Tuesday, 29 June 2010

If The Cap Doesn't Fit

It was highly amusing yesterday listening to the leopardskin-print be-pumped new Home Secretary Teresa May as she squirmed during a BBC radio interview. In time-honoured politician mode, she sought to outline the latest policy, this time on the new LibCon temporary immigration 'cap', whilst studiously avoiding actually talking directly about it or answering any of the questions put to her by Sarah Montague, the interviewer.

Needless to say she repeated the arch Tory hypocrisy of their seeking to curb Labour's 'uncontrolled' immigration policy whilst in the same breath saying that they would seek to tighten immigration controls on people coming into the country to marry, controls that obviously were in place when Labour were in power. May also refused to address the question as to how the government would manage to limit immigration in the light of existing rates of migration from existing EU-accession countries, something which they can have little or no control over, short of leaving the EU. Instead she talked about controlling migration from future accession countries and, rather irrelevantly, constantly referring to the introduction of "a cap on non-EU 'economic migrants'" and trying to learn from how non-EU countries control immigration during the planned 12-week consultation on the implementation of the full 'cap'.

This errant bollox is a typical politician's PR effort designed to cover up the simple fact that the Tories' pre-election promise of returning net migration rates to the tens of thousands of the halcyon days of Thatcher, down from Labour's supposedly 'uncontrolled' hundreds of thousands, is unachievable. Why, and what about this temporary 'cap'?

On the 'cap' front*, what Mark Easton called a "tiny tweak" that's "not even a knotted handkerchief"**, the government plan for a maximum of 24,100 non-EU workers tol be allowed into Britain up till April next year, down by 1,300 on 2009 or a mere 5% reduction. The Financial Times went as far as labelling this temporary 'cap' a "shabby policy". Going on to say, "Labour’s points-based system was already limiting non-EU migration to high flyers or people working in professions with skills gaps. Indeed, if the coalition had left well alone, the number of arrivals would feasibly have fallen further than its interim cap."***

As to the efficacy of returning net migration rates to the '90s, we need to look at some current figures:

Year ending September 2009 net UK migration was 142,000 [503,000 people coming to live and work minus 361,000 leaving].
Of the 503,000, 270,000 (53%) were non-EU citizens; 183,000 were here to study, 176,000 to work and 80,000 were either accompanying someone here to work or study or were arriving to join someone already in the country.
In the first 3 months of 2010, 406,455 visas were issued.
367,145 were for temporary residence (temporary employment, student visas, visitors, etc.).
Less than 10% (39,310) were for permanent settlement or residence.
Only 6,685 of these were Tier 1 (highly skilled workers, leading to settlement) and 16,915 Tier 2 (skilled workers) visas.
In the same quarter, 2.25m (7.84%) of the UK workforce were non-UK nationals, of which 1.235m or 55% were non-EU nationals.
In 2006 the IPPR estimated that 5.5m Britons were living and working abroad, equivalent to 9% of the current UK population. Of these, 40% (2.2m) were classified as professional/managerial. [See also]
The estimated population of non-UK nationals in Britain (Oct 08 - Sept 09) was 4.3m (7.1%). [ONS]

So, whilst its interesting to note that there are many more UK citizens living abroad than non-UK citizen living in the UK, that doesn't concern us here. What does is where this cut from 142,000 to under 100,000 could be achieved, if at all, given that only half of all in-migration can be targeted. Labour's points based system is already severely squeezing visas for non-EU professionals (though not the endless stream of useless overpaid Premier League footballers), so extending the temporary 'cap' is a non-starter, especially as the business world is up in arms about it. For example, one of the largest non-EU groups to be hit further would be Indian nationals, whose lack of new visas (along with those for other subcontinent nationals) has already hit the curry restaurant business, rasing fears of a country-wide biryani-shortage.

One possible area has already been flagged up - foreign national spouses, with the newly proposed covertly-racist language tests.**** Overseas students are the next and most obvious large target (273,610 last year). However, cutting numbers back here could have a drastic economic effect. The income from foreign students (estimated to be £12bn) subsidises further education provision for UK students and cutting foreign student numbers would inevitably force universities and colleges to close, in addition to the obviously vulnerable foreign languages schools. Yet many universities and colleges will already be suffering from the loss of foreign lecturers due to the cap.

Yet, all these potential areas for cuts do not look capable of producing the tens of thousands needed to get back to Cameron's idyllic 1990's figure of 50,000. Sadly, all this anti-immigration bluster may well be exactly what it appears to be - window dressing to get them elected and to keep the Right Whingers onboard. In fact, net migration may well have ended up at less than 100,000 anyway, with little or no help from the government, largely through the effect of the global recession and the ending of the transition arrangements for A8 states brought in by EU countries such as Germany.

