Thursday, 29 October 2009

'Indonesian Solution' Appears Dead In The Water

The row between the Australian and Indonesian governments over how the 78 Tamil asylum seekers, who are still on board the MV Oceanic Viking and are themselves in a stand-off with the Indonesian authorities, is deepening.

Yesterday, PM Kevin Rudd told the Australian parliament: "The Indonesian authorities have advised the government that women and children will be offered the option of staying in a house near the Tanjung Pinang detention facility. Women and children will be offered the option of staying in a house near the Tanjung Pinang detention facility." But senior Indonesian officials have rejected the claim outright: "We've already got a detention centre and in it we already separate men and women," a senior official at the Indonesian Foreign Ministry is quoted as saying. "Indonesia does not need to be directed how to act. We've gotten the detention centre ready and we've already helped Australia for humanitarian reasons. There is commitment from both sides, and Indonesia has the commitment, but Indonesia is not your country."

Officials are continuing to negotiate with the Tamils, who have been on the Oceanic Viking for 11 days now. The Tamils want to be allowed to proceed on to Australia (they have already turned down an offer of repatriation from the Sri Lankan ambassador) and are refusing health and identity checks. Some have even apparently threatened suicide. The Indonesians for their part do not wish their territory to become a processing centre for Australia-bound 'boat people' and appear to feel they are being 'stitched up' by the Australian government. So it looks as if Rudd's attempt to forge an 'Indonesian solution' (as opposed to the previous government's 'Pacific solution' policy) is a bit of a non-starter.

Despite the best efforts of the Australian crew of the MV Oceanic Viking, the Tamils on board have managed to get in contact with their fellow Tamils on board the Jaya Lestari 5, the wooden cargo boat moored with 251 asylum seekers in the Western Java port of Merak, who are also engaged in their own stand-off with the Indonesians.

Also, 66 of the Malaysian Tamils being held at the Pekan Nenas detention centre, some of whom had been on hunger strike, have been released by the Malaysian authorities.

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

MailWatch #6 Part 3

Part 3 of a 3-part instalment of our occasional service debunking migration stories in the Daily Mail, self-styled 'Last Bulwark Against The Tide Of Filth That Is Threatening To Engulf Civilisation'™

Part 1 : Part 2

So finally we come to the Mail's response to the long anticipated (at least by them) figures for the projected population growth in the UK for the next 25 years, fertile ground to find new immigration-related sticks to beat the government with.* Over two days, and three article (one an opinion piece by MigrationBotch), they attempt to scare the pants of their faithful readers with tales of impending population doom, all focusing on the mysterious 70 million mark [Fx: doomy organ chords].

The only problem is is the fact that these population projections come out every two years and we more or less already knew what they were going to say, as Tim Finch pointed out in the Guardian. We also knew that the Mail were going to milk it for all it was worth. After all, they have done it before. [See: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5]** Some of are particular favourites are:

'Rising immigration could double population of Britain by 2081'
'England on the verge of becoming 'the most crowded country in Europe''
'1million more Britons in just three years as immigration fuels biggest population boom for a century'
'Migrants will help to swell population of England by two London-sized cities within 50 years'

and, wait for it:

'It's official - England is the MOST crowded country in Europe, thanks to immigration'

The significance of the latter will become more obvious later. But to get back to the task in hand.

21 October

First up, on the day the figure came out, we had yet another in the Mail's long line of 'UK population to be more than 70 million by...' scare stories, 'Immigration to drive up Britain's population to 70million within 20 years' (by Daily Mail Reporter!). This one however was merely a swift raid on the government's newly laid projections (with an emphasis on the word projections) to keep the public's appetite whetted until the real meat and veg could be served up the next day, as well as allowing the Mail's reporters enough time to find said juicy morsels (in the absence of a really juicy MigrationBotch press release to plagiarise).

The first thing that leaps out of the page at you in this article is, that unless you already knew that these were: "2008-based national population projections...based on the estimated population at the middle of 2008 and a set of demographic trend-based assumptions about future fertility, mortality and migration. The projections are not forecasts and do not attempt to predict the impact that future government policies, changing economic circumstances or other factors might have on demographic behaviour.", to quote the 'Statistical Bulletin: National population projections, 2008-based' (NPP08), you would be forgiven for thinking that this was some central government 5-Year Plan (or 25-year in this case) for UK population growth, not a set of predictions (maybe they already had an inkling of the so-called 'secret plan for multi-cultural Britain'?).

So in the Mail we have:

"Immigration will account for"; "around 180,000 immigrants will arrive"; "the surge in immigration will mean"; "every year 425,000 more people will be living in the UK"; and "across the UK the total will hit 71.6 million in 2033", all "according to official figures released today."

And it is not until we get half way through the article and we come across some quotes from Guy Goodwin of the Office of National Statistics (ONS) and Phil Woolas, that we are actually told that these are in fact projections.***

Having said that MigrationBotch's press release was rather paltry, the Mail does manage to wring 6 sentences of directly lifted quotes (2/3rds of the text) from said 'document'. All pretty staid on Green's part, reeling out the old "entire population of London in the next 25 years" sound bite yet again. We do however get a juicy bit of ranting from UKIP's Farage:

"The ONS's figures are a damning indictment of decades of failed immigration policies." - His definition of "failed immigration policies" are policies that let anyone in the country. UKIP want "a five-year moratorium on immigration (except for people with parents or grandparents born in the UK)".
"The suggested rises will have a devastating impact both on our infrastructure, and also our culture." Whose culture is this Nige? (It's impossible to tell from your website as all the links are broken. Had to sack you webmaster through lack of funds?)
"Britain urgently needs proper borders and immigration checks, both from within and without the EU. Until we control our own borders, we will be able to do nothing to halt these rises. Any party claiming that they can control immigration without first taking back control of our borders is trying to hoodwink the electorate." Last time we looked the UK was surrounded by water, which makes for a pretty good border, and it was UK Border Agency staff running the passport checks to get into the country.

22 October

Things have moved on slightly by now and we have a named author of this article, one Steve Doughty, who wrote 'More than 700 migrants a day have been let in to Britain since Labour came to power' and the wonderful 'Cut population by a third, say crowded Britons' - "One in four Britons would like to see the population reduced by up to a third to ease overcrowding" from an Optimum Population Trust survey. He also seems to have grasped the idea that these are projections not plans but his grasp of statistics is somewhat ropey.

For a start Doughty clearly knows nothing about population dynamics, otherwise he would not have come out with, "Crowded Britain heading for 70m as migration causes population to rise faster than ever before" and "Britain's population is rising at a speed [we think he means rate] unprecedented in history, official figures revealed yesterday". The fact is that natural populations tend to have a period of exponential growth when their environmental resources are putting no limit on that growth. It's basic 'A-Level' science and is reflected in the overall shape of the Mail's graph. And if you wish to have a stable human population you have to have the nuclear family with 2.4 children (to allow for pre-reproductive age mortality rates) with no immigration or emigration - sound familiar? All other scenarios lead to population change.****

The most ludicrous claim he make however, leaving aside the 'graph' (more on that later), is:

"England is already the third-most-crowded major country in the world and the most crowded country in Europe except for the island of Malta, according to British and UN figures." Where to start?

1. England is not a "major country" on anyone's political spectrum (except of course the fruit-loop Right). England is part of an international political entity called the UK. The UK can, just about, still be classed as a "major country".
2. England is not the "third-most-crowded major country in the world".
3. Nor is it the "most crowded country in Europe except for the island of Malta", "according to British and UN" or anybodies figures.

A quick look at the graph will tell you that the "figures" that this claim is based upon are for Population and Population Density for 2004. Take a look at the Wikipedia version of the United Nations World Population Prospects (2004 revision). Now there you will see that the UK is listed as the 34th most densely populated country or the 52nd if you include dependencies. In Europe it is 7th after Monaco, the Vatican City, Malta, San Marino, the Netherlands and Belgium or 10th if you include Gibraltar, Jersey and Guernsey.

By the same criteria, and using a population figure for England for 2004 from the National Population Projections 2004-based (Series PP2 No 25), we get a population of 50,094,000 and a population density of 246 per sq. km. This would only take England up the chart one place (above Belgium at 342 per sq. km and below the Netherlands at 395, not 393 as it gives for Holland (sic) on the graph).

So how does he come by these strange figure and the graph? Well, first he uses the current "estimated population at the middle of 2008" [NPP08] against figures for 2004. Bit of a cheat really. Then he arbitrarily uses a cut-off of countries with a population of more than 10 million. And to top it all he misses out Taiwan, the second most densely populated country by his own criteria of 22.9 million people at 636 per sq. km, together with India, the second most populus country on Earth with 1,131 million people, admittedly with a population density of only 344 per sq. km.

