Monday, 31 May 2010

Mock Outrage At Other People's Racism I & II?

Under the headline 'French admit they are racist', the Daily Telegraph claims: "One in seven French people admit to being racist and many have prejudicial views of immigrants, homosexuals, blacks, Arab and Jews, according to a survey released on Sunday." Maybe its about time that the Telegraph brought out a French edition to catch a few of those potential punters?

The Daily Flail trod a fine line in their story 'Police in race row over 'Polish rioters' training' between trying to imply censure of Cambridgeshire police's 'war games' in Peterborough between 'us' - Blue Force aka the good guys - and 'them' - the Red Force aka rioting football fans from the fictional Eastern European country Felacia (i.e. Poland) and angry mobs of economic migrants protesting at poor wages.

Liberty wondered why it was necessary for the hundred plus college students drafted in to play the rioters (usually it is other cops that do this but obviously they don't have the manpower nowadays, despite Operation Iceni - they do like their portentous names for these games - involving cops from Cambridgeshire, Bedfordshire, Hertfordshire, Suffolk, Norfolk and Essex) "to pretend to be Eastern Europeans." According to the Flail, Chief Superintendent Nigel Sunman of Cambridgeshire Constabulary insisted "there were no racial overtones to the exercises." That's good to know then.

And whilst we are still in Cambridgeshire, it seems that the UK Border Agency are trying to keep Oakington IRC open until June 2013, despite on numerous past occasions saying that the intended to close the detention centre in the near future. Opened in 2000, the former RAF base was initially due to close in 2006, but the Home Office applied for an extension, planning to install new security. South Cambridgeshire District Council's planning committee refused permission as it objected to a new 5m high security fence but eventually gave in to government pressure. That permission runs out next month and UKBA had long claimed that they 'hoped' to close the centre by last December.

However, it looks like they intend to keep the size of the immigration detention estate as large as possible. Just last week it was announced that Harmondsworth detention centre at Heathrow airport is to double in size to 623 places with the building of a new wing, a move heavily criticised by the outgoing Chief Inspector of Prisons. In the meantime, if and when the new government eventually stop the detention of children, a few additional spaces will also be available. But no that many as it also appears that they will continue to detain the children's parents, possibly fostering them out or, as is more likely, locking them up in some other form of glorified prison. One of the spurious argument used in favour of the detention of children was that it helped prevent the trafficking of minors. How on earth could the separating of children from their parents possibly make them any safer or help prevent the sort of trauma they undergo following dawn raids?

Friday, 28 May 2010

Statement Against G4S Recruitment In Brighton & Hove Jobs Fair

G4S styles itself as "the world's leading international security solutions group", providing the outsourcing of governmental operations such as prison and detention centre management, the escort and transfer of prisoners and immigration detainees, and patrolling international borders; private security services to the oil and gas industry, private energy utilities, corporations; and even the Wimbledon Tennis tournament.

Their operations stretch around the globe from USA to New Zealand, via Canada, the UK, Europe and Australia. In 2009, the company had pre-tax profits of £219.2m, from a turnover of 7.01bn (up 7.4% on 2008 figure). The company's UK government security portfolio had a £1bn plus annual turnover, up 16%, and produced pre-tax profits of £97.3m (for UK and Ireland). Immigration is a key component of this sector and the profits it produces. The company runs 3 detention centres: Brook House and the Tinsley House children and families centre, both at Gatwick Airport, and the Oakington IRC near Cambridge which recently saw the recent death of a 40 years old detainee, Eliud Nyenze, from a heart attack after apparently being denied medical assistance by G4S staff.

The company's other immigration-related activity is the escorting of detainees between detention centres, to courts and tribunals and to deportation flights. In the former they were involved in the transfer of Sehar Shebaz and her 12 month old daughter Wania on both their 9 hour journey from Dungavel in Scotland to the notorious Yarl's Wood detention centre near Bedford on 21 May, and her deportation the following day back to her likely death at the hands of her violent ex-husband extended family in Pakistan.

The escorting of immigration detainees, handcuffed between 2 guards for the entire trip and often resisting because they know they could be going back to the threat of imprisonment, torture or even death, is just one of the jobs G4S Security are seeking to recruit additions to their 595,000 plus worldwide workforce for at the City Future jobs fair on Friday 4 June in the East Wing of the Brighton Centre. The fair is organised by Brighton & Hove Council, Job Centre Plus and is sponsored by the Evening Argus.

We call upon these organisations to refuse to support a company that profits so much from the misery of others; to withdraw their invitation to take part in the jobs fair and not to invite the company in any of its myriad forms to any future such events. We ask the Brighton and Hove public to support this call by contacting their local councillor and the Evening Argus to complain about their association with G4S Security.

Wednesday, 26 May 2010

A Child's Eye View Of Life Inside Yarl's Wood

The Guardian has also published 14 year old Wells Botomani's retelling of his family's nightmare stay last year in Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre:

A child's eye (sic) of life inside Yarl's Wood immigration removal centre.

An End To 'Zero-Notice' Deportations

According to the Guardian, a high court judge has ordered the Home Office to stop using a policy introduced in 2007 whereby foreign nationals can be detained and deported almost immediately, denying them any opportunity to challenge the order in the courts. In the example the papers quotes, "a seriously ill Cameroon national was arrested at 10.30pm scheduled to be put on board a charter flight leaving at 6.30am. A friend managed to call the man's solicitor, who in turn found a barrister to apply to a duty judge. The judge – roused from his bed – granted an injunction at 1.30am, calling the manner of the deportation "completely unconscionable"."

Medical Justice had challenged the so-called 'zero-notice' provision that circumvents UK Borders Agency regulations guaranteeing a minimum of 72-hour notice of the implementation of any deportation order. These exceptions applied to unattended minors, removing the chance of their absconding as they cannot be held in a detention centre prior to their removal. those at risk of self-harm or suicide, those have already agreed to be deported e.g. participants in voluntary repatriation schemes, and those believed to be likely to cause 'serious disruption' if held in a detention centre prior to their removal i.e. anybody.

Dutch Cleaners' Strike Victory

Migrants of all kinds, legal as well as clandestine, have long been the main employees of almost all of the cleaning outsourcing firms, both in the UK and abroad. They work for the lowest wages the companies can get away with and the precarious nature of the document-less workers makes them doubly exploitable as they can be turned into the immigration authorities is they need to be gotten rid of for such transgressions as trying to unionise. Plus there's the extra added bonus of not needing to pay the wages the company owes them as they are already on their way out of the country with little or no chance of any form of legal recourse.

This has long been the mode of operation for companies such as ISS did with London Undergound and with SOAS cleaners recently or Amey at the National Physical Laboratory or the Lancaster Cleaning Services' sacking of Alberto Durango. In the Netherlands recently Dutch Railways cleaners also went on strike and they have just won a number of concessions inclucing "a 3.5% wage increase, benefits for union members, a bonus for strikers, better access to Dutch courses and job education and some other smaller gains (like not stopping your pay when you call in sick, before speaking to the company doctor, a day off when your brother-in-law dies)" according to Willem Dekker, an organizer with Bondgenoten the largest trade union in the Netherlands.

We reprint a piece he has written on the strike:

The cleaning sector has been fully privatized at the end of the nineties. Since then competition has been driving wages down and work pressure up. In the summer of 2009 cleaners, of whom most come from a migrant background, launched a campaign for higher wages, better working conditions and more respect from management. In times of austerity and a government drive for a wage freeze for public workers, this campaign raised the stakes of industrial conflict. If the cleaners could get a raise - why couldn't other workers? The campaign turned into a model for multicultural resistance against the cut-backs.

Let me take you back a month ago, somewhere in Amsterdam: It was crowded in the room, more than a hundred strikers from several Amsterdam office buildings sat together in their weekly meeting; it seemed chaotic, people going for coffee or a quick smoke, several different languages were being spoken at the same time, English, Turkish, Arabic and of course Dutch. But it wasn't chaotic, it was excitement, tension and translation.

