Thursday, 29 July 2010

Surprise, Surprise...

...the UK Border Agency's own Professional Standards Unit has found that the agency's Cardiff office is not 'institutionally racist' or has a pervasive culture of abuse following a series of allegations made by ex-employee Louise Perrett in March this year. Nobody will face disciplinary action for actions apparently because they decided that there was nothing wrong with testing the veracity of boys from Africa who claimed they had been forcibly conscripted as child soldiers by making them lie down on the floor and demonstrate how they shot at people in the bush; or that singing "Umbongo, umbongo, they kill them in the Congo" in reference to a Congolese woman's asylum case; or that the fabled 'grant monkey' was not used as a 'badge of shame' when it was placed as a badge of shame on the desk of any UKBA officer who approved an asylum application.

Despite the report's conclusion "that Ms Perrett misinterpreted its significance [and] it was accepted that her misconception of it could have been felt by others and as such it was unwelcome", it was "accepted that [the monkey's] subsequent removal from the office was correct"! So it was removed from the office just in case someone might get the idea that the 'grant monkey', when placed on someone's desk after they had given someone leave to remain, was in no way connected and, despite its name' it wasn't intended as a 'badge of shame'. Maybe the fact that there was "no evidence to corroborate Ms Perrett's claims" was down to the PCS union's advice not to co-operate with the investigation?

IMPORTANT: 5 Years Limited Leave to Remain

Are you a Zimbabwean asylum seekers and were you granted 5 years refugee leave in 2005?

If so, please read the important information below and pass on to your friends.

From August 2005, refugees were granted 5 years refugee leave rather than indefinite leave to remain (ILR). Asylum seekers granted humanitarian protection (HP) were given HP for a 5 year period.

In August 2010, leave to remain will expire for the first of these people. It is VERY IMPORTANT that people do not wait for their leave to expire before making applications for further leave to remain or ILR.

They should apply for further leave to remain or ILR about a month before their leave expires.

See: Home Office website on Further Leave To Remain
Also: Download Cover letter
Also: Download Zip Info pack

[from the Zimbabwe Association website]

Some Light In The Limbo Of Everyday Existence?

And in another court decision, this time in the Supreme Court, the Home Office's challenge to an EU directive that asylum seekers who have already had one claim turned down but have submitted a fresh claim be allowed to look for work if their claim has not been processed within a year has been dismissed. Needless to say, the decision raised the ire of the usual suspects with claims that "tens of thousands" [Daily Telegraph] or even "up to 45,000" [Daily Mail] of "failed (sic) asylum seekers given right to work". Both of them of course took the opportunity to quote the latest MigrationBotch aka Andrew Green whinge, though only the Mail had the gall to print his smear about the refused asylum seekers in question not being "genuine refugees".

Just because someone's application for asylum has been turned down as it does not fit the ever more restrictive Home Office criteria, the ever smaller hoops that refugees have to jump through in order to be granted what is usually a very limited right to remain, doesn't make them bogus whatever all the anti-immigration propagandists would have you believe. At least this decision will allow the very small number of refused asylum seekers that actually do manage to get a job to live in something other than a limbo characterised by abject poverty that is hardly alleviated by an occasional charity hand-out whilst the rusty machinery of Home Office bureaucracy slowly grinds its way towards a decision on their case.


Yet the latest news is that Damian 'The Omen' Green is seeking to subvert the court ruling by imposing restrictions on the type of jobs refused asylum seekers could apply for, barring them from "more than 28.5m jobs and restrict them to industries in which there are official staff shortages" according to the latest from the Guardian. Blatant discrimination.

Mail And Sun No Longer 'Lovin' It'

The Daily Mail and the Sun have been forced to eat humble pie in the court yesterday after falsely accusing Parameswaran Subramanyam, who went on a 23-day hunger strike in Parliament Square last year, of breaking his fast by eating hamburgers. His action was part of the 3 month long protests last year in Westminster during the later stages of the Sri Lankan civil war aimed at bringing about a ceasefire.

According to the Mail, a Metropolitan police surveillance team had observed him having had fast food smuggled to him during his hunger strike. The Sun repeated the story under the sneering headline 'Hunger Striker Was Lovin' It'. In court it was revealed that not only did the police not have any video evidence but that there had been no no police surveillance team using the "specialist monitoring equipment" as the Daily Mail article claimed. And in typical 'churnalistic' fashion, the Sun repeated the story without checking 'the facts'.

The legal team for the owners of both papers said that they apologised "sincerely and unreservedly" to Mr Subramanyam for the distress that had been caused and they are understood to be paying damages of £47,500 and £30,000 respectively, as well as his legal costs.

Sad to say it wont stop them from perpetrating the same sort of contemptuous thinly-veiled racist stories in the future.

Tuesday, 27 July 2010

The Use Of Dawn Raids Criticised

In another 'setback' for the government operates its immigration policy John Vine, the Chief Inspector of Immigration, has criticised the blanket use of dawn raids to detain families prior to their deportation. In his review of 42 deportation cases he found the the majority of arrests of families by UKBA snatch squads occurred between 6:30am and 6:40am.

Just as the police use dawn raids to catch their prey unaware, still in their beds or only just beginning to wipe the sleep from their eyes, the UKBA goons chose more or less the same modus operandi to minimise resistance and, not as they have insisted in the past, chose a time before a family's children will have left for school or, tellingly, to minimise any community reaction.

Therefore, the idea is to actually maximise trauma, a point reinforced by only allowing the families less than 45 minutes to pack their belongings and leave behind their homes for an unknown future. Vine also said that it unacceptable that there is no UKBA system available that makes available information on those families who have been detained. Therefore a family's lawyers and supporters are left to ring around the various detention centres and short-term holding facilities in what often turns out as a vain attempt to find them before they are forcibly removed or shunted on to another detention centre half way across the country.

1,168 children were held in detention in 2008-09. 539 (46%) were deported and 629 (54%) released.

Exemptions Policy Struck Down

Yet another piece of governmental gerrymandering abrogating the legal rights of refugees to seek protection under international law has been ruled illegal. The history of anti-immigration laws are littered with knee-jerk reactions to racist agitation and political sentiment. And when each incremental restriction of our freedom of movement proves to have not cut the numbers of those deemed as undesirable by the political classes, those same political classes tinker with the ways in which each new piece of restrictive legislation is applied, further restricting supposed safeguards under the law.

Thus we have seen the was that the 'exemptions policy' brought in by John Reid when he was Home Secretary in March 2007 was incrementally widened to allow for ever easier ways of denying detainees full access to the law, thereby making their removal from the country easier. That the lawyers for the Home Office argued that the exemptions policy was "sufficiently flexible" to ensure there were no human rights breaches only reinforces the doublethink involved in this type of policy. The 'sufficient flexibility' was wholly on the side of the Home Office.

Of course, the reforms of the Legal Aid budget and the loss of organisations like Refugee and Migrant Justice will more or less achieve the same ends by restricting the ability of refugees to access the courts and protect the rights supposedly guaranteed under law that the government constantly seeks to restrict by hook or by crook.

Monday, 26 July 2010

Maltese Cross The Line

Controversy has broken out in Malta over an incident involving the rescue of a group of Somali refugees from a sinking dingy by the Maltese military last week. The Somali's boat was spotted by Armed Forces of Malta (AFM) and Libyan vessels south of the island on Sunday 18 July and they mounted a joint rescue. The 55 Somalis were divided into two groups, with 28 (22 men, five women and a child) who required medical attention boarding the AFM boat and the remaining 27 immigrants 'voluntarily' boarding the Libyan vessel.

