Wednesday, 31 March 2010

Denis McShane - Delusional Or Just A Hypocrite?

Denis McShane, the very man that wrote an opinion piece in the Guardian last week calling for 'A non-toxic immigration debate', "one that must be reported sensitively, not sensationally", has just called on Iraqi asylum seekers in the UK to 'go home'. "The successful election that has just been held in Iraq suggests that we may now be moving towards a more stable Iraq. Yes, there will be violence and explosions but the British Isles have known plenty of those in the past 30 or 40 years."

So we are talking about a country where there are currently 3.5 deaths a day from gunfire/executions and 6 per day from suicide/vehicle bombs, and where 91 people have died in the past 7 days (22-28 March) from terrorist/insurgent violence are we? Or are we talking about the British Isles where 52 people have died from terrorist/insurgent violence in the past decade? Or the 800 or so killed in the UK since 1970 (including deaths in Northern Ireland and the Lockerbie bombing)? This is about a sixth of the total civilian deaths in Iraq for the whole of 2009 (4,644).

Is this really the sort of "sensitivity and balance" that he claims he wishes to see in the immigration debate?

The Keystone Immigration Cops

On the same day that Gordon Brown tries to get across his oxymoronic idea of a 'fair' immigration system, comes the news that the attempt on Monday to deport Vincent Onwubiko, a disabled asylum seeker who had represented Team GB as a (five) gold medal-winning Paralympic weightlifter, failed because the four security guards and one immigration officer assigned to escort him from Colnbrook IRC to Lagos, Nigeria.

Given that he is a wheelchair-bound polio victim, one would have thought that 4 security guards was a bit excessive, but they managed to carry him out to the waiting van and drive off to Heathrow Airport. However, the five escorts singularly forgot to bring along Mr Onwubiko's wheelchair! Speaking to the Independent, Mr Onwubiko said: "When we got to the airport, they realised that they didn't have my wheelchair. Then they had this discussion about whether it was going to be safe for them to lift me on to the plane and escort me back to Lagos where I would have to fend for myself without a wheelchair."

"One of them was a medic and they said it wouldn't be right to send me back without a wheelchair – so they drove me all the way back to Colnbrook. I was very relieved because the idea of having to make my way out of Lagos without a wheelchair was very frightening."

As with many of these types of cases, it also emerged that Mr Onwubiko was being deported despite still having an appeal on his immigration status waiting to be heard by the High Court. However, his case is not due to be heard until sometime in the summer and the Home Office consider it expedient to deport people in situations such as this despite the full legal process not having been exhausted. Saves money you see, and people can always return to the UK if their court cases are successful, assuming that is that they are still alive and can raise the air fare.

'Illegal Immigrant' Stole My Shed (Again)

Oh dear, the Daily Fail has come out with yet another 'illegal immigrants stole my shed' story. This one features a Romanian (sorry, a Romanian immigrant) who moved into the Newman's shed in Bromley, making himself 'at home' using "the garden hose to wash himself before bedding down on one of the sun loungers in the shed, using a sheet to protect the fabric" and "thoughtfully put(ting) his rubbish into the correct recycling boxes." [At least they give him some credit for being 'shed-trained'.]

The Newman's apparently then "took the 26-year-old immigrant to the police station, where officers put him on bail for a public order offence and ordered him not to return to the shed." Which kind of disproves the Mail's previous moan about the police being powerless to intervene in such cases, though exactly how the Romanian was held to have committed an offence under (we assume) Section 4a of the Public Order Act 1986* is not apparent.

We have not actually seen the hard copy version of this story, but in the on-line one the Mail went out of its way to both inflate this inane piece of flummery (though not to the extent of turning it into a front page one as it did today with 'Pet shop owner fined £1,000 and told to wear an electronic tag... for selling a GOLDFISH to a boy aged 14') and pad it out with two rather large and almost identical photos of the Newman siblings outside the shed in question, a bad cartoon on the subject and references to a couple in Kempston, Bedfordshire, who "found two Polish men in their shed and claimed they tried to eat their daughter's rabbit"**, the Peterborough shed 'outrage' and the Northampton 'Homeowner who forgot his wallet returns to find Romanian family moving in in scene from 'Dickensian times'' [related post].

The final word goes to Tilly Newman, 22, (an accountant we are helpfully told), "I'm not sure what he wants." Surely it is blindingly obvious? A roof over his head, however "on the damp side and popular with several species of spider" it is.

* Persistent use of threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour intending to and causing harassment, alarm or distress.
** A story the Mail must have been kicking itself for missing out on turning into a special 8 page full colour commemorative pull-out supplement.

Riot In Rome Detention Centre Last Night

At 11pm last night in the Ponte Galeria CIE (immigration detention centre) in Rome a riot broke out in the men's section, with mattresses being burnt and two huge fires started. Some of the detainees managed to make it on to the roof, while others broke through three or four doors and reached the outer fence. Riot police quickly arrived at the detention centre in large numbers and gunshots were heard around 1:20am.

The riot itself is believed to have caused around €200,000 worth of damage, with the water and electrical systems put out of order and extensive fire damage to the infirmary. Four people are also believed to have escaped during the disturbance. Once the police had regained control, the male detainees were locked in the dining area, where 17 people identified, via CCTV, as having taken part in the disturbance, were arrested. They are due in court for summary trial today. Around sixty of the remaining inmates were also moved to other detention centres.

We reported earlier on this month about the aftermath of the handover of control of the Ponte Galeria detention centre by the Red Cross to a private company Auxilium. Since then conditions have deteriorated and there have been a number of hunger strikes, disturbances, incidences of self-harm and increasing levels of brutalisation of the detainees. The policy has become one of cost-cutting, mass forced medication with tranquillisers in the food and drink, with the inmates, many of whom already have existing medical and health problems or suffer from alcohol and drug addictions, with little or nothing to do but lie around in a drug-induced stupor all day. The women's section of the prison is particularly badly affected by the mass forced medication, with a resulting epidemic of depression amongst the female detainees.

Many of these detainees have already languished in the system for months or even years. Now they have even less chance of a 'fair' hearing as the internal regime is mirroring the rise of anti-foreigner sentiment in wider society. All forms of resistance are met with excessive force, detainees are beaten so hard that most of their teeth are broken, people swallow razor blades to try and escape the misery, even if it is via a trip to hospital.

Aullium's response is to deny even this form of respite (they claim the detainees might escape). Instead, they have seized anything that might be used as a method of self-harm; lighter and matches have been confiscated - they might be used to start fires, and items like shampoo, soap and aftershave are only available in small quantities from the Auxillium shop (though, bizarrely, the shop continues to sell matches!) - less chance that they are used to self-harm and it maximises Auxilliun's profits if they try to stockpile them for such an attempt. There is method in their madness.

This morning, from 8.30, there is due to be a protest in the square in front the Court in Rome where the Ponte Galeria detainees are likely to appear.

For more information, check out the Italian language sites/blogs: Radio Onda Rossa, Noinonsiamocomplici & Macerie.

Tuesday, 30 March 2010

Locked, Loaded And Ready No More / ICEd UP

Many of you will have heard of the Minutemen, mostly retired Americans who sit around in the Arizona desert under their gazebos cradling their proudly held legal firearms chatting away to each other on walkie-talkies and fantasising over what they would do if some poor Latino crossing the US-Mexico border hoved into view over the horizon. Well, the president of the Minutemen, or at least the version called the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps Inc. (MCDC),* Carmen Mercer and her fellow directors have decided to disband the group. It seems that some of her followers have taken her call to come to the border "locked, loaded, and ready" too much to heart. That, and the escalating nastiness of the Tea Party movement, whose members' racial and homophobic abuse of US lawmakers at the recent health care vote, seem to have forced her hand.

"The mental attitude of many Americans is turning meaner … and we are concerned that this could cause problems. You see aggression surfacing even at the tea party marches. We just did not want to deal with the liability anymore," Carmen Mercer is quoted as saying. Maybe she was thinking about Shawna Forde, a Minuteman activist who was found guilt with 2 others of forcing her way into an Arizona house dressed in Police uniforms and shooting dead a Hispanic man, his 9 year old daughter and wounding the girl's mother. And that was well before this latest call to arms.