Abdelilah, a young migrant on strike, had just told everybody that he had been fired for being on strike, the company letter went from hand to hand. Only recently arrived in the Netherlands, when asked to go on strike, he didn't hesitate, "in Morocco I used to do the same". Mohamed a strike leader from government agency UWV, stood up. He reminded everybody about this fact and about the resolution that had been passed by all cleaners on strike in the Netherlands. An injury to one, is an injury to all. "We made this agreement, now we must live up to it, we must all go to his workplace, and demand his reinstatement. It could be you next time". He said as he looked his fellow strikers in the eye. Turkish women applauded while Mohamed raised his hands. "In the past weeks we have grown our army of strikers from thirty to more than a hundred, we can make every building in this area of Amsterdam go on strike, so we for sure can save Abdelilah's job. We must contact our brothers and sisters in other cities about this as soon as possible." As a union organizer, that was the signal to take my phone and make the call.

So it happened, later that week five hundred strikers from all over the Netherlands, marched to the headquarters of right wing newspaper "De Telegraaf", Abdelilah's former workplace. As they had done a dozen times before during the strike, they occupied the lobby after train cleaners from Groningen broke through security lines to hold the doors open. Swarming the building, they demanded freedom of speech and organisation for cleaners, something a newspaper should value. The cleaners presented a front page for the next day to De Telegraaf spokesperson which said they should support the cleaners. The boss of the cleaning company was summoned to the office, as a delegation of cleaners was appointed to do the negotiation. Two hours later, Abdelilah had a new contract. The news of the victory spread amongst the strikers while they were already busy occupying another lobby. Hundreds of cleaners had just proven how precarity can be overcome. A valuable lesson for everyone, not least for the employer.

In the end it took the cleaners six months of actions and nine weeks of strike to win a new national labour contract, the longest strike in the Netherlands since 1933. They won a 3,5 percent wage increase, job education, Dutch lessons and benefits for union members. But above all, they fought for recognition and respect. "What do we want? Respect! When do we want it? Now" was and is their chant. Everybody in the Netherlands now acknowledges the cleaners; they gained massive public support and positive media coverage. They showed The Netherlands that when nobody takes responsibility people become numbers on a budget, creating dynamics that constantly put pressure on their already low working conditions; that is the cost of outsourcing.

In their strike many different backgrounds and ethnicities came together and held each other close. They occupied Utrecht Central Station for six days and nights, singing, dancing, demonstrating, eating and sleeping there. Taking the roof of one of the cleaning companies' headquarters, linking arms during a sit in at the airport defying security and police forces, presenting the drawings of their children to the queen. They overcame the employers' tactics of despair; their willingness to fight seemed endless.

For now the cleaners won a strike for a total workforce of the 150.000 cleaners with only 1500 active strikers, which shows how much more can be gained with further struggle and unionisation. What's most important however, is the influence of the strike on other sectors. Straight after the victory of the cleaners the garbage collectors of Utrecht and Amsterdam went on an indefinite strike, which ended after one and a half week in a pay rise of 1,5 percent for 200.000 municipality workers, breaking the wage freeze of the government. It proofs that you only stand a chance if you fight, an important lesson for the coming struggle over the massive cuts.

Pictures of the campaign:

Monday, 24 May 2010

Labour’s Own Form Of Fertility Treatment

[with apologies to the Lamb family, but the metaphor was too good to pass up]

Nu Labour (or whatever it will now be rebranding itself as in order to make itself re-electable) is currently undergoing a modest bout of soul searching, catharsis-lite if you like, in the form of an emergency bout of fertility treatment, which has thrown up its own set of sextuplets. And a very rum bunch they are. The four ex-party researchers and policy wonks [1] are more or less to be expected - the identical quadruplets of the bunch; but then there are the two odd mutants - the runts of the litter, a regressive recessive cross that has thrown up Old Labour genes.[2]

However, this is not destined to be a normal full-term pregnancy, this is some Alien version with a fast-track gestation lasting only four months; where only one bright shiny new leader will be revealed to the doting parents come the party conference, for the new leader will have devoured the other five siblings in a fight to the (political) death – no doubt the announcement of the death of some of the candidates will prove premature and they will potentially fight to live another day, even if they do so in the zombie-like state that Brown was left in after he failed to beat off first Blair and then, much later, Dave.

So who do we have to thank for this strange litter? Blair and Mandelson [3] certainly: they are mainly responsible for introducing Alien DNA into the Labour gene pool to try and breed some new super ‘fit’ Party capable of occupying the middle ground in politics and usher in their own version of the Thousand Year Reich. Yet it is the Dave and Nick show that is the real initiator [4] of this pregnancy, that and the fact that the family patriarch left home and thus a quick course of artificial insemination was the only option available to birth a new party leader.

And just as the new Tory-Whig coalition, this Lib-Con chimera, is largely responsible for Nu Labour being ‘up the duff’, when the new Labour leader springs Athena-like fully formed from the head of the National Executive Committee-organised election,[5] he will arrive with his own massive Oedipal complex already in place, ready to take on the Dynamic Duo in political combat. Unfortunately, this Oedipal complex could also result in some very nasty consequences for us all.

To further labour our metaphors - we already know the genotype of the potential new leader, the possible political genes that will make up him (or, very unlikely, her). What we don’t know however is how those genes will combine and interact with the political environment to produce the new leadership phenotype. Already, the foetal monitors have been picking up the sounds of electoral recriminations and potential future posturing: over the Iraq war; over not ‘listening’ to the voters; over ‘civil liberties’; over Nu Labour reconnecting with Old Labour’s ‘core values’ (whatever they were).

Thus, we have had the less than enlightening sight of the two Mr Eds talking about the ‘lack of trust’ in Nu Labour over the Iraq war, bemoaning how spin was used to take the country to war. Whatever next? Promising to abandon spin altogether just like Dave and Nick had promised to but singularly failed to do so since being joined in politically expedient bliss. We have also had Ed Miliband bizarrely talking about getting back to the essence of Beveridge and (slightly paraphrasing him) reintroducing a contribution-based welfare system where the middle classes could receive state aid without the need for those nasty discriminatory means tests. Hasn’t he heard? The country is sort of on its uppers and there’s ‘no money left’. It has also long since reneged on the ideal of universal benefits, with even a means-tested benefit such as the state pension (which pre-dates Beveridge) having long since lost its linkage to average earnings in order to save money (a Thatcher legacy). So how he intends to roll out benefits to everyone in the face or the proposed swingeing deficit-induced cutbacks, short of cutting back even more of the meagre welfare provision still available to the poorest in society, is anyone’s guess (shades of Blond’s inane ‘big society’ non-idea?).

Ed Miliband also had a bit of a rant about the need to get away from Nu Labour ‘orthodoxies’, just as they did from Old Labour ones. Really? Then why are he and his fellow apparatchiks still banging on about the ‘need to be tough on immigration and tough on the means of immigration’ [but note, not tough on the causes of (im)migration]? Andy Burnham, for example, seems to be labouring under the delusion that immigration, which he claims was “the biggest issue at the election”, wasn’t being talked about by the Labour Party at all, leading “some people (to feel that) we were either in denial or just didn’t want to talk about it." Obviously he didn’t watch any of the TV debates where immigration was the only issue broached in all three (but it certainly won him plaudits in the Daily Mail, which was no doubt the sort of the demographic he was targeting anyway).

Burnham is right in one thing however and that is that immigration will be the key defining issue dictating which direction the new Induced Labour Party takes (and, given that it involved sextuplets, that probably should be Premature Labour). The big danger remains that Labour’s Oedipal complex will result in them not moving to the Left in order to redefine themselves as separate and distinct from the new homogeneous politics of the Dave and Nick Show, but rather the party trying to regain the middle ground from the Right by turning Blair’s mantra of 'education, education, education' into one of 'immigration, immigration, immigration'.

[1] As John Harris aptly put it in the Guardianfour ex-wonks with limited life experience (who) may not be the best people to divine what exactly it is that the fabled white working class is after.
[2] And this was always likely to happen when one lets mad political ‘scientists’ like Mandelson meddle with the Labour Party gene pool.
[3] The Mengele and Goebbels of Nu Labour?
[4] It is difficult to tell whether they are acting as fertility doctors, midwives or mere sperm donors in this enterprise.
[5] Or should that be the chest?

Sehar & Wania Deported

On Saturday evening Sehar Shebaz and her year-old daughter Wania were deported back to Pakistan. This happened despite a last minute plea to grant them compassionate leave to remain made to the immigration minister Damien Green by Ann McKechin MP, backed up by copies of police reports, letters of support from Blackburn Women's Aid supporting her claims of domestic violence and information about her forced transfer to new accommodation after her husband had found her at her address in Glasgow.