* The peak? Though that depends on which way round one wears it.
**"The tiny tweak to the immigration rules announced [yesterday] by the Home Office is not a cap. It's not even a knotted handkerchief." Mark Easton is usually eminently readable on migration matters and invariably cuts through all the spin and bullshit.
*** For example, in the last 9 months there has been a 15% fall in applications by skilled migrants from outside the EU anyway. Plus, the limit is on a 'first come, first served basis' and the 'cap' might be reached after only a few months with pressure from the private sector leading to the government increasing the limit, and the cap does not apply to 'intracompany transfers' leaving open another back door for entry.
**** Mark Easton suggests that "The real issue here is not integration or removing cultural barriers, it might be argued. It is about trying to reduce the economic impact of a legacy of British colonial rule." We somehow doubt whether your average Tory really bothers that much about "the economic impact of a legacy of British colonial rule."

Thursday, 24 June 2010

Plans For Bullingdon Detention Centre Dropped

Plans to build the largest immigration detention centre in Europe on the Bullingdon site near Bicester have been dropped. The long mooted plan for the 800 place Category C-standard immigration prison to be built on ex-military land close to HMP Bullingdon are victims of the new government's massive cutbacks. No doubt the new LibCon immigration minister Damian 'The Omen' Green found this particularly galling news to have to announce that "the construction of the centre is currently unaffordable under current plans". Nevertheless, he can comfort himself that there are plans afoot to convert Category D HMP Morton Hall, and possibly part or all of the rebuilt HMP Ashwell, into detention centres, the decisions on which will probably be announced in the run up to the new governmental spending review this autumn.

Battle To Save RMJ Fails

Refugee and Migrant Justice administration update:

Refugee and Migrant Justice is saddened to announced that a last-minute rescue plan to save the organisation has not succeeded.

After launching an emergency appeal for funds, £76,525 was pledged by members of the public within a 24 hour period and a number of charitable trusts and organisations offered significant support. However, talks with the Legal Services Commission, RMJ's main funder, were unsuccessful.

The administrators BDO are now in the process of winding down the organisation.

People who kindly pledged money to RMJ are being informed and their money will be returned.

Caroline Slocock, chief executive of Refugee and Migrant Justice said: "During this period, RMJ has received the most amazing support from supporters and we were overwhelmed and touched by the offers of financial help in response to our campaign. We would like to thank everyone who has tried to save RMJ and very much regret that it has not been possible."

Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Are The PCC & NUJ Doing Enough To Stop Racist Press?

Given the amount of ongoing racism in the UK press, maybe it is time to remind the Press Complaints Commission and the National Union of Journalists, who ostensibly have strict rules against ‘prejudicial’ and ‘pejorative’ reporting, that they are not doing their job properly.

Clause 12 of the Press Complaints Commission’s Editors’ Code of Practice relates to discrimination and suggests that prejudicial or pejorative remarks about race and other personal traits and social groupings should be avoided.

i) The press must avoid prejudicial or pejorative reference to an individual’s race, colour, religion, gender, sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or disability.

ii) Details of an individual’s race, colour, religion, sexual orientation, physical or mental illness or disability must be avoided unless genuinely relevant to the story.

Similarly, Clause 10 of the National Union of Journalists’ Code of Conduct, by which all NUJ members are expected to abide, states that:

A journalist… produces no material likely to lead to hatred or discrimination on the grounds of a person’s age, gender, race, colour, creed, legal status, disability, marital status, or sexual orientation.

In addition, the union’s Black Members Council has produced Guidelines on Race Reporting, which many (white) members have clearly breached over the years.

So are the journalists and editors, whom this blog was set to expose, abiding by these rules? Clearly not. And are the PCC and NUJ doing enough to stop them? Clearly not.

If you would like to remind them of that, perhaps with a few recent examples, here are their contact details:

Press Complaints Commission
Halton House
20/23 Holborn
London EC1N 2JD
Online complaint form: http://www.pcc.org.uk/complaints/form.html
Email: complaints@pcc.org.uk

Headland House
308-312 Gray’s Inn Road
Email: info@nuj.org.uk
Ethics Council: ethics@nuj.org.uk
Equality Council: lenac@nuj.org.uk

Press Action

Saturday, 19 June 2010

It Wasn't Us Guv, Honest

The UK Border Agency and G4S, whose staff were confirmed as being involved in the forced removals, have categorically denied that any force was used during the flight to Baghdad on Wednesday. David Wood, Strategic Director of Criminality (sic) and Detention, is quoted as saying: "We reject all allegations that Iraqi returnees removed from the UK were mistreated by our staff." However, Matthew Coats, head of Immigration at the UKBA, declined to comment about the claims, though he did repeat the usual homilies about "only ever return[ing] those who both the agency and the courts are satisfied do not need our protection."