One would have thought that for an organisation that once had about 12,000 members, her call for more volunteers on the 16 March to "return to the border locked, loaded and ready to stop each and every individual we encounter along the frontier that is now more dangerous than the frontier of Afghanistan,"** smacks of an act of desperation as their numbers dwindled with the explosion of Tea Party groups. And where it leaves the organisation's fight against any immigration amnesty, an amnesty that she claims "lawmakers in Washington have pushed down our throats", only time will tell, especially as recent surveys have sometimes swung between the usually quoted 70% against to 70% in favour of said amnesty. Interestingly, the Washington branch of the MCDC will continue it's rearguard operation against any amnesty, no doubt hoping to enlist Tea Party racism to its cause.

* The Minuteman Project (MMP) was founded in 2005 but quickly split into 2 groups, the new one being called the Civil Homeland Defense patrol group, subsequently renamed the Minuteman Civil Defense Corps Inc. Both operated in Arizona but the MCDC also sanctioned a New Mexico Minuteman group.
** Another prime quote was, "You are strongly encouraged to exercise your rights and duty as an American citizen to carry a long arm and if challenged use it to defend the United States of America."


In other US immigration news, and against the backdrop of newly imposed quotas placed on US Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) agents to deport more 'illegal' migrants and try and reverse the steep fall in numbers of removals, which runs counter to the Obama administrations public pronouncements that it should focus primarily of so-called 'foreign national criminals, a further aspect of US immigration policy (or the lack of it) has recently been highlighted.

A lawsuit was filed last Friday by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) lawyers on behalf of two disabled migrants who have been held in detention for more than 4 years. The lawsuits allege that the two men, Jose Antonio Franco, who suffers from severe learning disabilities and is the son of two legal permanent US residents, and Guillermo Gomez-Sanchez, a legal permanent resident and who is a paranoid schizophrenic, have been held for more than four years in various immigration prisons in violation of the right to freedom from indefinite detention and the right to a fair hearing to contest the basis for that detention.

According to Sarah Mehta, Aryeh Neier fellow with Human Rights Watch and the ACLU, who has been investigating ICE's treatment of the mentally disabled for the past eight months in preparation for a forthcoming HRW report, these cases are not unusual as ICE have no policies or procedures in place for dealing with these types of cases and the victims end up languishing in the system in a state of limbo.

Interestingly, this comes at almost exactly the same time as the release of a report entitled 'Justice for Immigration's Hidden Population' by Texas Appleseed, a public interest law centre. It is based on a year-long study of the fate of the mentally disabled in immigration detention in Texas, where 29% of all detainees are held while the US government tries to deport them.

One of the cases highlighted in the report is that of a 50 year old legal permanent US resident with schizophrenia, who had lived in New York since 1974. Last November, a New York criminal court declared him incompetent to stand trial on a trespass charge and ordered him to serve 90 days in a mental institution. Instead, he was transferred to a detention facility in South Texas, to face a deportation proceeding without legal counsel. So abrupt was this, that his family and lawyer did not know it had happened. At the detention centre, he received no medication for weeks, and in March, he was deported to the Dominican Republic to, as his family fear, probably die on the streets.

A Rational Debate On Immigration? Not Involving You Mate!

Andrew Green, that 'well-known' one-man "influential think tank", has availed himself of the Guardian's 'Comment is free' facility again (see for example) to call for "an open debate" on immigration, which he claims "would be welcome, but it must be both calm and rational on all sides." Yet his ability to be rational does not, as we have pointed out before, stretch far enough to be able to grasp the correct terminology - "That is not quite right [Denis McShane's claim that nothing has changed in the immigration debate since the 1970s]. In 1971, net immigration (sic) was -40,000: in 2008, it was +163,000."

The correct term is net migration, i.e. the total increase in a population (births plus immigration) minus the total leaving that population (deaths plus emigration). This is not mere nit-picking, this goes to the heart of both his grasp of the underlying concepts and, more importantly, his basic anti-immigration standpoint. Just look at his use of terminology such as "the foreign-born" and the way he marshals his arguments.

For example, his continued stance that asylum is a 'problem', even if it is only 10% and "a small part of the overall problem" (we hate to think what he would be saying today if New Labour and the EU had not made it virtually impossible for anyone wishing to seek asylum to actually make it inside the walls of Fortress Europe, let alone make a successful asylum application when here). Then there is his obsession with this mythic 70 million figure and the manipulation of statistics that allegedly show exactly how 'overcrowded' the British Isles actually are (human habitation accounts for roughly 4% of the UK land mass and most of that is taken up by land owned by a wealth few percent of the population).

And does he really believe that he and his front 'organisation', MigrationBotch, constant stream of anti-immigration diatribes and selective use of statistics do not "somehow help the BNP"? If he does, then all he has to do is check out the BNP's website as to how many times they quote him or release press statements citing him or MigrationBotch* (basically the same thing really) or the mass of pro-BNP comment posted on-line below his newspaper articles or those articles that appear almost daily in the Tory red-tops and broadsheets that basically rehash his press releases.

* Surely his 'organisation' should have been named ImmigrationWatch if he were really being honest about his position?

Friday, 26 March 2010

Inane Xenophobic Comment Piece Of The Week/Month/Year/Decade/Century*

(*Take your pick.)

From today's Daily Star:

"Foreigners To Flood UK

Britain is facing a fresh flood of immigrants unless ministers act now.

Influential think tank MigrationWatch** reckons we’ll be swamped by millions more foreigners in the coming years.

Numbers are set to soar, according to world population trends. (!?)

By 2050 an extra 17million people will be living here.

It will push our already overstretched public services to breaking point.

We cannot allow these huge numbers of immigrants to continue to swan in unchecked.

Our health, housing and council services are struggling to deal with those already here.

And with a fresh wave facing us from the developing world, they could collapse altogether.

It’s time for the government to cut the numbers coming in.

It’s time to close our borders.

** Must be some special use of the word'influential' that we have never come across before

Protest At WH Tours Over Involvement In Deportations

PRESS RELEASE, 25/03/2010

This Saturday, 27th March, anti-deportation activists will holding a peaceful protest from 11.30am-12.30pm outside the WH Tours office in Crawley about the company's involvement in the deportation of immigration detainees.(1)

WH Tours are regularly involved in transporting migrants from detention centres, such as Brook House and Tinsley House at nearby Gatwick, to airports to be forcibly deported.Deportees are regularly harmed by guards during deportations and once they have been returned to their "home" country they are regularly at risk of persecution, imprisonment, torture and even death. (2) The vast majority of deportations are to countries ravaged by wars and armed conflicts such as Afghanistan, Iraq, DR Congo, Nigeria, Jamaica and Sri Lanka.

Rosie Young, who will be at the protest on Saturday, says that by providing coaches to transport deportees to the airport, WH Tours are "complicit in human misery". Therefore, she continues, "we must protest until they cease all contracts with the UK Border Agency and G4S".

Campaigners are also calling for all schools, companies and individuals that use WH Tours to boycott them until they end their involvement in deportations.

More info:, 07535 319119.


(1) WH Tours is based at The Kelvin Centre, Kelvin Way, Crawley RH10 9SF. See

(2) See for example: Also see this report about the abuse of migrants during deportation:

Activists Disrupt 'Policing The Borders' Conference

Press Release:

A high-profile conference about 'policing' the UK borders on Tuesday was disrupted by campaigners protesting against a 'fortress Europe'. Activists from No Borders London [1] stormed the Cavendish conference centre in central London with banners, leaflets and cameras. They then started to shout 'No borders, no nations, stop deportations' until the 20 or so attendees left and the event was cancelled.

