangar. The current plans for it are for it to be used as a meeting and information centre, where migrants will be given support and solidarity, away from the constant harassment and brutality of the French police. There are currently no plans to turn it into an accommodation centre a la Sangatte, nor would anyone involved in setting it up want to. But then again, we wouldn't expect the readers of the Mail and Telegraph to understand the concept of solidarity, ignorance and blind self-interest are far more their style. Sangatte was an unmitigated disaster whose only function was to try and get the French government out of an impasse, effectively passing the buck onto the Red Cross and abrogating their international responsibilities to the migrants.

"Local charities were today accepting the first new residents of the 2,000 sq ft hangar close to the French town’s ferry port." - It is not being organised by local charities, those involved are the expressly political campaign groups of No Borders and SôS Soutien aux Sans Papiers. Neither is it open "accepting the first new residents" (See above and the organisers' press release. They should know!)

"It is already being dubbed ‘Sangatte II’ after the former Red Cross centre which attracted thousands of illegal foreigners before it was razed to the ground in 2002." - The only person who is calling it Sangatte II is Allen himself, as he has labelled any and every structure that is in the slightest way associated with migrants in Calais.** He even called 2 prefabricated shower units Sangatte II recently. His source for his two article two local Calais newspapers, which he read in his eerie in Paris. He certainly has not talked to anybody involved in the project and they in turn certainly would not want to talk to a renown liar about the activities of activists and migrants in Calais (though of course he would disguise the fact that he worked for the Mail/Telegraph/Express as his fellow yellow press workers have often done in the past), just look back through this blog. [For example: Why Let The Facts Spoil A Good Story (Again)?]

"And the fact that the new hangar is on Place d’Angleterre, or England Square*, has not been lost on the charity workers." - It is NOT on Place d’Angleterre, it is on the corner of Rue de Cronstadt and Rue de Moscou. But why let the truth spoil a good story? And the "charity workers" as he calls them are more interested in the fact that it is on Rue de Cronstadt and have named it Kronstadt Hanger.

"‘It’s very appropriate,’ said one. ‘England is where almost everyone who stays here will want to end up. We’ll be able to look after hundreds at a time.’" - I repeat, Allen has NOT talked to anyone involved. That is not to say that he hasn't talked to someone in Calais about it and they gave him that quote. They may even have been a 'charity worker' (sic) but they certainly were not involved in the Kronstadt Hanger. NB. This is a regular Mail trick, the non-naming of a source. Again, why let the truth spoil a good story.

"News of the latest building comes just eight months after France’s Immigration Minister Eric Besson said he would make the town ‘watertight’ to those trying to get to Britain."

"But since then the humanitarian situation has deteriorated to such an extent that both the government and Calais council fear urgent action is needed." - Something which we have been arguing about even before the Pashtun 'Jungle' was cleared. But then again, the French government and Calais council always knew this outcome was inevitable. So it is not the extent that the "humanitarian situation has deteriorated" that has caused them to be worried, it is the accompanying bad publicity.

"While they have not yet given official approval to the new centre, the charities who are renting it believe they will turn a blind eye. ‘We don’t envisage any legal problems,’ said a spokesman for the SOS refugee and homeless charity." - They can't give official approval because it has not been applied for!

"‘This is a humanitarian gesture – we’re putting the shelter at the disposal of the migrants." - For someone who lives in Paris and can supposedly speak and, one would hope, understands French, Allen has again put works into Rodolphe Nettier's mouth. He did not mention any "humanitarian gesture" in either article and all he said was that it would be made "available to Calaisiennes and Calaisiennes for migrants" i.e. those supporting migrants. To quote the Nord Littoral article: "This is not a humanitarian approach, hastens to clarify it. We will not turn into France Terre d'Asile, or even the distribution of meals or the care of migrants. We just give them a shelter, a kind of refuge. To help them self-organise."

"‘There are showers, bathrooms and toilets. It will be heated and there will be blankets and beds.’" - There are two showers, a sink and toilets. It is an old warehouse. It is not heated and there are no beds. Again, these are Allen's fabrications. Looks at the two articles yourselves. But of course the above quotes are not directly ascribed to Rudolphe, they are from an unnamed spokesman. How convenient. In fact, in the Telegraph he makes it explicit that he was quoting one of "the charity’s employees". So he has actually done some original work on the article, not just rehashed someone else's work. Just a pity that the one person he talked to clealry knew nothing about it (not even the actual location).

"Rodolphe Nettier, president of SOS, said : ‘We have initially rented the hangar for a few months, but hope to keep it open for much longer. The first migrants are due today.’" - Unfortunately, Nettier and the paper got this wrong. This is an autonomous space that will be self-organised. For those of you only used to hierarchical structures, autonomous self-organised spaces are run by those that use them, and no decision has been made on the ground so far as far as we know that indicates that "the first migrants (will arrive) today." In fact, those that are likely to be involved in using and running the Krondstadt will not be meeting until after this afternoon's Board of Migrants meeting with the mayor at 14:30.

"Mr Nettier said the building was very secure – something which will make it difficult for the police to raid and arrest the migrants." - It is also private property, a fact which ideally should prevent the police from entering at will, but which in past experience has not proved sufficient a barrier to their harassment.

"There will be no restrictions on who can use the welcome centre, said Mr Nettier." - Again, he did not say that and is another fabrication and he could not claim this anyway, given that the space will be self-organising.

You get the picture. You certainly can't trust everything you read in the paper, especially if it comes with the by-line: by Peter Allen.

* The Mail article is even headlined ''Sangatte II' opens by Calais ferry port ... and it's on street called England Square'.
** See: MailWatch #7 - 'Sangatte II' or Not 'Sangatte II', That Is The Question and More Smoke About The Fire.

Autonomous Space For Migrants And Activists To Open In Calais

***PRESS RELEASE: For Immediate Release: 29/01/10***

Activists from the transnational No Borders network and the French organisation, SôS Soutien aux Sans Papiers, are shortly to open a large warehouse for migrants in Calais [1].

The building is to be an autonomous space for migrants and activists struggling for the right to freedom of movement. It will be host to information-sharing, debate and practical solidarity. The Kronstadt building is located in the town that has become the symbol of Fortress Europe, a place where arrests and beatings of migrants by the police are a daily occurrence, and where night-time pursuits are relentless [2].

By this act, they stand in solidarity with those for whom border and immigration control is a discriminatory, oppressive and unjust reality. In a real democracy, every person enriches society in myriad ways, and no-one is surplus to requirements; neither the unemployed, the young, the old, or the foreign.

The space, the activists emphasise, is NOT to be a new Sangatte. No band-aid such as Sangatte could suffice to deal with the horrors undergone by the thousands who seek protection or survival from authoritarianism, or capitalist wars, while arbitrary national borders remain in place.