Then he includes the South East of England for comparison even though it has only 8.2 million at 2008 figures. Now we cannot be bothered to go look up the correct 2004 figures for the South East. Instead we have decided to play him at his game and take arbitrary parts of countries and compare them (for 2004 of course).

USA - 302.7 million at 31 individuals per sq. km
California - 35.9 million / 84 per sq. km
New York City - 8 million / 10,252 per sq. km

Or Guangdong, the most populous area of mainland China (and with a GDP about a fifth of the UK) - 110 million at 618 individuals per sq. km.

You see how easy it is to have fun with figures and how easy it is manipulate them. The rest of the article kind of pales in comparison to all that, but we''ll persevere.

New Labour needless to say comes in for a bit of stick:

"Despite claims by Labour ministers that population growth is slowing because immigration is on a downward trend, the ONS said that for the foreseeable future the population will grow by 180,000... Two years ago the state statisticians put the immigration gain at 190,000 a year." So it is in fact slowing, even if it is not by as much as the Mail would hope.

This is followed by a bit of 'stating the blindingly obvious' from Peter Madden, mouthpiece for Forum for the Future "an environmental group launched by one-time Government adviser Sir Jonathon Porritt" (they do like their titles):

"Population growth will put greater pressure on our public services and increase competition for housing. Protecting our environment and meeting climate change targets will become even harder." And not to forget "social cohesion" which "will suffer...unless it is handled properly."

This is followed by some Woolas waffle, just to keep things a little 'balanced', and on to:

"Labour MP Frank Field and Tory Nicholas Soames, leaders of the Cross-Party Group on Balanced Migration, said: 'We are on course for an unsustainable and unacceptable rise in population. If politicians want to rebuild trust and counter extremism, they must stop ignoring the public's deep concern about this." Can't you just picture them like Tweedledum and Tweedledee saying that in unison.

Whilst you are at it you should check out the Balanced Migration group's press release on this subject (which incidentally shows that it is in fact a Soames quote). If you think that the Mail's graph is dodgy, check out theirs! They take a start year for their graph of 1971, which shows an almost flat period of growth of more than a decade, which suddenly starts to go up and up, carrying their projection beyond 2081. Talk about selective use, or as we say in our neck of the wood, manipulation of statistics.

The article however finishes of with the really scary stuff. The thing that these flat-earthers continue to ignore - the demographic time bomb.

"It estimated that there will be 3.3million over-85s by 2033 compared with 1.3million last year.

Despite the rise in the state pension age, which will be equal for men and women at 66 by 2033, numbers of pensioners will go up sharply. There will be 15.6million by the mid-2030s, the ONS said, compared with 11.8 million now.

The increase will mean that everybody of working age will have more pensioners to support.

The ratio of working age people to pensioners, currently 3.2 workers for each pensioner, will drop to 2.8 workers for each pensioner in 2033.

But without the increase in the age at which people are expected to retire, there would have been only 2.2 workers available to support each pensioner."

And who is it that currently wipes the arses and cares for the majority of the geriatrics via home help and in retirement homes up and down the country. Not anybody working for the Daily Mail and probably very few of its reader either. It is those migrants that the Little Englanders and new wave eugenicists in the burgeoning balanced migration industry (a bit like the holocaust deniers, but in reverse).

Alan Green (Green, as in bilious)

Last, and by far least, we come to MigrationBotch's contribution to the 'debate' in the Mail,***** 'We must halt this conspiracy of silence over our immigration crisis'. What is this "conspiracy of silence among the main political parties on this vitally important subject cannot be allowed to continue"? It seems to us that immigration is all some people ever talk about, Alan. Certainly you never seem to let up, trotting out the tired hackneyed phrases:

"Labour's policy of open borders" Which borders are those? You must fly off to exotic locations all the time Alan? Mustique, Barbados, Florida. Surely even your wealth and renown doesn't open all the border controls you come across? When was the last time you slummed it and took a Calais-Dover ferry?

"Put simply, the increase in immigrants we face is the equivalent of the entire population of London or seven cities the size of Birmingham." Seven cities the size of Birmingham! How can you manage to sleep when your worst fear is coming at you seven-fold?

"London and the South East, which is already the most congested part of England." That's probably been the case since the last Ice Age, so nothing new there.

"And remember that England itself is now the most crowded country in Europe." Ooops! You forgot to say "except Malta" there. See the discussion above for the truth about this lie.

"Trevor Phillips, head of the Human Rights and Equality Commission, has been warning for years that we are 'sleepwalking into segregation'. He has said we are a society which is becoming more divided by race and religion, almost without noticing it." Except Phillips' concern in his 'sleepwalking' speech wasn't immigration, but the failure of immigrant and host communities to adapt and adjust to each other, and the ghettoisation that resulted from this.

Next up we have one of Green's killer non-fact facts:

"In central London primary schools, only 20 per cent of pupils are now classified as 'white British'." Where does he get these from? There is absolutely no reference to this 'fact' on the MigrationBotch website (except for the reposting of the Mail article) and we can find no reference to it on the net. The closest we can come to it is are some statistics released by the State of Equality in London Report 2008, which found that 33.4% of Inner London came from the "white ethnic background ... (includes white British, white Irish, white Traveller and white other)". This seems to be the most obvious 'official' source for such data. Maybe he has better access to the data or maybe he just picked it up from the BNP website, after all they use so much of his stuff in their campaigns.

Our real favourite however is: "The results of recent opinion polls are startling. Eighty-four per cent are worried about our population hitting 70million in 20 years or so, including two thirds of our ethnic population." This refers to a YouGov poll done for MigrationBotch back in July. The results actually show that 45% are very worried by the population rising to around 70 million in 2028, with 36% slightly worried. And 45% + 36% = 81% in our book. 1% of people polled were delighted, 14% wouldn't mind and 4% didn't know. Maybe some of the don't knows really secretly deep down inside are actually so worried that they can't actually make up their minds and so were added to the 'worried' total by Green?

"Seventy-one per cent are worried about the impact of immigration, including 45 per cent of the ethnic communities." We are unable to find the exact origins of these 2 pieces of 'data' (one of Green's problems is that he tends not to reference his 'facts' - they are quoted once or twice, and like any good rumour, each time it is passed on it subtly changes) but it probably refer to a 'major document' in the 'balanced migration debate' called 'Balanced Migration: A new approach to controlling immigration', the founding statement of Tweedledum and Tweedledee's organisation (see above).

On page 20 of that document we find:

"47% of Asians and 45% of black people believe there is too much immigration
and too many migrants in the UK.", with reference to a footnote that states, "The figure is nearly 70% for the population as a whole."

This comes from a document called 'Our Shared Future' (page 31) and it was 68% for the population as a whole.

Again we say you can do anything with polls, especially when people answer questions they don't really understand. For example, the Optimum Population Trust's opinion poll conducted to coincide with World Population Day earlier this year found that 70% of the 2131 adults polled thought that the UK's population was too high. The most popular choice for the optimum level, selected by 24 per cent of respondents, was 40-50 million, except for the 40% who hadn't got a clue. Six per cent actually thought that a population of less than 30 million, half of what we have now, would be the best!

Green rounds of his diatribe with, what is for him, a measured few sentences:

"The reality is that there is no single measure that will do the trick. What is needed is a commitment from the main parties to take all possible measures to keep the population well below 70million."

And then he has to go and spoil it:

"We cannot allow the population to be determined by hundreds of pages of immigration regulations relating to the minutiae of individual cases, as at present. We need a considered policy with a defined purpose, around which regulatory measures can be built." i.e. close to zero immigration. Drop the portcullis, pull up the drawbridge, post armed guards. We need a Fortress UK policy, which is no policy at all, unless you are an ostrich.

What about the demographic time bomb, as outlined in the ONS study and that creeps in at the end of the Mail's 'Crowded Britain' article with little comment? It's all right for Green, he is independently wealthy and, even though he is 74, he wont have to rely on the sort social services regime with no workers that would be inevitable if he and the OPT had their way. Maybe we could try compulsory euthanasia? Get rid of some of the burgeoning geriatric population that we couldn't afford to keep. Compulsory sterilisation for all those 'foreigners' who are 'breeding like flies'? What's your answer Mr Green?

* And anyone else who either thinks that migration is a good thing or is even neutral on the subject - after all, if you are not with us you are against us.
** Notice how many articles are penned by Steve Doughty and our old friend James Slack (by name, slack by nature).
*** In a 'blink and you miss it moment' the article does in fact refer to "the figures predicted" and "the prediction" in close conjunction, but this appears to be in relation to these "official figures" and "the immigrant baby boom".
See: Factors Influencing Population Growth part way down the page.
***** The Guardian also deigned to give Green space for a rant ('The real threat of immigration') after years of ranting about how the 'left' and the Guardian in particular were ignoring him.