The event, organised by Capita, is the second annual 'Policing the Borders Conference'. Described by the organisers as a "learning and networking opportunity," the event gathered representatives of the European border agency Frontex, the Identity and Passport Service and senior officers from the Association of Chief Police Officers, the Metropolitan Police and various other police forces. It was also attended by representatives of private security companies, such as Serco, and featured an exhibition about border security and surveillance technology. [2]

Video footage of the protest posted on activist news site Indymedia shows protesters walking in, unfurling a banner that reads 'No to Fortress Europe', and lecturing their shocked audience about freedom of movement and state repression. The highly esteemed delegates are then seen leaving the hall one by one, some covering their faces to avoid being filmed. [3]

Commenting on the reasons behind the action, one of the protesters said: "Under the pretexts of 'security', 'terrorism' and 'illegal immigration', hundreds of migrants are everyday denied their freedom of movement, dignity and basic rights. On top of that, the increasingly racist immigration policies create an atmosphere of suspicion, where everyone is under surveillance for unnamed 'crimes'. And to achieve that, European government are outsourcing immigration control to shadowy organisations like Frontex, who do the dirty work for them. From sinking migrants' boats to forcibly deporting people on specially chartered flights, Frontext can be best described as a mercenary army charged with protecting the artificial borders of Fortress Europe." [4]


[1] No Borders London is

[2] Speakers at the Policing the Borders conference on 23rd March, 2010, included Edgar Beugels, head of the Research and Development Unit at Frontex; Tony McCarthy, detective chief inspector, Office of the National Coordinator PROTECT, Association of Chief Police Officers; Bob Chatterton, head of Special Branch, Essex Police; Duncan Hine, executive director, Integrity and Security, Identity and Passport Service; Lorraine Morrison, detective chief inspector, Gatwick Operations, Sussex Police; Dave Padwick, detective inspector, Counter Terrorism Unit, Gatwick Operations, Sussex Police; Paul Kiteley, Detective Sergeant, Cargo Unit, SO15 Counter Terrorism Command, Metropolitan Police Service; Vaughn High, Small Ports Team Leader, Essex Police.

The conference was chaired by Ian Hutcheson, the security director at BAA Airports Ltd. The main presentations were the one by Frontex about "how to solve cross-border challenges and create an integrated border control system" and the one by ACPO on "the national strategy for UK border policing."

The page advertising the conference on Capita's website 'disappeared' since the action:
The page, however, can still be accessed via Google's cache:
The conference brochure and programme are here:

[3] The video footage of the protest can be found at:

[4] Frontex (officially known as the European Agency for the Management of Operational Cooperation at the External Borders of the Member States of the European Union) has recently assumed extra powers to charter mass deportation flights, buy equipment and explore satellite technology to survey the EU borders. For more details, see this recent Guardian article:

Wednesday, 24 March 2010

More On Yarl's Wood And Child Detention

Interestingly the Yarl's Wood Inspection report comes a day after yet another in a long line of reports critical of the treatment of children in the UK's detention system, this one from Refugee and Migrant Justice entitled 'Safe at Last? Children on the front line of UK Border Control', and also just two days after news that three doctors at Yarl's Wood itself are facing investigation by the General Medical Council.

'Safe at Last?' documents some pretty appalling treatment meted out to child migrants upon their arrival in the UK, being forced to undertake "oppressive and unlawful" interviews even before being offered basic welfare like rest and food or basic health care.

Zubier, a 16 year old from Afghanistan suffered serious leg injuries when his neighbour's house was bombed by Allied forces. He subsequently suffered abuse at the hands of his father's family and the Taliban after his father had died. His maternal uncle organised his escape, paying an agent but the people traffickers bet him as well because his injured legs slowed him down. His journey took many months via Greece and the 'Jungle' in Calais, where he was stabbed and the wound became infected.

He eventually made it across the Channel but was intercepted in Dover in the early morning. Taken to Dover IRC, he was strip-searched but not offered a doctor. Eventually, he was interviewed later that afternoon with the use of an interpreter on a phone line.

Imagine: you are a scared 16 year old, confused and in a great deal of pain, being interviewed by strange men in uniform who speak a language you don't understand and have to get another stranger on a telephone to interpret for you. He tells you that you are talking too much and to only give short answers to questions. You tell the interviewer about you injuries and that you are in a lot of pain but he doesn't want to see your injuries, all he is interested in is if you can continue and what happened on your journey.

The interview takes ages and then they leave you alone. Eventually you are taken to a hostel and days later a social worker turns up and only then are you taken to hospital, where you are told you are very ill and may have to have one of your legs amputated. Then you discover that your asylum claim was refused because you didn't give enough information during the interview when you first arrived. How would you feel, especially when you find out that one of your brothers had since been killed? Even being granted special leave to remain because of your age is little comfort and cannot stop the nightmares and panic attacks.

This is the sort of story that is used to illustrate the systematic failure by the UK Borders Agency to follow the statutory guidance published under Section 55 of the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009 in the way the Illegal Entry Interviews are carried out with minors, though many of us would also criticise their use with adults.

On the Yarl's Wood health care front, the Inspectorate's report was on the whole positive:

Healthcare provision had also improved, particularly for children, with specialist mental and physical health services. - Introduction.

Clinical governance and management of health services had significantly improved. A female GP attended once a week. Detainees had good access to primary care services. Many detainees complained about delays in seeing healthcare staff and there could be some long waits for additional clinics when detainees attended at the same time. GP clinics were available every weekday and on Saturday mornings. In contrast to clinics, there were no significant waiting times for routine appointments and detainees were seen on the same or following day following nurse triage. - Safety HE.21.

Yet the privately-run subcontracted health care provision at the detention centre continues to draw criticism and demands for it to be returned to the NHS. There is usually no smoke without fire to use an old cliché.

Selected Lowlights Of The Yarl's Wood Inspection Report

As many of you probably cannot be bothered to read the full report on the unannounced full follow-up inspection of Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre on 9 – 13 November 2009 by the Chief Inspector of Prisons, we've chosen a few lowlights for you, with the odd comment of course.

Length of Detention:

Over the past six months, 420 children had been detained, of whom half had been released back into the community, calling into question the need for their detention and the disruption and distress this caused. Some children and babies had been detained for considerable periods – 68 for over a month and one, a baby, for 100 days – in some cases even after social workers had indicated concerns about their and their family’s welfare. Detailed welfare discussions did not fully feed into submissions to Ministers on continued detention. - Introduction. [This figure of only 50% actually deported was confirmed earlier this month.]

Now Phil Woolas has responded to this directly, on amongst other things Radio 4, and has claimed that, whilst half of all Yarl's Wood detainees are released at some point (he helpfully pointed out that "all the people we are talking about are appeal-rights exhausted"), almost all are subsequently removed from the country. Now, this raises a few interesting points.

Firstly, and our maths here may not be too hot, but if half of all detainees are released but almost all are subsequently removed then:
1] half are being detained before all legal avenues have been exhausted, be they appeal-rights exhausted or not;
2] in order to remove almost 100%, if half are removed at each subsequent detention, then 25% are detained twice before deportation, 12% detained three times, 6% four times, you get the picture.

Therefore the line that "whenever we [UKBA] take decisions involving children, their welfare comes first and we will always seek to act in the best interests of the child" and that the Home Office's only detains people when their removal is imminent or when there is a risk of them absconding, and when other alternatives have been considered, is clearly not true.

And just ask yourself, if you have been in the country for a number of years, you have a settled home life with your children in school, are you likely to go on the run? The Home Office clearly thinks so, despite them never having offered one scintilla of evidence that this is likely to be the response of families facing deportation.

So his statement in response to the report that "The sad fact is that some illegal immigrants refuse to comply with the decision of the independent courts and return home voluntarily. The alternatives to centres like Yarl's Wood include putting children into care – which would mean separating them from their parents and risking increased child trafficking and further illegal immigration," is a load of hogwash. [Note: he does not iterate the other alternatives.] And to bring child trafficking into the argument is really scraping the bottom of the barrel.

None of the five families who had been held for 28 days or more [NB: reviews of continued detention have to be carried out after 28 days] and who were discussed during a conference call held during the inspection were removed and all were eventually released. - Main recommendation #2.

More than 10% of detainees had been held at Yarl’s Wood for more than six months. Of these, 13 had been held for six to eight months, eight for eight to 10 months and 11 for more than 10 months. Three detainees had been detained for two years and more. The average length of detention at the centre was 34 days for single female detainees (compared to 22 days in 2008) and 16 days for families. There were no statistics for length of detention across the estate and even those for length of detention at Yarl’s Wood were not easily accessible. The cumulative length of detention was highly relevant to the management of cases, including by the UKBA’s on-site office, so this lack of accurate statistics could adversely impact on detainees. - Immigration casework 3.15.

One Zimbabwean woman detained for nearly two years was awaiting a Court of Appeal hearing, but the monthly review letters failed to mention that there had been no forced removals to Zimbabwe throughout this period. In the case of another woman held for 13 months, it had taken a year to confirm her claim of having Nigerian nationality and the monthly review letters failed to identify the reason for lack of progress. There was no evidence in the case file that the detainee was not cooperating. In other cases, the reason for continued detention was highly questionable. One Nigerian woman who had been at the centre for 16 months was told that her continued detention was because she had been ‘assessed as posing a serious risk of harm to the public’ for committing the offence of possession of a false identity document for which she had served nine months in prison. - Immigration casework 3.17.

