Thursday, 26 February 2009

More Arrests In Northern France

Fifteen Eritrean migrants and a volunteer from Terre d'errance (loosely 'Earth Wandering'), an association helping migrants in the Northern France, were arrested on Wednesday 25th at Norrent-Fontes, near B├ęthune in NW France.

On the route to England, the truck stop at St Hilaire-Cottes on the A26 is a base for migrants trying to get across the Channel and it is regularly targeted by Border police for raids. Following the arrest of the 15 Eritreans at the Norrent-Fontes camp by Border police, the police went to the home of Monique Pouille, a Terre d’errance volunteer, who had regularly been helping migrants in the area. In their possession was a warrant for Monique's arrest for the "flagrant crime of assisting illegal immigrants", to quote the police. They also searched her house and took away 3 laptops belonging to migrants whose batteries she had been charging. All those arrested were taken to the detention centre at Coquelles near Calais.

Nan Suel, one of the managers at Terre D’errance in Norrent-Fontes, expressed his ‘surprise’ and ‘incomprehension’ . It’s the first time that a volunteer from the association has been arrested, though volunteers from other migrant support groups have recently been suffering increasing police harassment and a number have been arrested.

Later that afternoon, dozens of people from Steenvoorde, Calais, Boulogne, Dunkirk and Norrent-Fontes gathered around the Border police facility at the detention centre to protest the arrests. Monique was finally released after 10 hours in police custody.

Terre D'errance blog
There is also a short film in English which features Monique on France 24 (though there is an annoyingly regular use of the term 'illegal' immigrant)

Wednesday, 25 February 2009

No Borders Sunday Roast 8th March

No Borders Brighton are holding a fund-raising vegan Sunday roast on Sunday 8th March at the Cowley Club. We will be serving from 2pm onwards and the event is open to 12 London Road Social Club members and their guests.

Solidarity Demonstration At The Italian Embassy Thursday 26th February

There will be a picket of the Italian Embassy in solidarity with the Lampedusa migrants on hunger strike and with the residents of Lampedusa struggling against the island being turned into one massive concentration camp for migrants. The picket is in response to the recent mass hunger strikes by the migrants against their deportation to Tunisia and against the inhumane treatement they have suffered. There have also been at least 11 recent suicide attempts and on 17th February riots broke out in the Lampedusa detention centre, resulting in half of it being destroyed by fire. The migrants were kept locked inside the burning centre by police and around 80 people (60 migrants and 20 police officers) were injured. Many also suffered from smoke inhalation but only a handful were allowed out to be traeted in the local medical centre.

The picket has been called by No Borders London and is supported by No Borders UK groups, Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism!, SOAS Detainee Support Group, National Coalition of Anit-Deportation Campaigns, Campaign Against Immigration Controls and No One Is Illegal.

Thursday 26th February
from 4.30pm to 6.00pm

14 Kings Yard
London W1K 4EH

Meet at the corner with Davies Street
(nearest tube: Bond Street)


For an up-to-date Lampedusa timeline see: Migreurop

No Borders Brighton Day School Saturday 7th March

No Borders Brighton are holding a Day School on Saturday 7th March at the Cowley Club, 12 London Road, Brighton.


12-1.30 pm Workshop by a member of Medical Justice
1.30-2.30 pm Tasty vegan lunch (£2.50)
2.30 - 3.30 pm Talk by MJ of Brighton Voices in Exile community outreach project
3.30 - 5 pm Workshop on the situation in Calais since the closing of the Sangatte HCR centre in 2002 including the short film "No Comment" about the life of migrants in Calais. Follow up discussion comparing the current situation in France with that in the UK.

There will also be a photo exhibition of work by activist photographer Julie Rebouillat taken in Calais during the summer of 2008.

Monday, 23 February 2009

Souhalia Family From Hove Finally Deported

Early on the morning of 11th February Assia Souhalia and her husband Athmane, who had been in the UK since 2002, and their 2 year old Brighton-born daughter Nouha were snatched in a dawn raid. They were served with a (IS151A) removal notice and moved to the Yarl's Wood immigration prison prior to a planned deportation to Algeria on the following Tuesday.

Assia Souhalia fled Algeria in fear for her life in 2002 after her family had suffered years of violence. Two of her brothers, Rachid and Brahim, both policemen, were murdered in two separate premeditated shootings in the early '90's. The family continued to receive death threats and 2 of Assia's remaining brothers and sisters soon fled Algiers in fear of their lives. Assia followed in 2002, travelling to the UK with the help of family members. Here she and her husband had laid down strong roots in the local community.

A campaign was started demanding that Jacqui Smith, the Home Secretary, guarantees that the Souhalias be allowed to peruse an appeal under Section 82 (1) of the Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002. In addition, the fact that a minor was involved should also ensured an appeal on the grounds of infringement of human rights under S84 of the same Act.