The controversy stems not just from the fact that the migrants claim that their comrades were tricked into returning to Libya, but from the fact that the actions of the AFM personnel render the Maltese government complicit in the Italian-Libyan 'push back' pack and its breaching of international law.

The 'push back' policy came into effect in May last year, with the Libyan government agreeing to accept the return of migrants intercepted on the high seas by the Italian navy. In return they would receive 6 Italian fast launches, that they would operate as part of their effort in the naval patrols, and lucrative economic deals and cash inputs to Libya's notorious detention system. All this is contrary to international treaties preventing the refoulement of refugees and is an abrogation of Italy's responsibility to allow refugees the opportunity to make asylum applications when, as the European Court of Human Rights has rules, a state already exercises 'effective control' over the person in question.

Malta has so far been a particular beneficiary of this policy, with not one single African migrant reaching its shore since last October, compared with the 1,400 in the first nine months of 2009. However, up till now it has not become directly involved in the transactions between Italy and Libya but, with this event, it has become directly embroiled in this dodgy deal.

Firstly, there is the problem over whether the Somalis who 'chose' to return to Libya actually knew that was what they were doing as many of the migrants that made it to Malta claim that their compatriots thought they were going onto Italy as there were Italian speakers on the Libyan boat. As Laura Boldrini, a Rome-based UNHCR spokesperson said, "It's difficult to believe anyone would choose to go back to Libya, after having paid a lot of money and risking their lives. In many years of work in this field, I've never seen anything of the sort. How can it be that an asylum seeker voluntarily opts to be returned to a place where he cannot get asylum?"

Added to that is the fact that the recognition rate for Somali refugees in Malta is very high and most, if not all, would probably have been given protection. Therefore, for the Maltese authorities to allow the Somalis, which they are obliged to disembark at a safe port, to return to Libya, a country that is known to have a poor human rights record, without express assurances on the treatment and safety of the refugees has laid themselves open to charges of complicity in any potential human rights violations.

The decidedly odd nature of this incident is further illustrated by the case of Ahmed Mahmoud Muhammed, who claims that his wife, 19year-old Mariam Hussen, who is seven months pregnant, was one of the migrants taken back to Libya. He alleges that he told Maltese soldiers that his wife was on the Libyan boat but they kept insisting that he boarded the Libyan ship to identify her. Fearing that he would be returned to Libya and loose all chance of getting out of that "hell", he refused. The AFM deny his claim.

Mariam was returned to a Libyan prison but fortunately managed to get released after a few days. His story brings into question the claims that the migrants on the Libyan boat thought they were going on to Italy, especially as the 'push back' policy is widely known about in Libya, but also the AFM claims that the Somalis were given the choice as to which boat they chose and that accompanied spouses were allowed on the same boat.

Despite the widespread controversy over the issue and the obvious implications as regards Maltese responsibilities under international law, the prime minister Lawrence Gonzi has ruled out an independent inquiry. Maybe there is something to hide?


See also: Joe Sacco's 'Not In My Country' for a different view on the plight of migrants in Malta.

Not Purpose For FIT

London NoBorders Press Release:

Forward Intelligence Team was not authorised to monitor NoBorders Meeting. Protestors acquitted in Crown Court.

London NoBorders welcomes the Crown Court decision to clear three activists of the charges of "obstructing the police". The Inner London Crown Court ruled that police surveillance of a public political meeting had not been proved to be lawful and that the police had failed to provide any evidence that they were pursuing a "legitimate aim".

Three activists were arrested at the meeting called by London NoBorders in June 2008 when they protested against the surveillance of the meeting by the Metropolitan Police's "Forward Intelligence Team."

The aim of the public meeting, which took place in a community centre in Southwark, London, was to discuss a demonstration which later took place at the UK Border Agency in Croydon in July 2008. The Metropolitan Police turned up at both public meetings in June 2008, taking photos and filming everybody who attended the meeting.

Thomas Haberg of London NoBorders said: "The fact that the police could not show that their surveillance was authorised in any way is worrying and shows that the Forward Intelligence Team appears to work outside the law. The purpose of the police presence was clearly to intimidate and keep people from organising around political issues. It also shows that it is important for the future to continue to challenge the Forward Intelligence Team wherever they turn up."

Therefore London NoBorders welcomes campaigns like FitWatch [1] . "We should not be watched, it is the activities of the police we should have an eye on", added Rosie Young from London NoBorders.

During the trial one witness involved in London NoBorders, who had been followed by police armed with cameras around the area before the meeting, was asked by the prosecution if "he did not think that he is exactly the kind of person the state should be watching?". It appears that the mere fact that London NoBorders disagrees with the UK immigration politics makes them and their supporters a target for close surveillance by the police. The prosecution also asked the witness, who stated that he felt intimidated by the police presence: "Why don't you stay at home when you are concerned about being filmed?"

London NoBorders believes that the issues of increasing surveillance in this society are connected to the militarisation of the national borders, and organised a demonstration around those issues titled "Life is too short to be controlled!" in January 2010. [2] Another demonstration with this title is planned for 30th October 2010.

London NoBorders is a group campaigning for freedom of movement and active in London for more then 6 years. We see ourselves as part of a transnational European wide network.
contact: noborderslondon[-at]


Friday, 23 July 2010

The Gutter Press

Even by the Daily Express' extremely low standards, the paper's response (the usual mixture of exaggeration, misrepresentation and down right lies, all exploited in the pursuit of its seemingly ever more reactionary editorial line) to Nick Clegg's announcement of the imminent closure of the family unit at Yarl's Wood has surely surpassed its previously vituperative worst, out 'knee-jerking' the competition on the way. 'We need many more detention centres like Yarl's Wood' blared the headline as it set about Clegg, the government and anyone and everyone who objects to its public baiting of asylum seekers or who has the audacity to question the UK's racist immigration policy.

The level of the stupidity and ignorance on display in this article is so staggering it is difficult to know where to start. So, start we will with the 'author' of this execrable diatribe, one Ross Clark, who bears the title (or is it merely a label?) political commentator. One can immediately tell where he stands by the tenor of his language: "But for the Government to say we are not going to hold children in immigrant (sic) detention centres at all is an abdication of its responsibility to deal with illegal immigration and all the misery that it entails."

"Immigrant children" indeed! What about those children born in this country who he wants ejected? And exactly whose misery is he referring to as well? You can bet your life it is not the misery of the children he so fervently wishes to see remaining in, what is by any measurement, good old fashioned internment.

Clegg and his error are quickly dismissed as "not a quarter as bad as the policy itself." He may "soothe liberal consciences and win plaudits from groups representing asylum-seekers" but it is "the closure [that] will further disarm the Government in its losing battle against illegal immigration." Dare we repeat it again, but the majority of the people in Yarl's Wood, and especially the family unit, have not entered the country illegally. Their applications for leave to remain (asylum) have been turned down because they do not meet the government's narrow criteria.

And even if they have entered the country, it is often for the very fact that ever more draconian restricts has made almost impossible to actually apply for asylum, never mind be granted protection under international law. Obviously the Express and its ilk may very well want to see all but a very small elite group of migrants classified as 'illegal' and and prevented from entering the country, but there are still opportunities for refugees to apply for asylum whether they like it or not.