Having been transferred from Dungavel to Yarl's Wood, Sehar and Wania were isolated from the other families prior to her removal and she went on hunger strike in response, joining the 5 families (of the 12 families that had written to Nick Clegg) already on hunger strike there. She was eventually removed at the weekend on Pakistani Airlines flight PK758, back to the imminent threat of being maimed or killed in a so-called 'honour' attack.

We just wonder, now that Damien Green has gotten his hands on the reins of power in the immigration department and he has been able to make his first decision to deport someone back to what is obviously a potentially life-threatening situation, did it feel as good wielding such power as he imagined it would do?

Friday, 21 May 2010

A Letter From Yarl's Wood

Twelve families, including 2 pregnant women and 14 children and babies, the youngest of whom is one month old and currently locked up at the controversial Yarl's Wood Detention Centre, have signed a joint letter to Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg pleading with him for an immediate end to their detention and that of all families and children in the UK immigration detention system.

One of these families writing this has been locked up in detention for eight months, even though the guidelines state they are only meant to be there for a few days. The children involved age's range from 1-16 years old. As the letter states "(t)hey have been out of school for long time. Most of them speak English as first language and do not speak their mother tongue. They were born in this country and do not know other country apart from England. The(y) ask question about why they are here, why they are different from other children and we often haven't got the answers for them."

"We sought protection from a country we believe in and has a tradition and good values of democracy. We have escaped our country because of fear of persecution. Our life and our children's is n danger. We are living an endless nightmare. We have been in the country for long time, from 2 years to 11 years. All we wanted is to have a life and live with decency."

Please help to end the inhumane detention of families and children by contacting Nick Clegg and your local MPs, calling for the immediate release of the 12 families back to their communities so that their children can return to a normal life and schools and for the release of all other families within the detention system.

Please support this call by e-mailing Nick Clegg at:

[Based on a press release from Positive Action In Housing, the Scottish ethnic minorities housing agency.]

Stop The Detention Of All Children In The UK, Not Just In Scotland

UNITY Centre Glasgow Press Release:

Please support this campaign by sending emails and faxes to the new Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP Secretary of State for the Home Office

UNITY calls for an immediate moratorium on the detention of all children by the UK Border Agency and not just the end of detention of children in Scotland.

Today members of the organising committee of "UNITY, the Union of Asylum Seekers in Scotland" called for an immediate moratorium on the detention of children anywhere in the UK.

The committee elected earlier this year by a mass meeting of asylum seekers in Red Road, following the deaths of three asylum seekers, put out this call in response to the announcement by Immigration Minister Damian Green earlier yesterday that the detention of children in the Dungavel detention centre in Lanarkshire is going to end.

Whilst the Unity committee are pleased to see that the issue of child detention is being treated seriously by the new government we cannot understand why there has to be a delay of two or three months for a review to be carried out. This seems to be the worst situation for the children of asylum seekers as little 1 year old Wania Shebaz found out to her misfortune earlier this week when she became the first child to be detained in Scotland following announcements that child detention was going to be stopped.

If it is wrong to detain a child in three months time it must surely be wrong to detain a child now?

In the last three months of 2009, 285 children under the age of 18 of whom 180 were asylum seekers were detained by the UK Border Agency.

Will another 285 children be detained in Yarl's Wood in the three months it takes for a review to be held?

Earlier this year Ann Owers, Chief Inspector of Prisons stated that over half of the children held in detention were released. 68 of the children had been held in the centre for more than a month and one, a baby, had been held for 100 days.

In our experience of helping families in detention for over four years we have repeatedly found that many families go on to win Leave to Remain in the UK if they manage to get out of detention. It would be wrong for anyone to think that the Home Office do not make any mistakes when they detain families.

Ending detention of children in Dungavel is not enough and will make it worse for those families detained, in the future, in Scotland.

The announcement that children will no longer be detained in Scotland does not give us much to celebrate either. In fact without an end to detention of children in England this step will actually make things worse for asylum seekers living in Scotland.

Instead of being given 72 hours for their Scottish lawyers to help them while they are kept in Dungavel, as is the current practice, asylum seeker families in Scotland could now face being driven 400 miles away from friends, family, neighbours, supporters and, most importantly, their Scottish lawyers.

If the family is taken directly to detention centres at Yarl's Wood or Tinsley House in England instead of the Dungavel detention centre, Scottish lawyers will not be able to help them as a completely different legal system exists there.

At this most crucial period of time when the family will be facing a major crisis and will need all the help they can get, instead of relying on lawyers who they know, trust, and who are familiar with the family's case, the family will be forced to look for a new lawyer in a different country, not knowing which solicitor they can trust.

Therefore not only will the new policy announced today mean that if children are detained in Scotland they will now face a long and traumatic journey in a private prison van away from friends and family but that the family will not be able to access the crucial legal help they need at one of the most dangerous periods of their asylum case.

We therefore, on behalf of all asylum seekers in Scotland, call for an immediate moratorium on the practice of detaining children anywhere in the UK. Ending detention of children in Dungavel is not enough and will make it worse for those families detained in the future in Scotland.

End of Statement

Email/Fax, Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP Secretary of State for the Home Office
Fax: 020 8760 3132 (00 44 20 8760 3132 if you are faxing from outside UK)

Thursday, 20 May 2010

Sehar Shebaz And Little Wania Belong To Scotland

HO ref S1369454

Sehar Shebaz and her little 12 month old daughter were detained by the Home Office at Monday lunch-time. She has been given removal directions for Pakistani Airlines flight PK758 at 17.00hrs on Saturday 22nd May.

At this very moment 26 year old Shebaz and Wania are being moved from Dungavel detention centre to Yarl's Wood detention centre. The journey, as a prisoner in a G4S private security van will take the family at least ten hours.

Sehar came to the UK in May 2007 on a student visa to marry a Pakistani national living in Lancashire in an arranged marriage. Her husband’s family arranged for her to get her student visa to the UK. After a Sharia marriage in 2007 her husband became abusive and would not let her leave the house. His was often drunk and violent. On at least two occasions the police were called to their house.

In November 2009 she was attacked by her husband and went to Women’s Aid in Blackburn. She then came to Glasgow where an application for her visa extension made before she fled her husband was finally turned down in December. Sehar claimed asylum on 24th December 2009. Her asylum claim was refused on 22nd January this year.

Sehar’s husband has managed to track her down in Glasgow since she moved to the city and has made threatening phone calls to her. She has had to move flat to a safe address as a result.

The House of Lords has ruled that women in Pakistan constituted a particular social group because due to their gender, they were discriminated against as a group in matters of fundamental human rights and the State gave them no adequate protection because they were perceived as not being entitled to the same human rights as men.

The Home Office’s own Operational Guidance Notes clearly state that: “Asylum claims from Pakistani women who have demonstrated that they face a serious risk of domestic violence which will amount to persecution or torture or inhuman or degrading treatment must be considered in the context of individual circumstances of each claim.

In February this year Human Rights Watch published a 69-page report by Gauri van Gulik, women’s rights researcher. Her report “Fast-Tracked Unfairness - Detention and Denial of Women Asylum Seekers in the UK” raising the issue that often women with claims involving domestic abuse are failed by the UK’s new ‘fast track’ asylum model which is too simplistic and women with complex cases have far too little time to prepare their case, obtain medical or other expert opinions, and establish the credibility of their claims. This is especially true in cases involving rape or abuse, where women may only be able to come forward with relevant information late in the process, or not at all, because they may be traumatized by their experience, frightened by the procedure, or simply embarrassed to tell an official.

Sehar had her case refused only four weeks by the Home Office after she submitted it with limited legal advice over the Christmas holiday period.

Sehar was detained before she was able to make fresh submissions to the Home Office with new evidence from Lancashire Constabulary and Strathclyde Police of her husband’s threats to her.

Sehar had her case refused at appeal by an Immigration Judge partially on the grounds that as her husband, who although a Pakistani national, resides in the UK therefore she would not be in any danger from him if she was returned to Pakistan.

But as a single women who has fled her husband Sehar would be in real danger if she is returned to Pakistan.