Tuesday, 27 October 2009

MailWatch #6 Part 2

Part 2 of a 3-part instalment of our occasional service debunking migration stories in the Daily Mail, self-styled 'Last Bulwark Against The Tide Of Filth That Is Threatening To Engulf Civilisation'™

Part 1 : Part 3

A very strange Mail article came out on 19 October headlined 'Recent evidence indicates that the 2001 figure of 4.3 million foreign-born people in the UK'. Now at first glance this article appears to be a typical Mail rewrite of a MigrationBotch press release, in this case 'Immigrant Population Has Increased By More Than Two Million In Eight Years - Immigrants have almost doubled under Labour' [19 October]. However, it changes MigrationBotch's claim that the immigrant population has increased by "nearly 700 a day" since Labour came to power mysteriously into "more than 700 migrants a day".

There might be some logic in that, if, as MigrationBotch claim, the foreign immigrant population has increased by less than 700 (see below), the total number including UK nationals returning to these shore will certainly take the total above 700. In fact, more than 87,000 migrants enter the UK every day according to Office of National Statistics (ONS) Travel Trends 2008, most of them only for a few days. But clearly (if anything is ever clear in a Mail article on migration) that is not what the Mail really meant, is it?

The MigrationBotch link is further reinforced by the "total to around three million since 1997" claim, which MigrationBotch derives from the data in Table 2.1 of the Communities and Local Government paper 'Regional Economic Performance: A migration perspective' (REP) and their own'estimate of "net foreign immigration (sic) in the period 1997 – 2000", which they claim was 0.7 million, "bringing the total under Labour to some 3 million." Having examined the data in Table 7.3 of Population Trends 126 of the ONS, the 0.7 isn't in fact much of an overshoot (by MigrationBotch's usual standards anyway) of the actual figure of 0.62 million.

Then things starts to get really strange. "In the last eight years, Whitehall has estimated that figures have reached 2.3million", which is followed later in the article by, "Estimates of the level of immigration were produced to 'fill the gap' left by the Government's unreliable statistics of the past dozen years." Again this must refer to Table 2.1 of the REP, except 2001 to 2008 is only 7 years and this isn't a Whitehall estimate. Instead it comes from two academics employed by Oxford Economics, a commercial arm of Oxford University, using "best available estimates from sample surveys between October 2007 and September 2008", because the Census of Population is only up dated every 10 years and therefore the relevant data is not otherwise available (which they would have known if they had bothered to read the 'Note on data sources').

Next we have the statement: "Out of a population of 60.4 million, there is now a total of 6.6 million immigrants in the UK, according to the Daily Express." So, in fact this article is not taken from the MigrationBotch press release, it is lifted from the Express article 'How Britain’s Leaky Borders Let In 700 Migrants Each Day' [19 October]. Must have accidentally deleted that press release then! But no, because we are then treated to the revelation that, "The findings were slipped out without notice last month and only revealed yesterday after academics discovered them and reported them to an immigration think-tank."

This clearly refers to the line in the previous day's MigrationBotch press release: "The report, by Oxford Economics, was quietly slipped out on the website of the Department for Communities and Local Government last month with no attention drawn to it." So the fact that neither Oxford Economics nor the Department for Communities and Local Government chose to press release the publication to the Mail or MigrationBotch means that it was "quietly slipped out". Also, it is more than a little disingenuous of the Mail to claim that "academics discovered them and reported them to an immigration think-tank", when they are one and the same i.e. MigrationBotch (or maybe that should be Alan Green, self-taught migration 'academic' and one-man 'think-tank'?).**

The article then goes on to recycle some statistics from the 2-page Executive Summary, before returning to recycling MigrationBotch's (for that read Alan Green) self-congratulatory text from the press release claiming vindication for his 'predictions' (reading the runes?) back in 2002. Also included is the following Green quote: "It is ironic that this is the week in which the BNP will be represented on Question Time, and is an appalling indictment of the way the present Government has handled this sensitive issue."

How shameless can you get? This story only exists because MigrationBotch put out the press release. They chose the date to coincide with the Griffin's appearance on Question Time to milk as much publicity for themselves on the back of media hype around the BNP. If it is an appalling indictment of the way anyone has handled this sensitive issue, it is an appalling indictment of MigrationBotch's crass opportunism.

The article was eventually rounded off (apart from a half-hearted nod to Phil Woolas) with: "Current projections say numbers in Britain, currently around 61million, will reach 70million by 2029 thanks to continued immigration and high birthrates among migrants", in anticipation of the ONS figures for the latest UK population projections out on 21 October. Except the Mail was wrong when it chose the lower value for MigrationBotch's projection of "70 million in the next 20-25 years".

Tomorrow in Part 3 we will examine the Mail's coverage [1, 2] of those UK population projects and Alan Green's opinion piece.

* Did anyone notice the inability of MigrationBotch to quote a simple sentence from the report? Recent evidence indicates that the 2001 figure of 4.3 million foreign-born people in the UK suddenly becomes ‘recent evidence indicates that the 2001 figure of 4.2 million foreign born people in the UK'
** In fact the Mail spills the beans later on in the article: "The Migrationwatch think-tank, which drew attention to the Oxford Economics report..."

Monday, 26 October 2009

South East Asian Tamil Refugees Update

Further news on the 78 Tamil asylum seekers picked up by the Australian Navy 8 days ago indicates that the adult males have given up on their hunger strike* after two days and that the MV Oceanic Viking is due to dock in port at the Indonesian island of Bintan later today. It is not known exactly why the hunger strike started on Saturday as, unlike the previous Tamil 'boat people', they have been kept out of contact with the mainstream media.

The Indonesian authorities have already stated that they are prepared to use force to remove the Tamils from the Oceanic Viking and prevent the type of stand-off that happened in Merak harbour, but after the past few weeks of savaging in the media, this threat somewhat spooked the already shell-shocked Australian government, and Australian Foreign Minister Stephen Smith was trotted out in front of the cameras to say that he's confident Indonesian authority won't in fact be forcibly removing the asylum seekers after all.

At the same time, the Australian-funded detention centre at Tanjung Pinang where the Tamils are due to be taken has itself hit the news as an Australian TV channel has obtained police video footage of the injuries suffered by Afghan Hazara detainees at the camp. The injuries were apparently caused by beatings handed out by the detention centre guards and by immigration officials. [Audio]

Conditions are said to be harsh at the 600-capacity centre. Reports have emerged that detainees are regularly beaten and robbed by guards, and forced to sleep 20 to a room. One refugee advocate, Jessie Taylor, who visited several detention centres across Indonesia in July, is quoted in one of the news reports as saying: "Some of the places are appalling and could only be described as high-security Third World prisons. The sanitation and hygiene is often disgusting. There are steel bars and cells are overcrowded … The guards have attitudes ranging from apathetic to brutal. Indonesia has no qualms about not having any obligations to refugees."

Seemingly in response to the latest round of boat interceptions, the Indonesian Navy plans to deter asylum seekers' boat from entering Indonesian waters. "Our navy will conduct a prevention for the illegal migrants to enter our territory," Indonesian Defence Minister Purnomo Yusgiantoro claimed yesterday. "Generally, these people aims at better life, but we need to find out the possibility of other purposes." (Maybe something got lost in the translation?)

Time will tell if the Indonesian military are willing to go to the lengths of the Thai military in repelling migrants when it was revealed that thousands of Bangladeshis and Rohingyas** had been rounded up by the Thai army after arriving on the Thai mainland, or had been intercepted by the Thai Navy on board rickety boats coming from Bangladesh. Most ended up on Koh Sai Daen, a remote island in the Andaman Sea, where they survived on banana leaves and handfuls of rice while being regularly abused by armed guards.

According to two survivors who made it to the Indian Anadaman Islands, they and about 500 others were rounded up at night and forced into four rickety boats with no motors, many with their hands tied behind their backs. A navy ship then towed them out into the Indian Ocean and abandoned them after a day's sailing with only a 25kg bag of rice and a few containers of drinking water in each boat. After 13 days at sea the Indian coast guard rescued 107 survivors near the Andaman Islands. Others are believed to have not been so lucky, with at least 400 other migrants unaccounted for.