The first meeting with organisations and local residents to discuss how they wish to support and participate in the project is to take place today.

Contact in France:
Contact in the UK: 077 949 661 556 or


[1] The No Borders Network use direct action and practical solidarity to fight for freedom of movement for all. They form part of the Calais Migrant Solidarity group which has maintained a continued presence in Calais since last summer.

[2] For a summary of police activities in December, please see our report here:

Thursday, 28 January 2010

Italy's Foreign Minister Franco Frantini Answers A Few Questions

In a bizarre little interview we came across on the ISRIA (International Security Research and Intelligence Agency) website, Franco Frattini, Italy's Foreign Minister, shows exactly how much you can trust a politician to tell the truth, especially when it comes racism amongst his compatriots.

Italy was accused of being racist following the events at Rosarno.

Italy is not and has never been a racist country, not least as a result of the fact that it has not got a history of colonialism. [Just try telling that to Libya and Ethiopia, not to mention Albania and Corfu*. As for Italian racism, just read what Inter Milan's Mario Balotelli and Reggina's Shunsuke Nakamura have to say on the subject or ask any Roma on an Italian street or the Rosarno fruit-pickers.] Our government has been working for a long time on encouraging the EU to play a more incisive role, because Europe is exposed, more than any other continent, to the dangers of systemic instability in Africa”. [What has that got to do with racist violence incited by Mafia gangsters?]

Maroni blames excessive tolerance of illegal immigration.

Illegal immigration fuels criminal activity, [It is the opposite actually. By creating a situation where migrants are criminalised for trying to do what any reasonable human being would do, namely trying to make a better life for themselves and their families, and they are rendered vulnerable to exploitation by crooks. The criminal gangs then spot an opportunity to set themselves up as people traffickers and encourage more people to try for a better life elsewhere.] and a blind eye has been turned to it for far too long. It is clear then that preventive measures are needed, which we are working on with the countries of the Maghreb region—Libya foremost among them—and these have already led to a 90% reduction in the flow of illegal immigrants by boat”.[Yes, by reneging on Italy's International obligations of non-refoulement of refugees.]

* See also: Italy and Africa: How to Forget Colonialism

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

How Stupid Can You Get?

Here's a Sun headline from today: 'Illegals get boot... VIP style'. And we are forced to ask the Sun "How Stupid Can You Get?"

"Illegals immigrants (sic) are getting the VIP treatment when booted out of Britain - with personal security escorts costing almost £500 each," the article by Tom Wells claims. "Shock figures obtained by The Sun show the Government spent £10.43 million to "forcibly" remove 21,360 illegal immigrants and failed asylum seekers (sic) in 2008. That works out at £488 per person - about the same as the daily rate for VIP protection by a professional bodyguard."

If you think being locked up in an immigration prison for weeks, if not months, on end, with little idea of when or if you are going to be deported or grudgingly given temporary leave to remain in the country. Maybe you have family here and you do not know what has happened to them either. Maybe you were a victim of torture or rape in the country you came from or maybe members of your family were killed, forcing you to flee for your life. You live in limbo until the day the 2 goons in uniform come to your do and you are forcibly chained between them and dragged off to a waiting coach. Or maybe you were given the courtesy of a removal notice but you still weren't told exactly what day the inevitable would happen. Now you don't have any idea where you are going, you haven't been able to say goodbye to the friends you've made here or possibly eve grab the few meagre possessions you leave. If you resist, you are brutalised and abused, if you don't resist you might still end up brutalised and abused. If you are luck you are not stuck chained between two overtly racist thugs for the entire duration of the flight, but don't hold your breath. If you think any of that is getting VIP treatment, then you are in serious need of psychiatric help.

Phil Woolas is quoted in the article as saying: "Using trained escorts is crucial if we are going to remove foreign criminals or disruptive individuals. Without them we would not have removed thousands of lawbreakers last year." Except that you don't have to be a 'disruptive individual' to end up shackled between two boneheads, it appears to be standard policy for anyone not acquiescing in the abrogation of their human right to live where they please. And the only reason they are now 'lawbreakers' is because Nu Labour like every government since the 1900's* has bowed to racist agitation and brought in successively more restrictive immigration policies.

Where the article does get it right however is pointing up the ludicrous amounts of money that goes to the outsourcing firms like G4S and Serco, companies that have made billions from the misery of others since they became involved in the immigration detention industry, running this country's immigration detention infrastructure.

* There were no immigration controls in the UK until the introduction of the 1905 Aliens Act, passed as a direct result of proto-fascist agitation from the British Brothers League, who claimed that they didn't want the UK to become "the dumping ground for the scum of Europe". Sounds just like something out of a BNP leaflet or a Sun article.

Autonomous School Zurich Forced To Close

We have just learnt that the autonomously run school for undocumented migrants in Switzerland that we highlighted last October has been raided by police and destroyed. Against a backdrop of increased anti-foreigner sentiment, that included the recently banning of the building of minarets on new mosques and the admission by the Swiss government that its 'non-admissions' policy had failed, it was only a matter of time before this open sign of defiance was closed down.

The Autonomous School Zurich (ASZ) opened last April, when activists squatted an empty building at the Allenmoos School on the outskirts of Zurich. Operating according self-organising principles, courses were open to all to put on and attend and included everything from language lessons to open-source computer courses and classes in solar energy fundamentals. The main group involved in the project was 'Education for All', a grass-roots organisation set up by migrants and anti-racist activists to support undocumented migrants and campaign against the exclusion and widespread discrimination against migrants in Switzerland.

Using the excuse of dangerous electrical installations at the school, riot police raided the building on 7 January, driving off the occupants an pepper spraying supporters who had assembled to defend the school. The cops them proceeded to trash the building, confiscation teaching materials and equipment and removing windows, rendering the building uninhabitable.

Supporters of the school had expected the city council to continue its policy of tollerance towards the project until at least the summer, when a new project was due to replace it. However they appear to be victims of the Swiss Federal Office for Migration's crackdown on migrants as their attempts to "facilitate" the registration of migrants in the country have been an abject failure with only an overall increase in registrations of 3% over the last 3 years. The Federal Office now plans to consider asylum claims even if the applicant doesn't present proper identity papers and to cut appeal time for negative decisions by half to 15 days. Inevitably this will have the opposite effect to that intended and even more migranmts will be forced underground.

Mercure Planning Application Refused


Last night Crawley Borough Council Development Control Committee rejected by 14 votes to 1 the planning application by Arora International Hotels Ltd. for permission to convert the 254-bed Mercure Hotel in Povey Cross Road, Crawley into an immigration detention centre.