For their part, G4S stated: "We reject all allegations that Iraqi returnees were mistreated by G4S employees. Our officers are highly trained to ensure the safety of both returnees and staff and will only restrain returnees as a last resort, and then only in line with policies and procedures set out by the UKBA. We can confirm a small number of returnees did not want to disembark in Baghdad; but after Iraqi officials came on the plane and spoke to them, they left the aircraft calmly and without incident. At no time was any kind of force used against this small group."

The Guardian, which has carried most of the coverage of the flight, reported that up to 25 of 42 deported Iraqis and Kurds were still under detention at Baghdad airport yesterday, despite being screened in advance by Iraqi officials in the UK. One refugee claimed, "We've been in Iraqi since 4.30am [Thursday] but we have been locked up since. Twenty-five people in one small cell – we can't breathe. Some are seriously ill because of the hunger and the heat."

Another of the deportees, a Kurd named Abdullah [though not the same person we quoted yesterday] claimed that ""During the flight I took my seat belt off [and] the officers jumped on me and grabbed me by the neck so I couldn't breathe. Baghdad is dangerous for Kurds; people hunt Kurds for kidnapping or to kill them. When we landed Iraqi officials came on to the plane and said that if anybody did not come out [voluntarily] 'we will kick you and beat you'. Some were scared and went out. Then the [British security] officials and Iraqi officers started beating us, saying: 'This is your country. Go back.'"

Friday, 18 June 2010

Forcible Returns And Deportation

"Administrative or forced removals are carried out when someone is sent out of a country under immigration laws, e.g. having asylum claim refused, overstaying a visa. Deportations on the other hand are reviewed by a court and are personally endorsed by the Home Secretary, e.g. following a conviction or on public security grounds. However, despite the legal distinction, the word 'deportation' is often used by campaigns/groups to cover both." - An A-Z of Borders: Perspectives from the UK No Borders network [AK Press]

Forced deportations are much in the news today (with the emphasis on force) as news of the brutalisation of Iraqis on Wednesday's flight has leaked out, the second since the resumption of deportations direct to the Iraqi capital following last October's debacle*. Last week a flight to Baghdad also left, flying via the Netherlands and Sweden to pick up other Iraqi deportees, carrying 11 refused asylum seekers.

The reason why Wednesday's flight has become so newsworthy however are not because of the fact that the government (in the guise of the Treasury Solicitor's Department) warned the judiciary (in a letter to the High Court) not to interfere ("disrupt or delay") in the smooth running of the flights by accepting any (perfectly legal) last-minute applications for judicial reviews: "Because of the complexities, practicalities and costs involved in arranging charter flights, it is essential that these removals are not disrupted or delayed by large numbers of last-minute claims for permission to seek judicial review."

Nor were the flights particularly newsworthy because of calls by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (and Amnesty International) that such flights ignore UN guidelines about forced returns of Iraqis from the central provinces of Iraq (Ninewa [Mosul], Kirkuk, Diyala, Salah al-Din and Baghdad) that the UNHCR officially consider unsafe, and who therefore continue to warrant international asylum protection. However, the ConDem government, in their desperation to be seen to 'tough on immigration and tough on the means of immigration' and to cut costs, decided that they knew better than the UNHCR and totally ignored them, going ahead with the flights.

Unfortunately for them, this appears to have backfired on them, in the publicity stakes at least, with news that UK Borders Agency staff beat a number of the Iraqis not only to get them off the plane a Baghdad airport itself but also to get them on the plane at Heathrow in the first place. Of the 42 on the flight, 16 were still being held at Baghdad airport 24 hours after having arrived**, and of the 14 deportees that UNHCR lawyers had spoken to, all claimed to have been beaten and forced to get on the plane in London. Six of those that the UNHCR had talked to directly showed officials fresh bruising, supporting their claims.

One of those injured, a Kurd named Sherwan Abdullah, who had lived in England for eight years, told the BBC of his and others treatment at the hands of the UKBA personnel who force him off the plane in Baghdad: "They were grabbing us, they told us if you don't come down, we're going to beat you badly, and we're going to take you out... If somebody wasn't willing to come out, they grabbed them, they grabbed the neck, they nearly killed them, these people could not breathe." Mr Abdullah also claimed that Iraqi police at the airport stole all his money.