Human Rights Watch reported in 2008 that "Violence against women and girls, including domestic violence, rape, “honor killings,” acid attacks, and forced marriages, remain serious problems in Pakistan. Precise figures on gender-based violence are difficult to obtain, but estimates range from 50-90 percent of women experiencing some form of violence. Survivors of violence encounter unresponsiveness and hostility at each level of the criminal justice system, from police who fail to register or investigate cases of gender-based violence to judges with little training or commitment to women’s equal rights. According to Pakistan's Interior Ministry, there have been more than 4,100 “honor killings” since 2001…
Pakistan has no specific domestic violence legislation and has failed to repeal the repressive Hudood Ordinances. This set of laws, enacted in 1979, has led to thousands of women being imprisoned for so-called “honour” crimes and has rendered most sexual assault victims unable to seek redress through the criminal justice system, deeming them guilty of illegal sex rather than victims of unlawful violence or abuse. " (Human Rights Watch's Submission to the Human Rights Council May 2008)

A US State Department Report in 2008 recorded that:
Domestic violence was a widespread and serious problem. Husbands reportedly beat, and occasionally killed, their wives. Other forms of domestic violence included torture and shaving. In-laws abused and harassed married women. Dowry and family-related disputes often resulted in death or disfigurement by burning or acid. There is no specific legislation prohibiting domestic violence, but sections of the Penal Code can be used to invoke justice for the victim.

Sehar is currently being moved to Yarl's Wood Detention Centre. Friends and supporters have managed to arrange legal representation for her in England.

Please take these urgent action steps to help Sehar

Email/Fax, Rt. Hon. Theresa May MP Secretary of State for the Home Office asking that Sehar, Shebaz be granted protection in the UK. Download "SeharShebazMinisterletter" which you can copy / amend / write your own version (if you do so, please remember to include her HO ref S1369454 )
Fax: 020 8760 3132 (00 44 20 8760 3132 if you are faxing from outside UK)
FAX or call Pakistan International Airlines
You can download the template letter or you may wish to write your own.
Fax: 0207 733 6209
Tel: 0207 287 3342

You may also wish to contact:

Nick Clegg, Lib Dems leader
And Scottish First Minister Alex Salmond

At Last - Potential Light In The Labour Leadership Darkness

Since Gordon Brown announced that he was standing down as Labour leader it has been looking increasingly likely that the contest to replace him would take place between a bunch of middle class white male political apparatchiks whom one would find it difficult to squeeze a fag paper between them on policy or almost anything else. These prospective candidate clones had all been political researchers in the inner circle loop had also all made early noises off that the reason New Labour failed to stay fresh in the eyes of the electorate was because it had neglected its core constituency: working class voters.

Now, anyone with even a passing grasp of Labour history would know that the party had been ignoring the needs of the working class since the day it was formed. And this process was merely accelerated when the Blair/Brown plan to 'reinvent' as Nu Labour was first formulated. The plain fact is that Labour history has always been one of continuous movement towards the 'middle' of the political spectrum, and just like water going down a plughole, the nearer the middle they got the faster the rate of movement. Now they find Clegg and Cameron camped on what they though was now their home turf and they are stuck with two option: to try and elbow their was back to this mythical 'middle ground'[1] or to reconnect with what should be the needs of the party's core constituency.[2]

And their response? Well, initially it appeared that, rather than spending any time really analysing the 'whys and wherefores', the response would be straight out of the 'knee-jerk' school of politics: a quick coronation based around a common view that the voters blamed all their troubles on bloody foreigners 'over here stealing our jobs and homes and filling up our schools and doctors waiting rooms', therefore we should have been even tougher on immigration. Not that they weren't already turning the screws even tighter. Labour, for example, had planned to save £4.5bn by rendering destitute hundreds of thousands of people currently seeking indefinite leave to remain in the country but, according to ex-immigration minister Phil Woolas, the public didn't know about this 'tough cop' approach: "What we did was not too little, but it was too late. People felt we were shutting the stable door after the horse had bolted." Thus it was all a failure to communicate.

So far, so bad. Then however, it appeared that some light be possibly be shone in the murk of all these recriminations as there appeared to be a chance that Jon Cruddas, who has often been at odds with his party's prevailing 'let's blame it all on immigrants' easy option, would stand. But that expectation proved fruitless and he passed up the chance to put forward arguments like:

"Immigration has been used as a 21st-century incomes policy, mixing a liberal sense of free for all with a free-market disdain for clear and effective rules. We have known this was a problem. Yet the answer for the government lay in a ratcheted-up rhetoric rather than solutions that may have challenged liberal assumptions and business lobbyists alike. Low pay and job insecurity, despite a minimum wage, has left people on the edge of society looking in on new levels of riches. This has happened while migrant workers are set against British workers by rogue employers looking to shave costs to make a bigger buck. This has not happened by accident. Labour actively took the decision not to better regulate for agency workers, and to not introduce living wage agreements."[3]

on the main stage of the leadership debate (though we can but hope that he continues to inject some sense into it even if his position is limited and often contradictory).

Then there is John McDonnell, another working class MP from the 'left' of the party but currently struggling to get the requisite number of nominations. He has been less vocal on the subject but has a history of supporting causes like the Yarl's Wood hungerstrikers, the SOAS cleaners and others struggling against immigration-related repression, and therefore might also contribute views counter to the Milibands, Burnhams and Balls of this world, resulting in some form of rational debate.

However, the piece de resistance must surely now be the announcement this morning that Diane Abbott, the first black MP and female to boot, would join the race. She certainly wont be trotting out the same tired hypocritical rhetoric that Nu Labour were 'tough on immigration and tough on the causes of immigration'. Instead, announcing her reasons for standing, she said that the immigration system is "inefficient and unfair and brings abuse" and that "nobody (else) will say we have to address the underlying issues behind black and white working class unease about immigration, about housing, job insecurity."

She wont win of course, the job is bound to go to one of the safe 'lets not rock the boat' apparatchiks, and the Labour Party's' default setting on immigration is unlikely to change. But then again we don't really care who does win, just as long as they actually try and reconnect with reality and somebody argues the point that it is not migrants that are to blame for the shortage of housing, education, training and meaningful jobs; it is them, the political classes, who have created the conditions that allowed this to happen. Ed Miliband is right, "immigration is a class issue". Just not in the way he meant it.

For example, it is not that immigrants are getting what public housing that is available ahead of the so-called 'indigenous' population, it is that successive governments have decimated that public housing stock that working class voters rely upon especially in areas like London and in the industrial heartlands where unemployment is rife. Instead they chose to follow the Thatcherite ethic, selling it off to subsidise the public coffers and remove the costs of maintaining it via direct works departments from local council budgets. At the same time no new public housing was built to replace it and the inevitable consequence is that the pressures on the ever dwindling council houses that were still available would increase.

This has also inevitably led to bigots wishing to pedal their race-hate agenda or sell their execrable daily newspapers being able to feed lies to and exploit the ignorance generated in the general public around immigration issues, such as immigrants jumping the housing queues. The simple truth is that, rather than jumping any queue, the houses that migrants are getting is ex-council properties in the hands of private letting agents, housing that is often in such a state of dilapidation that nobody would chose to live in them unless they had no other choice short of living on the streets.[4]

This is just one example of the sort of myth (along side blaming migrants for binging wages down, rather than as Cruddas suggests, the employers that pay the wages in the first place) that has the potential to go unchallenged in this 'debate'. One can but hope that it doesn't come down to that. The Tories and Lib Dems may have joined the Blair and Brown version of Labour in junking ideology in order to gain power but Labour have a chance to reject that option and fight for real working class values, not just those of their 'core vote' but for all workers, including migrants. And not to just fight for their own careers as Labour Party apparatchiks.

[1] The idea that everyone can occupy the middle ground is patently absurd ('how many pin-heads can one get on the head of an angel?). And one assumes that there must be a fence in the middle dividing off right from left, therefore, if everyone is sitting on this fence in the middle, it is bound to collapse at some point.
[2] The more paranoid commentators currently appear to think that this [the Tory-Whig coalition] is all some master plan by Cameron - push Labour to the wilderness of left-wing politics - rather than just some accident of history. And if Nu Labour do continue to try and occupy this 'middle ground', they might just as well join the coalition.
[3] We have to say that almost any argument would be more enlightening that the sort of one Ed Balls is putting forward: "Britain is not a racist country"! What is that meant to mean?
[4] And that only some property speculator would want to buy as they know they can make massive profits out of them from the government in just such a fashion without having to invest any money to bring them back up to any sort of acceptable housing standard.