Health & Welfare Provision:

Provision of activities for them was among the poorest seen in any removal centre. It had been inadequate at the last inspection, and had declined even further. The absence of activity added to the depression and anxiety of women, many of whom were spending lengthy periods at Yarl’s Wood. The average length of stay had increased by 50% since the last inspection, and one in ten women had been detained for more than six months. There was some paid work, but only about a dozen jobs offered more than 10 hours a week. The quality and quantity of education was poor, except for some good arts and crafts work. - Introduction.

The conditions, activities and services for children, within the centre, had improved significantly, but this, while welcome, could not compensate for the adverse effect of detention itself on the welfare of children, half of whom were later released back into the community. - Introduction.

There had been no assessment of adult mental health needs. - Introduction.


None of the 5 previous recommendations regarding food had been achieved, though the percentage saying that "the food was good or very good" had risen to 17% from the previous only 7%, against the comparator standard of 27%.

Food lacked variety, could be of poor quality and was much criticised by detainees. - Respect HE.24.

Detainees did not work in the kitchen and were unable to contribute to the preparation of national dishes. - Respect HE.33.


[Between August and October 2009], 845 detainees had left following issue of removal directions: 554 [66%] had been escorted by G4S inland and 143 of these removals (26%) had failed; 291 [34%] had been escorted by overseas escorts and 74 (25%) had failed. - Removal and release 10.18.

There were several examples of arrangements made to split the family for effective removal. This usually meant separating the family from the father, but in one case the proposal was to separate a five year old child from his mother on their journey to the airport. In another case, separating the father was described as ‘leverage over the mother’ and in another, separating the mother from her 18 year old son was described as ‘leverage to decrease the mother’s obstructive behaviour’. - Removal and release 10.26.

In January 2009, force had been used to split a family of six so that the father and two children could be removed. The youngest child had been removed by force from his father’s grip and a 10 year old child was taken by force into the departure area after refusing to leave his mother. In the same month, force was used on a pregnant woman. Her three year old son had been kept in the family care suite while she was taken to the legal offices to be given removal directions. On leaving the offices, she had refused to move further and called repeatedly for her son. She had been forcibly placed in, and held in, a wheelchair and taken to the family care suite where she was reunited with her son. - Removal and release 10.27.

Paid Work:

Paid work had expanded to 49 paid work roles, but this was still inadequate for the population. Only a quarter of roles offered work for more than 10 hours a week and there was a two to three week waiting list for jobs. The application process was unclear and work agreements that detainees were required to sign were not translated. Access to work could be vetoed for non-compliance with UKBA, which inappropriately mixed custodial and immigration functions. the child. - Activities HE.37.

The privileges of enhanced status were access to the clothing bazaar, 30 minutes a day internet access and the ability to apply for paid work, subject to UKBA approval (see section on work and learning and skills). Standard level detainees were restricted to 30 minutes a week of internet access, which inappropriately reduced the amount of their contact with the outside world. - Rewards scheme 8.15.

Further recommendations 8.16 Detainees should only be downgraded to the standard level for a pattern of behaviour rather than a single incident, unless that incident is very serious. 8.17 Reviews should be regular and take place on time. 8.18 Reduced access to the internet should not be a penalty within the rewards scheme

Other findings:

A 65% increase in the use of force in first 9 months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008.

Almost twice the numbers of incidents of temporary confinement under Rule 42 in first 9 months of 2009 compared to same period 2008.

A 37% increase in the number of complaints, nearly half were made about medical issues [32%] and ‘poor communication’ [16%].

After the 2008 inspection, the HM Inspectorate of Prisons made 128 recommendations, the same number as during the 2009 visit. Of those, only 59 [46%] were achieved by the second visit. Of those 43 unachieved and 16 partially achieved recommendations from 2008, 65 were carried over to this report to make 187 new or repeated recommendations to the operators of Yarl's Wood [156] and to UKBA [29], plus 2 jointly addressed.

But probably most damning of all:

There seemed to be no change in practice following the removal of the reservation to Article 22 of the Convention on the Rights of the Child and no consideration of whether detention was essential or in the best interests of the child. - Childcare and child protection 4.28.

Tuesday, 23 March 2010

Scraping The Bottom Of The Racist Barrel

It beggars belief that this trivial story can make the front page of a national newspaper, and you can bet your bottom dollar that it wasn't the front page story in the local newspaper?

As to the story itself, it turns out that the Romanian family were sold a pig in a poke when someone told them in a local shop about what they thought was an empty house that they could squat it. So rather gullibly, they went along and forced the front window of the rather down-at-the-heels and abandoned looking end of terrace house (check out the photo) and started to throw out the 'rubbish' they found inside, only for the owner to return and call the police.

And yesterday the Romanian couple, Mihai and Laura Dediu, were given 12-month community orders and sentenced to 100 hours' community service for criminal damage to a window and door locks. As the burglary charge against then was dropped (the judge having commneted "in 26 years I cannot remember a case where burglars have taken a young child with them to carry out a burglary.”), they were only in the building for a few hours and nothing was actually taken, we fail to see how the Express can have come up with the headline 'Romanians steal man's home'.

[See 'In Every Back Garden A Heartache' for another take on the tabloids trying to criminalise migrants over civil court issues and playing fast and loose with the facts.]

Monday, 22 March 2010

Three Strikes & You're Deported

In an interesting new twist on the idea of the 'three strikes and you're out' law, a wheelchair-bound polio victim who won five gold medals representing Great Britain is to deported. Vincent Onwubiko's crime: driving his specially adapted car while disqualified after twice being convicted of careless driving, once after jumping a red light. His sentence: five months in prison.

Now the criteria for deportation of so-called 'foreign national prisoners' is that they are over 17 years old, have been convicted of a serious criminal offence which carries with it a prison sentence (usually of 1 year or more) and the sentencing court have recommended that s/he be deported once s/he has served their sentence. There is also a general presumption that the continued presence of the prisoner is not 'conducive to the public good' and that this consideration outweighs all over factors, unless deportation would breach the individual’s human rights or his rights under the European refugees convention.

So how is the continued presence of someone who has been in the country for 16 years, who has n 11-year-old daughter and who has represented his adopted country with distinction at the highest level in his chosen sport (weight-lifting) not 'conducive to the public good'? Maybe we should ask the judge who threw out his judicial review or the government whose deportation of 'foreign national prisoners' target headboard Vincent is today to become yet another notch on?

So, at 43 years old and no longer able to compete for Team GB, GB and his cronies have deemed him surplus to requirements, given him 3 months supplies of painkillers and will put him on tonight's 22:05 Virgin Atlantic Airways flight VS651 to Lagos.

Sunday, 21 March 2010

Footnote To "In Every Back Garden A Heartache"

There is actually a serious reason to posting 'In Every Back Garden A Heartache', something that the Mail and the Express chose to ignore because of their rabid opposition to most things European and to all things EU.

It is almost certain that these squatters are all from the so-called A8 EU states - Poland, Lithuania, Estonia, Latvia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Hungary and the Czech Republic - and because of that, and the way the A8 accession state agreements are structures, it is almost impossible for them to claim any welfare benefits, including Jobseekers' Allowance and housing benefit.

So, as most are likely to have been in seasonal employment picking vegetables, they suddenly have no money to pay rent and have no option but to live on the streets, or in someone's back garden, unless they have the money to travel back home. And if they are sleeping rough, they have little or no chance of finding other work.

Hence the Peterborough garden squatters, and the increasing numbers to be found across East Anglia. Obvious really but when one thinks about it but where's the newsprint in that?

The other problem is that seasonal work is by its very nature temporary and often the companies involved do not keep adequate paperwork. So when it comes to A8 or any other temporary workers claiming benefits when they do become eligible, assuming they know about them (around £10bn in available benefits goes unclaimed each year), they often lack the correct paperwork (payslips, etc.) to claim them. Making them even more likely to end up on the streets.

In Every Back Garden A Heartache

We have been trying very hard to wean ourselves off commenting about the daily tidal-wave of racist vitriol washing over us courtesy of the likes of the Mail and the Express. However, the Mail's latest* outburst of Colonel Blimpishness outrage was just begging to be lampooned.