During the meeting, apart from the council planning officers, only two people spoke in favour of the application - the applicant himself, Tim Jurdon, Head of Planning Arora Management Services Ltd., and Surinder Arora, sole owner of the Arora hotels chain. Those that spoke against it included a representatives of 11 of the 12 nearest residential houses to the hotel, a neighbouring hotel, a Reigate and Banstead councillor and Bill MacKeith representing the Close Campsfield campaign and SERTUC.

Members of the planning committee itself spoke out almost universally against their own planning officers recommendations, placing special focus on their interpretation and claimed misrepresentation of the wording of GAT4 in the Crawley Borough Local Plan 2000. This states, "planning permission will not be granted within the airport boundary which is not CLEARLY required for operational, functional, safety or security reasons." [our emphasis - see footnote [4] for explanation]

Unfortunately, the planning meeting also revealed the general level of ignorance of the role and function of Immigration Removal Centres (IRCs), even amongst supposedly informed elected representatives. The function of IRCs is not solely, or even largely, that of holding of so-called 'failed' asylum seekers prior to removal, it is the 'administrative detention' of people within the asylum process and those prior to removal. Each year hundreds of people pass through IRCs that are eventually granted leave to remain in the UK.

Additionally, nothing was made of the objection by Sussex Police, which stated that only 13% of detainee removals from Tinsley and Brook Houses, the 2 existing Crawley detention centres, had been via Gatwick Airport itself. As Tinsley and Brook Houses only represent approximately 18% of the UK detention estate, Gatwick can hardly be considered an immigration removal hub and any additional development would have required significant additional vehicle movements from Crawley to Stanstead and Heathrow, the 2 main airports used for deportation flights, contrary to local authority sustainability commitments.

Notes for editors:

[1] The planning application and relevant details can be found at:
[2] Established in 1999, Arora International Hotels is one of the UK's fastest growing privately owned hotel companies, with six luxury hotels in and around Heathrow and Gatwick airports and one in Manchester city centre. For details of the Mercure, see:
[3] For more background on the application, see:
[4] As represented in point 4.6 of the report [No. RS. 13] drawn up for the Development Control Meeting, the councils planning officers appeared to have miss represented the text of the Crawley Borough Local Plan 2000 by stating: "Policy GAT4 states that planning permission will not be granted within the airport boundary which is not required for operational, functional, safety or security reasons", leaving out the word 'clearly'.
[5] No Borders Brighton had lobbied all 37 Crawley councillors with a signed statement in opposition to the development, based on the health effects on detainee children, that was endorsed by Dr Caroline Lucas Green Party MEP for SE England, Ben Duncan Brighton and Hove City Councillor and a Green Party parliamentary candidate & the South East Region TUC amongst others. See:

Sunday, 24 January 2010

Life Is Too Short To Be Controlled II

Reports of the London No Borders' organised 'Life Is Too Short To Be Controlled' demonstration in London yesterday can be seen at:

Also a video of the event at:

Haitian Refugges To Be Held At Guantanamo Bay

A large tented city, initially capable of holding 1000 people, has been readied at Guantanamo Bay to hold any Haitian refugees unlucky enough to get caught fleeing their devastated country for American. Already on the US mainland the Operation Vigilant Sentry task force has swung into operation, clearing detention camps to hold any who make it there.

Now Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay, which is responsible for planning for any kind of Caribbean mass immigration according to a US military spokeswoman, are readying the notorious camp for a new role: immigration detention centre. "There's no indication of any mass migration from Haiti," Maj. Diana Haynie said. "We have not been told to conduct migrant operations." But the base is getting ready "as a prudent measure," since "it takes some time to set things up."

This is all very timely as Friday was the deadline impossed by Obama for closing the camp and the PR engendered by its 'humanitarian' role takes a bit of the heat off of Obama's administration and it's a win-win situation for the military: "The ability to conduct real-world humanitarian assistance and disaster relief ... that's more exhilarating at the moment then walking the block in the detention camp, not to say that walking the block is not an extremely important mission for the United States but probably not as gratifying as saving someone's life." - Rear Adm. Thomas Copeman, Joint Task Force Guantanamo Bay commander.

We can only hope that the Haitians are not forced to wear orange jumpsuits and are moved around in shackles with hoods on little wheeled trolleys.

Saturday, 23 January 2010

Life Is Too Short To Be Controlled

22 January 2010
- For Immediate Release -

Activist group London NoBorders calls for a day of demonstrations in London on 23rd January under the title "Life is too short to be controlled"[1]. The day will start at 2pm at St. Pancras International to protest against the border controls at the Eurostar Terminal and will end with a rally at Piccadilly Circus, where Westminster Council's CCTV HQ is located. [3]

"Surveillance has become ubiquitous" says London activist Thomas Hardenberg. "In a globalised economy, both are aimed at exercising control over people's lives and maintaining what is considered 'public order', from extended police powers, CCTV in the streets to surveillance of internet communication. Migration management and immigration control is nothing else then surveillance on a global scale."

Britain's strong migration controls means that every year thousands of migrants sleep rough in the so called "jungles" in Calais and along the French coast, denying them freedom of movement and the choice to move inside Europe. The UK maintains the biggest complex of detention centres in Europe, detaining 2500 people including minors at any one time, some for several years.[4]

"London is the perfect place for a demonstration against the increasing madness of surveillance and data retention",Rosie Young, of No Borders, says. "It is the city where people get arrested for photographing buildings, where the Met's notorious Forward Intelligence Team is monitoring any political activities, and where each of its inhabitants passes past 300 CCTV cameras every day!"

London is known as the the "City of CCTV" with over 500,000 public and private CCTV cameras, part of about 4.2 million security cameras in the UK.[5]

London No Borders is opposed to the increase in police harassment in the UK in recent years, in particular of political activists and those from immigrant communities, and welcomes last week's decision from the European Court of Justice declaring that the UK stop and search powers under the Terrorism Act 2000 are unlawful.

For questions or interview requests please contact
Press contact on 23rd January: 0753 5319119


Notes for editors:


[2] London No Borders struggles against all immigration controls and for freedom of movement and equal rights for all. It was set up in 2006 and is part of the No Borders UK network. The group was involved in organising NoBorder camps in Gatwick in 2007 and Calais in 2009.

[3] Westminster CCTV Headquarter praises itself as "the best-practice example on which the future of the UK's public surveillance system should be modelled" and is being used as an educational facility for security forces from all around the world.

[4] There are several large detention centres near London, including at Heathrow (Colnbrook, Harmondsworth), Gatwick (Brook House, Tinsley House) and Bedford (Yarls Wood). There are also smaller "holding centres" in the city, including London Bridge (Beckett House), Old Street (Communications House) and at the Eurostar terminal in St Pancras.

[5] For some statistics on CCTV in the UK, see:

Friday, 22 January 2010

Police Ratchet Up Repression Of Migrants In Calais

Since 15 December the BCMO gymnasium in Calais has been used as a cold shelter for up to 200 migrants in the area. The only luxuries available were the cardboard boxes used by the migrants to sleep on. No camp beds, blankets or sleeping bags unless the migrants managed to find their own and keep the police from confiscating and destroying them.