Wednesday, 19 May 2010

EU To Trade In Third-Country Refugees

In response to growing pressure from the UNHCR for the EU to adopt a common resettlement policy and to significantly increase the number of refugees accepted into EU countries, the European Parliament has amended a draft EU law to pay up to €6,000 to member states for each third-country refugee that they accept. Fortress Europe currently only accepts 6.7% of refugees resettled worldwide, much fewer than countries like the USA, Canada and Australia.

The deal is structured so that the funding will amount to €6,000 per person for the first year for member states applying for the first time, €5,000 in the second year and €4,000 thereafter. The 'premium' paid for the first two years additional to newly participating member states must be invested in developing the country's resettlement programme.

In addition, the parliament approved the creation of a European Asylum Support Office, based on a report produced by Green MEP Jean Lambert, co-ordinate co-operation and information exchange between EU states, and to be sited in Malta.

Destitution Amongst Asylum-Seeking and Refugee Children

New research from the Children's Society's West Midlands Destitution Unit ['Destitution Amongst Asylum-Seeking and Refugee Children']has shown what many of us already knew, that there is a "rising tide of destitution often being caused by Britain’s chaotic asylum system either denying them support or limiting them to an amount that is internationally recognised as being inadequate to meet basic human needs."

Since opening its doors in October 2008, the project, like the Society's other centres, has helped hundreds of children from families left destitute because the adults are unable to work and the meagre support available under the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act (£35 in vouchers a week and hostel accommodation) proves insufficient to provide basic essentials (such as food, nappies and clothes), not to mention those who are unable to get any help from the state at all and who live under threat of being taken into care. For all these the Project tries to provide crisis grants and other resources such as emergency food parcels and advice on accessing other forms of non-state support.

According to Bob Reitemeier, chief executive of the Children's Society, "Staff based at our projects say they are overwhelmed by the scale of the distress they are dealing with." And this picture is being repeated up and down the country, not just in Children's Society centres but in all the self-supporting groups large and small that have been forced to take up the slack caused by constant cutbacks in state aid. Now Cameron wants to push his 'big society' project as a way of charities and other non-state organisations (and non-organisations even) taking up even more of this 'cutback generated slack', covering his back with a supposed 'big new idea' (courtesy of that incoherent diatribe 'Red Tory: How Left and Right have Broken Britain and How we can Fix It'). Smacks of 'I'm alright Jasper'!

A Positive Outcome For Whom?

So the new Lib-Con coalition has announced an end to the detention of children in Scotland i.e. Dungavel. Good news one would have thought, but not if you've grown up in Scotland: your friends and family are there; your legal team are there, as is your legal aid provider (moving to England would entail a new application); it is nearly 300 miles to the south and a nine hour journey in the back of a minibus with a bunch of people in uniforms that often treat your with contempt, if they pay you any attention at all, to reach the nearest detention centre with family facilities. And to top it all, you are of course still in detention. Where's the "positive outcome"* in that for children in detention Damien Green?

It may have gotten you temporarily into the Scottish government's good books but that is of no comfort to people like Sehar Shebaz, who was detained on Monday with her 8 month old baby when she went to report on Monday. She had fled her violent husband in Pakistan to claim asylum in the UK, fearing for her life if she is returned to Pakistan (women who leave their husbands are under threat from his extended family and are often killed or maimed in acid attacks).

With the ending of the detention of children in Dungavel, she and her baby, like the other families detained there, were due to be moved to be moved to Yarl's Wood today. However, Ms Shebaz was refusing to cooperate with the move, claiming that her baby is too young to be forces to endure a nine hour journey in the back of a van. She herself is also ill, having been vomiting since the early hours of yesterday morning.

The response of the 'enlightened' UKBA regime? To threaten to remove her baby from her and transport them in separate vans anyway. So much for the new coalition's commitment to respecting human rights and reigning in the abuses perpetrated by the Big Brother state on people. Of course, they will claim that she is not a UK citizen but should that allow them to treat Sehar and her child any differently that they would expect them and their children?

* Damien Green - "This is something which many groups in Scotland have been calling for, and we are now delivering this positive outcome."

'Death Of A Detainee: What Really Happened At Oakington Detention Centre?' Public Meeting

Friends Meeting House on Jesus Lane at 19:30 on Wednesday 19th of May

Cambridge Migrant Solidarity will be holding a public meeting at the Friends Meeting this Wednesday. Speakers will include Dr Frank Arnold of Medical Justice and Keith Best, from the Medical Foundation for the Care of Victims of Torture.

On Thursday 15th April 2010 Eliud Nyenze, a 40 year old Kenyan man, died at Oakington Detention Centre, after requests for medical attention were apparently denied. Despite this, and allegations that an ambulance called by fellow detainees was turned away by staff at Oakington, the death is not being officially treated as suspicious. The cause of death is still unclear.

In the wake of the death and the “disturbances” involving distressed detainees, up to 60 men were removed to other detention centres and in some cases prisons, despite not being accused of, or charged with any criminal offence.

At this public meeting we will be exploring what really happened to Eliud Nyenze at Oakington on the 19th of May, and what has happened to fellow detainees since.

Monday, 17 May 2010

Glacially Slow, Wilfully Stupid And Blind To Human Suffering

Imagine this: You escaped your home 13 years ago and claimed refugee status in a foreign land. You get a job, put down roots and have 3 kids, only to be told that because you were once a member of the party that provides the current legitimate government and president in your home country, El Salvador, you are finally about to be deported back there. But, and it is a big but, it is not because it is safe for you to return but because the organisation was the FMLN, which once waged an armed struggle against the military dictatorship and "is an organisation that there are reasonable grounds to believe is or was engaged in terrorism and/or subversion," according to the Canadian Border Services Agency.

Even more bizarre is the fact that when Jose Figueroa's refugee claim was originally turned down in 2000 the Immigration and Refugee Board recognised the FMLN as a legitimate political party, and that the civil war in El Salvador had ended in 1992, five years before Mr Figuera entered Canada. On top of that, Mr Figuera's 3 Canadian-born children only speak English and the eldest, 12-year-old Jose Ivan, is autistic and will not be able to get the special schooling he needs in El Salvador and is very unlikely be able to learn Spanish at his age. It seems like immigration bureaucracy is the same the world over: glacially slow, wilfully stupid and blind to human suffering.

Freedom of Movement For All: Transnational Action Paris/Berlin

Saturday night saw police descended upon the Gare du Nord, a Franco-British border and the target for the mass action. Police attempted to disrupt plans, telling all cars to leave the area, and shops to close. Migrants were threatened with arrest if they attempted to interact with No Borders activists. A high level of undercover police combined with many other types deterred some from participating. However, over 200 people joined the main demonstration and refused to be intimidated, stopping traffic, setting off flares, and calling for an end to the escalating repression against migrants in Calais, and across Europe.

No arrests were made, and many Afghan migrants watched the demonstration despite the threats of the police.

Simultaneous demonstrations occurred in Berlin, with several hundred people demonstrating in front of the French Cultural Centre.

Several hundred Afghans most of whom intend to make the journey North to the UK and elsewhere are currently living a precarious existence in the city, and across Northern France often living in the streets exposed to the elements and to arrest or eviction at the whim of the police. To enforce elitist migration laws, oppressive levels of surveillance are employed at the station: the police are on permanent stand-by, the military patrol the area, and CCTV is pervasive. This surveillance facilitates the identification and exclusion of those deemed 'undesirable' such as 'illegal' immigrants who often congregate near the station or 'yobs from the surburbs'. These youth are often excluded from participating in major public events by the CRS (public order police) who await them on the platforms and send them back to their areas. Without the requisite I.D. or travel documents, or the means to pay for the prohibitively high cost of public transport, access to the Eurostar, plus other international lines and suburban trains, is denied. Join us in this mass action and fight to reclaim freedom of movement for all!

Discussions and a party will follow the demonstration. For more information visit:

No Borders calls for freedom of movement for all. We act in solidarity with all those repressed by the state and Fortress Europe. No borders! No nations!

Photos and more information to follow.....

9 Years In Immigration Detention Update

The identity of Ms X, a Chinese grandmother who is Australia’s longest-serving immigration detainee has been released by her lawyer, Michaela Byers, in a bid to publicise her client Ms Bao's poor mental and physical health. Ms Byers claims the six and a half years Ms Boa spent in Villawood detention centre and the continuing uncertainty of her immigration status since she was moved into community detention have

Listen to a podcast of a 2SER radio interview with Michaela Byers about Ms Bao's case.