'Residents powerless to remove illegal immigrants from their gardens' - except the paper then goes on to say that they "are mostly from Eastern Europe" and the only actual country of origin it identifies is the Czech Republic, which held the presidency of the EU for the first six months of last year, so they can hardly be 'illegal' as they are EU citizens! The paper even claims that the 'trespassers' "have no passports", so the paper is even further from being able to affirm that the people in question have no legal right to be in the UK. But when has that ever stopped the Mail from spreading its racist vitriol in one of these type of stories?

Given that the paper spends so much of its turnover employing squads of lawyers to try and protect their libellous output, one would have thought they could have asked one of them to explain the difference between trespass and squatting (except one wouldn't want a libel lawyer trying to explain the ins and outs of property law, would one?). Doesn't fit in the the simulated outrage does it?

Even when an ex-cop helpfully fills the Mail's readers in on the difference between the two, he gets heavily slapped down by the rest of the BNP?UKIP voting idiots that buy the rag.
Of course, the Mail trots out a local Tory MP, Stewart Jackson, who claimed that Labour had failed to deal with immigration problems that have led to jobless migrants camping in British gardens. "The Labour government was warned that uncontrolled immigration would cause these sorts of problems." We bet you did. A quick search of Hansard has not revealed any Tories warning the government of the potential problem of foreigners squatting in people's gardens "leaving a trail of cider bottles, bags of human waste and drugs needles behind them."

Yes, the paper makes great play of the drugs and drug paraphernalia littering the area but also claim that the "police are powerless to step in." They even print a photo of the interior of a rather next outbuilding with a mattress, blanket, cardboard and milk bottle with the subtitle 'Disgrace: Drugs and rubbish litter the area, but the local council and police are powerless to step in'. Pure fantasy. There's even a photo of an incredibly rickety 'treehouse' with the caption 'Some of the immigrants are believed to have slept in this treehouse in someone's garden.' [Note the believed, a typical Mailism.]**

However, the real reason why we wanted to highlight this article was because of a quote by one of the Peterborough residents whose shed was being squatted. "I caught him [his squatter, no doubt squatting at the time] defecating on my lawn, where my dog plays. I had to build a fence to keep him out of that part of the garden so my dog doesn't get ill playing in his mess." As if his dog doesn't shit on the lawn too.

* Yes we know the Express also covered it but the Mail's was the most Blimpish.
** The Daily Star takes this and conflates it into 'Migrants found living in family tree house.'

We Say: "No More WH Deportation Tours!"

London NoBorders and No Borders Brighton are calling for a week of action against WH Tours, a coach company in Crawley that is responsible for transporting immigration detainees to airports to be forcibly deported.

From Monday 22nd March to Friday 26rd March we are asking people to write letters and send faxes to WH Tours in protest. See a model letter below.

On Friday 26th March between 11am-1pm we are asking people to phone WH Tours to tell the company what we think of their practices.

And finally on Saturday 27th March we are calling for a noise demo outside the WH Tours office. We are meeting at 11am at Crawley train station or 11.30am outside the WH Tours office, The Kelvin Centre, Kelvin Way, Crawley RH10 9SF.



WH Tours
The Kelvin Centre, Kelvin Way
Crawley, Sussex
RH10 9SF
Tel: 01293 510220
Fax: 01293 513263
Web contact form.



Dear WH Tours,

I understand that WH Tours is subcontracted by G4S to provide coaches for transporting detained migrants from immigration detention centres to airports to be deported on commercial or specially charted flights. I am writing to you to express my disgust at your involvement in this inhumane business.

As you must be aware, the vast majority of deportations have been to countries devastated by wars and armed conflicts such as Afghanistan, Iraq, DR Congo, Nigeria, Jamaica, Sri Lanka and so on. After being forcibly deported, many have been kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured and killed. Others have had to change their identities or move again to avoid persecution. Forcible deportations also tear apart people's lives as they are split from their families and communities and their right to freedom of movement is denied.

By providing coaches to transport deportees to the airport, WH Tours is complicit in the human tragedies that forcible deportations cause.

Furthermore, there is mounting evidence that deportees, including families and children, have been repeatedly subjected to racial and violent abuse at the hands of G4S security (see, for example, this report: By providing coaches where some of this abuse takes place, WH Tours is complicit in these illegal acts too.

In the light of this information, I am hereby asking you to cease providing coaches for G4S and the UKBA for the purpose of forcible deportations as this will have a negative impact on your company's image and your other business.

Yours sincerely,

**** ******

Friday, 19 March 2010

Yarl's Wood Women Take Serco To Court

A High Court judge has granted an application by the Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) practice on behalf of the Yarl's Wood women hunger strikers for an urgent judicial review into their allegations of inhumane treatment at the hands of Serco guards in the detention centre. The allegations centre on a incident during a peaceful protest on 8 February when they were attacked by guards, who locked them into a corridor without access to the toilet, water or medication. Serco's position on the incident is that its guards did not attack protesting inmates. Instead, its "staff intervened to prevent four women from continuing to bully other residents into missing meals."

The legal actions will also examine the general racist abuse and the squalid, prison-like conditions the the women and their children have to endure, often for months on end, without any indication as to when they might be released. And in the words of PIL solicitor Jim Duffy: "Serco and the Home Office will now be forced to explain in open court how the abuse and despair that these women and children have been forced to endure squares with national and international human rights standards. Given the evidence of a systematic disregard for human dignity, it will be a tall order." The human rights organisation Liberty has also been given permission to look into the allegations.

For those of you who have never heard of Serco, they are a private outsourcing company with a turnover of around £4bn and with their thumbs in a number of government pies, mainly in the criminal justice sphere. The company's chief executive is one Chris Hyman, a zealous Indian Pentecostal Christian from South Africa who tithes 10% of his income to his church. He also apparently survived the World Trade Centre attacks, an event which he claims reinforced his faith.

He claims that his company is run on ethical lines fully in accordance with his Christian beliefs and goes for contracts where "we can make a difference and make money." "This may not go down very well but I put people first, then customers, then shareholders. If [our] people are happy, everyone else is happy." So the company will obviously be defending their uniformed goons to the hilt. Just as it did staff members involved in the 2004 death of 14-year-old Adam Rickwood killed himself after suffering painful physical restraint at the Hassockfield Secure Training Centre it runs in County Durham. Or the HMP Kilmarnock staff who allowed a prisoner to die of meningitis in 2008 despite repeated pleas for medical assistance. Or the staff at HMP Doncaster that had prisoners routinely sleeping in toilets in conditions described as “squalid” in a 2008 report by the UK Prisons Inspectorate.


Public Interest Lawyers Press Release:

On 1 March, Public Interest Lawyers (PIL) issued an unprecedented human rights case in the High Court challenging the indeterminate and inhumane detention of women and children at Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre and at Holloway Prison. The case confronts the policy and practice of the Home Office and the private company, Serco.

Earlier today, the High Court confirmed that the case would proceed to a full hearing on an urgent basis. The Judge, Mrs Justice Davies, also granted permission to Liberty, a leading human rights organisation, to intervene in what will be an extremely important case in terms of holding the Government to account for the way it treats immigrants.

The allegations include the following:

That women and children have been held in squalid, prison-like conditions for between two weeks and one year without any indication as to when they might be released;

That detainees have been subjected to racist slurs by Serco staff who called them "black monkeys" and "Chinese monkeys";

That over 70 women were locked for several hours in a hot, airless corridor during a peaceful protest and forced to urinate and vomit where they stood. Several women collapsed but received no medical assistance, and a window was slammed on one detainee's finger, ripping her nail off. One of PIL's clients was beaten by guards using riot shields as she and 18 other women were detained outside in the snow for over four hours;

That terrified children were not treated for diarrhoea and locked in their cells for long periods, having been arrested during dawn raids and moved to Yarl's Wood in secured vans;

That one woman was held in solitary confinement for almost four weeks following a peaceful protest; and

That detainees have routinely had their legal correspondence opened and read by guards.

Today, Jim Duffy, a solicitor at PIL, welcomed the Court's decision:

"Serco and the Home Office will now be forced to explain in open court how the abuse and despair that these women and children have been forced to endure squares with national and international human rights standards. Given the evidence of a systematic disregard for human dignity, it will be a tall order."

For further information, please contact:

Jim Duffy or Phil Shiner on 0121 515 5069.