The government comes in for further kicking: "The press release [clarifying Clegg’s announcement] gives away just how ill-thought out the closure of the family unit at Yarl’s Wood is. It concludes with the words: “We are currently working to find an alternative that protects the welfare of children without undermining our immigration laws.” In other words ministers have committed themselves to the closure but don’t yet have the faintest clue how they are going to enforce the removal of illegal immigrant families now that those families are not going to be taken into custody."

Of course they "have the faintest clue [about] how they are going to enforce the removal." All they've done is announce that at some time they will not be locking up families for their own administrative convenience. They will be removed in exactly the same way they are now - chained between a couple of G4S thugs and forced onto a flight to somewhere they don't wish to go. What he implies is that not locking families up will give them the opportunity to go underground, but there is absolutely no evidence for this.

Next up in his cross-hairs are 'campaigners'; people, unlike him, who actually care about the plight of the people involved, not the racial purity of their 'beloved England'. The stupidly "focused on the small number of children who are held at any one time in the family unit" and make "somewhat pernickety complaint[s]" about the lack of education opportunities in Yarl's Wood. Why "somewhat pernickety"? Well, because "children [only] spend an average of just two weeks" there. A somewhat pathetic argument really.

To quote the November 2009 Chief Inspector of Prisons report: "Some children and babies had been detained [between May and October 2009] 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." [Main recommendation #2.]

His arguments then get downright stupid: "Much play was made of the refusal of Serco, the private company that manages the centre, to allow a clergyman dressed as Father Christmas to enter last December. The decision was made on the grounds of security. Presumably liberal consciences would have seen the decision very differently had it been made on the grounds that the sight of Father Christmas would have been offensive to Muslim inmates." Or should that be 'downright racist'?

"A lot of the protests have turned out to be spurious", just like the arguments he then proceeds to put forward. "This year a group of women at the centre said they were going on hunger strike in protest at “racist” treatment yet CCTV footage revealed no cases of racism." How can CCTV footage be used to disprove racism? Were lip readers used?

And what about this? After accepting Serco's evidence that the hunger strikers visited "the centre’s shop to stock up on food – in the middle of their supposed hunger strike", it then turns to the report by Bedfordshire Local Safeguarding Children Board that claimed that unrelated children at the centre were engaging in sexual activity. "[I]f immigrant children [there he goes again] are having sex with each other at Yarl’s Wood, it is surely a reflection on their background and upbringing and would have carried on undetected had they not been incarcerated." Talk about a crass and completely unfounded supposition.

So far, so stupid. But here he really shows he has absolutely no understanding of the situation. "It isn’t children who make the decision to stow away in a lorry or otherwise make a long and dangerous journey to Britain." Clearly he thinks that the children in question have spent months in the back of lorries being smuggled halfway round the world with their parent. Either that, or he thinks that single under age children are detained in Yarl's Wood rather than, as actually happens, are looked over by local social services and foster families.

Finally, he imagines the potential consequences of the decision: "If the UK Border Agency is not allowed to hold children it will have to release entire families on to the streets. The message will soon get through: if you are going to attempt to reach Britain illegally make sure you take a child with you." Complete and utter rubbish. How can anyone one think that this is a reasonable, never mind reasoned, argument?

Well close with another quote from the same Inspectorate report into Yarl's Wood: "The people held at Yarl’s Wood are not asylum seekers with live applications, they are those whose claims have been exposed as a sham and who are waiting to be removed from the country. Half the children detained in the previous six months had been temporarily released or bailed from Yarl’s Wood. None of the five families who had been held for 28 days or more and who were discussed during a conference call held during the inspection were removed and all were eventually released. These figures called into question the justification for detaining children, sometimes for a significant period, with the inevitable distress and disruption to their lives that this entailed." [Main recommendation #2.]

Thursday, 22 July 2010

What About Tinsley House's Family Unit?

Despite Nick Clegg's gaffe yesterday when he claimed that the government would "close Yarl's Wood Detention Centre for good", later clarified by the Home Office as being only the family unit, everyone should welcome even that limited good news. However, the confusion goes further than just Calamity Clegg's faux pas.

We want to know when the Yarl's Wood family unit will close. What has happened to Damian 'the Omen' Green's review into the detention of children? Will the finding be published? What are the government going to do with the families and children that they would have locked up in these glorified internment camps? And what is going to happen to Tinsley House, the only other detention centre with a dedicated family unit not yet announced as being closed (after Dungavel and Yarl's Wood)?


According to the Home Office press release clarifying Clegg's statement, "We are currently working to find an alternative that protects the welfare of children, without undermining our immigration laws." So the review has not been finished, and nor does it seem as if an actual date for the closure of the family unit has been set.

Tuesday, 20 July 2010

More Tabloid Mock Immigration Outrage

The rightwhinge tabloids are frothing at the mouth again (or at least their editors and journalists are pretending to) at the spectre of so-called 'foreign national prisoners' living "in luxury £1.6m detention centres" as the Express puts it. [1] This non-story about foreign national ex-prisoners who have been selected for deportation being transferred straight from prisons to detention centres where they languish (though that is clearly not the tabloids' view) stems from the Daily Mail picking up on [1] the latest Independent Monitoring Board (IMB) report on Lindholme IRC.

This 124 place detention centre is sited next to HMP Lindholme and is run for the UKBA by the Prison Service. It is not a "luxury detention centre" but, like the prison it shares a split site with, it consists of converted building of what was RAF Lindholme. The cells in the IRC side are very much like those in the HMP side. Yes, they have access to a library, an activities centre and fitness suite and, unlike the prison-side, do not have to pay for access to a TV. [3] However, the claim that each detainee has a key to his room and that rooms have a secure locker [4] contradicts the most recent Chief Inspector of Prison (HMIoP) findings:

"The accommodation was minimally decorated and little had been done to promote an IRC, rather than a prison, environment. The fabric of some rooms was in a poor condition. There were many worn and thin mattresses, with no system for checking and replacing them. Most shower facilities were adequate, but many toilets were dirty and some had no locks. Some rooms were hot and difficult to ventilate, particularly as many had broken window handles. Most detainees did not have access to lockable cabinets, although a delivery of keys arrived during the inspection. A number of televisions, Freeview boxes and aerial sockets were not in working order." [pg. 12]

"Living accommodation was functional but in need of maintenance, and the units were austere. Movement around the centre was restricted, with detainees spending substantial periods locked on their units. Toilets were dirty but shower facilities were appropriate and well maintained. Laundry arrangements were limited." [pg. 21]

"However, detainees’ own medicines were not secure in their rooms, as for many there was no facility for locking them away. In most cases, medicines were stored on the window sills of detainees’ rooms." [pg. 45]

Does that sound like the lap of luxury?

Now, we fully understand that this opportunity to indulge in a bout of simulated outrage was too good to pass up as it conflates two tabloid standbys, crime and immigration, so it is of no surprise for anyone who has bothered to read the IMB report itself to see that the Board's "concern at the numbers of ex-foreign national prisoners having served their sentences and now held as detainees in the Centre" are not the only issues highlighted. Also of 'concern' were the numbers of people held in excess of 6 months, not just the ex-FNPs highlighted in the tabloids; problems with healthcare provision by Serco, with no dedicated nurse for the IRC and staff shortages leading to nurses being redeployed on a priority basis to the prison-side; and general low staffing levels. Of course, these sort of problems don't generate the sort of juicy headlines that tabloid editors crave.