Saturday, 15 May 2010

Melbourne Detention Centre Disturbance

Three teenagers were injured and taken to hospital following disturbances at the Serco-run Melbourne Immigration Transit Accommodation Facility yesterday. The detention centre, part of an overstretched Australian detention estate, currently holds nearly 50 young Afghan men in overcrowded conditions with little access to recreation activities. The Asylum Seeker Resource Centre have also claimed that poor management of the facility by Serco, who run all the country's detention centres on behalf of the Australian government.

Australia has recently had to open new holding centres on the mainland that had been closed following the introduction of the 'Pacific Solution' in 2001, as Christmas Island, the main off-shore immigration denotion centre, became overcrowded. Most notorious of these is the Curtin detention centre, widely described as an 'outback gulag', was closed in 2002 after a third of its 340 detainees were involved involved in a riot. The centre was also known for the high rate of self-harm amongst its inmates, yet that did not stop the Rudd government from reopening it last month for a planned 200-300 mainly Sri Lankan and Afghan detainees. The Baxter detention centre was also reopened to house sixty 13 to 18-year-olds from Afghanistan, Iran and Iraq.

Friday, 14 May 2010

Reflections On The Media, Immigration & The Election

We heartily recommend an article by John Grayson of the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group on the Institute of Race Relations website entitled 'Reflections on the media, immigration and the election'. It contains an excellent analysis of the increasing adoption by the 'political classes' of a "general 'common sense' racist political culture driven by media images and messages" during the election.

It is also timely as the big danger facing Nu Labour as it reinvents itself (Forced Labour or maybe Induced Labour anyone?) is that it embraces this thinly disguised racism, adopting it wholesale as new party policy in order to win back disaffected 'white working class' voters, rather than actually challenging the ignorant and ill-informed assumptions that this thinly disguised racism is based upon.

And more sensible comment on this subject can also be found at the Angry Mob blog - 'Immigration and 'Social Cohesion''.

Thursday, 13 May 2010

The Tory-Whig Coalition II

Oh dear! And Damien Green IS the new immigration minister. We just hope he doesn't appoint his namesake Mr MigrationBotch Alan Green as his chief advisor.

The Tory-Whig Coalition...

...The Bad And The Good News

Under the new Con Dem Lib / Lib Con Dem / Lib Dem Con agreement (or whatever it is called - we prefer the old school Tory-Whig conflation, sort of 'back to the future') we find item 5:

We have agreed that there should be an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. We will consider jointly the mechanism for implementing the limit.

We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

The latter is clearly the best we could of hoped for from any Tory-containing administration and, as for the former, the best we can say for that is that it will involve a great deal of 'horse trading' between the 2 new 'best of friends'. And that should slow it down a deal and maybe help to throw more light on how it will in the end prove to be largely unworkable.

Also in with the 'Good' goes the ending of ID cards and, less likely to happen, biometric passports (given EU and International agreements - we're sure the other half of the 'special relationship' will not be too happy about it).

And in charge of all this, one of less than a handful of woman currently appointed to the cabinet, the less that liberal Theresa May (not the 'glamour' model and star of The Prodigy's Smack My Bitch Up video, different spelling). All one can really say of her appointment is that at least it wasn't Damien Green (although he could still come in as a junior minister).

9 Years In Immigration Detention!

In what must be getting on for a worldwide record (it certainly already is in Australia), a woman remains in immigration detention in Australia pending the resolution of her case. Ms X has been in detention for more than nine years, unable to be returned to China even if they give the Australian government the assurances about her future treatment that the government think will be sufficient to resolve her immigration status.

In October 2009, the United Nations Human Rights Committee (UNHRC) found her extended period of detention, without any substantive judicial review, was arbitrary and therefore breached the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The UNHCR also stated that Australia would further breach its international obligations if it returned Ms X without sufficient assurance from China as to her treatment.

However, it appears unlikely that the Australian Department of Immigration and Citizenship will get such assurances as has been the case in the past and, even if they did, China has proved less than reliable in similar situations. Therefore, it looks as if Ms X will not be returned to China in the near future or that she will be released from detention either on bail or granted the visa that will entitle her to permanently stay in the country.

Japanese Immigration Centre Hunger Strike

Around 60 detainees at the East Japan Immigration Control Centre in Ushiku, Ibaraki Prefecture, have been on hunger strike since Monday according to Bond, a Tokyo-based group supporting foreign workers in Japan. The detainees are demanding the detention period be cut to a maximum of six months, that bail be cut from ¥800,000 (£5860) to no more than ¥200,000 (£1460) and that nobody under 18 be detained.

Amongst those taking part in the protests are Kurdish refugees, Sri Lankans, Ugandans, Chinese, Pakistanis and Brazilians. More than half of the 380 or so detainees in the Ushiku detention centre have been there for more than 6 months in what are described by the Bond spokesperson as awful living conditions with limited medical care. Last year 2 refugees held in the centre committed suicide.

Tuesday, 11 May 2010

Events Reminder

This Saturday 15 May @ the Cowley Club:

An Info Day & Fundraiser on the Deportation Machine

2-6pm Workshops: the Deportation Machine, the companies that profit from it and how to campaign against them / Frontex - the European Union borders managing agency.
Film on Frontex and short introduction to the Brussels No Border Camp
6-8pm Fundraiser Vegan meal. £4
9pm-2am Benefit gig - live reggae & gypsy bands. £3 suggested donation (members and guests only)

And Sunday 16 May @ the Cowley Club:

Out Of Africa - No Way!

An evening of information, film, food & music based around the prevention of migration from Africa into Fortress Europe. We will be showing short films or slideshows and talks about the plight of migrants trying to enter the Spanish enclaves of Ceuta and Melilla on the northern coast of Algerian, their fate if they are successful in making it over the three 6m high parallel fences, decorated with motion sensors, cameras and watchtowers, protecting these outposts of the 'promised land' of Europe. We will also be talking and showing a short film about the situation in Libya nad the Libyan involvement in Italy's 'push back' program, where refugees trying to cross the Mediterranean to Italy are forced back to the African coast, in contravention of numerous International treaties and agreements against the 'refoulement' of refugees and into a detention system condemned across the world.

All that and delicious African food and sounds. Entrance by donation (Cowley club members and guests only).

European Week Of Action Against The Deportation Machine

Stop Deportation, along with other groups in Europe, are proposing a European Week of Action Against the Deportation Machine, with a focus on joint European mass deportation flights and Frontex. The proposed date is the first week of June 2010, 1st-6th.

The idea is that groups and campaigns throughout Europe organise their own direct actions, demos and marches against forcible deportations from European countries, which are increasingly carried out through joint coordinated 'operations' involving private contractors and shadowy agencies like Frontex and the IOM. Protests will inevitably take a variety of shapes but a series of coordinated, decentralised actions and protests would make the message clearer and louder. A week, rather than a day, of action would allow groups more flexibility to do what they want to do.

By trying to widen the scope and diversity of the groups involved, we also want to draw attention to the fact that anti-deportation is not a 'single issue campaign'. People choose or are forced to migrate for a variety or reasons, from wars and armed conflicts fuelled by the arms trade and western interests, through poverty, exploitation, discrimination, gender oppression, domestic and state violence, to climate change.

If your group/campaign would like to get involved, whether through helping coordinate or publicise the week of action or by organising your own action or protest in your local area, please get in touch (needless to say, if you're planning an unaccountable/arrestable action, you probably wouldn't want to get in touch!). The machine is growing and getting stronger, and so must the resistance against it!

Callout [Deutsch | Ελληνικά | Español | Français | Italiano | Polski | Русский | Türkçe | عربي] || Resources

Monday, 10 May 2010

Australian 'Boat People' Drown

The Australian authorities are in trouble yet again for their apparent disregard for the safety of another boatload of asylum seekers off the northern Australian coast. Australia has a long history of monitoring boats far off in the Indian Ocean as they try to make the crossing from Sri Lanka, Malaysia and Indonesia to the Australian mainland. Satellite data, spotter aircraft, naval and coast guard ships are all involved via the Border Protection Command (BPC), which has kept watch on more than 50 boats so far this year.