Thursday, 18 March 2010

The Indifference Of Immigration Bureaucracy

It is not only in Glasgow that migrants are driven by the indifference of immigration officialdom to desperation and to killing themselves, it happens wherever their is some pettifogging bureaucrat pursuing a government's racist agenda of 'sending them back', whoever 'they' might be.

Yesterday,* an Afghan asylum seeker tried to set light to himself in an Innsbruch petrol station. The 21-year-old entered the petrol station and purchased a lighter. He then went to the forecourt umps and started to douse himself in petrol, but a pump attendant and two other men managed to prevent the self-immolation. Police arrested him and took him to a psychiatric hospital.

That man's reasons for the suicide attempt are unknown but those for David M., a young Georgian who hung himself earlier this month, appear self-evident. He had been in the Hamburg immigration detention centre since the beginning of February after having stopped a police car and asked to apply for asylum. Having no papers and claiming to be only 17 years old he should not have been detained, but as he had already made and been refused applications in Poland and Switzerland, under Dublin II he was to be deported back to Poland and therefore detained.

He began a hunger strike on 7 February. Two weeks later he was transferred to the detention centre hospital, where he was told that he was to be deported to Poland on 9 March. On 6 March, he started to accept solid food, but one day later, he tore up his bedsheets and hung himself.

* Also yesterday evening, a 29-year-old Nigerian died during an attempted deportation at Zurich airport. The man collapsed as he was being 'escorted' on board the deportation flight. He had been on hunger strike for a number of days prior to the flight, had been forcibly handcuffed and was resisting his deportation. The Swiss Federal Office of Migration has suspended further flights pending an autopsy and investigation into the cause of the death.

Shock Horror: UKBA Refuse To Lock People Up!

Its a bizarre story but becoming all the more common for all that. Migrant enters the country 'illegally', is exploited and abused (in his case being robbed of all his possessions, including his passport) and left destitute. More often or not, this would either lead to them being picked up by the police and result in a swift journey to the nearest immigration detention centre or, if more fortunate, they would survive their plight due to the intervention and the kindness of strangers.

In this case we have 32-year-old Sarbjit Singh, who freely admits he is an 'illegal' immigrant and wishes to be deported back to the Punjab. However, as he has no money or a passport he cannot catch a flight home and the UK Borders Agency refuse to detain him, even though he has been living on the street for the last four months kept alive by handouts from local residents and the warmth from a factory hot air vent during the freezing weather.

The UKBA's excuse is that, whilst they continue to try and secure a passport for him from the Indian authorities, (now don't laugh) they only lock people up in detention centres as a "last resort".

Mr Singh and a 40-year-old man named Ashok Masah, who he shares his pavement 'home' with and who refuses to co-operate with the authorities in any way, have been arrested by the police on two occasions over their immigration status but were released both times when immigration officials declined to take them into custody.

Interestingly, the MP for the area is Keith Vaz, chair of the Home Affairs Committee and he has written to Phil Woolas to ask him to get the Border Agency involved: "There is absolutely no reason or justification for the UK Border Agency to allow these men to remain on the streets while their applications are resolved. These living conditions put their lives in serious danger."* One wonders if Woolas will pay any more attention to him than he has done on numerous occasions in the past.

* At least Vaz's concerns are primarily for the welfare of the two men and not, like the Leicester Mercury "the long-suffering residents of this area have to put up with this atrocious state of affairs" and the "Leicestershire police and the city council have been left to pick up the pieces and the bill". Exactly what bill this is they fail to enumerate.

Statement From The Yarl's Wood Hunger Strikers


This is to inform the authorities and the public that the on-going hunger strike is to be suspended on the 19 March 2010 at 9.00 am. We are giving the authorities and immigration the chance to look at all the issues raised before and during the strike. We are hoping that management at Serco will review problems at Yarl’s Wood. Also, we expect immigration to carefully look at the cases of women held at the detention centre.

The suspension will last for three weeks until something is done to all the issues that had been raised. Our position will be reviewed on suspension of the hunger strike if there are no changes to the problems and issues. Nobody wants to go on hunger strike, but if the authorities and immigration do not listen to us then we can resume the hunger strike on the 9 April 2010. This letter will be sent with a copy of the problems that we face at Yarl’s Wood.

We are demanding the following actions:

*There should be a full investigation into what happened during the peaceful protest on 8 February 2010.

*Any travel arrangement for the women who were involved with the protest should be suspended until after the investigation.

*End the frustrations, physical and mental torture at the centre.

*Allow enough time and make resources available to residents who need to fully present their cases.

*To end all false allegations and misrepresentations by the UKBA regarding detainees in order to refuse bail or temporary admissions.

*Access to appropriate medical treatment and care as in the community, access to edible and well cooked food, cancel weekly mobile phones charges and allow phone connections, with camera and recording facilities to back up cases.

*To stop the forceful removal and degrading system of deportation of detainees.

*To put law into practice, European rules governing standard of conditions of detention for migrants and asylum seekers and the length of time in detention.

*Detention should be by a standard procedure prescribed by law, authorized by judicial authority and be subjected to periodic judicial reviews.

*To end the detention of children and their mothers, rape survivors and other torture victims, to end the detention of physically, mentally sick people and pregnant women for long period of time.

* Stop the fingerprinting and taking photograph of our visitors (Even real prisons don’t do this to visitors)

*To end the separation of children from their mothers being detained whether in detention or by destitution.

*There should be an interpreter for non English speaking women in the wings to help them with their queries.

*To end the detention of women after serving time in prison. Women served their sentence they should not be punished again by detention or deportation.

* The extortion of Yarl’s Wood shop must end. The shop charges us extra 20p per item, even though the centre knows we have no money.

* To abolish the fast track system, in order to give asylum seekers a fair chance with their application, while understanding the particular needs of victims of torture, and access to reliable legal representation which the fast track system denies.

*There should be more female offices and black offices. The centre is 80 percent black detainee and only female offices should search our rooms.

*There are very little activities in the centre. There are 12 computer (which is very slow to use), 10 chairs in the arts room with small material to work with. This is suppose to cater for more than 400 women. The library have no popular books and all the books are very old. We are not allowed to order books from other library.

*To end the repeat detention of women granted temporary admission while reporting or signing after a short period out of detention.

*To a set period of time allowed to detain women, which should be no longer than one month, while waiting decision either from UKBA or court proceedings.

*Finally instead of detention of foreign nationals, there are alternatives to detention as stated by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe (PACE) in 'The detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in Europe ', adopted on the 28th January 2010 [extracts below]:

9.1.1. detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants shall be exceptional and only used after first reviewing all other alternatives and finding that there is no effective alternative; placement in special establishments (open or semi-open); registration and reporting; release on bail/surety; controlled release to individuals, family members, NGOs, religious organizations, or others; handover of travel and other documents, release combined with appointment of a special worker;

For full text see:

Council of Europe - Parliamentary Assembly Resolution 1707 (2010) - The detention of asylum seekers and irregular migrants in Europe.

Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Don't Trust Tabloid Translations...

...Or For Them To Tell You The Whole Truth.

This is getting so boring that we are finding it both hard to keep up and hard to be bothered by the rampant xenophobia displayed daily in the Express. Yes, we know it has always been a vile racist rag but since the turn of the year and the beginning of the phoney election race, they have excelled even their own previously gutter-level lows. The also have even exceeded the Mail's attempts to become an election stalking horse for the BNP, whilst of course, in a show of hypocrisy and cant, declaring how vile the BNP really are. Honest.

The latest piece of racist stupidity also pushes the anti-women, anti-abortion, anti-EU and health tourism buttons, whilst sticking the boot into all things Polish. The article is headed by the usual tabloid style fabrication that passes for a headline - 'Now Poles Get Free Abortions On NHS', as though this were some new policy requirement. Of course, Poles or anyone else not legally resident in the EU cannot get free treatment except in special, often emergency, situations, something that has been the case for decades under various international agreements since the UK joined the EU.

Yet that doesn't stop that Andrew Green idiot from MigrationBotch chipping in his two-peneth about the NHS being "in danger of becoming an “international health service” and called for NHS clinics to make sure that those who turn up for free treatment are entitled to it." What planet does he live on? Surely someone who constantly touts himself as an 'expert' on immigration (sic) issues knows full well the rules and regulations that operate within the NHS to restrict treatment to those officially deemed legally entitled to it? But of course that doesn't suit his own particular brand of intolerance.