1] The Express also claims that this fact (i.e. "Foreign criminals who should be deported are being sent to luxury detention centres costing taxpayers millions of pounds") "emerged last night." This is utter rubbish. This situation has been going on ever since Nu Labour decided that deporting ex-FNPs was the politically expedient this to do. Even the Mail did not make such a stupid claim as it looks better to highlight that, "Concerns about the situation have been raised in two [annual] reports by the Independent Monitoring Board." Missed a trick there Jeeves.
2] One of the tabloids tricks is to monitor IMB and HMIoP reports for nice juicy bits of information to exploit for their own anti-foreigner ends.
3] Where did the idea that detainees have access to radios come from? It's not in the IMB report.
4] Repeated word for word from the introductions of reports going all the way back to 2006-07 (reports before then no longer available), so it appears that the actuality of this had not been checked by the IMB, unlike the HMIoP.

Sherzad's Story

There is an interview on the BBC News website with one of the Iraqi detainees forcibly deported back to Baghdad on 16 June that briefly hit the news because of the violence meted out by G4S staff.

Sunday, 18 July 2010

Libyan Update

The precarious situation that the 400 or so Eritrean migrants currently stranded in Libya has taken a number of convoluted turns since the mass forced movements we wrote about on 1 July. Having been threatened with mass forced deportation if they did not fill out bio-data forms provided by the Eritrean embassy, which they refused to do will put their families in Eritrea at risk and clear the way for their deportation back to Eritrea. Of the 140 detainees who have signed the forms, many claim they were either tricked or were pressured into doing so.

The removal of the 205 Eritrean detainees transferred to Sabha, and who eventually ended up in the al-Biraq detention centre, was part of the authorities attempts to pressure them into signing the bio-data forms. Sources indicate that 10 of the al-Biraq were taken out and beaten as an example to try and force the Eritreans to cooperate. Of those who remained in Misrata, it is claimed that a group including 31 men, 13 women and 7 children were beaten on 7 July when they again refused to fill in forms.

International condemnation followed with Green Party MEPs publicly condemning the conditions the refugees were being held in. The European Council on Refugees and Exile called upon Italy to return the 250 Eritreans they had previously expelled back to Libya and Human Rights Watch said that all victims of the Italian-Libyan 'push back' policy should be allowed to proceed to Italy and claim asylum.

Whilst international pressure was building, the Italian and Libyan governments were in talks trying to find a compromise position. The Italians claim that they had managed to broker a deal for the release of the Eritrean detainees to do "socially useful" work in Libya at the direction of Libyan authorities. This would involve the issue of temporary documentation allowing the Eritreans to stay in Libya for 3 months. However, after the permits run out they will be back in the same situation all other undocumented people in Libya are subject to, arbitrary arrest and imprisonment and ultimately forced deportation.

So, on the evening on the 15th, the Sabha detainees were release onto the street with, as they claim "no food, water or documentation to allow free movement", despite promises of the temporary permits. The subsequently put out an international appeal for help. The other detained Eritreans across Libya were also released but it now appears that it was merely an attempt by the two governments to “lower the tension” and little has changed.

Given Italian intransigence on fulfilling its international obligations towards refugees, the total lack of any system for claiming asylum in Libya itself, the appalling state of Libyan prisons and the burning desire of the Eritrean government to get its hand on those who have fled the country, it appears inevitable that at some point there will be mass deportation of the Libyan Eritreans back to Samara, where they will face persecution, prison, forced labour and, for some, death.

Blogs: 1, 2, 3

Friday, 16 July 2010

Brook House: An Alternative View

The following article was offered to the Guardian 'Comment Is Free' strand last week. We assume they were not interested as no response was forthcoming.

The Chief Inspector of Prison's Report on the full announced inspection of
Brook House Immigration Removal Centre in March certain makes for depressing reading:

"one of the least safe immigration detention facilities we have inspected";

"deeply frustrated detainees and demoralised staff";

"[We found] a degree of despair amongst detainees about safety...which we have rarely encountered. Bullying and violence were serious problems and – unusually for the immigration detention estate - drugs were a serious problem. Many detainees were ex-prisoners and a number compared their experience in Brook House negatively to that in prison";

"Use of force was high, separation was often used as a punishment, contrary to the Detention Centre Rules, and freedom of movement had been restricted in an attempt to combat violence."

But should we be in any way surprised by the Inspectorate's finding?

As the report itself acknowledges, Brook House was originally designed for holding 426 detainees "for only a short time before removal or release", and here lies one of the two cornerstones of its myriad of problems.

It was never meant to hold, for example, the numbers of detainees that the Inspector found had been there, for example, for 4 or more months (40%). These were not just the inevitable victims of the mission creep languishing in the system that typifies 'temporary administrative detention' (17% of BH detainees detained for 6 months or more, three for more than 3 years), they are the very 'foreign national prisoners' slated for deportation that the Category B prison-style facility was built to process.

The creation of this special category of prisoner was a typical piece of ill thought out vindictive New Labour policy, pandering to Mr and Mrs Daily Mail reader. Not only patently racist, punishing someone for being a foreigner as well as for committing a crime, it has clogged up the detention estate with ex-prisoners who it is unable to remove from the country.

Good publicity in theory, bad policy in practice.

The other wellspring of Brook House's problems is the way in which it is run and, more specifically, the way G4S operates what are now recognised as the 3 worst run English detention centres. G4S, like all large outsourcing companies, maximises its profits by paying its staff lower wages, giving them less training and operating at lower staff ratios than exist in the public sector. This inevitably leads to a high rate of turnover amongst an inexperienced staff that, according to the report, was exacerbated by last June's disturbance.

The inevitable results are an embattled and pressurised staff who "lacked the confidence to manage bad behaviour", consistently responded to incidents with a "high level of spontaneous use of force" and "were bullied by more difficult detainees." And it was not just the guards that felt unsafe, 68% of detainees surveyed said that they had felt unsafe at some point during their time in Brook House, against 42% for the IRC comparator. The most recent figure for Colnbrook IRC, run by Serco and the only other Category B standard detention centre, was 61% (against a comparator of 48% in 2007).

Another factor highlighted in the report that throws light onto how the centre operates is what the Inspector calls "a significant drugs problem"; though how significant is open to debate. Whilst there had been a massive increase in staff security incident report about drugs in the IRC's first 9 months of operation, seizures were very few and the Inspectorate's own survey of detainees only found 35% of respondents labelling drug availability as being a safety concern, the same as the last inspection of Colnbrook in 2008.

That said, it is not surprising that there is a drugs problem given the pressures created by the poor design of the prison; the lack of activities; the long lengths of detention; with many detainees facing uncertain futures, removed from their UK families; isolated and facing violence inside Brook House; not to mention those suffering PTSD.

Interestingly, like most prisons, the main route in for drugs has been identified as visits. Though, given the recent Policy Exchange report's suggestion that the majority of drugs in prison involve corrupt prison officers, and the low staff wages, they might look elsewhere.