Other Australian related news has the Australian Human Rights Commissioner Catherine Branson calling for the Christmas Island detention facilities to be closed. She claimed that the 2005 Howard government law authorising the detention of 'boat people' on Pacific islands as creating two classes of asylum seekers. ''Asylum seekers should not be penalised because of their method of arrival,'' Ms Branson said. ''The excision and offshore processing regime establishes a two-tiered system.'' She also expressed concern about the detention of children, saying that the 2005 law expressly stated that children were supposed to be detained only as a last resort.

* At least six Sri Lankan refugees, including one woman, have also been on hunger strike for the past seven days in a Malaysian detention centre, demanding that they be allowed to meet officials from the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR). The six detainees are amongst 108 Sri Lankans currently in the camp located in Malaysia's southern state of Johor after they were detained at a hotel last month for not having valid travel documents. The six claim they were given documents from the UNHCR granting them refugee status.
** Members of a Muslim ethnic group that fled to Bangladesh to escape persecution in Myanmar.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

Dutch Asylum Seekers: An Accident Waiting To Happen?

Apparently asylum seekers in the Dutch village of Tienray are being provided with fluorescent jackets because 'people with dark skins are not easily seen at night', or so the local paper De Telegraaf claims, and they even provide a helpful photo of one of the jackets.

This wonderful contribution to the history of road safety (or should that be racist stupidity) was dreamt up by a committee of "locals, council officials, police and the COA* refugee organisation. This committee seems to think that these jackets are needed because the asylum seekers 'dark skins' mean 'people only see them at the last minute, which can give people a fright'!

Now you are driving down a country lane in the middle of a cold winter's night and you come across someone in the middle of the road, are they likely to be any less visible if they have a white or black face? What if they are walking away from you? Do Dutch asylum seekers really suffer statistically significant higher numbers of road accidents?

* Centraal Orgaan Opvang Asielzoekers or Central Agency for the Reception of Asylum Seekers, an organisation funded by the Dutch Ministry of Justice.

Friday, 23 October 2009

MailWatch #6 Part 1

Time again for another instalment of our occasional service debunking migration stories in the Daily Mail, self-styled 'Last Bulwark Against The Tide Of Filth That Is Threatening To Engulf Civilisation'™

We sat down today having promised to write another instalment of MailWatch, but we have been severely waylaid as we have discovered a whole website dedicated to the wonderful world of Mail watching called, yes you've guessed it, MailWatch. Of course we never thought our idea for the title was that original, so discovering that the MailWatch team had been posting since July 2004 has given us food for thought and we have decided that we will not duplicate some of their work on migration issues and just link directly to it with possible extra added analysis.

That said, we do cover more of the Mail's migration stories than the MailWatch site does and here's one they haven't yet covered: 'Vast new illegal migrant camp opens in France as officials admit they have 'no alternative'' [17 October]. This article is of particular interest to us because one of our group actually visited the camp in question back in February this year.

It is in fact a small temporary winter camp (they appear regularly across northern France during the winter months as locals feel it is their humanitarian duty not to let people freeze to death in the local woods and hedgerows) for up to 30 people. Yet our old friend Peter 'Never Mind The Facts' Allen claims that "A vast charity camp for illegal migrants heading towards England has opened in northern France."

He then states: "As fears grew that it will become a magnet for thousands more, officials said they had 'no alternative' but to allow it to be put it in place." Who's fear the article doesn't tell us (even though it's in the headline, so it must be true) and why thousands more will come, when the same camp ran throughout last winter with no more than 30 Eritreans on site,* we are again not told. Maybe the fears are Allen's himself or Nigel Farage who was wheeled out as (a rather disappointing) rent-a-quote (maybe the Green twins had their mobiles turned off).

As to which officials claim there is 'no alternative' the article leaves us none the wiser. Why 'no alternative' and not "no alternative", as in a direct quote? Must be Allen's interpretation of what the 'officials' were saying. Or maybe it's just his dodgy grasp of French (see the 'Global Calais Scheme' post).

So what is the camp like? It has 2 large sleeping tents and one for cooking, equipped with stoves and storage, all provided by the local Terre d'Errance group. The migrants also have the use of the church hall were there is a laundry and showers. However, Allen makes the camp sound like a three star hotel: "Last night dozens slept in tents equipped with beds and showers. There are also cooking facilities and a clothes store."

Then, after a bit more padding to turn this non-story into a no-story story, we get the killer trade mark Allen touch - the unattributed quote from a local 'police spokesman', this one suggesting that the camp will attract people traffickers. It wonderful what you can do with an unattributed quote here and there.

Allen has of course written about the Steenvoorde camp before, on 1 December 2008 under the byline 'Mail Foreign Service' (he is their Paris Correspondent after all) - 'Increased immigration fears as French charity sets up camp for illegal migrants heading to UK' and cobbled together from local press reports. It started off, "A French charity has enraged UK officials by setting up a camp to help illegal migrants bound for the UK." And apparently it was "designed for the thousands of migrants who regularly make their way to Channel ports in the hope of reaching the UK by ferry or train." It wasn't true then and it isn't true now.

Which brings us to the latest in the Mail's very very scary use of statistics (or would that be MigrationBotch's use of statistic?) to prove that Johnnie foreigner is indeed swamping their 'green and pleasant land'.

MigrationBotch's last two press releases have been entitled 'Official Statistics Published Today Show Immigration Will Add Just Under 7 Million To The UK Population In The Next 25 Years' [21 October] and 'Immigrant Population Has Increased By More Than Two Million In Eight Years - Immigrants have almost doubled under Labour' [19 October], and both were based on a Communities and Local Government paper 'Regional Economic Performance: A migration perspective', which the Mail claims was "slipped out without notice last month and only revealed yesterday after academics discovered them and reported them to an immigration think-tank."

Except the 'academics' and the think-tank are one and the same (see the Five Chinese Crackers blog) and we all know who that was! And the Mail and the Express have recycled the same data and effectively the same story each time they have regurgitated the latest MigrationBotch press release. Now we haven't got enough time to go fully into these ramifications of this today but we will be covering it in the second part of this MailWatch piece. In the meantime we will leave you with some links to the articles, the press releases and a few pointers of what to look out for and give you the chance to draw your own conclusions before we run ours up the flagpole for you to salute.

'How Britain’s Leaky Borders Let In 700 Migrants Each Day' [Express, 19/10/09]
'More than 700 migrants a day have been let in to Britain since Labour came to power' [Mail, 19/10/09]
'Immigration to drive up Britain's population to 70million within 20 years' [Mail, 21/10/09]
'Crowded Britain heading for 70m as migration causes population to rise faster than ever before' [Mail, 22/10/09]
'Immigration To Push British Population To More Than 70m' [Express, 22/10/09]

and the piece de resistance, MigrationBotch's very own Alan Green (or should that be Alan Green's very own MigrationBotch's?) comment piece (the Mail were too lazy to write it themselves so they got him to do it for them):

'We must halt this conspiracy of silence over our immigration crisis' [Mail, 22/10/09]

A few pointers:
Why do they miss India (the second most populous country with 1,130m people) and Taiwan (22.8m) of the graph in the 'Crowded Britain' article?
Why use an arbitrary cut-off point of countries with 10m or more people? (see: Wikipedia's list of countries by population density and the World Population Prospects: The 2008 Revision Population Database for statistics)
Why the magic population figure of 70m? Could it be something to do with the Optimum Population Trust or any one of those other 'balanced migration' groups?
Is the Mail comparing apples with oranges again, and coming up with bananas?

See what you think? And we'll compare notes in MailWatch #6 Part 2 next week.

* The cap of 30 people was agreed between Terre d'Errance, the local mayor and police and the migrants themselves. It was not, to the best of our knowledge, eve broken. The current camp has a limit of 25.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

'Pitiful': Daily Mail under fire for finding only two right wing hacks to denounce the French despite pledge to help muddy the water

Here we go again! The Daily Mail can manage to twist anything to fit its own distorted view of the world, and that is especially true when it comes to anything to do with migration and immigration (basically anything to do with Johnny foreigner). So, when the French media is awash with criticism of the French government's participation in the latest Anglo-French deportation flight to Afghanistan, what does the Mail do? It creates a non-story from quoting Damien Green, the Tories' shadow immigration spokesman, and that other Green, the one-man think tank and rent-a-quote, MigrationBotch's very own Andrew G.

''Pitiful': French authorities under fire for deporting just three illegal Afghan migrants despite pledge to help clear Calais' the article splutters. Under fire from whom. Definitely from a whole raft of humanitarian organisations, at least 2 deputes from his own party and numerous opposition and EU politicians [see: 1, 2, 3, 4], but you wouldn't know that from the Mail's story. Not from anyone on this side of la Manche, that is until the Mail rings up two of their pet 'commentators', people who they know will churn out the right mix of wilful ignorance and spleen; flagging up 'how spineless the French are' (you just can't trust those cheese-eating surrender monkeys, can you Andrew?) and "how effective these flights are" (Damien G)

Our old friend Peter Allen and James Slack (by name , slack by nature) then throw in a few lines about how the good old Brits removed more 'failed asylum seekers' than the French did and a few complaints about diplomatic wrangling. Oh! and the pièce de résistance, a dig about only one of the French deportees having originated from the destruction of the 'Jungle', and there you have it, a non-story story.