And what is this all about? It turns out that the paper's ire was stimulated by the appearance in Poland of a rather clever spoof of a Mastercard ad campaign by Polish feminist group SROM. Their poster campaign highlights the lack of abortion rights in Poland and the dangers of underground abortions. The paper helpfully translates the bits of the poster that suit their biased interpretation (and hence their story): "Air ticket to England in the promotion: 300 zł, accommodation: 240 zł, abortion clinics in public: 0 zł, relief after surgery in good condition - is priceless."

What they fail to translate is the text at the bottom of the poster: "For everything else you will pay less than (for) an underground abortion in Poland."*

Needless to say the Mail also has a version of this non-story and they add their own little extra bit of hypocrisy by talking about "a poster campaign which features a semi-naked woman", a paper that loves to fill its on-line content with as much titillating naked flesh as possible without actually showing any 'naughty bits'. They also wheel out Ann Widdecombe and her well-known opinions on abortion (as opposed to a straight forward anti-abortion group like LIFE in the Express) and a new right-wing fruit-loop group Patients Concern ("our core principle is complete consumer independence")**

* They also fail to mention that srom is Polish for vulva (surely not in a family paper!).
** Obviously the Taxpayers' Alliance rent-a-quote must have had their mobile switched of when the Express and the Mail rang as we were happily deprived of suffering any more of their reactionary drivel.

Stop Dangerous Drivers!

No More WH Deportation Tours!

Public demo at WH Tours offices, Kelvin Way, Manor Royal, Crawley
Saturday, 27th March 2010
Meet at 11am @ Crawley train station. Bring banners and instruments.

WH Tours is a coach company based in Crawley, near Gatwick airport. Part of the company's business is leisure: coach excursions, sightseeing tours and so on. Another part, however, is much more sinister: the company provides coaches for transporting detained migrants facing deportation from immigration prisons to airports to be deported on commercial or specially charted flights.

Forcible deportations tear apart people's lives as they are split from their families and communities and their right to freedom of movement is denied. On top of this, the vast majority of deportations have been to countries devastated by wars and armed conflicts (often caused by western colonial interests) such as Afghanistan, Iraq, DR Congo, Nigeria, Jamaica, Sri Lanka and so on. After being forcibly deported, many have been kidnapped, imprisoned, tortured and killed. Others have had to change their identities or move again to avoid persecution.

By providing coaches to transport deportees to the airport, WH Tours is complicit in the human tragedies that forcible deportations cause.

Deportees, including families and children, are also treated as criminals. They are typically handcuffed and accompanied by two private security guards each. There have been many reports of racial and violent abuse suffered by deportees at the hands of private 'escorts'. WH Tours is complicit in these illegal acts too.

London NoBorders is calling for WH Tours to immediately end its contracts with G4S, the UKBA and any other other private or government body involved in the
deportation machine.

We are calling for all individuals, schools and companies that use WH Tours to boycott them until the company ends its involvement in deportation.

London NoBorders is also calling for a public demo outside WH Tours (The Kelvin Centre, Kelvin Way, Crawley RH10 9SF) on Saturday, 27th March, to express our disgust at its shameful involvement in this inhumane industry.

Tuesday, 16 March 2010

Tabloid Readers Shamed

It is not often that we reprint verbatim pieces from other sources but we couldn't resist this one from The Spoof for the obvious reasons:

Editors of the British tabloid press united today to speak-out against those who buy their newspapers.

'They're only interested in sleaze and scandal,' angrily accused one editor. 'For too long they've blackmailed us into harassing celebrities and other public figures, and then compelled us to print pernicious lies about them.'

Another editor, who was too frightened to be identified, tearfully told of how he feared for the safety of his family. 'If I didn't print what those lascivious, sadistic, bigoted bastards demanded,' he sobbed, 'they'd stop buying the paper, and my wife and children would starve.'

Others underlined the courage it had taken to finally stand-up to their readers. 'I couldn't have done it alone,' said the boss of a leading national tabloid. 'The Tabloid Editors' Support Group helped me to realise I wasn't alone. In therapy, we spoke of how we had all come to hate ourselves for dispensing with truth. We had all lain awake at nights mortified at the interest we had generated in celebrities for no purpose other than to later vilify them.'

There is also huge guilt among tabloid journalists about the way their readers have forced them to portray immigrants and young people. 'There are not millions of asylum seekers freely entering Britain, and they are not committing all crime,' protested one reporter, 'but if we even implied this, circulation figures would plummet.'

The same reporter recalled the apology that his newspaper had been compelled to issue when it had inadvertently suggested that not all young people were drunk 24/7 and that not all fourteen-year old girls were pregnant. 'The article had commended the dedication and hard work of young people and the credit they were to Britain,' he revealed. 'My editor had feared that it might lead to violent protests by readers.'

A spokesperson for British tabloid editors confirmed that they were no longer prepared to be the passive and helpless victims of their readerships. She stated that the newspapers had unanimously resolved to gradually move towards a radical new policy of publishing stories that were balanced and factually accurate. She also confirmed that they would be running a series of articles, ruthlessly exposing their readers. 'The reports,' she promised, 'will unflinchingly reveal the truth about how these conscienceless psychopaths have mercilessly driven tabloid journalism to the unsavoury depths that it now plumbs.'

New Yarl's Wood Video

The latest news about the 11 women in Yarl's Wood detention centre currently in their sixth week of refusing food.

Friday, 12 March 2010

Re: Sourcing Abuse

Nuala O'Loan, the former Northern Ireland police ombudsman, has finally issued her review of the report 'Outsourcing Abuse' published by Birnberg Peirce & Partners, Medical Justice and the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns almost two and a half years ago. In Ms O'Loan's review for the UK Borders Agency, whilst she found no evidence of the "systematic abuse" alleged in 'Outsourcing Abuse', she did however find that in nearly two-thirds of the 29 complaints she looked into that were either inadequately investigated or no investigation actually took place. In some cases escort staff had not even considered whether the force used was "proportionate and necessary" as required to do by law.

The original report was compiled in response to Home Office criticism of allegations published in the Independent about 200 documented incidences of racist and physical abuse perpetrated against immigration detainees by escort staff. 'Outsourcing Abuse' was in turn based upon a dossier of nearly 300 such cases (pgs 2, 6 & 20) and did not, as has been stated by Ms O'Loan, UKBA (in the guise of Lin Horner*) and the mainstream media(the few that actually chose to cover the story), claim to contain details of all 289 dossier cases, merely that the statistical analysis contained in the report was based on them. Obviously it would be difficult to itemise all 289 cases in a 72 page report, and only 48 case reports were subsequently passed on to the Home Office, with many victims understandably wanting to maintain their anonymity.

Interestingly, one of the reasons why some of those 48 cases could not be examined properly because they had been left in a rat-infested area and had become so contaminated they were a health risk, something that no one in the media has picked up on. Certainly not the UKBA, who in their bizarre and of course bland response state that "some of the earlier (!?!) cases [O'Loan] considered there was a failure to have proper processes in place for dealing with allegations of mistreatment. We have now addressed this.** Her review reflects improvements over the years as to how complaints are investigated, and the additional safeguards that have been built into our processes."

Apparently not, given the denials issued over the brutalisation of the Yarl's Wood hunger strikers and the refusal to consider an inquiry into those allegations either by UKBA itself or the Prisons Inspectorate. Now 11 of the women who have been on hunger strike have been forced to take the government and Serco, the company that runs Yarl's Wood, to court. They allege that their rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and their rights not to be tortured, suffer inhumane or degrading treatment or punishment have all been breached by Serco guards. The damages claim specifically refers to an incident on 11 February when the women were locked in a corridor and refused water, access to toilets and medication.

* It should also be noted that Lin Horner, the Chief Executive of UKBA, claims in her foreword to the review that the motivation of Medical Justice et al in publishing the allegations of abuse was to "damage the reputation of our contractors", rather than publicising the abuse suffered by its clients.
8* O'Loan's review makes 22 recommendations and it would be interesting to hear from the UKBA exactly how all 22 had been anticipated and addressed.

Thursday, 11 March 2010

Yarl's Wood Mother's Day Demonstration

We are calling a demonstration at 12pm on Sunday, 14 March in solidarity with the women on hunger strike in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre. We join these women in their protest against the detention of migrants. We support their bravery and we oppose immigration laws that restrict the freedom of movement of those in need.