Now, given that announced inspections usually mean everybody, including the prisoners, are on their best behaviour, the picture the Inspectorate gets is often skewed. One group, however, other than the detainees themselves, who do get a regular unvarnished view of how an admittedly small area of the detention centre operates, are the visitors. And it is this group who have had to bear the brunt of the management's growing paranoia over drugs, as well as the standard problems resulting from poor design and staff shortages.

Not only do they have to put up with a cramped visiting room with a limited number of visiting slots and no access to toilet facilities but, since the increased drugs-related security, the length of time it takes to get into visit has significantly increased, eating into valuable visiting time. That, plus staff shortages, has resulted in daily visiting hours being split into two separate sessions and increasingly petty rules, like where one can and cannot sit when one finally does get inside.

All have led to increased tension and regular angry disruptions of visiting times by visitors. Yet G4S’ own ‘satisfaction’ figures posted in the same room claim that 80% of visitors are treated with respect and dignity (the Inspectorate’s figure was 53%).

Thursday, 15 July 2010

Fair Play Or Foul?

Or Just Plain Mindless Bureaucracy?

If the US government, who insisted the rest of the world institutes the stringent machine-readable requirements for 'acceptable' forms of passports, are willing to temporarily recognise the Iroquios lacrosse team's non-machine readable passports* to cross their borders, then why are the UK Borders Agency not willing to accept and allow the issuing visas for the team's trip to what should be a prestigious tournament that would reflect well on the UK? Clearly the spirit of fair play did not enter into it but at least the chances of the England team winning their first match in the 2010 World Lacrosse Championship (which was due to be against the Iroqoius) has improved following the decision and has improved their chances of making it out of the first round Blue Division.

* That they and other members of the Iroquois Confederacy have successfully used to travel around the globe for the past 33 years.

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

More Racist Shock Tactics

It was inevitable that the yellow press would latch onto the University of Leeds' School of Geography working paper on 'Ethnic Population Projections for the UK and Local Areas, 2001-2051' as an opportunity to launch into a bout of immigration-bashing and/or rekindle the 'immigration-led population boom' scare [see: 'The Myth Of The 70 Million'] that is one of their perennial favourites. Their efforts to push all the right racist buttons (or should that be 'blow the correct dog whistles'?) provided mixed results.

The Express clearly came top of the list in plumbing new depths (if you'll excuse the mixed metaphors) with its typically shouty and patently obvious racist headline 'ONE IN 5 BRITONS WILL BE ETHNICS'(sic)*

Getting right down to the nitty gritty, without of course explaining what the Leeds paper is actually about, they essayed:

"ONE in five of Britain’s population will be from an ethnic minority by the middle of the century, an explosive report forecasts today.

The figure will rocket from the current level of eight per cent to 20 per cent over the next 40 years, it concludes.

And the ethnic profile of middle-class suburban and rural areas will change significantly as black and Asian families move out of inner-city areas, it says. Overall, the UK’s total population will soar from its present 61 million to 78 million over the same period."

[Translation: Two and a half times as many foreigners 40 years from now and, to top it all, they'll be moving out of the ghettos that we've managed to restrict them to up til now and moving out to where we leave. Plus they'll continue breeding like rabbits. Woe, woe and thrice woe.]

And just in case you had missed the implication the Express wished to highlight:

"The report, by researchers at the University of Leeds, will fuel fears that Britain faces acute overcrowding in the next generation, intensifying pressure on the Government to curb immigration." Utter tosh, which anyone who has read the Leeds paper knows but what Express reader is likely to do so?

Like so much of their immigration coverage this year, the Mail came a paltry second to the Express' bile and could only manage the rather limp 'One in five Britons 'will be from an ethnic minority by 2051''.

"UK population will rocket to 78million by middle of century

One in five of the population will be from an ethnic minority by the middle of this century, according to a new report.

Researchers concluded that the figure will rocket from the current rate of eight per cent - and that people from minority backgrounds will be living in more affluent areas.

Just one in ten of the population was from an ethnic minority ten years ago."

Rather limp really compared to Desmond's rag. And just to show you how little effort Jack Doyle, the article's author, put in, the next two lines are:

"Researchers at The University of Leeds also concluded that the population of the UK could reach nearly 80million by the middle of this century.

Higher birth rates and people living longer as well as immigration would pushed the population to 78.8million by 2051."

Clearly Mr Doyle is still learning his trade at the Mail and has made the mistake of both qualifying the 80m figure and of allowing that something other than immigration might be a causal factor behind the population growth. No doubt he'll learn his lesson and be parroting the house style fluently before soon.

Compared to both these efforts, Desmond's other 'newspaper' the Star's article was positively wishy washy: 'Changing Faces Of Britain 2050'! Sounds like something out of the national Geographic. Yet none of them managed to plumb the depths of racist stupidity that the Press and Journal, an Aberdeen-based DC Thompson publication, stooped to: 'Immigrants to make up 20% of UK population'. Priceless.

So what about this research project, which we assume none of these well-paid 'journalists' have bothered to read? The Economic and Social Research Council-financed project is part an on-going effort by the Leeds University geography department to "understand demographic changes that the UK’s local ethnic populations presently experience and will experience in the future."

"We are investigating how differences in ethnic fertility and mortality shape current and future population trends, how international migration and internal migration impact the size and ethnic composition of local populations. The project team will build projections of ethnic group populations for local areas and use the projection model to explore alternative futures."

This involves the modelling of 5 separate projections based on different sets of assumptions for mortality/fertility/immigration/emigration for 16 ethnic groups, which inevitably display hugely varying end results, even when allowing for 'aggregation effects'. The end point of this modelling is to produce a form of population projection that takes into account differences in the dynamics of the various ethnic groupings selected, the 2 so-called UPTAP (Understanding Population Trends and Processes) models.

And inevitably, the media have focused on the 'worst case scenario', the (UPTAP-EF - emigration flow) model that produces the highest population growth, rather than their other (UPTAP-ER - emigration rate) model. In fact, as the paper points out "UPTAP-EF and UPTAP-ER produce total populations in 2051 that differ by 9.1 millions."

The reasons for these differences and the merits of the different projects are too complex to go into here but we would like to highlight one of the report's conclusions, where it compares its results with previously released ONS estimates for ethnic groups in 2007 [i.e. NPP 2008].

"We compare the latest in this series, for mid-2007, with our projections for mid-2007. The differences over just six years are considerable. Our figure for the England population is 359 thousand greater than that of ONS or 0.70% greater. Our estimates for the White population are larger than those of ONS while our ethnic minority estimates are lower. Some of the lower figures for Asian or Asian British groups or Black or Black British groups may be a result of introducing ethnic specific mortality as these groups had lower life expectancies than the total population.

That we should obtain such different estimates over a very short period is concerning and will need to be investigated in detail. The differences serve to highlight that there is a great deal of uncertainty in estimating the population broken down by ethnicity."

* For other analysis of the Express' obvious racist intent see: Five Chinese Crackers, Enemies of Reason and Tabloid Watch.

Monday, 12 July 2010

Brook House IRC: A Sorry Tale

In the latest of a long line of condemnatory inspection reports on the running of the detention estate, Anne Owers, the Chief Inspector of Prisons, has severely criticised the management and staff of outsourcing privateers G4S who run the category B prison-standard Brook House detention centre for running "one of the least safe immigration detention facilities we have inspected, with deeply frustrated detainees and demoralised staff, some of whom lacked the necessary confidence to manage those in their care."