The BPC were apparently told that that a boat containing 64 people, including 15 children, and headed for the Cocos (Keeling) Islands had run out of fuel, food and water on 30 April. A passing ship provided assistance and reported that the boat remained seaworthy and everyone was in good health.

According to Australian Customs, when the boat failed to arrive at the Cocos last Wednesday (as Australian authorities expected), a search and rescue mission was launched. The boat was eventually located floundering 160 nautical miles off shore and rescued by the same Russian merchant vessel that had helped them the week before. It was then discovered that 5 men had donned life-jackets and tried to swim for help. They have not been found and are presumed to have drowned.

Last Minute Reprieve

What kind of country sentences someone to 84 days in prison for urinating in public, then rearrests them once they have served their sentence and goes on to hold them for three and a half more years on the basis of the same conviction, leaving them severely traumatised and in need of psychiatric care? Well, one that believes itself to be the epitome of enlightenment and human rights.

Yes, you've guessed it: the UK!

Pakistani born Asif Rashid came to the UK in 2001 and was granted temporary leave to remain whilst his asylum claim was being assessed. On 3 December 2001 his claim was rejected and he appealed. This was dismissed in June 2003, as were subsequent applications. In 2006 he was 'caught short' due to a medical complaint and caught urinating on a canal towpath. Convicted of urinating in public, he received an 84 day prison sentence. Excessive one might think, especially when one considers what happens on the average town and city centre street on weekend nights.

Then later that year after having served his sentence he was detained whilst reporting at local reporting centre and told he was being deported as a 'foreign national offender'. So far a fairly normal story, one involving the grossly unfair double punishment introduced by New Labour in order to bolster their anti-immigration credentials. However, insult was added to injury when Mr Rashid was then banged up (ironically) in a ‘fast track removal centre’ for the next 3 years as the bureaucratic wheels slowly ground towards his inevitable deportation.

All the time his mental health steadily deteriorated despite the authorities having ample opportunity to bail him pending his removal. Eventually the UKBA arranged his travel documents and he was scheduled to be deported to Pakistan today (10 May) on a PIA flight. Fortunately for him however, Refugee and Migrant Justice and the UK-based Association of Pakistani Lawyers got involved in his case, challenging Mr Rashid's continued detention and have now won an injunction preventing his deportation.

Sunday, 9 May 2010

The General Election 2010 (Part 1?): The Good & The Bad News

Obviously top of the list of good cheer is the humiliation of the BNP: nearly 90% of their 300-odd (and we mean VERY odd) candidates loosing their deposits (that approaching £150,000!); not one single MP elected (and that goes for UKIP too); Griffin only managing third place (the knives will surely be out for him now); all 12 BNP Barking and Dagenham councillors thrown out (and that includes the man in beige Richard Barnbrook, GLA member and possible prospective new furhrer, plus Bob Bailey, BNP group leader on the council, who was caught on camera in a street fight with local youths who clearly took offence at his presence in their neighbourhood).

Add to that the chance that any deal done between the Tories and Lib Dems will significantly tone down the Tories anti-immigration fervour or a minority Tory administration at least find it tough to bring in any 'back to the '90s' 'immigration in the tens of hundreds' legislation, unless Nu Labour (or Nu Nu Labour or whatever rebranded entity comes out of this less than momentous non-victory) chose to vote the way of their anti-immigration rhetoric and support any new Tory immigration bill; and finally, the Daily Mail amusingly is blaming UKIP for costing the Tories the general election, and hence being sure of bringing in their more restrictive immigration policies (and, given how confused UKIP's own immigration policy is, one that looks even tougher than their own)

On the bad news front obviously comes the fact that the BNP actually increased their share of the vote but that was largely down to standing in nearly three times the number of seats as in 2005 (338 vs. 119 seats / 563,743 vs. 192,850 votes). However, top of the list surely must be the fact that Woolas managed to scrape back in by just 103 votes (wonder what difference the 212 votes polled by Gulzar Nazir of the 'Christian Party' would have made if he hadn't of stood?). Looks like his dirty tricks won out in the end?

Oh, and another bit of good news: the BNP website has been down since their night of shame (though a whingeing message has now gone up, stating "Fellow British Patriot, Welcome to the temporary website* of the British National Party", replete with the usual photo of il Duce Griffin trying hard to look statesman-like whilst not breaking out in side-splitting laughter) bizarrely still claiming that "Britain's fastest growing political party, with over 100 parish, district, borough and county councillors, a seat on the Greater London Assembly and two seats in the European Parliament." Obviously they still believe their own propaganda.

* Possibly they can no longer afford to pay their webmaster having dumped so much money in lost election deposits and s/he has pulled their contribution to establishing the envisaged bright shiny new white post-election future.

The Hardest Winter In Calais: New Calais Migrant Solidarity Film

Contrary to the French Immigration minister Besson's claims that there are hardly any migrants left in Calais now there are approximately 400, surviving in desperate conditions .The repression has been escalating dramatically since the destruction of the 'jungles', with increased police raids, mass arrests and destruction of people's shelters and property. The aim is to make these people's lives so miserable they eventually leave Calais. However people do not go away, they mainly move along the coast or further South to escape police brutality. Eventually, they return to Calais to try and cross the Channel.

FILM: "The Hardest Winter in Calais" [10:00]

For more information and updates:

The present situation in Calais originates in 2002, when the French government, under pressure by the UK government, closed the emergency accommodation centre of Sangatte near Calais, run by the Red Cross, in an attempt to stem the flow of migrants coming to the UK. Sarkozy was then the French Immigration minister.

The closure of Sangatte did not stop the migrants from coming to Calais, as the politics that create the conditions for mass migration outside the EU have not changed. However increased border controls mean that people get stranded in Calais for longer periods, usually for months now, sometimes for more than one year. The hardship inflicted on the migrants did not stop them to come to try and save their lives, moving away from countries devastated by war, poverty and starvation - usually the product of Western foreign policies and global capitalism. In 2002 the majority of the people coming to Calais were refugees from Iraq, now they are refugees from Afghanistan, most from the Pashto ethnic group, many of whom were unaccompanied boys under 18.

After the closure of Sangatte the migrants moved to derelict buildings without water, electricity or sanitation, or built makeshift camps, known as ‘jungles’, in the woods and amongst the dunes around Calais. The harsh winters and appalling living conditions were made much worse by a deliberate policy of State repression. The riot police, the CRS, raid camps and squats on a regular basis, migrants are arrested repeatedly and often for no reason, they are hit with truncheons and pepper spray is used on them, their camps are destroyed, their possessions confiscated or destroyed including blankets, tents, clothes and food. All these are well-rehearsed tactics used to 'persuade' migrants to leave Calais; they have been used against the migrants for years.

However the situation has worsened further since 2009, when, after talks between the UK and French governments, the French Immigration minister Besson announced plans to close the jungles and to make of Calais 'a migrant- free zone'. There were around 1800 migrants in Calais at the time.

After the spectacular of the destruction of the Pashto jungle under the eyes of the world' media, where 276 Afghan refugees were arrested - 135 were minors -, the destruction of camps and squats continued, now with hardly any mention by the mainstream media, that had disappeared from Calais as suddenly as they had come.

The Afghans arrested were freed by the French judges, ahead of any attempt to mass deport them by charter flight to Afghanistan, and most returned to Calais. Police raids intensified, together with police brutality, arbitrary arrests and destruction of people's belongings. c The Iranian camp was destroyed and burned, the Hazara camp (another large majority ethnic group in Afghanistan), the Sudanese camp, the Eritrean squat was evicted and razed to the ground, the camp by the Docklands, inhabited by Palestinians, Egyptians, Sudanese and Eritreans was destroyed. All people were soon released from police custody, only to return to the streets of Calais with nowhere to go and the CRS chasing them to make sure they could not sleep anywhere. Eventually most migrants managed to rebuild their camps or to resettle in new or surviving squats. The Pashto were hit the most, they never managed to resettle anywhere and spent the hardest Winter in Europe for the past 30 years sleeping rough in the woods, with the CRS looking for them every night and slashing the plastic sheets they used to shelter. Nearly half of them are boys under 18. But Kurdish and Iranians had also little luck in finding accommodation.

The cold weather shelter (BCMO) only opens, by order of the authorities, when the temperature drops to -4 degrees, and is only open at night. The rest of the time, people are left out in the freezing cold.