On Monday the cold shelter was closed and the migrants left to fend for themselves. This inevitably meant dodging the police whilst they tried to find a safe place which the police did not know about, so they might snatch a few hours sleep in the cold and wet.

On Tuesday the migrants held a demonstration outside the BCMO protesting its closure. Later that evening Salam, one of the local humanitarian groups that whose volunteers were involved in running the shelter, and who provide daily food handouts, distributed 150 tents to some of the migrants so, as Salam put it, "they can spend the night in a shelter with a minimum of protection." Whilst some migrants then went off to find a 'safe' place to pitch their tents, the majority of the Afghans decided to pitch theirs next to the empty BCMO.

Almost immediately 10 police vans and around 50 CRS turned up and told the migrants if they did not pack up and leave within 15 minutes their tents would be destroyed. After negotiation they agreed that the migrants could leave with tents in the direction of the old jungle and they would not stop anyone or destroy any tents. The police even escorted the migrants and the local activists who had tried to negotiate with the cops to he place where they claimed they would not interfere with them setting up camp. Yet at 2 am and 7 am they came back and arrested people.

At midday, 20 vans of CRS surrounded the jungle and destroyed the whole camp. Calais Migrant Solidarity activists managed to recover a few tents and sleeping bags from the municipal tip where it was dumped and the migrants returned to the BCMO again that evening to try and set up camp again. The Police came and removed all the tents near the BCMO, saying they had orders to prevent any gatherings and destroy forthwith anything that resembles a shelter on public land throughout the parks and in all the "jungles".

That night, a whole company of CRS played a game of cat-and-mouse with the migrants, following their every move and preventing them from stopping anywhere, hunting in the parks and from street to street. The local activists were also threatened with arrest under the offence of Delit de solidarité (the notorious Article 622). That evening representatives of the associations held a meeting with the sub-prefect to complain about the treatment of the migrants when the BCMO was open and to make sure that sufficient equipment including cots, blankets and cleaning equipment be made available if the cold shelter is reopened, and to make sure that the equipment issued to migrants by the associations no longer be destroyed by police. Activists held a demonstration outside the meeting to reinforce their organisations' anger at the situation.

In response to the immense distress caused to the migrants by the aggravated harassment policy since the closure of the BCMO, the World Medical Association with the help of volunteers from La Belle Etoile, Secours Catholique, C'SUR and No Borders will distribute 300 survival packs with duvets, sheets, rain ponchos, bags and flexible 5 litre jerry cans to the migrants.

In other bad news, on Sunday night someone broke in and wrecked C'SUR's second prefab shower unit, stealing showerheads and a hot water tank. The other unit was fire-bombed and destroyed last month, much to the delight of the Daily Mail (although they seem to have passed on the opportunity to print another gloating article this time).

Calais Migrant Solidarity Press Release:


or call 0033 954 621 951 (France) or 077 949 661 556 (UK)

- Fifty police officers in riot gear crack down on peaceful protest by migrants demanding respect for basic rights

- Officers declare orders to destroy all migrant shelters in the area

- Escalation in repressive tactics leave migrants with nowhere to go

In a rare show of defiance, around 100 migrants camped around a gym which had been used by local charities to provide urgently needed night shelter over the harshest weeks of winter, before its closure on Tuesday [1]. The migrants, primarily from war-torn Afghanistan, also burned some blankets and banners in opposition to the closure, which comes on the back of the repeated eviction of migrants from their camps. Within half an hour, scores of police officers descended on the site threatening to destroy the makeshift camp on failure to disperse. Following a stand off, the migrants were permitted to leave the area, but were closely pursued as they searched for alternative sites to shelter.

Having actually been advised by some police officers to do so, some men set up shelters on the site of one of the former camps, or 'jungles', and were given assurances that the police would not attack. But within hours, the officers had entered the camp several times, arresting six people, in what has now become a daily routine of arresting those without identity documents in Calais in an attempt to flush them out of the area [2]. By midday on Wednesday, 20 CRS (riot police) vehicles had surrounded the new camp, and anything resembling a shelter was destroyed.

Following a relentless routine of police pursuit, arrest and assault this winter, the migrants returned in desperation to the closed night shelter and installed some of the tents that had been discarded by the authorities following the eviction that morning. The police promptly arrived at the scene, announced that they had orders to disperse assemblies and destroy shelters, before seizing the remaining tents.

Throughout the night, the hunt continued as migrants were followed by groups of police, who pre-emptively destroyed any half-erected structures they found.

“The police were quite literally swarming everywhere last night. They were pursuing migrants in case they dare set up shelter, or following any activists who might assist them,” said Joanne, a British activist from the No Borders network who is present at the scene [3].

“This is all part of a carefully planned strategy by the French and British governments to drive the migrants away from the area. But when you think that many of these people are coming from conflict zones like Helmand province, where else are they expected to go?” Joanne continued.

Alex has been involved in documenting - and directly intervening in - the police harassment in Calais for some time. “As shocking as it is, we find that the presence of European citizens during police raids can make a real difference, because the arrests are so arbitrary. It shows that ordinary people do have the power to help migrants defeat this enormous show of force by our governments. I really think that resistance from the migrants themselves and support from ordinary people is the only hope we have of stopping this horrendous repression.”


[1] The night shelter opened on 15th December, and was intended to provide sleeping space for around 150 of the approximately 300 migrants in the town of Calais over an exceptionally cold few weeks

[2] For a summary of police activities in December, please see our report

[3] The No Borders Network use direct action and practical solidarity to fight for freedom of movement for all. They form part of the Calais Migrant Solidarity group which has maintained a continued presence in Calais since the Summer.

Thursday, 21 January 2010

Is Immigration A Vote Winner?

Apparently not, as even the Tories own research has shown.

We also know that there are lies, damned lies and statistics and you can tailor a poll to get you the answer you want to prove your point. Well, MigrationBotch are past masters at this, even if they get respectable polling organisations like YouGov to do it for them. And they did it again with their latest poll, the results of which were released at the weekend.

Important stuff Alan Green clearly thinks as he headed his press release 'Immigration curbs could have a decisive impact on the election result Second only to the economy in key marginals.' [17 January] Except, the results almost exactly mirror those found for the Tory party in the run up to the last general election and Michael Ashcroft's exhaustive study of public opinion 'Smell The Coffee: A Wake-Up Call For The Conservative Party' found that in the end the Tories' singling out of immigration as a key issue had little positive effect:

"The issue that dominated the Conservative campaign, immigration, was never important enough to voters to determine how large numbers of them would cast their votes, however strongly they agreed with the Tory position";

and may in fact have had a negative effect:

"In fact there is evidence that the Conservatives’ focus on immigration actually cost them support. As Mary Ann Sieghart observed in The Times in March, the people the Conservatives need to woo back if they are to win an election “are not socially conservative, elderly or working class folk, but younger,more urban, middle classes” who were actively put off by the Conservative campaign."