The report highlights serious failings in a number of areas, including bullying; "the worst results ever seen in the IRC estate about levels of safety"; inappropriate use of force by "demoralised staff" on "deeply frustrated detainees"; inappropriate use of isolation in defiance of Detention Centre rules; a lack of purposeful activity; the widespread availability of drugs; problematic access legal advice and representation; a lack of confidence in the complaints system amongst detainees; "clearly inadequate" mental health care; restricted access to education and exercise; and a lack of welfare provision and systematic pre-release support, and goes on to make 188 separate recommendations on how the centre's regime should be improved.

At the core of these failings are a number of problems inherent in the way the detention system operates. Firstly, Brook House was originally designed to operate as a high security short-term handling centre for detainees including ex-prisoners facing imminent deportation. Yet many detainees are held there for far longer than originally envisaged, the routine experience across the detention estate. "The challenge at Brook House was significantly compounded by poor design which built in boredom by providing too little purposeful activity on the erroneous assumption that detainees would be staying only a few days." Thus, 41% had been in Brook House more than 6 months and 15% more than 1 year. The poor design, coupled with the prolonged length of detention, also had a direct effect on the lack of activities available to detainees, and therefore had a direct knock-on effect on discipline.

Another problem, which is common to all facets of the detention estate, is the inevitable bureaucratic ineptitude of such systems where, for example, ten Zimbabweans were found to be being held at the centre, despite the suspension of enforced removals to Harare. One of these had been in detention for three years and four months. Such problems can be laid directly at the door of the UK Borders Agency. However, many of the problems the Inspectorate found at Brook House were as a direct result of the way G4S operates.

G4S has done very nicely out of running parts of the last year, contributing a tidy sum to the £500m in pre-tax profit it made last year on an overall group turnover of £7bn. And like most other outsourcing companies, it maximises its profits by cutting its running costs to the bone: employing poorly trained staff on the lowest wages at at the lowest staffing levels they can get away with. The consequence is a high staff turnover and low morale. This was exacerbated at Brook House by what the report terms "an outbreak of serious disorder the previous summer", an incident that the company and UKBA played down at the time.

The result is what appears to be a general lack of communication between staff and prisoners and "a high level of spontaneous use of force in response to incidents on wings and in the separation unit", something that appears to relate directly to the staff's own perceived lack of control over the detainees. The inspection also found "[t]here was little confidence in the complaints system. There were some long delays in replies to complaints, which were often unhelpful and likely to frustrate." Compared to the standard detention estate comparator, Brook House residents made significantly more complaints 39% vs. 33%, but only 16% (4) of the 25 non-English speaking respondents (against 44% of the 129 English speakers). This appears in large part due to the fact that, whilst complaint forms were available in 8 languages, the actual instructions on how to complain were only available in English.*

Detainees and visitors to Brook House have complained about the way the centre operates from day one and nothing much has changed. In fact, the situation has deteriorated and it's time that the government cut its losses and closed this expensive white elephant. It has the perfect excuse: give G4S the elbow and save some of our hard earned taxes.

* Additionally, "significantly fewer non-English speakers (32%) than English speakers (56%) reported being treated well or very well by escort staff and 36% compared with 52% by reception staff. Significantly more non-English speakers (80%) than English speakers (66%) reported feeling unsafe."

Wednesday, 7 July 2010

East Timor Unlikely To Host 'Regional Processing Centre'

East Timor appears to be rather cool on the idea of Australia fobbing off its problem with 'boat people' off on to the country. Its Deputy Prime Minister Jose Luis Guterres has already said that it is very likely the proposal would be rejected "because we don't have [the right political and social] conditions in East Timor." Also Fretilin MP Jose Teixeira has said his party did not support the proposal, adding that the president Jose Ramos-Horta had no constitutional power when it came to immigration issues.

Now the Law Council of Australia has warned the Federal Government that its plan to process asylum seekers in East Timor will be a legal minefield. For example, what level of legal advice would be available to asylum seekers under its new policy, though this may not be a problem post-election if the opposition Liberals get in as they have already said they will withdraw legal support for asylum seekers. They also prefer going back to the Naruu option, the island used in the original 'Pacific Solution' and that is not a signatory of the UN Refugee Convention.

Australian PM Julia Gillard, who has promised to "relentlessly pursue" her idea of a new off-shore processing centre has already been in touch with the New Zealand and Indonesian governments to support her 'regional solution' but is facing strong opposition in New Zealand, as well as her own country, to the idea. Her position however has been strengthened by the UNHCR's callow decision to give into pressure from the Sri Lankan government and countries like Australia who have lobbied for a change in the organisation's advice on the treatment of Tamil asylum seekers.

On Monday the UNHCR issued new 'Eligibility Guidelines For The Sri Lankan Asylum–Seekers', which state that: "In light of the improved human rights and security situation in Sri Lanka, there is no longer a need for group-based protection mechanisms or for a presumption of eligibility for Sri Lankans of Tamil ethnicity originating from the north of the country," and they are therefore ''no longer in need of international protection under broader refugee criteria or complementary forms of protection solely on the basis of risk or indiscriminate harm.'' In light of this the government will lift its three-month freeze on processing asylum seekers from Sri Lanka today, and those stuck in the system will no doubt be fast-tracked for return.

Queer Sort Of Asylum Policy

The High Court today is due to rule on the case of two gay refused asylum seekers who have taken the government to court over their blatantly discriminatory asylums policy. We say blatantly discriminatory not just because a set of criteria are being applied to gay and lesbian people that is not being applied to people who, say, fear persecution in the home countries because of their political or religious convictions, but because this policy is doubly discriminatory.

Being gay or lesbian is not a 'lifestyle choice', which ones political or religious affiliations effectively are (however 'sincerely' these 'beliefs' are held). And deciding whether or not to avoid that persecution by keeping one's 'affiliations' secret is therefore a moral choice. Whereas behaving so as to conceal ones sexuality is wholly different, and current Home Office policy is tantamount to telling someone who has been persecuted because of the colour of their skin that they so go home and avoid the racial discrimination they have been suffering by using skin whitening compounds!

This is just another way of the government narrowing the criteria of who is and who isn't a 'good' migrants and further derogating itself from both the letter and the spirit of the international treaties and conventions on asylum that it is a signatory to. A case of any excuse will do as long as it achieves the desired ends, keeping as many 'bad' foreigners out as possible.


The on-line version of the Evening Standard has a comment equating the case of the Iranian asylum seeker's situation to those 'committing' adultery in his country, saying adulterers have to be discrete in order to avoid being stoned if caught and that the same is true of gay people (who wish not to be 'found out'). He then goes on to compound his stupidity by going on to say that in order for him to settle in some mythical "totally gay country", he would lie about not being straight in order to survive and nobody could prove he wasn't queer. Unless of course he was caught having sex with a woman.

This in a nutshell is the rationale of the government's discriminatory anti-queer position; if you don't step into the light no one can tell if you are different or not. You can continue to be gay, just don't risk having any sort of sexual relationship.


The High Court has found in favour of "T" and "J", with the judgement saying "To compel a homosexual person to pretend that his sexuality does not exist or suppress the behaviour by which to manifest itself is to deny him the fundamental right to be who he is."

Tuesday, 6 July 2010

Australia To Reintroduce 'Pacific Solution'...