On the morning of the 17th, campaigners from Brighton and London travelled to Heathrow to talk to and leaflet passengers and crew of 0840 BA flight (BA 895) to try and persuade them to put pressure on the pilot and help halt the deportation. Shortly before the flight was due to leave, the family were returned to Yarls Wood. Assia texted campaigners that there had been a 'problem with the ticket'. Much more likely was that the actions of the campaigners, as in other similar cases, had had their effect and the pilot had refused to take them.

However, on the following Friday the Souhalias were booked on to an Air Algerie flight this time. Activists again tried the same tactics but the passengers and crew were far less sympathetic, with the pilot saying that he was "only carrying out regulations." Despite Assia and Athmane's best efforts to win the right to remain, they were reported to finally be resigned to their fate as nthe flight took off.

During this deportation case the Home Office has blatantly failed to follow their own procedures, as they do in so many of these cases. The deportation went ahead with out recourse to a clearly defined appeal process and the appeals of the community where the family had made their home were ignored. The Home Office as per usual is ruled solely by the desire to fulfil their deportation quotas, and the rights of 'Johnny Foreigner' under the European Convention of Human Rights can go hang!

Wednesday, 11 February 2009

Family Receives £150,000 Compensation Following 'Unlawful' Dawn Raids

The Home Office has agreed to pay £150,000 compensation to family originally from the Congolese Republic - who included a one year old baby and a child of eight - left traumatised by dawn raids by immigration officers on their home. The family were asylum seekers at the time of the raids and have since been given leave to stay in the country. Their claim related to their arrest and detention between the 6 June and 3 August 2006 (57 days) and 29 September and 2 October 2006 (3 days). On both occasions they were detained at Yarl's Wood Detention Centre.

In the face of court proceedings brought by the family, the Home Office has accepted that their arrests and subsequent detentions was unlawful as they could not have been lawfully removed from the country. Both detentions followed much criticised "dawn raids", with large numbers of uniformed officers arriving to arrest the family at their then homes in the West Midlands, as well as the controversial practice of detaining children under the Immigration Act.

These events caused both children to suffer psychiatric damage, the younger child suffering from an adjustment disorder and the older child also suffering post traumatic stress disorder. The children remained in detention despite the fact that Bedfordshire Social Services and a psychologist raised with the Home Office their concerns about the impact of the detention on them.

Mark Scott, of Bhatt Murphy solicitors, who acted for the family, commented that “this case demonstrates not only the very damaging impact that detention has on children but the wholesale failure of the Home Office to comply with their own policy and the commitments given to Parliament that detention of children is only used as a measure of last resort and even then for the shortest possible time.” [Sources 1, 2]

Tuesday, 10 February 2009

Officially Sanctioned: Racism And Xenophobia In Italy

On 6 February the Italian Senate approved a new emergency decree known as the “security package”, a series of discriminatory and persecutory measures that will affect the Roma people, immigrants and the homeless. The new legislation calls for ethnic profiling under the guise of the registration of all people with no fixed address, encourages doctors to report “illegal” immigrants and allows for civilian 'anti-foreigner security' patrols (i.e. officially sanctioned vigilantes) to work along side the police.

According to Everyone, an international minority groups rights organisation, “Italy is an ongoing political and media campaign to criminalise the Roma people and agree a large number of brutal evictions, intimidation, expulsions of fact and law entire families, and judicial abuses.” [badly translated from Italian]

"What is more, the security package also authorises the presence of “Padane” patrols. Like the Arrowed Cross in Hungary, the Brownshirts in Germany and the Blackshirts in Italy, we are talking about voluntary militia legally authorised to work alongside the police force in the operations of hunting out and reporting people who are considered a security problem. Even before they were authorized, the Padana patrols were the protagonists of violent actions against the Roma people and immigrants, including the arson attack on the Roma settlement in Opera (Milan) in 2007."

Even the Civil Liberties Committee of Parliament, who visited Italy last September to investigate the situation of Roma and immigrants there, has recognised the incipient fascism of the Italian regime. In a highly critical 23-page report just approved by the group they found that:

  • "there has been a rise in acts of xenophobia and racism, some of which involving unprecedented violence."
  • the planned new "Security Package" and "Emergency Orders" were overly complex and difficult to understand. Their communication to the general public and the media seems to have been simplified and incorrect, creating some grey areas that are open to exploitation by political opportunists. Some areas of the legislation were also not compliant with current EC law.
  • "the over reactive role of the media and of the political discourse seem more heating than calming the existing tensions in the Italian society."
It also detailed many of the racist attacks on the migrant and Roma communities in the past few years and was highly critical of the Italian detention regime.