After the closure of the BCMO the Pashto went to sleep on some disused trains. Now the trains have been moved away. Most of the migrants in Calais cannot be deported back to their countries because their countries are too dangerous - only the UK, the Netherlands, Sweden and Norway have no scruples to routinely deport people to the most war torn countries in the world. When a group of 9 Afghans were deported on a joint UK-France charter flight in November 2009 there were massive protests. However, after the Dublin 2 accords, migrants can be deported back to the first 'safe' country where they were identified (had their fingerprints taken). So many are taken from Coquelles deportation centre to Greece, Italy, Hungary....

While charities have been giving food and clothing to migrants since the closure of Sangatte, we started organising political resistance built on the principles of freedom of movement and mutual aid in June 2009 , with the week-long cross-channel No Borders Camp in Calais, which then became a permanent solidarity project calling itself Calais Migrant Solidarity.

People from UK, France, Belgium, Germany and the Netherlands keep going to Calais to work in solidarity with the migrants. We monitor and denounce police brutality, visit people in the places they sleep, using various tactics to try and prevent police raids, we organised protests and supported the protests the migrants initiated, we have built a fast growing transnational network against the border regime. Plus, we provide emergency aid such as tents, clothes, firewood, tea... and we make friends with the migrants, exchanging stories in the long nights around the fires.

Friday, 7 May 2010

Paris No Border Day Of Action


—-#1: The Mass Action

The struggle against migration control snakes through to Calais via Paris. At the heart of this city lies the *Gare du Nord*, a Franco-British border and the target for mass action.

Several hundred Afghans – most of whom intend to make the journey North to the UK and elsewhere – are currently living a precarious existence in the city, often living in the streets exposed to the elements and to arrest or eviction at the whim of the police.

To enforce elitist migration laws, oppressive levels of surveillance are employed at the station: the police are on permanent stand-by, the military patrol the area, and CCTV is pervasive... This surveillance facilitates the identification and exclusion of those deemed 'undesirable' – such as 'illegal' immigrants who often congregate near the station – or 'yobs from the surburbs'. These youth are often excluded from participating in major public events by the CRS (public order police) who await them on the platforms and send them back to their areas...

Without the requisite I.D. or travel documents - or the means to pay for the prohibitively high cost of public transport - access is to the Eurostar, other international lines, & suburban trains, is denied. Join us in this mass action & fight to reclaim freedom of movement for all!

—-#2: The March

A march will be taking place in the area around the Gare du Nord and the Gare de l'Est.


- People will be assembling at 2pm from Jaurès station, a point of food distribution for migrants.

- It will move along Quai de Valmy, where Afghan migrants are living under a bridge, before heading down Rue des Recollets (next to Square Villemin where Afghan migrants were living prior to the eviction).

- We will then be passing the Gare de l’Est, before moving down Boulevard Magenta and passing before the Gare du Nord.

- We will then be moving on to Barbès, before turning towards la Chapelle et rejoining Place de la Rotonde, Jaurès station

—-#3: Affinity group actions

These small group actions will be taking place throughout the weekend

—–#4: The Party

After the march, we will be gathering at the Place de la Rotonde for an evening music, food (free or donation), info stalls and discussion

—-#5: Debate and discussion

On 16th, there will be discussion and debates with No Borders activists at CICP, 21 rue Voltaire (venue plans still being finalised).

And don’t forget the Festival of Autonomous Resistance, taking place in the week leading up to, and over the weekend of, the 15th- 16th May: (Note: The Festival is not linked to this event).

Other practical info:

Accommodation: If you need accommodation, email noborderparis@, and you'll be provided some

Legal support: The legal support number and bust card will be distributed on the day, and a legal briefing will be available on the blog in the coming week

Check the blog for contact info and other details:

British Safety Council Finally Withdraws Safety Award From Oakington

The British Safety Council (BSC) yesterday announced that it is withdrawing the 2009 International Safety Award (ISA) given to the G4S-run Oakington Immigration Removal Centre following the death of Eliud Nyenze at the detention centre on 14th April 2010. Interestingly, according to the BSC's own statement announcing the withdrawal, "the eligibility conditions for the British Safety Council’s International Safety Award preclude member organisations receiving this award where a fatality has taken place at the specified site"*. Yet the same statement claims that this is only a temporary removal until the investigation into the death can be completed, where upon the Council "will give further consideration to G4S Oakington IRC’s award application once the results of the investigations into the cause of Mr Nyenze’s death are known".

The granting of this award followed a less than clean bill of health in the Inspectorate of Prisons' 2008 report: "This was a disappointing inspection of an establishment which seemed to have lost direction and purpose. The uncertainty about the centre’s future was undoubtedly a factor in this, making planning difficult and inhibiting necessary investment in the infrastructure. However, this appeared to have infected managers and staff with a short-term, reactive approach."

The IRC's heath centre was also criticised: "Health services were generally good but the location of the healthcare centre was unsuitable and there were no counselling services. Overall, the centre was not performing sufficiently well against this healthy establishment test." The running of the centre is outsourced to Primecare Forensic Medical Services.

Rule 35 referrals (Detention Centre Rules requires health services staff to report any concerns that detention may be injurious to health, including if there has been an allegation of torture or suicidal intent, which should then result in a UKBA review of the person's continued detention) was also criticised. The Inspectorate also noted that "detainees told us that they did not consider health services at the centre to be good, and they had particular concerns about emergency responses", yet they "observed an appropriate primary care service provided by a well qualified team." However, the problem in Mr Nyenze's case seems to be that G4S staff refused Nyenze access to the heath services, even to the extent of providing him with analgesics when he complained of chest pains, so the Inspectorate's assessment of primary care services** were largely irrelevant.

Interestingly, Oakington was informed of the award of the ISA by the BSC three days before the death of Mr Nyenze and trumpeted the news THE DAY AFTER Mr Nyenze's death.*** However, it took the BSC nearly a month, and a lot of complaints by concerned members of the public, before they bit the bullet and applied their own rules for the awarding of their International Safety Award and removed it from Oakington.

* "A fatality at the site during 2009 or subsequently means that your organisation is not eligible for this award." - Application form for the 2009 ISA.
** Paras 5.19-25 of the report set out a list of some of the problems encountered with Oakington's primary care service.
*** The G4S press release is no longer on-line but quotes from the announcement are.

Thursday, 6 May 2010

Phil Woolas' No Longer Covert Racism?

Looks like the possibility of having his cushy political career snatched from his grasp in the election may have driven Phil Woolas to loose it, fully revealing his less-than-liberal political stripes and attack his election opponents in something called 'The Saddleworth and Oldham Examiner'. [for images see: Part 1 & Part 2] 45,000 copies of this 8 page election address masquerading as a newspaper have been distributed across his Oldham East and Saddleworth constituency, largely in predominantly white areas of Oldham according to the Muslim Public Affairs Committee, which is campaigning against him. In return for the organisation's opposition to his re-election, Woolas appears to have accused them in the pages of the 'Examiner' of issuing death threats against him and has used images of Al-Muhajirun to smear them with.

He has also gone after the Liberals, his nearest rivals, accusing them of 'a stitch up' over plans to build a mosque on “the last green space of Waterloo Street” and accepting donations from a 'mysterious' Saudi Arabian billionaire sheikh. On top of all that he warns that this type of politicking "led to the riots", referring to the 2001 riots. Yet it appears that it is Woolas' barrel-scraping politicking that if anything is likely to provoke further 'racial' tensions in Oldham. Still, it'll be worth it if he can hang on by his (dirty) fingernails.

'British Jobs For Foreign Workers'?

Mark Easton in his BBC blog has come up with an interesting take on the 'British jobs for British workers' saga that we have commented on previously. And even better is the fact that the comments of the piece are by and large not from the usual racist trolls that one find peopling these types of spaces, spewing out their ill-informed and often fascist bile (as, for example, in the pages of the Mail and its ilk).

A Light On Asylum

As an indictment of the way the Home Office and UK Borders Agency systematically fail to adequately examine asylum applications, even when patently obvious evidence of torture is present, or provide proper medical care (in this case via the private detention centre management company G4S) for those held in immigration detention, we suggest you take a look at a new Corporate Watch article covering the case of Nigerian asylum claimant Prince Ademola Babatunde Bakare. The article covers the full background of the case covered by the Independent back in February and also highlights the difficulty of getting fair and balanced press coverage, even in liberal newspapers such as the Independent.