...Or At Least A New 'Improved' Version Of It

We haven't mentioned Australia in recent posts but that doesn't mean that we haven't ben keeping a weather eye on what has been happening in that part of the southern hemisphere. There has been the massive increase in the numbers of detained migrants crammed onto Christmas Island, many of whom have been transferred to the mainland Curtin detention centre in Western Australia, a ex-mining camp widely referred to in the Australian press as a 'hell hole', and there is even talk of reopening the notorious Woomera camp. The rampant overcrowding and ever increasing length of time spent in detention has also led to a massive increase in incidence of self-harm amongst the detainees.

2010 is also an election year in Australia and this has lead not only to the anti-immigration arms race but also to the palace coup that saw Julie Gillard oust Kevin Rudd as prime minister, who was seen to be 'not tough enough' on the 'boat people' despite his 3-month long suspension of the processing of asylum visas for Afghan and Sri Lankan refugees. This, along with general governmental intransigence on asylum issues, was meant to act as a deterrent to more boats arriving as well as acting as a electoral boost but has merely become a major cause of the aforementioned overcrowding.

The Liberal (sic) opposition have been having a field day out of all this, with Tony Abbott, Liberal party leader, proposing to bring back a revamped version of the 'Pacific Solution'. So much so that the Labor party had haemorrhaged support to the Liberals (42% of Labor supporters apparently going for the 'PS'). Now that Gilliard is in discussions with the East Timorese President Jose Ramos Horta to use the island as a new asylum processing centre, the [arty is loosing left wing support to the Greens. Sneakily, Gillard has sought to involve New Zealand in what she is terming a 'regional processing centre', thus trying to defuse opposition within her own party whilst still hoping to remove "the incentive, once and for all, for the people smugglers to send boats to Australia." Shit, it has even won over the UNHCR and been cautiously welcomed by 'refugee advocates' as it involves the UN and, unlike Naruu which was the locus of the original 'PS' camp, East Timor is a signatory to the Refugees Convention.

Tory Anti-Immigration Taliban Out In Force

The East Midlands anti-immigration Taliban were out in force yesterday in parliament introducing two bill designed to save 'our precious bodily fluids' from being 'sapped and impurified' by the introduction of 'nasty foreigners'. Philip Hollobone and Peter Bone, Tory MPs for the neighbouring Kettering and Wellingborough constituencies, led a cohort of right-wing Tory MPs* who clearly consider themselves the true voice of Torydom, that have put forward a swathe of Presentation Bills on such subjects as the repeal of the Human Rights Act, a referendum for withdrawal from the EU, a return to compulsory national service, the right to kill burglars, a 'taxation freedom day' and the abolition of the TV licence.

Hollobone is the bandwagon-jumper responsible for the Islamophobic Face Covering (Regulations) private member's bill, which had its first Commons' reading last week, and his latest effort is the Return of Asylum Seekers (Applications from Certain Countries) Bill. This law is aimed to "provide for the immediate return of asylum seekers to countries designated as safe", a particular bugbear, nay obsession, of his. Though the actual text of the bill has not been published (as far as we know - at least we have been unable to find it on the web), the plan appears to be to extend the 'non-suspensive' provision of section 94 of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002 to all refused asylum claims and to get people straight on planes back to their countries of origin irrespective of whether there are any binding agreements between the UK government and the governments of those countries. Basically mass forced collective deportations, counter the EU and international law.

Added to that, Sven-lookalike Peter Bone added his own but even more bizarre prospective law, supported by a ragbag of die-hard Thatcherites, entitled the Human Trafficking (Border Control) Bill to require "border control officers to stop and interview potential victims of trafficking notwithstanding entitlements under European Union law to free movement of persons". Whilst the meaning of this law is somewhat obscure (no available text again), it would seem that Bone has become jealous of the Arizona legislation allowing police to stop people who look like Mexicans and check their immigration status and might be seeking to introduce his own particular version of this via this effectively 'Trojan horse' legislation. After all, everyone knows how what at first appears to be a new apparently narrowly focused law is progressively adapted and widened to further erode civil liberties. This could just be one such pieces of 'slippery slope' legislation.

* Including fruit loops such as Chichester MP Christopher Chope and the aptly named Mark Reckless and David Nuttall. Apparently, Hollobone, Bone and Chope took it in relays overnight on Sunday to secure first place in the queue to introduce 28 right-whinge bills that look likely to drive a stake into the LibCon alliance of the undead at some point in the near future.

Sunday, 4 July 2010

Metro's Cage Rattled By Spoof

The Metro has obtained a High Court injunction against "all persons responsible for the publication and/or distribution" of a Metro spoof paper that was distributed by campaigners at London tube stations on Friday morning. But since the spoof was produced and distributed anonymously, the injunction seems to have been served upon the wrong people, in what appears to be a guilty-by-association verdict.

The spoof paper, which has also been circulated on the web, has a similar masthead and layout to the free daily, with a zero instead of the O. The owners of Metro, Associated Newspapers Limited, claim this is an infringement of the company's trademark copyrights, while campaigners argue the company directors "do not have a sense of humour" and have "gone too far in suppressing free speech to protect their commercial interests."

Under the headline "Gordon Brown to be deported to Scotland," the front page story claimed the former prime minister was facing imminent removal back to his "home country," as the new coalition government introduced new immigration rules that imposed further restrictions on "non-English nationals." Alongside the article, a manipulated picture showed Gordon Brown being arrested by two policemen at a beer festival in Cambridge.

Tens of thousands of copies of the spoof paper were distributed by 50 or so people wearing white T-shirts bearing the Metro logo during rush hour at 20 busy stations around the capital. The 'spoofing operation' was apparently part of 'two days of action against racist press', called by a coalition of anti-racist and migrant rights groups under the name Press Action. A blog bearing the same name had been set up about a month before, with the aim of "exposing and taking action against racist and anti-migrant bias in mainstream media." [1]

The callout for the days of action, circulated around various campaign websites and mailing lists, had called upon "all concerned groups and individuals to stand up to counter fear with action on the 2nd and 3rd July" and "put the racist press in the spotlight" by taking "autonomous, decentralised actions and protests against racist press across the UK." [2]

Represented by Bird & Bird LLP, Associated Newspapers sought a High Court injunction until 10:30am on Monday, ordering the respondents to "not publish or distribute in any way (including by way of the Internet) any publication which purports to be 'Metro' or any other publication of the applicant." The legal action seems to have stemmed from an assumption that the spoof might be distributed again on Saturday, which turned out to be unfounded speculation and a waste of judges' time.

A copy of the injunction order was subsequently sent by Katharine Stephens of Bird & Bird to the people running the Press Action blog [3], presuming they were behind the spoof. A statement by Press Action, however, said they "had nothing to do with the publication and distribution of the spoof" and had merely received an electronic copy from the anonymous spoofers, along with a press release [4], which they then circulated and posted on their blog.

The blog has since taken the spoof down but it can be accessed on numerous other activists and websites. A statement by Press Action maintained that, "despite not being the respondents, we have complied with the court order as a gesture of goodwill."

Metro's official website had also been spoofed as part of the spoofing operation, with a similar layout but with the spoof paper's content instead, and a web link (URL) substituting the O with zero (

It is understood that Associated Newspapers has also contacted the US-based company that apparently hosts the spoof site, asking that they take it down, which they have refused to do, according to the injunction hearing records.

A Whois check on the spoof website [5] shows that it registered under the name 'Press Action' and an address in Whitechapel, London, that belongs to a social centre known as the London Action Resource Centre.