We are being slightly unfair to the Mail, as they do mention this: "Despite the tiny numbers involved, French charities have reacted with anger to the flight, with some 10,000 signing an online petition against it." Except they can't even get this right. The petition was launched on 15 October, following the previous flight, not this one. And if it had been launched following Tuesday night's flight, gathering 10,000 signatures in the few hours between the flight and the publication of the article would in fact have been an incredible response.

* Except he appeared to questioning the numbers of migrants being removed on the flights, not, as the Mail appears to suggest in the previous sentence, questioning the monetary costs.

Demonstrate In Solidarity With Iraqi Hunger Strikers

No Deportations to Iraq - Release the hunger strikers now!

Demonstrate at the Home Office: 2 Marsham Street, London, SW1P 4DF.
Nearest tubes: Westminster, Victoria.
Monday, 26th Oct, 4:30-6:30pm

A number of Iraqi refugees locked up in Brook House and Colnbrook detention centres are on hunger strike since Monday, 19th October, to protest against their inhumane treatment and demand their immediate release. The hunger strikers include some of those who were forcibly deported to Baghdad in the first mass deportation to southern Iraq last week but were returned to the UK after the Iraqi authorities refused to accept them, as well as some who have just been given 'removal directions' to Iraqi Kurdistan (northern Iraq) and could be deported any time in the next couple of weeks.

Many human rights organisations and NGOs, such as the UNHCR and Amnesty International, have criticized the UK and other European governments for deporting people to a war zone like Iraq, as this clearly puts their lives in danger. Many more campaign groups, refugee organisations and MPs have condemned the cynical move, but the Home Office isn't listening!

Having turned their country into a mess, the UK government is not only deporting Iraqi refugees to face their possible death instead of accommodating them, but is also locking up people indefinitely when it fails to deport them.

Demonstrate on Monday 26th October, from 4.30, outside the Home Office to demand the immediate release of the detainees and that deportations to Iraq are stopped.

Please send solidarity messages for the hunger strikers to

For more information:

Colbrook Blockaders' Arrest 'Unlawful'

A magistrates judge has ruled that police acted unlawfully when arresting six anti-deportation campaigners who were blockading Colnbrook detention centre, near Heathrow airport, on 12th May, 2009, to try and prevent Iraqi refugees from being forcibly deported to Iraqi Kurdistan on a specially chartered flight.

Sitting at the Uxbridge Magistrates Court, Judge Jane Wright concluded that "the exclusive aim" of giving the order under Section 14 of the Public Order Act* by the senior police officer present at the scene, Inspector Beattie, was "to facilitate the deportation of a number of people to Iraq without further ado." This was due to the fact that the issuing of the Order was in direct response to a radio message from the chief inspector in charge of the operation back at the police station relaying the concerns of Colnbrook management that that the 'convoy' may be subject to some form of interference on route and that it was particularly important that the scheduled flight on which the 'prisoners' were to be returned must not be delayed.

Rejecting police claims that the protest would have caused 'serious disruption to the life of the community' or that its purpose was 'to intimidate others', Ms Wright said, "By any view it cannot be said that the purpose of the demonstration was to intimidate. Its clear purpose was to prevent the deportation of an individual and I do not find that Inspector Beattie believed, let alone reasonably believed, that the purpose of the protesters was to intimidate others with a view to compelling them not to do an act they had a right to do."

Police had initially charged the protesters with 'trespassory assembly' under Section 14B(2) and (6) of the Public Order Act 1986. However, the Act defines 'assembly' as an assembly of 20 or more persons, but the total number of protesters was no more than 15. So in July 2009, the police changed the charge to Section 14(5) and (9) of the Public Order Act, which make it an offence to take part in a 'public assembly' and knowingly fail to comply with a condition imposed by the senior police officer present at the scene. This led to Ms Wright stating in her verdict that, "I have found that the only purpose of giving the order falls outside the considerations to which Inspector Beattie is entitled to have regard and it follows that the order was not lawful." "If the order isn't lawful," she added, "it isn't an offence not to comply with it and consequently I find all six of the defendants not guilty."

The defendants' argument was that their action was "reasonable and proportionate" to the threat faced by deportees and that the defence of necessity should be open to them. The Crown Prosecution did not accept that their actions were reasonable and proportionate and argued that a "reasonable person would not have acted in such a fashion" and even "the reasonable direct action protester" would not have acted in the way the defendants did, in reference to using glass and concrete blocks. Inspector Beattie, however, said in court, whilst giving evidence, that he had found the defendants "well behaved, pleasant even."

*For an order to be given under Section 14 of the Public Order Act, the senior officer present at the scene must reasonably believe that it may result in serious public disorder, serious damage to property, or serious disruption to the life of the community, or that the purpose of the persons organising it is the intimidation of others with a view to compelling them not to do an act they have a right to do or to do an act they have a right not to do.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009

New Anglo-French Afghan Deportation Flight Today

Yet another attempt will be made in the ongoing saga of joint Anglo-French deportation flights to Afghanistan tonight. Information has leaked out, via the French migrant support organisation Cimade, that the regular UK 'Operation Ravel' flight to Kabul will again try to call in to Lille's Lesquin Airport to pick up Afghani deportees, many of whom were moved to the Lesquin detention centre last night. To protest the 22:00 flight, another demonstration has been organised at the airport for 20:00 tonight, in addition to the 10,000 signature petition against all forced deportaion flights to Afghanistan organised by France Terre d'Asile.

As a less than pleasant footnote, the Daily Mail and, in particular, its journalist Peter Allen, are continuing to pedal the lie that the French deportees are to receive "a £1,900 cash payment paid for by British and French taxpayers". As reported before, this particularity pernicious attempt to whip up resentment to people who are being sent back to a warzone against their will has been repeated elsewhere by the same odious individual. [1, 2, 3, 4, 5]

UPDATE: According to the French Immigration Minister Eric Besson, the plan to deport what the French press was claiming variously to be 16 Afghans from Paris or an unknown number from Lille, went ahead with 3 Afghans being deported from Roissy Airport bound for Kabul. Besson claimed that one had been detained at the Italian border, one in Paris and only one during the destruction of the Pashtun 'Jungle' in Calais. A fourth man was also due to be deported but, according to Cimade, he resisted, was injured and not put on the flight.

Baghdad Flight Fallout

The fallout from last week's farcical deportation flight to Baghdad is gradually increasing as more and more information trickles out from the returned Iraqi deportees, together with the news that some of their number, along with other detainees, have gone on hunger strike at the Brook House detention centre at Gatwick Airport.

In interviews with journalists and from International Federation of Iraqi Refugees (IFIR) sources, the deportees have alleged that they were beaten by some of the approximately 100 G4S security guards on the flight, both after they had been turned back at Baghdad Airport and when they refused to change flights at an Italian airport on the return journey.

Other allegations include: no Arabic translator on board the plane, so that the UKBA officials could not converse properly with the Iraqi officials that came on board the plane when it landed; the Commander of Baghdad airport threatened to destroy plane if it didn't turn around and go back to UK once it had been refuelled; and during the 6,000 mile enforced round trip the Iraqi deportees had no food at all for the entire 12 hours.

Now, some of those returned have gone on hunger strike demanding they are released. The Home Office have of course said that the G4S-run Brook House was "operating normally" and that "there is no suggestion of this protest taking place at Brook House." Which is obviously a PR-speak non-denial denial, given the statement released by the hunger strikers via IFIR:

‘The reason we are going on hunger strike is because the UK government’s immigration policies are very poor. We have been in detention centres for months and years and our cases have not been handled professionally. We are all locked up in detention, which is exactly like a prison, but most of us have never committed any crime whatsoever. An ACD category prisoner gets better treatment than we do.

We are going on hunger strike until they release us. We have families who depend on us, wives and children who need our support.

Most of us are being falsely removed to countries like Afghanistan and Iraq, which are clearly war zones. Most of us have families in the UK. What are we supposed to do? Leave them behind or take them with us right into the middle of a war zone to be killed?

The immigration laws and policies are clearly not fair and the only way you will find this out is by visiting us here in detention. Even most of the G4S security staff think that immigration policies need to change for the better.

We need a system that will give us chance to live in peace.’