We have chosen to act on Mother’s Day to highlight the cruel way that migrant women, many of whom have come to the UK to seek respite from violence and torture, have been separated from their families for no good reason and at little notice. They have since been subjected to further violence and humiliation within the immigration centre.

We support the hunger strikers at Yarl’s Wood in all of the demands that they have issued. We support the hunger strikers at Harmondsworth Immigration Centre and in immigration centres in Italy. We are acting to express our disgust at immigration laws and to re-affirm the belief that freedom of movement is a human right. We are outraged by the fact that Serco are controlling the Yarl’s Wood Immigration Centre in the interest of private profit. We oppose the idea of national borders and nation-states as a whole and we do not believe that there is any such thing as an illegal human being.

We invite those who share in our beliefs, and anyone who opposes the detention of migrants, the abuse of women and the separation of families, to join us at 12 pm on Sunday, 14 March. Bring voices, whistles, drums and anything else that makes a noise: we want the hunger strikers to know that we are with them, and that they are not alone on Mother’s Day.

Hope to see you there...

Yarl's Wood Migrant Solidarity

Map of the location of Yarl's Wood.

Calais Town Hall Banner Hang

Yesterday afternoon a banner reading "Solidarite avec les sans papiers" was hung from the scaffolding on the town hall in Calais. While the local council tries to clean up its municipal image, they cannot hide the dire situation being faced by hundreds of migrants on the streets of the town. Not carrying their identity documents in solidarity with the migrants they have been working with these last few days, the three people arrested during the action are currently being held inside the police station for an ID check and questioning.

Calais Migrant Solidarity blog

Wednesday, 10 March 2010

Red Road Residents March & Rally, Glasgow

Saturday 13 March 11.00am*

Starting at Red Road flats, 63 Petershill Drive, Glasgow G21
Marching to a rally in George Square

The march, organised by Red Road residents, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees and the Unity Centre, will begin at the exact spot of grass where a family of three asylum seekers, the Serykh family, fell to their deaths on Sunday 7 March.

These tragic deaths in the Red Road must be the last. The scapegoating and persecution of asylum seekers must stop. Please raise the event in your organisations and add their names to the list of supporters. The residents of the Red Road and all other asylum seekers and refugees need and deserve our support. Make this march huge so that the politicians and the media get the message loud and clear - Refugees are welcome here!

The purpose of the march and rally is to:

1. Remember the Serykh family and call for an immediate end to any further forced removals of refugee families in the Red road area by the UK Borders Agency (UKBA) ; and

2. Call for the immediate return of Stephanie Ovranah and her twin six year old sons, Joshua and Joel, to their friends, neighbours and local church in Glasgow's Cranhill where they have lived for past five five years. (The family were detained at Brand Street reporting centre without warning last Friday with the children still in their school uniforms. They are currently in Yarl's Wood Detention Centre and the children are understood to be terrified of being returned to Africa which they do not know or remember).


Solidarity Demonstration At Harmondsworth 13/03/10

The Detainee Solidarity London network has called a noise demo at Harmondsworth IRC, near Heathrow airport, between midday and 1:30pm this Saturday (13th) in support of the detainees who have been on hunger strike since 2 March. Bring banners and noise making instruments.

Second Statement From The Harmondsworth Hunger Strikers

Below is the second statement released by the detainees in Harmondsworth who have been on hunger strike since 2 March:

1) The courts used at the detention centres are a mockery of the justice system, they are staged. It seems the outcomes are decided before the actual court appearance.

2) The Home Office appear to have put in place their own officials (solicitors, judges), both in the AIT courts and the High Court, to raise a high standard of failures in people's applications to boost their statistics.

3) There are people who have spent 5, 8 or 10 years working hard in this country, who have never been involved in any criminal activities, please like religious leaders and many more, who are valuable to this country.

4) The immigration system in this country is a cold war that has separated familes and their loved ones, and has caused mental, physical and emotional torture to both detainees and their families.

5) Many people are in poor medical conditions to be kept in detention, some of whom have even been removed to their countries, yet their conditions can only be managed in the UK.

6) We are aiming for a fact finding mission, we recommend they send an independent body to come and audit, and interview detainees and also re-examine their cases.

7) People are being denied their bail rights even though they meet all the requirements needed. Detainees' sureties are not allowed in court after travelling from far distances to support bail applications.

8) The general treatment of detainees is very appalling e.g. medical treatment, security control etc. We wonder if such treatment as we are undergoing is an order from above.

In summary, considering the reputation of Great Britain, we fear this will jeopardize the good work of the great men and women of this country and the efforts of their forefathers.

Tuesday, 9 March 2010

Red Road Protests Today

Residents of Red Road in Glasgow have called for a protest today at 11:00 outside the Home Office reporting centre on Brand Street, Glasgow in memory of the three people who fell to their death on Sunday morning from one of the tower blocks in Red Road. The three people who died are thought to have been a Russian family who had lived in Red Road for two months.

It is difficult to understand why it has taken the police more than 24 hours to identify the three people as all asylum seekers are repeatedly asked to give their finger-prints by the Home Office and their landlords, the YMCA, should be able to tell the police who was living in the flat at the time.

Neighbours have told the Unity Centre, a volunteer-run migrants support centre in Glasgow, that Strathclyde police visited the people's flat on the 15th floor last Friday to tell them that their asylum case had been refused and that they would have to leave the flat. In our experience the police only come to the door of a refused asylum seeker at the request of the landlord after the family have refused to leave their accommodation. So far, the YMCA who were landlords for the three are refusing to comment to the media.

At the moment, the Home Office are denying any involvement however it has been known for asylum seekers to be so desperate that they jump from their windows if they think they are about be detained in a dawn raid by the Home Office's Enforcement Team. Neighbours have said that they thought the Home Office had been there on Sunday morning when the three jumped.

Yesterday 30 residents of the Red Road flats laid flowers and candles outside 63 Petershill Drive to commemorate the deaths of the three people who jumped to their deaths. They have also asked for people to come to Petershill Drive at 18:00 today with banners demanding freedom and safety for all asylum seekers.

Home Ofice Lies Exposed

Phil Woolas, Meg Hiller and various other Home Office and UKBA lackeys have made great play recently of the fact (or at least what they claim is a fact) that people in immigration detention are only there because they are about to be deported. Very occasionally they will let slip that some detainees are also held whilst their cases are being processed.

Whether people are being held in detention whilst there is still a chance of their being granted leave to remain in the UK may seem to some people an extremely trivial point, irrespective of wheyher the government is lying about it or not. However, it is an extremely important point if it is you that is being held against your will in prison-like conditions, with little or no access to habeas corpus as you have been charged with no crime. This is doubly true if you are a child or if it is your family that is banged-up.

Now, despite Woolas' attempts at obfuscation yesterday in parliament, the truth is revealed and it turns out that more than half of all children held in immigration detention are released back in to the community and do not get deported alongside their parents. According to Woolas, in an answer to a question from Claire Short, "830 children entered detention solely under Immigration Act powers between April and December 2009 and 860 children left detention held solely under Immigration Act powers during the same period." Of those "a total of 415 children were removed from the UK upon leaving detention solely under Immigration Act powers in the same period." Now, allowing for Woolas' caveats and attempts to blow smoke up Claire's fundament, this indicates that half of all children were not removed from the country under the same criteria.

This was in fact confirmed last month in an answer from Meg Hiller to a question from Diane Abbott in an adjournment debate on Yarl's Wood. "In the last quarter of 2009, 315 children entered detention. In the financial year 2008-09, 1,116 children entered detention and slightly more departed it-clearly some cases would have been in both financial years. Some 539 of those children, slightly fewer than half, were removed, and 629 were released. I should put it on record that those statistics are based on management information and are not subject to the detailed checks that apply to the publication of national statistics. They may include some double counting, as some children may have been detained, released and detained again. The average length of detention was 16 days in 2008-09, and for this year, 2009-10, it is slightly less so far. Of the children detained on 30 September 2009, 25 had been detained for seven days or fewer, five for eight to 14 days, five for 15 to 28 days and ten for 29 or more days but less than two months. None was detained for longer than that."

So now we know, detention is NOT only used when people have refused to leave the country voluntarily, to slightly adapt Meg Hiller's words from her recent letter to MPs about the Yarl's Wood hunger strike.