Meanwhile, the situation in the detention camps on Lampedusa have not improved, with ten Tunisian refugees awaiting deportation there attempting suicide in recent days.

EveryOne has an excellent website featuring up-to-date reports on the situation in Italy and elsewhere.

Monday, 9 February 2009

European Parliament Strongly Criticises Governments On Their Asylum Proceedures

Following a programme of inspection visits to immigration centres across Europe, the European Committee on Civil Liberties has released a report labelling the conditions in the detention centres for asylum seekers and refugees as "intolerable".

The report found that existing directives were being poorly applied, or were not being applied at all, by some Member States. In particular, the principles of the Charter of Fundamental Rights of the European Union and the ECHR, such as the right to live in dignity, the protection of family life, access to health care and the right of effective recourse against detention, should be applied at all times and regardless of the status of the third-country national involved.

It also calls for priority to be given to the reception of asylum seekers and immigrants in open reception centres rather than in closed units. Also that basic reception conditions, such as food, housing and emergency heath care should never be withheld, since their withdrawal may violate the fundamental rights of asylum seekers.

The Committee found that legal aid often amounts to no more than a list of lawyers' names. That, together with the frequent lack of adequately trained interpreters and the fact that information about procedures was largely in writing and the deadlines are very short, this "constitutes an obstacle to asylum seekers effectively exercising their rights when they submit an application."

In most of the detention centres visited there were also problems with "insufficient and inadequate medical or communicating with doctors and the lack of specific care (in particular, for pregnant women and victims of torture) and of appropriate medicines."

The report also expressed concerns about "the prison conditions in which irregular migrants and asylum seekers are detained even though they have committed no crime," and called for the detention of minors "to be prohibited in principle."

Also highlighted was the increase in the number of people being detained under the Dublin System and the near-routine use of detention measures by certain Member States, and the report called for people not to be placed in detention if the Member State has not demonstrated a real risk of their absconding.

The report was adopted by the European Parliament by 483 votes to 39, with 45 abstentions.

17,000 Asylum Seekers' Files Lost

Last month it was revealed that the backlog of asylum cases had more than doubled by 8,700 over the year leading up to mid-2008, despite the introduction of the so-called New Asylum Model (Nam), designed to speed up and improve decision making.

The National Audit Office report criticised a second backlog of unresolved asylum applications under the old system, that totalled up to 450,000 in June 2006 but which had been reduced via 'fast-tracking' to 245,000 by last summer.

Now we know why atleast some of these applicants are having to wait in bureaucratic limbo for years. It's all down to the usual government inefficiency i.e. 'lost files' which has, according to the Guardian, "plunged the asylum system into chaos."

According to immigration caseworkers, the number of lost files, which include the names, dates of birth, passport numbers and addresses of people applying to stay in Britain as well as details of their children, has escalated because more casework is being done by regional offices, instead of offices in central London. As a result, more paper files are being transported across the country and being lost in transit.

According to a UK Border Agency statement, on 10 November 2008 there were 17,208 principal files officially recorded as lost. And as a direct result the affected applicants have had to begin the process again, while still being unable to work or claim benefits.

Wednesday, 4 February 2009

Uprising In US Detention Prison

On January 31 there was an uprising amongst the immigration detainees at the Reeves County Detention Centre in Pecos, Texas. Details are still sketchy but it is understood that, after complaints of poor medical treatment were ignored by the prison authorities, inmates rioted setting fires and are said to have seized guards’ radio communication equipment.

The uprising, which lasted for 2 days and resulted in at least three inmates being injured and hospitalized, was the second time detainees had staged violent protests at the prison in the past two months. 700 of the Pecos prisoners have now been moved to another detention centre in Sierra Blanca, Texas, because sleeping areas were destroyed during Saturday’s rebellion.

The Pecos detention facility, with a capacity of 2,400 inmates, is the largest of the many immigrant detention centres in the United States currently run by private companies. It is managed by the Geo (Global Expertise in Outsourcing) Group, formerly known as Wackenhut Corrections Corporation, who also run the 200 place Campsfield House IRC in Oxfordshire.

Campsfield itself has been the scene of a number of disturbances over the years. There was an uprising there in March 2007, following the brutalisation of a detainee during an attempted removal. Police and prison staff took several hours to quell the riot, which left nine detainees and staff in hospital suffering from smoke inhalation.

In August of that year, there was a mass break-out following a fire, with 26 men going on the run. Most were quickly recaptured, although eight are believed to have disappeared without trace. More than 120 detainees rioted in December 2007, smashing CCTV systems and other equipment during another removal. In June 2008 further fires were set, the 'Tornado Team' riot squads were sent in and the camp was locked down again. Later that month, 7 detainees also escaped, with only 4 being recaptured, and the latest of a long line of hunger strike took place amongst Iraqi Kurds in August of last year.