LARC describes itself as a "collectively run building providing space and resources for different activist groups" and is, indeed, used by many people who do not necessarily know each other or know what the others might be doing.

A spokesperson for Press Action said: "It is very likely that whoever did the spoof was inspired by our callout and wanted to use our name and register the domain with a common address, such as LARC's, to protect their anonymity. To argue that LARC is "clearly involved with the two days of action," as the Metro solicitors did in court, is just a desperate search for a scapegoat that is guilty by association."

Asked by the judge what damage the spoof had caused their client, the Associated Newspapers solicitors argued that the Metro "avowedly doesn't take a political stance. The damage to the brand and goodwill [of the paper's owners] is unquantifiable. The people behind the spoof are avowedly political. They are piggybacking on the goodwill built up in the brand since 1999 to espouse their own political cause."

Unconvinced by this argument, and repeatedly expressing his concern that "this is a case of make haste and repent at leisure," the judge asks, "Are you seriously suggesting that your clients will suffer damage [as a result of the spoof]?" to which the solicitor replies, "It is an intangible damage to my client's goodwill, that is, it effects what people will think about its product."


For further information and questions, contact:

Notes for editors:

[1] The blog is at:

[2] The callout can be found at:

[3] A copy of the injunction order, along with the proceedings and the applicant's notes submitted to the judge, are attached herewith.

[4] The Metr0 press release can be found at:


Friday, 2 July 2010

Metro Targeted By Anti-Racist Spoof

London commuters were this morning surprised to find that their usual Metro paper was a bit thinner, yet more interesting and engaging, than usual.

Tens of thousands of copies of a spoof newspaper that looked very similar to the free daily were distributed at 20 busy tube stations around the capital during rush hour. Thousands more were distributed in other cities around the country.

Under the headline 'Gordon Brown to be deported to Scotland' the frontpage story claimed the former prime minister was facing imminent removal back to his "home country," as the new coalition government introduced new immigration rules that imposed further restrictions on "non-English nationals". Alongside the story, a manipulated picture showed Gordon Brown being arrested by two policemen at beer festival in Cambridge.

Wearing a white T-shirt bearing the Metro logo and a blue baseball cap, one of the 50 or so distributors, who preferred to keep anonymous, said: "By replacing the word 'British' with 'English' when talking about 'British jobs' and the 'floods of illegal immigrants into Britain,' we hope people will realise how racist and absurd this rhetoric of immigration controls is."

In a witty attempt to highlight the racist and sexual violence experienced by immigration detainees at the hands of private 'detainee escorts', a fake advert claimed that G4S, the private security giant that runs a number of immigration detention centres in the UK and provides detainee escort services on behalf of the UK Border Agency, was looking for "strong men" to "escort women abroad."

The rest of the spoof paper featured a 60-Second interview with a real-life ex-detainee, a 'myth-buster' about asylum and immigration, an 'immigration newspeak' glossary, racist quotes from mainstream press and a couple of more in-depth articles on immigration controls and protests against them.

Many of those who picked up the paper initially seemed confused as to why the Metro had "shrunk." Realising it was a spoof, however, many commented that it was "very funny", "clever", "naughty" and "brilliant". Some even returned back and asked for more copies. Others, however, threw it away and wanted the thicker "real thing."

The Metro website has also been spoofed, with a layout similar to that of the paper's official website but with the spoof paper's content.

The 'spoofing operation' was part of 'two days of action against racist press', called by a coalition of anti-racist and migrant rights groups under the name Press Action.

A spokesperson for the anonymous group of spoofers said, "We are sick of being lied to; we are sick of being lied about. These lies, repeated everyday by free papers, tabloids and other corporate mainstream media outlets, have almost become a reality, where the most vulnerable victims of this screwed-up political-economic system are blamed for it."

Explaining why the group chose the Metro and not a 'more obvious target' when it comes to racist press, such as the Daily Mail or the Evening Standard, the anonymous spokesperson commented: "We wanted to highlight the fact that racism and anti-immigration bias is sometimes more subtle than the Daily Hate rants. Besides, the Metro seemed to provide a better vehicle due to its exploitation of the 'public' transport system, so we thought we'd reclaim that right for a day."


For further information and enquiries, please contact:
Photos available on request.

Notes for editors:

1. A pdf of the spoof paper can be found at:

2. The spoof Metr0 website is at

3. The callout for the Two Days of Action Against Racist Press can be found at:

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Possible Libyan Mass Forced Deportation Of Eritrean Refugees

Three weeks ago the UNHCR, without any explanation, was given its marching orders by the authorities in Tripoli. Now the reason appears to be plain: clearing the way for possible mass forced expulsions of the thousands of imprisoned refugees in the country.

At dawn yesterday, the 2 container lorries carrying around 300 Eritrean refugees, including women and at least 50 children, left the notorious Misratah detention camp, heading south to the interior of the country. All the refugees had been victims of Italy's 'push back' policy, intercepted on the journey from the Libyan coast towards Lampedusa and forced back into the arms of the Libyan police and military.

They had also collectively refused orders to give their identities to the Eritrean embassy, fearing that it was the first step to a collective expulsion according to the Fortress Europe website. Fearing the worst, many had tried to escape but were caught and beaten by guards. Tensions between the guards and detainees lead to further clashes, which were brutally put down by security forces.

So, on the night of the 29th, a Libyan army unit had raided the cells confiscating all mobile phones. They then herded everybody together, including 30 people who had sustained serious injuries in previous clashes and forced them into the converted shipping containers for the 12 hours journey to Sabha, deep in the Sahara desert. Many of the women and children are understood to have suffered from heat stroke in the cramped, hot and airless conditions in these glorified metal boxes.

The fate of the detainees is uncertain and, whilst the Libyans supposedly officially suspended deportations to Asmara three years ago, forced overland removal remains a possibility*. Although sources in Libya also claim that the mass transportation may be in punishment for the migrants' resistance and as a prelude to being broken up into smaller groups and relocated to other prisons

However, Libya faces a growing problem with all the migrants are entering the country enroute to Europe but are now unable to make it anywhere other than into Libyan prisons and detention camps. Italy and the rest of Europe, in the form of Frontex and the International Organisation for Migration, may well be paying for many of the costs of running Libya's extensive detention system but the detainee population cannot go on growing without serious consequences and Libya may well be on the verge of resorting to a 'radical' and highly controversial solution: mass forced expulsions.

* Eritrea is a single party state run by the PFDJ and military conscription is universal and effectively life-long. Many of the refugees in the Libyan camps have fled Eritrea to avoid conscription and all returned refugees are subject to arrest and imprisoned in forced labour camps. Many of these have been used to build the hotels and infrastructure that have sprung up along the Red Sea coast to cater for the country's burgeoning tourist industry. And because of the political situation in Eritrea, many countries have no extradition arrangements with the country.
So, whilst Libya has never been particularly interested in the views of the rest of the world when it comes to the fate of refugees and prisoners in its jails, Libya has superficially followed this convention. We say superficially, as reportedly it has a tacit agreement with Eritrea to return its nationals and, according to the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, it has "allowed the IOM to open an EU-funded centre in March 2008 to return migrants as “a complementary concept to deportations.”" Additionally, in January this year it secretly deported 12 Eritreans who had previously been either government officials or in the military. Their fate is unknown.