In fact the extensive championing of immigration in the 2005 election did absolutely nothing to increase the level of support for them on the issue as polling had shown in the previous year.

Wednesday, 20 January 2010

Prioritising U.S. Interests

At the same time as the US authorities and their military are being widely accused of screwing up the aid effort in Haiti by their inept management of the airport, bringing in too many military flights at the expense of food, medicines and rescue equipment; being too reticent to venture out into the city itself because they 'might get shot at'; and some even saying that their whole operation looks like a start of a military occupation; their efforts to prevent refugees from reaching their shores appear excessive.

First off, they have at least one plane flying and broadcasting radio messages five hours a day over Haiti, saying (in Creole) "Listen, don't rush on boats to leave the country. If you do that, we'll all have even worse problems. Because, I'll be honest with you: If you think you will reach the U.S. and all the doors will be wide open to you, that's not at all the case. And they will intercept you right on the water and send you back home where you came from."

Admittedly, last week the Obama administration's also decided to grant temporary protected status to Haitians in the U.S. before the earthquake, either as 'illegal' migrants or as so-called 'foreign-national' prisoners due for deportation after serving a prison sentence. They will be free to stay in the States for the next 18 months but that offer does not extend to those attempting to enter the U.S. after the 12 January.

Instead, the Department of Homeland Security has activated the Operation Vigilant Sentry task force to review plans on how to respond to a mass migration from Haiti. Their first move was to transfer between 250 and 400 immigration detainees from South Florida's main detention centre to clear space for any Haitians who manage to reach US shores. That of course does not apply to those who already have family in the States and can still afford the US visas and airfares, the middle class Haitians replete with suitcases seen on TV News pictures today boarding flights to the States.

The US has also taken the opportunity to ease restrictions on adoption, making it easier for Haitian orphans to be adopted by Americans. This removes an important barrier to plans by the Catholic Church in Miami, dubbed 'Pierre Pan' (sic) for the mass transportation of orphans to the States. They certainly seem to have their priorities in order.

One Law For The Rich...

It has always been the case that if you have enough money you are free to go anywhere you please more or less, and that immigration controls, as well as being instruments of racism, are aimed at the poor. Now the UK government have yet again made this principal abundantly clear with the announcement of a £15,000 "premium service" fast-track UK visa renewals to "avoid delays".

And what was Phil Woolas' justification for this? According to the Guardian he claimed that it was only fair that those who benefited from using the immigration system should help fund it!

Playing The Immigration Card

Monday saw yet another article in the Guardian by MigrationBotch front-man Alan Green, ostensibly in response to an Observer editorial, 'We're still a long way from an honest debate about immigration', the day before. However, it was really prompted by the criticism of Dave™'s, and consequently his and the right-wing anti-immigration press', peddling of the myth of the 70 million.

His little ditty 'How to tackle immigration', with its disingenuous subheading "With rising concern over immigration to the UK, it is important to examine its sources – and how we can limit them", merely rehearsed his tired rhetoric and showed up his lack of grasp of the concepts and terminology involved in the statistics, which he tries to wield in support of his bigotry.

The Observer editorial commenced with a typically liberal sentiment, "It is now generally recognised in British politics that expressing concern about the scale of recent immigration into the country is not necessarily a sign of racism." Unfortunately that is incorrect, as the corollary to it is that the situation that is causing that concern is the 'fault' of the 'excess' of migrants i.e. it is the migrants that are driving down wages (as the Daily Mail claims referencing the recent Equalities and Human Rights Commission report, 'The UK's New Europeans'), causing the lack of social housing, placing a 'burden' on the NHS, etc., etc. It is not the migrants driving down the wages, it is the employers who are willing to pay lower wages in order to maximise their profits. This is exactly the same process that has seen the industrial base in the UK exported to countries where the wages are lower and we do not seem to blame the workers in those countries for being willing to accept lower wages that the good old British worker, do we? It's capitalism stupid! [1]

In a similar fashion, it is every government since Thatcher's (along with every 'aspirational' council tenant who bought their council house) that are to blame for the lack of available social housing, the sort of council houses that were passed down the generations within families just as many manufacturing jobs had been before they moved abroad or disappeared otherwise. And as for the NHS, there would not be one if it had not been for the migrants in the 50's and 60's who kept it staffed and in existence, and it still only just gets by because of the 'imperialistic' drain on the skill base of the rest of the world.

That the Observer then uses the EHRC report, which flatly contradicts an Institute for Public Policy Research report 'The Economic Impacts of Migration on the UK Labour Market' from February last year, as evidence that "There is no doubting the impact of recent, sustained high levels of immigration" is bizarre. The paper erroneously claims that "One predictable effect, the study found, was to hold down wages for skilled and semi-skilled workers in Britain." The report does not even mention any effect on the wages of skilled workers (and the Observer article the same day 'Eastern European immigration 'has hit low-paid Britons'' also does not mention this 'phenomenon'). If they cannot get this simple 'fact' right, then clearly we are "still a long way from an honest debate about immigration."

One thing that this Observer editorial does not mention (though is hinted at in its article on the report, and is needless to say totally ignored in the Mail piece) is that "In many cases the new migrants have precarious employment and housing arrangements, are vulnerable to exploitation, or lack support networks and access to information." In fact, most are stuck in dead-end jobs with little or no prospects of moving up the 'job ladder'.

The Observer editorial ends: "Immigration will feature in the election campaign and rightly so. [2] Parties must explain their policies on a matter of concern to so many voters. But they must explain them honestly. Sadly, there is little chance of that happening. Labour and the Tories may have become freer in their discussion of immigration, but they show no sign of really wanting to dispel the fog of ignorance and prejudice that still shrouds debate on the issue." Obviously this a "fog of ignorance and prejudice" that the paper's editor also appears to suffer from.

Which brings us neatly to Alan Green's (never ending) contribution to the "fog of ignorance and prejudice". Here we have a man who, in his very comfortable retirement, has decided to ride his hobby-horse into the ground. He has become what he clearly appears to believe is a self-taught expert on immigration (we use the term immigration rather than migration because his interest in the subject is specifically that). Except that he constantly lets his ignorance slip. Sometimes it is simple things, such as claiming that "Over the past 50 years, their [the Office of National Statistics] projections at the 20-year range have been accurate to about 2.5% (sic). This actually means nothing. 2.5% of what? What he in fact means is that the estimates are accurate to within 2.5%. A small point, but a very telling one when he cannot even get the terminology right (just as Cameron did when he talked about 'net immigration').