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Indonesian Tamil Hunger Strikers Update

It appears that the Tamils aboard the wooden boat in Merak harbour in West Java have ended the hunger strike, mainly due to representations from the international Tamil community saying that what started out as a peaceful protest was harming the image of the people on the boat.* The Tamils have started taking food form the Indonesian authorities but are still refusing to leave the boat until they receive a visit from the UNHCR.

Australia has also managed to find a solution to another stand off, this one between themselves and the Indonesian authorities over the 78 asylum seekers rescued by HMAS Armidale in the Sunda Strait after distress calls were received by the Australian Maritime Safety Authority on Sunday. The asylum seekers were transferred aboard the Australian customs vessel Oceanic Viking, whilst the 2 governments argued over who was going to take them against the backdrop of a ceremonial visit by Kevin Rudd, the Australian PM, and other regional leaders for the inauguration of the recently re-elected Indonesian President, Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. The impasse was eventually broken with the Indonesian agreeing to accept the 78 migrants, citing the plight of a sick child on board.

* You can listen to a particularly unpleasant interview by Mark Colvin from Australian ABC Radio with Alex from the Tamils, displaying all the usual prejudices and misconceptions - 'jumping to the head of the queue', that the 20 million refugees around the world all want to go to countries like Australia, that they paid $15,000 are are somehow less worthy, etc.

Saturday, 17 October 2009

Daytrip To Baghdad II

Here's the story: You've been in the UK for a while after fleeing your home country because foreigners have turned it into a war zone. You've possibly also applied for asylum, been turned down and then one day you've been picked up by the UK Borders Agency, off the street or when you went to sign on for the weekly allowance, that has just been cut back to a level that barely helps keep body and soul together. Or maybe being destitute you've had to steal to stop yourself or your nearest and dearest from starving and you've ended up in prison, labelled as a 'foreign criminal'.

Either way you've found yourself in a detention centre with no idea of what is going to happen next. Maybe you've managed to keep in contact with your friends and family, maybe not. Possibly you've had support from a voluntary organisation or you even have an immigration lawyer fighting your corner. Then you are served with a notice of removal, except it doesn't say when you are going to be removed or where they are taking you to. Then early one morning a few days later, the private security guards at the detention centre come and tell you to switch off your phone, maybe they even confiscate it. Now you know that today is the day.

At some point you end up handcuffed between 2 people in uniform, more private security guards, people you have never met before, who drag you off to a waiting coach and then onto a plane at an airport you don't even know the name of. There are forty four of you, all from different detention centres. Some of you may know each other, most of you probably don't. You sit between your 2 guards, who all this time have more or less ignored you, talking over your head. They then tell you that if you are a good boy they will take the handcuffs off, if not then they'll chain you to your seat. The guy 2 seats away is not being given the choice because he had the audacity to question what was happening to him and had received a few hefty kicks to his shins for his troubles, which explains why he was limping quiet badly earlier on.

The Air Italy plane takes off and you still don't know where you are going officially. Maybe we're going to Italy? No such luck! It's obvious that it's going to be Iraq, even the UKBA could not be stupid enough to deport us Iraqis to Afghanistan? But the rumour that's been doing the rounds the most this week is that the flight is going to Baghdad! Surely not? Every one knows it's not safe there, what with the almost daily bombings, the kidnappings and the disappearances. They are mad to try.

When you eventually arrive, it's dark and it is difficult to tell exactly where you are. You must have been in the air least 8 hours but your watch got lost with the rest of your property when they removed you from the detention centre, so you can't be sure. The door opens and 8 men armed with Kalashnikovs get on. Everyone is frightened, even the guards it seems. The one in charge asks the guards, "Why are you here?". When they explains, he tell you all, “Those of you who want to come back, get off. The rest of you stay where you are.” Everyone is confused, no one is quiet sure what to do. Most of you want to go back to Britain but 10 of you leave the plane and are given the $100 you were promised before they put you on the plane.

The plane turns around and flies off. You are left on the tarmac with $100 and no where to go and no real idea why you made such a stupid choice. You could be on the plane on your way back to the country that up until yesterday had been your new home. However, if you were sensible enough to stay on the plane, it's a short stop off in Italy to change planes and back to Brook House and an unknown future waiting till they try to deport you again but hoping that they just let you go free. Some choice!

Friday, 16 October 2009

Tamil Hunger Strike Update

The stand off between the Tamil asylum seekers on the ancient wooden cargo vessel in Merak harbour, West Java has turned into a media frenzy, one that the Australian authorities would rather not the world was seeing. The standard policy of the Australian government has been to isolate refugees and asylum seekers, either in the desert at Woomera or on remote Pacific islands. An out of site out of mind policy.

Now, with the very public hunger strike being carried out on the boat in the full glare of the worldwide media, with children testifying directly to camera in fluent English, the true face of the desperation of these people who give up their homes and what they own and spend months travelling half way around the world in the hope of finding a safer life in another country, is there for all to see. So is the intransigence of the Australian authorities and the complicity and bad faith of the Indonesians, as the local navy commander Colonel Irawan claims that as many as 70 per cent of those on board wanted to disembark whilst the entire boat loudly denies this.

Many of the Tamils have also stopped taking fluids as some of their number have started fainting from lack of food, heat and dehydration caused by constant exposure to salt water.

Daytrip To Baghdad Anyone?

Despite all the secrecy surrounding the run up to the deportation flight to Baghdad yesterday, it appears that the UK authorities forgot to tell the Iraqi government they were coming. When the plane touched down in Iraq yesterday, only 10 of the deportees were allowed off the flight and the rest were forced to return to the UK at 4:30am today.

An expensive little daytrip one assumes, given that the 'Operation Rangat' Air Italy flight probably cost somewhere around £250,000, or £25,000 per successful deportee removed. Of course Lin Homer, chief executive of the UK Border Agency, sought to paint a slightly rosier picture, saying: "We are establishing a new route to southern Iraq and have successfully returned 10 Iraqis to the Baghdad area. This is an important first step for us."

Previous UK deportation flights to Iraq had been to the Kurdish Autonomous Region, claiming that it was a 'safe' destination, but the government have long sought to make flights to the rest of the country. Given that Sweden and Denmark have started to return Iraqi deportees to Baghdad, the UK authorities thought the could too. However, they have been condemned by the UNHCR. According to their London office "returns to central Iraq are premature. They could send the wrong signal to other countries, like Syria and Jordan, which have large numbers of refugees and could trigger a destabilising wave of returns." Never mind the constant string of bomb attacks and kidnappings.

Campaign Against Air Italy @

Thursday, 15 October 2009

Tamil 'Boat People' On Hunger Strike

A stand-off has developed between the 253 Sri Lankan migrants on board a cargo ship in Merak Harbour, West Java and the Indonesian authorities. The wooden vessel was intercepted by the Indonesian navy, after a direct plea from Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd to President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono at the weekend, and has been in the port for the last 4 days. The migrants had been at sea for 13 days before being intercepted, many of them having paid $US15,000 after having been forced to wait in the Malaysian jungle several months before a people smuggling syndicate took their passports and promised to deliver them to Australia.

Now the Tamil asylum seekers are refusing to leave the vessel, fearing being returned to Sri Lanka where their lives are in danger. The 222 adults are currently on hunger strike, having previously threatened to blow up the boat using gas cylinders and to jump in the ocean to prevent the Indonesian military removing them from the boat. The 226 adults amongst the group have since gone on hunger strike and have unfurled large banner reading 'Life? Death? Hunger strike for international community' and 'We are Sri Lankan civilians. Plz save our life'. The Indonesian authorities want to move the migrants on to dry land, but as most Indonesian detention centres are too full, they may move the Tamils into empty local hotels.

A spokesman for the Tamils told the media, ''We may as well die here. We cannot go back to Sri Lanka,'' and said they would stay on the boat for months, if necessary. "If you come see the situation in Sri Lanka, where most Tamils live ... you can see it's a lot worse than living on this ship. So most of these people are used to a life like this [having come from Jaffna and government camps]. We're comfortable in a life like this. So I can guarantee you, we can go on months." They also remain adamant that the want to go on to Australia.

The stand-off is taking place against a backdrop of inter-party warfare over the level of 'illegal' migration to Australia. Phil Ruddock, right-wing immigration minister in the previous Howard government and architect of the so-called 'Pacific solution', is constantly in the news claiming that there are tens of thousands of 'illegals' waiting in Iran, Pakistan and Syria for the chance to get to Australia. The opposition Liberal party also claim that the current government is too 'soft' on migrants claiming that the removal of Temporary Protection Visas (TVP) and mandatory detention. Yet the figures belie this.