Green follows this faux pas up with the claim that the ONS "have confirmed [in a recent parliamentary answer] that most of last year's fall in immigration has already been factored in to the latest projections." [our emphasis] This is blatantly NOT true. If you read the parliamentary answer and the methodology (which the article helpfully gives links to): "The assumptions for the 2008-based projections are based upon final estimates of long-term international migration up to the end of 2007, plus provisional International Passenger Survey (IPS) estimates of long-term international migration for the year ending December 2008. Thus the calculation of the assumptions took into account the decline in long-term international net migration indicated by the provisional IPS estimates published by ONS on 27 August 2009."

So, despite the fact that the figures were published in October last year and that "the 2008-based projections assume annual net migration from [A8 & A2 EU member states] declining from +25,000 for 2009-10 to zero for 2014-15 onwards," it actually says nothing about factoring in the 2008-09 figures as Green states. Nor does it say what estimates for the decline from a net migration figure of 163,000 in 2008 they used. [3]

In a recent blog we pointed out, as others have done, Green's claim that immigration is the major factor for future population growth. Here he repeats it again: "Nor it is correct to say that the birth rate is more crucial than net migration in determining population growth. If you take account of the children of future immigrants, then immigration accounts for 68% of population growth." The big problem is that he wants to have his cake and eat it. You cannot count the same figures twice. In population statistics, migration is migration and natural population growth (births minus deaths) is natural population growth.

Yes, future migrants will be younger and more fertile than the existing ageing UK population but that is totally irrelevant for these statistics. If future immigrants were all older and less fertile that the current population no doubt he would be using that as a stick to beat them with.

He then claims that: "The public are increasingly conscious of this – which is why 85% express concern that our population is projected to hit 70 million in 2029." [4] Yet a similar survey he frequently quotes from also found that 36% wanted a population of less than 50 million, whilst 40% did not know what the optimum population size for the UK should be. Lies, damned lies and statistics, eh! And it is 84% by the way.

He then goes on to give his options for cutting immigration: "The first thing is to exclude asylum from this discussion. Asylum seekers account for only 10% of net foreign immigration and only one-third of those are granted protection. [5] The rest face the quite different problem of removal," listing EU migrants (he hopes wont be too much of a 'problem' in the future); students (must leave after study unless they "entered a genuine marriage" or got a work permit); spouses and fiancées (reduce non-"genuine marriages by British citizens") but his big answer is a cap on economic migration at 20,000.

We are too bored with all this to examine his 'thoughts' any further, short to say his is the sort of discourse, despite his denials elsewhere, that Roland Schilling, the UK representative of the Office of the United Nation’s High Commissioner for Refugees, no doubt meant when he warned that the current disgraceful level of debate risked being hijacked by dangerous anti-immigrant groups [MigrationBotch, surely not?] and would push potential refugees further into the "shadowy world dominated by gangsters and people smugglers."

[1] "The recent migration may have reduced wages slightly at the bottom end of the labour market, especially for certain groups of vulnerable workers, and there is a risk that it could contribute to a ‘low-skill equilibrium’ in some economically depressed local areas." This is all based on "A relatively limited evidence base [that] suggests that eastern European immigration has brought economic benefits, including greater labour market efficiency and potential increases in average wages." [both quotes 'The UK's New Europeans']
[2] Just how much immigration will feature in the coming election rests largely on how the Tories approach the subject and, given that their own analysis showed that their attempts to exploit the immigration card backfired, they may have learnt their lesson and largely steer clear of the issue. The BNP, UKIP and Alan Green will however have something to say on the subject.
[3] Unfortunately, Green's Observer article gives a link to Population Trends No. 128, with figures only up to 2006, as a link to illustrate "last year's fall in immigration". About as useful as the proverbial chocolate teapot. In fact, in the first 3 months of 2009 there were 23,000 work permit applications from E8 workers (down from down from 48,755 in the same period in 2008) and 26,150 in the second quarter (down from 46,070 the year before).
[4] Not surprising really when the question "How would you feel about a population of this size?" Gave as answer options: Delighted / Wouldn’t mind / Slightly worried / Very worried / Don’t know.
[5] And of course asylum applications have been severely cut back on over the years, so it would be too obvious to hit them yet again. Though you could always increase the refusal rate.

Tuesday, 19 January 2010

Prolonged Immigration Detention Can Seriously Damage Your Health

The largest study yet carried out into the health records of people held in detention in Australian immigration prisons*, and published in the latest issue of the Medical Journal of Australia, shows that the length of time in detention and the reasons for that detention had a significant effect on the rate of new mental health problems among detainees.

The evidence appears to show that the longer the period of detention, the higher the rate of mental health problems. Those eventually designated as asylum seekers also displayed similar higher rates of mental health problems. Amongst those held for more than a year, mental health, social and musculoskeletal problems were common against the more common dental and respiratory conditions, and lacerations found amongst shorter-term detainees.

According to Prof Kathy Eagar, Professor of Health Services Research and Director of the Centre for Health Service Development at the University of Wollongong, "The health of people in immigration detention has attracted considerable attention. In particular, there is almost universal criticism of the policy of detaining asylum seekers, particularly in terms of the mental health implications."

In an accompanying editorial in the MJA, Dr Christine Phillips, Senior Lecturer in General Practice and Community Health at the Australian National University, writes: "The evidence is growing that asylum seekers are likely to be those most psychologically damaged by immigration detention, and that their children are particularly vulnerable."

"There is a good case to be made on health grounds that immigration detention should be used in very limited ways for asylum seekers, and never for children."

* 720 detainees' heath records from the 2005-06 financial year were used.

Monday, 18 January 2010

Statement In Opposition To Arora International Hotels Ltd. Planning Application No. CR/2009/0421/COU

The following statement has been sent to all 37 Crawley Borough councillors and to the local Crawley MP Laura Moffet in advance of next Monday's council planning committee meeting. Copies, together with a press statement have been sent to local and national press.

The Arora International Hotels chain wishes to convert the 254-bed Mercure Hotel in Povey Cross Road, Crawley into an Immigration Removal Centre. Due to the nature of the existing building and the site it occupies, it could only be converted into a detention centre to house families and children.

The detention of children in immigration prisons has long been condemned by authorities around the globe for the adverse physical and psychological effects it has on them. In this country these have included the Children's Commissioner for England Sir Alan Aynsley-Green, Refugee and Migrant Justice (formerly the Refugee Legal Centre) and the House of Commons Home Affairs Committee to name but a few.

Just this month (December 2009), the Royal College of Psychiatrists, Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, Royal College of General Practitioners and the Faculty of Public Health (and endorsed by the Royal College of Nursing) published a briefing paper entitled 'Significant Harm - the effects of administrative detention on the health of children, young people and their families', which declared that the administrative detention of children is unacceptable and should cease without delay.