Mandatory detention and TVP's were introduced in 1992 and 1999 respectively, and the number of asylum seeker arriving by boat continued to rise till they peaked in 2001 and 2002 (5,500 and nearly 3,000 each). There have been 1,704 boat people so far this year, up from roughly 1,500 last year, so Australia is hardly being 'swamped' as Ruddock seems to think. Compared to the Italy's 36,000 last year and the UK's 30,500 it's a trickle.

Last year, 4,750 people sought asylum in Australia as part of an internationally agreed humanitarian program of 13,500 places (less than 1% of the world's allocation of refugees). And in the year to March 2009, Australia had a total net legal migration figure of 278,000. Of the current 'surge' in arrivals, 48% are Afghans, and 36% are Sri Lankan. In short, the wars in Pakistan, Afghanistan and Sri Lanka account for nearly 85% of the current arrivals.

Most of the 'boat people' are taken to detention centres on Christmas Island 2,600 km north west of Australia but only 500 km south of the Indonesian capital Jakarta. Originally set up by the Howard regime at a cost of more than $400m, there are currently more than 1,000 people detained on the island* and the facility is costing more than $80,000 a day to run. Yet this is chicken feed compared to the $48m people-smuggling program announced earlier this year by the Australian Police Force. Or the $14m that Australia is paying to Indonesia over the next 4 years to help stop the flow of asylum seekers, which includes $1m to ''enhance capacity'' at Indonesia's two detention centres in Jakarta and Tanjung Pinang, which had previously been refurbished at a cost of $7.7m to the Australian tax payer.

* 200 extra bunk beds have just been delivered and 81 demountables (portable buildings) are on the way from Woomera to increase the current 1400 bed capacity.

Wednesday, 14 October 2009

Swiss Style Self-Help

It is estimated that Switzerland is home to 100,000 to 200,000 sans-papiers, all of whom are victims of Switzerland's harsh new asylum policy introduced in January 2008. These sans-papiers, many of whom lost their jobs and homes because of the change in immigration laws, fall into 3 main groups: those who entered the country on work permits, didn't get them renewed but decided to stay; those who came to Switzerland looking for clandestine employment make up the second category; & a third steadily growing group containing migrants whose asylum request was rejected or not even looked into, and refugees who've lost their temporary admission when they were asked to leave because their countries of origin where considered "safe to return".

Like most European countries, life for sans-papiers in Switzerland is extremely precarious, no longer able to receive any form of social welfare and subject to the constant threat of being arrested and deported. The recent Swiss asylum legislation left a tiny door open for these marginalised migrants, hardship grants for those who have lived in Switzerland for at least five years and have "integrated very well". If they are then able to register with the Department of Migration they receive the equivalent of 60-70 Swiss francs ($60-70) per week in vouchers for the Swiss supermarket chain Migros. As in Britain, migrants support organisations, such as the Refugees Welcome Café in Zurich, have set up voucher exchange schemes where state aid can be exchanged for cash and used for transport and phone call costs.

For many years Switzerland had probably Europe's toughest naturalisation laws, stipulating a minimum 12 years residence before one could even apply, and being born in Switzerland also brings no automatic right to citizenship. On top of that an individual's citizenship application is handled by their town or village and is voted upon by the local community. One of the current major pitfalls the migrants come across is the applicant's ability to speak German. And of course it is impossible to pay for language lessons with supermarket vouchers. So some migrants and their supporters have open up a free language school in a squatted church in Zurich, and they have been giving German lessons to three different ability streams (A1, A2 & B1) for the past 10 months.

Irene Holliger, one of the teachers, says she's amazed by the students' motivation to learn and the joy in their eyes. She regards her engagement as an act of solidarity: "I'm retired. I have free time and want to support the refugees. All of us work as volunteers. Many students live in emergency centres far away from the school. We've raised some money with fundraising meals and a party. This allows us to cover travel expenses for many of the students, but it's not sufficient." Bah Saidou, another of the teachers at the school, came to Switzerland from Guinea in September 2002. He was swiftly refused leave to remain and told to leave. He chose to stay and ended up homeless and in an emergency centre following the changes in the law in 2008. As well as teaching German, he is active in the sans-papiers' campaign: "This is my way to struggle. We have realised that we have to stick together. The school is part of our struggle."

Many of the migrants are bemused that the Swiss politicians keep demanding foreigners integrate into Swiss society, but don't give them an opportunity to do so. "Integration consists of different aspects such as access to education, the labour market and decent housing. However, we have no chance to visit a school, are forbidden to work, and live in fenced-off emergency-centres often far away from towns and villages," says Berhanu Tesfaye, one of the students at the school. Born in Ethiopia, he fled to Switzerland in 2000 and was issued a NEE twice. Then he filed a request under the hardship provision, but failed: "My application was rejected because my German language skills weren't good enough. Then I came to the school. Three months later I successfully passed an exam in A2, and four months later in B1. The certificate allows me to hand in an application again."

Anti-Islamic sentiment is also rife in the country, especially since the right-wing Swiss People's Party (SVP) more than doubled its share of the vote in the 2007 federal elections (we are sure you remember the infamous 'black sheep' election poster). Earlier this year the European Commission against Racism and Intolerance (ECRI) published a report on the progress made Switzerland in implementing recommendations for action in curbing racism made by the Council of Europe in 2004.

Needless to say the SVP were slatted for their "racist and xenophobic tone" and racist generalisations: "Repeated attacks by Swiss People's Party members against foreigners' fundamental rights and against the prohibition of racism and xenophobia have created a deep sense of unease in Swiss society generally and especially in minority communities." The report also warned about the Swiss media reinforcing racist stereotypes and the rise of neo-Nazi and far-right groups in the country.

Also criticised was the general level of discourse about asylum: "Public opinion is so poisoned by this dialogue that asylum and refugees are a problem that it is very difficult to get away from this. You need to start again with a totally new communication. If you want to stop asylum seekers being seen as a problem then you need to communicate in a totally different way, you need to show positive examples of integration."

Calais Migrants Remain In Limbo: Video

We recommend that you watch this AlJazeera news report from Calais on the conditions that the migrants are suffering following the on-going destruction of the various 'Jungles' and squats.

Tuesday, 13 October 2009

Wizard Of Oz Looses His Magic

Tziki Sela, head of the notorious Israeli Oz immigration police unit that has terrorised 'illegal immigrants' since its formation earlier this year, has resigned after only six months in the job. He claimed that, “At this point I think I have given the unit what I could, and I would like to turn to other professional channels in the private sector.”

The truth is somewhat different, depending on who you listen to. One of the reasons given is that Oz Unit officers were not receiving their wages, as no one in the Interior Ministry's Immigration and Population Administration had actually gotten around to drafting wage agreements for the unit before it was formed.

However, the Israeli media and civil groups were outraged by an interview Sela gave to the tabloid Ma’ariv in August, where he claimed that, “These groups, those who protest against us [the new Oz unit], the ones that call me ‘Goebbels’ and a Nazi, are anarchists who want the destruction of the state of Israel, with three exclamation marks. They should be condemned. This is criminal behaviour, pure and simple.”

After dismissing the plight of the children of foreign workers with the line "(they) do not have a legal permit and that is it. They are just guests here.", he went on to say, “We mean business, I am telling the illegal migrants, take yourselves from here and go away willingly. We will give you the plane tickets. Get out of here.” This article provoked a prolonged barrage of criticism, which in the end seems to have done for him.

In other news, Israeli ministers held a fractious meeting on Monday to decide the future of the 1,200 children of foreign workers currently in Israel, many of who were born there. Some ministers, such as the Social Affairs Minister Isaac Herzog, managed to reverse the existing policy of expulsion by the end of the current school year, but the Interior Minister Eli Yishai, a leading light in the deportation campaign, threatened to resign if he was forced to grant permanent residence status to the children.

So a compromise of sorts has been reached whereby any deportation of the children, and one presumes their parents, has been postponed for the foreseeable future. In the meantime the Oz unit will continue rounding up the 280,000 'illegal' foreigners in Israel.

Monday, 12 October 2009

Destination: Baghdad

The first mass deportation flight to Southern Iraq is expected later this week. Previously the destination of flights to Iraq was Kirkuk in the autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan region, which the British government had considered safe despite the numerous regular car and suicide bombings, extra-judicial killings and the routine 'disappearances' of returnees by various governmental paramilitary forces.

Now the Home Office seem to have declared the rest of Iraq safe, at least for anybody other than UK citizens: "We advise against all travel to Baghdad and its surrounding area, the provinces of Basra, Maysan, Al Anbar, Salah Ad Din, Diyala, Wasit, Babil, Ninawa and At-Tamim (At-Tamim is often referred to as "Kirkuk Province"). We also advise against all but essential travel to the provinces of Al Qadisiyah, Muthanna, Najaf, Karbala, and Dhi Qar. Although there has been a decrease in the level of violence throughout Iraq the situation remains highly dangerous with a continuing high threat of terrorism throughout the country". [current Foreign Office travel advice]

In the Kurdish Region the Foreign Office say: "despite largely effective policies countering terrorism in the region, extremist Islamist terrorist groups including Al-Qaida in Iraq and Ansar al Islam have planned and carried out infrequent attacks in the past. A network of Iran-based Kurdish extremists, affiliated with Al-Qaida in Iraq mount occasional cross-border attacks. The threat of terrorism and kidnap remains possible. Terrorist operations, including in the cities of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah, have generally been conducted against Kurdistan Regional Government targets. Outside the Kurdistan Region, the security situation in northern Iraq remains highly dangerous and volatile. In Kirkuk and Mosul there are still a number of terrorist attacks, including suicide bomb attacks, vehicle bombs, and shootings, which have led to many innocent bystanders being killed." Doesn't sound particularly safe to us.

Approximately 30 people are currently being held in immigration detention centres around London according to the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees and have been given deportation tickets informing them they will be removed to Iraq sometime this week. It is UK Border Agency policy not release the exact time or date to detainees or their legal representatives. It is claimed that this is because of the need to prevent disruption of these highly expensive charter flights but the practical effect is to prevent solicitors from submitting last-minute appeals as all detainees are held incommunicado of the day of the deportation.

Most deportations take place with deportees handcuffed between two private security guards and are carried out under threat of force, with any form of resistance being regularly met by disproportionate force. These factors, along with the inadequate provision of medical attention for those subjected to the use of force, have been criticised in a recent Inspectorate of Prisons thematic review.

In addition to the private security companies such as G4S/GSL and SERCO, many other companies are coming to rely on the deportation industry to maintain their profitability during the current economic downturn. This is especially true of some of the smaller airlines like Hamburg International and Czech Airlines (although the larger airlines like Air France and Virgin are more than happy to cash in as well) and even small bus firms like WH Tours and Woodcock coaches have come to rely on the steady stream of deportees being transported to airports around the country. And it is a very lucrative industry, the UKBA spent £8,227,553 on 66 deportation charter flights in the financial year 2008-9, almost double the usual amount spent in previous years.

Things you can do to help stop this flight:

Contact your local MP and ask them to put pressure on the UK Border Agency to cancel the deportation. You can find your local MP at:

Contact the UKBA directly to demand the deportation be cancelled:

Contact the minister for borders and immigration Phil Woolas:
House of Commons phone number: 020 7219 1149
House of Commons fax number: 020 7219 0992
Constituency phone number: 0161 624 4248
Constituency fax number: 0161 626 8572

Friday, 9 October 2009

MailWatch #5

It's time again for yet another instalment of our occasional service debunking migration stories in the Daily Mail, self-styled 'Last Bulwark Against The Tide Of Filth That Is Threatening To Engulf Civilisation'™

Why is it that the Daily Mail has a total lack of understanding of migration issues? Their latest migration-related piece - 'Labour relaxes the rules to let 40,000 asylum seekers stay' [09/10/09] - continues the odious career of the paper's barely comprehensible rants about all things foreign, especially when they are foreigners here in good old Blighty.

The 40,000 figure actually relates to 40,000 files for various types of migrants and visitors who were told by the Home Office prior to 2003 that they no longer had a right to stay in the UK. So that is people on work permits, already granted temporary leave to remain, on student visas and visitor visas who were all subsequently turned down for extensions to their stay. NOT ONE SINGLE ASYLUM SEEKER amongst them.

The details come from a leaked memo, entitled 'Restricted – Policy. Completion of the legacy exercise', from Matthew Coats, the head of immigration at the UK Border Agency, to Home Secretary Alan Johnson and Phil Woolas, the Immigration Minister detailing changes in guidelines designed to grant indefinite leave to remain for the 40,000. And the reason why the guidelines were being changed was because the UKBA have no way of telling if any of the 40.000 had remained in the UK, as up until recently no checks were made on who was leaving the country, and would be almost impossible to locate all those who had remained.

Yet one would be hard pressed to work that out from the Mail's version of events. The reason they give is that "it would be virtually impossible to send many of them back as they were from countries with poor human rights records such as Zimbabwe, Somalia, Iran and China." i.e. blame it on the Human Rights Act again (though to give them their due, they don't actually say that this time).

And to top it all, what do we have but yet another photograph of Calais migrants queuing for "food handouts" (not charity from French humanitarian volunteers - 'bloody spongers' being the obvious subtext here) illustrating a story about historic migrants from pre-2003!

Words From Afghanistan

The cancelling of France's participation in the Afghan deportation flight on 6 October may well have been the victory for refugee and migrant rights groups, who carried out protests such as the one at Lille's Lesquin Airport on Wednesday night, as the Institute of Race Relations and others rightly claim it to be. But many of us know that it is inevitable that the UK and French governments will try again, despite the growing evidence that the situation in Afghanistan is getting worse despite the pretence at countrywide elections.

This has been starkly illustrated by the testimony of Wahid Nawabi, the president of the Association Ensemble Pour l’Afghanistan (EPA). He and his colleagues, who work closely witht he associations in calais and cooperated with Medicins du Monde in the recent scabies treatment programme, have just returned from a mission to Kabul to evaluate a 7 year programme of development aid. This programme has allowed their organisation to establish a network of contacts with detailed knowledge of the political, economic, social and security of the country, and their conclusion paint a picture of a country "in a creeping total war and there is not a secure square kilometre in Afghanistan, including Kabul, and many areas, such as East and South, are strongly dominated by the presence of Taliban. The ex-pats are forbidden to leave town and live in complete 'bunkerisation'.

"In a country plagued by narcotics trafficking, the mafia and corruption there is no embryo of a state law or the ability to ensure public safety. This failing is particularly pronounced in regions of eastern and southern Afghanistan, mostly Pashtun, from which originate most migrants in Calais. These are also areas of conflict where the most violent civilian deaths in the thousands over the last 3-4 years: victims of NATO strikes, the Taliban, warlords and traffickers of all kinds."

"During my recent visit to Kabul, I made informal contacts with two UN staff, including one from the UNHCR, about the risk faced by Afghans who were forcibly returned by the EU countries. According to these sources, the antenna of the IOM in Kabul has information on multiple cases of former migrants who have been executed on their return home. While not belonging to the IOM they reported 2 cases of murder, one of which recently took place in Paghman (25 km from Kabul), domain of the 'warlord' Rasoul Sayyaf. According to these people, the grounds for execution are either as a collaborator [many who flee Afghanistan have been translators for NATO] or having been label as being on a particular side in the conflict or through the inability to repay loans ($15-25000) contracted with the traffickers.

"In short, migrants fleeing poverty to build a better future are now also exposed to death for political reasons. In these circumstances the European states like Britain which proceed with forced returns or those who are consider doing so like France, beyond the fact that they violate the right of asylum, bear a direct criminal responsibility for each case Migrant murdered or subjected to violence to return to Afghanistan.

"The NATO countries now recognize their total failure both on the security front and on reconstruction, but they refuse to admit that these migrants are the sad result of a faulty strategy deployed during the past eight years. It is for this reason that we are totally responsible for those migrants who are on our soil and that we must protect.

"It is interesting to note the striking contrast in the treatment of Afghan refugees from the period of Soviet occupation and now. During the Russian-led war in Afghanistan, the West welcomed the Afghan migrants (400-300,000) with open arms. When Afghans fleeing war and violence with NATO in command of military operations, we tell them they are undesirable and that the security situation is good enough at home for them to return there.

"The destruction of the 'jungle' was broadcast in Kabul on 2 occasions and the man in the street has retained the violent intervention of the French state. The words of a taxi driver summed up pretty well felt locally: 1) Kabul = Calais, we suffer the same treatment and experience the misery and violence, 2) for migrants only seeking Eldorado, the bigwigs traffickers are in the highest echelons of the Afghan state and the Western diplomats and generals meet them daily. If they really want to send a message to the traffickers, do not blame the victims and punish them a second time, neutralize the leaders, 3) stop the war and that will give hope of life and dignity to this country and the problem of migration will disappear.

"The complexity and the increasing migration from South to North, which is on political or economic grounds, requires a comprehensive, humane and accountable approach. We do not address one of the challenges of the 21st century by brutality and media events, contrary to our republican and democratic values, and barricading themselves behind the Treaty of Dublin."