Gatwick is already the site of two Immigration Removal Centres, Tinsley House and Brook House, both the source of recent criticism. In particular, Tinsley House is the subject of a highly critical report by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons, Dame Anne Owers, regarding an unannounced short follow-up inspection on 13–15 July 2009, published on 18 December. The report described the arrangements for children at Tinsley House as "wholly unacceptable" and criticised the "prison-like culture" and the "limited access to fresh air" of the children imprisoned there.

We the undersigned call on Arora International Hotels to unconditionally withdraw their application for change of use of Mercure Hotel and, failing that, for Crawley Borough Council to reject the application at the earliest opportunity. Imprisoning children for the 'crime' of being a migrant is totally unacceptable and nobody should encourage others to profit from the activity, whatever the situation.


Dr Caroline Lucas - Green Party MEP for SE England
Ben Duncan Brighton and Hove City Councillor, Green Party parliamentary candidate & member of Sussex Police Authority
Tony Greenstein - Brighton & Hove Unemployed Workers Centre
Helen M. Hintjens - Senior Lecturer in Development and Social Justice, International Institute of Social Studies, University of Rotterdam
No Borders Brighton
London No Borders
Manchester No Borders
No Borders South Wales
No One Is Illegal
Barbed Wire Britain Network to End Refugee and Migrant Detention
Communities Of Resistance (CoRe)
Fight Racism Fight Imperialism
Detainee Solidarity London
Stop Deportations Network
Kent Refugee Help
Migrant English Project (Brighton)
Long Journey Home
Ethnic Arts Group
Cardiff Refugee & Asylum Seeker Welcome
Cardiff STAR
Cardiff People & Planet
Cardiff University Green Party
SERTUC (South East and Eastern Region TUC)

International Protests In Support Of The Merak Tamils

[Geordie accent] It is day one hundred in the Merak Harbour boat and things are not looking too good for the ship mates... it's not a TV reality show, but it might have been better if it was somehow, as the world would be paying it a bit more attention than it currently appears to be.

Yes, today sees the 100th day since the Jaya Lestari was intercepted by the Indonesian navy, at Australia's request. The boat and its 254 Tamil refugee passengers was then towed into West Javan port of Merak to commence a 3 month plus stand-off with the Indonesian authorities. The Tamils have survived monsoons, typhoons, dysentry, an attempted armed raid and the death of one of their number from complications involving a stomach ulcer. They need international pressure to be put on the Australian Government to take responsibility for the situation and provide shelter for the refugees in accord with international treaties.

The worldwide Tamil community have put out an international call to action to hold protest vigils, such as those already organised across Australia and outside Australian consulates in Auckland, Toronto, Washington, London and Malaysia. The London protest will be held at 4:00 pm today at:

Australian High Commission
(corner of the Aldwych and the Strand. Nearest Tube station: Temple)

In recent days the Indonesian government have repeated their threats to end the stand-off with a 'gun-point evacuation' and to send all the Tamils back to Sri Lanka, in direct contravention of international treaties against refoulement. The Indonesians swiftly back-tracked when the threat was made public, even though the Tamils themselves have said they will no longer resist such an attempt.

To see the conditions of the Tamil asylum seekers are being forced to live in, follow the link to a CNN video.

Friday, 15 January 2010

Mercure Hotel Conversion: Protest at Crawley Council Meeting, 25th January

On Monday 25th January No Borders Brighton and London No Borders are calling for a protest outside Crawley Town Hall (The Boulevard, Crawley, West Sussex RH10 1UZ) at 6.30pm to protest against Arora International's plans to turn the four-star Mercure hotel at Gatwick into yet another immigration prison.

Thursday, 14 January 2010

Ku Klux Clan

The front page of the leftist Italian newspaper Il Manifesto sums up the background to the riots in Italy succinctly. In Italy 'clan' refers to a criminal gang, so they are basically saying that the 'Ndrangheta are racists and they provoked the riots in order to induce the police to evacuate the migrants and sort out their problem of having too many foreign fruit pickers in the area for too little work. And they got to save money as well because the migrants left without picking up their wages.

And here is a video of some of the conditions that the fruit pickers were forced to live in. Very reminiscent of Calais.

In a typical denialist fashion, Andrea Ronchi, Italy's European affairs minister, was quick to jump to the defence of his country in the face of severe condemnation of the United Nations, the EU Commission and even the Pope. Here's what he had to say:

"In Italy, there is no racism. It does not exist. It is an accusation made by people who do not know Italy."

"We will give them (those making the accusation) a free tour, at our expense, to show them what there is in Italy: solidarity and welcome. But it is true there is a violent phenomenon - illegal immigration."

"These accusations are the fruit of a left-wing culture no longer in step with citizens. Italy is the most welcoming country in Europe, and anyone accusing us of racism is stupid."

"Italy has been alone on the economic and political front, facing the urgent problem of illegal immigration. I criticise Europe for wasting time in creating a refugees' rights agency."

Condemned by his own mouth.

Rabid Journalism

The Express seems to have gotten too caught up in the fervour of its own xenophobia, so much so that the paper appears, in the guise of Leo McKinstry's article 'Immigrants Squat In Your House And You're Powerless', to be essaying the journalistic equivalent of foaming at the mouth. And like any mad rabid dog, he should really be taken out and shot, the poor thing.

In case you cannot bring yourselves to read the damned thing, here is our precise of the paper's rapidly cooling bile:

Good God! What's the world coming to? Gypos over here stealing our homes (a man's home is his castle, dontcha know?). And those namby pamby police, pussyfooting around, too tied up in Bolshevik red tape to do anything. Calling Mr Mosedale (the owner of the house) a racist too boot, simply because he, as a hard-working tax-paying British citizen, challenged the right of some foreigner right to live in Britain on benefits (they were living on benefits, weren't they?) or something. And then the damned gypos had the audacity to leave before he coud get them in court. Swine.

Absolute bloody disgrace if you ask me. (Cough, cough, splutter, splutter) Where is the iron discipline of a right wing dictatorship or an army coup when you need it?

Footnote: By the way, Marx did not spread the idea that “property is theft”. You are mistaking him for Pierre-Joseph Proudhon who, in the book 'What Is Property?: or, An Inquiry into the Principle of Right and of Government', was in fact referring to capital and private property, and not personal property (things created by one's own labour, the clothes one wears, etc.). Unfortunately, "If the police carry on failing the public" the result will not be anarchy.

Wednesday, 13 January 2010

SHOCK HORROR: Daily Mail Gets A Headline 'Right' For Once...'s just the rest of the article that is a tissue of lies.

Ian 'Dim' Sparks, co-author of that other tissue of lies 'Calais migrants ambush holiday Britons at knifepoint in terrifying 'highway robberies'',* has just published an article headed 'Bulldozing of Calais Jungle immigration camp was a 'publicity stunt aimed at placating the British public', based on an interview with Vincent Lenoir of the Salam association** carried out by the French weekly news magazine l'Express in an article 'L'emprise des passeurs s'est renforcée sur les migrants' ('The influence of the smugglers on the migrants has increased'). When I say "based on", I mean it in the loosest possible sense of the phrase.

The Mail claims to have extracted a series of M. Lenoir's 'quotes' from the l'Express article, which it then proceeds to use to bash the French with and ultimately M. Lenoir and his humanitarian efforts in supporting the Calais migrants, all to push its own anti-foreigner agenda.

Here are the quotes it claims are from M. Lenoir:

"publicity stunt aimed at placating the British public" (from the headline) and another version of the same thing - [The destruction of the Jungle migrant camp in Calais aimed at stemming the tide of illegal immigration to the UK was a publicity stunt to] "placate the British public";

[The operation to bulldoze the squalid woodland camp was branded a] "total failure";

"Our immigration minister Eric Besson's claim that destroying the Jungle would solve the problem is false";

"Nicolas Sarkozy made the same claim when as interior minister he closed down Sangatte in 2002, and promised we'd never have migrants on the Channel coast again";

"We estimate there are around 400 migrants in Calais";

"But other camps are also springing up elsewhere, even in Belgium";

"And more seriously, the people smuggling gangs are back too, when Mr Besson had claimed his policy would put a halt to their activities";

"The only purpose of the Jungle operation was to appease the public in England. It was an Anglo-French publicity stunt that had no effect at all."

And for good measure, they threw in: Mr Lenoir's claims come as Calais residents are becoming increasingly frustrated at the French government's lack of action to take their town's migrant problem.

And here is our translation of the article, see if you can find where the Mail's quotes come from?

England remains their dream. The foreigners in irregular situation have come back around Calais, 4 months after the evacuation of their settlements by the police. The response of Vincent Lenoir, association Salam.

Salam helps illegal migrants in the form of distribution of food or medicines. On September 22, 2009, a vast police operation ended in the closure of the "jungle", the place of concentration near Calais of these people waiting for passage to England. "The problem is solved," said Eric Besson, Minister of Immigration and National Identity in Le Parisien, 12 January. Fabrication (fantasy) replied Vincent Lenoir.

How many migrants today wait in Calais for passage to England?

We estimate there are about 400. We distribute a little more than 320 meals, but we know that all do not come to stock up with us. One year ago, we counted 600 migrants. During the summer of 2009 a peak at 1,400 was recorded. But the Minister Eric Besson chooses the figures today which suit him. I know the night of the police intervention in the "jungle", we served 200 meals, and the next day onwards we have been seeing newcomers. The migrants want at all costs to get to England, a police operation will not be sufficient to discourage them.

Are the places where they gather the same as before?

Calais remains the main place. But it is true that we have seen more and more small settlements that nobody knows about. I have an example: we just discovered between Calais and Boulogne, about twenty kilometres away, a new place almost by accident. A dispute between residents there provoked the intervention of gendarmes. Belgium is in turn affected. The worst? The influence of smugglers has increased amongst the migrants. Yet the minister assured us that his action would make the situation worse for them.

What do you think was the real meaning of the operation?

In my opinion it was primarily intended for the British public opinion. It was a kind of communication operation outsourced to France by England. Three British channels also broadcast live the police action September 22, 2009 with support from helicopters! The Governments staged a display of their firmness. In 2002, Interior Minister Nicolas Sarkozy had done the same thing in Sangatte (Pas-de-Calais) and we had promised never to hear about it again! [i.e. it would be the end of the situation]

Your humanitarian work, is it more difficult to conduct?

No. We have agreements with the city of Calais and the region. They have improved the reception conditions. So a building was built where we distribute food. The place is also accommodation in case of severe cold.

So, let's have a quick look at the Mail's rather slack translation.

"Publicity stunt aimed at placating the British public" - clearly a very rough paraphrase. Yes, he did say that it was aimed at British public opinion but the words (in French of course) for 'stunt' and 'placating' did not pass his lips, and we shall be asking him to confirm this.

"Total failure" - nowhere to be seen.

"Our immigration minister Eric Besson's claim that destroying the Jungle would solve the problem is false" - a very free rendering of ""The problem is solved," said Eric Besson, Minister of Immigration and National Identity in Le Parisien, 12 January. Fabrication (fantasy) replied Vincent Lenoir."

"Nicolas Sarkozy made the same claim when as interior minister he closed down Sangatte in 2002, and promised we'd never have migrants on the Channel coast again" - not too many liberties taken there.

"We estimate there are around 400 migrants in Calais" - short of adding an extra zero, not even Spark could get that wrong.

"But other camps are also springing up elsewhere, even in Belgium" - yes Lenoir mentions Belgium and the fact that they "have seen more and more small settlements that nobody knows about", including one "we just discovered between Calais and Boulogne", but "camps ... springing up elsewhere" is pure invention. This is the translation of a magazine article not a piece of prose poetry!

"And more seriously, the people smuggling gangs are back too, when Mr Besson had claimed his policy would put a halt to their activities" - very inventive translation this one: "The worst? The influence of smugglers has increased amongst the migrants. Yet the minister assured us that his action would make the situation worse for them." He didn't sat "put a halt" to the smugglers and he never said or implied that the smugglers had gone away. You can't have it both ways Sparky, if the clearance of the 'Jungle' drove the traffickers away, then that's one up for Besson. If he didn't, then they can hardly have come back.

"The only purpose of the Jungle operation was to appease the public in England. It was an Anglo-French publicity stunt that had no effect at all." - What he actually said (allowing for our poor translation: "In my opinion it was primarily intended for the British public opinion. It was a kind of communication operation outsourced to France by England." Nowhere doe Lenoir say that the destruction of the 'Jungle' had no effect what so ever. To argue that is a gross distortion of what he said.

And the last bit about: "Mr Lenoir's claims come as Calais residents are becoming increasingly frustrated at the French government's lack of action to take their town's migrant problem." Spark must be even more rabid than we have always taken him to be to come away from having read the l'Express article and thought that that was what Lenoir was arguing. Vincent as a representative of the Calaisiens, in answer to the question "Your humanitarian work, is it more difficult to conduct (since the clearance of the 'Jungle')?" has one word to say. "Non!"

D- This is a very poor attempt at your French homework Spark. You really should be doing much better by now and I am seriously thinking of not letting you sit your 'O' Level at the end of the year. Have you thought about switching to the creative writing course?

* NB This article was first published on 21 July (see) but was the subject of a complaint (along with a large number of other Mail articles) on the paper's coverage of Calais. The paper had to publish a 'clarification' ( see foot of the article).
** One of the organisations that provides humanitarian aid to the migrants in Calais.