In response, the UNHCR plan to investigate the refugees' claims. The UKBA refused to respond other than issuing the standard denial that "a minimum use of force is an absolute last resort, and would only ever be used when an individual becomes disruptive or refuses to comply. Even then, force is only carried out by highly trained officers, and should be carefully monitored, proportionate, and used for the shortest possible period to ensure compliance." However, we only have their word for this as these flights take place in absolute secrecy and independent witnesses are hard to come by. For example, we do not even know if all the personnel involve were UKBA officers or if, as seems likely, some of them were in fact hired thugs private security guards from the likes of G4S.

* Armed Iraqi officials boarded the plane and refused to accept 34 'returned' Kurdish refugees.
** Those deported on the 9 June flight were held for a full week at the airport whilst their papers where 'checked'.


Charter flights have recently become most EU government's weapon of choice for forced removals. Previously forced removals and deportations were carried out on scheduled flights, mainly because it was far more cheaper - the government did not have to pay for landing rights or for the hire of aircraft. However, there are two problems with using charter flights - they only allow for removals in small numbers, regular paying customers taking up most of the other seats, but also those regular customers have also become recognised as being a 'weak link'. This is because the sight of someone being dragged onto a plane in shackles has often proved too much for some passengers and they have carried out spontaneous protests, often ending in the deportee being removed from the plane before they allowed it to take off.

Detainee support groups and protesters have recognised this and have successfully sought to exploit this, forcing a number of carriers to pull-out of hosting such deportations, and severely limiting the ability of UKBA to use commercial flights for removals. So much so in fact, that the representative of one private security firm responsible for escorting deportations in evidence to the Home Affairs Select Committee during an enquiry on deportations that if it was not for British Airways, the number of those deported on scheduled flights would be "virtually nil".

The advantage of using charter flights for deportations are in the numbers of refused asylum seekers that can be removed in one go and, most of all, the secrecy - there's no one around to see what goes on as most of those being removed are not going voluntarily in any sense of the word. Plus the very fact that it is a mass removal increases the chance of resistance by the deportees.

The disadvantages are the exorbitant costs: hiring the aircraft and pilots (tens of thousands of pounds) to fly; fuel for the 8,000km round trip; insurance cover for the trip to a war zone; landing fees; paying for 2-4 security guards per prisoner; etc. Not cheap by any stretch of the imagination. These high costs have forced this government, as it did the previous one, to go against its better judgement and get involved in negotiating EU-wide co-opertaion on joint deportation flights under the auspices of Frontex, thereby spreading out the costs and PR risks. However, this leaves the flights open to interference by the more 'liberal' EU politicians seeking more oversight of the deportation flights, even going as far as having human rights monitors on beard, no doubt something that will be strongly resisted by individual European governments.

See: Corporate Watch's Anti-Deportation Campaign Spotlight.

Wednesday, 16 June 2010

Just Who Is Responsible For UK's Worsening Treatment Of Migrants?

It looks like the Tories claims that Nu Labour's mythical 'open door' immigration policy and their supposed attempts at mass social engineering (read as eugenics) via a policy encouraging 'mass immigration', not to mention the creation of the 'multicultural society' (read as 'diluting our precious bodily fluids'), was as restrictive and mean spirited as the Tories themselves hope to be.

The evidence for this has been coming in in droves recently. Just today we have had the news that Refugee and Migrant Justice (RMJ), the charity that provides legal support to thousands of asylum seekers across England and Wales have been forced into administration because of the changes brought in by Nu Labour to the way that Legal Aid fees are paid. Paul Gray, the chair of RMJ: "It is with great sadness that RMJ's trustees took the decision . . . we are very concerned about the position of our 10,000 clients, and of our dedicated and highly professional staff."

Instead of being paid hourly rates with fixed fees for most cases , the previous government decided that it would be a good idea to save money by only paying the fees when cases were exhausted. The net result is that only law firms with large financial backing can afford to take on Legal Aid-funded cases and charities or small firms that fight social justice issues that do not have that backing have either to face going to the wall or give up on Legal Aid-funded cases altogether, especially those firms specialising in asylum cases. Paul Gray again: "This situation is caused by late payment of legal aid by up to two years, not inefficiency or even lack of income . . . Late payment has an unequal impact on charities because they cannot get bank loans to finance the cash gap."

So that was a good outcome for any government seeking to halt, in their eyes, vexatious claims from refused asylum seekers who might dare to seek full legal redress and use the courts to fully pursue their rights under the law to seek, just like anyone else is free to do, as long as they can afford 'justice'. So, despite extensive lobbying of the new government from across the political spectrum, RMJ have been forced to call it a day, leaving over 10,000 clients, including 900 lone children, in legal limbo and more vulnerable than ever of being fed through the Borders Agency mincer and on to the next deportation flight.

The Ministry of Justice's response when then possibility of RMJ having to close its was first announced: "If RMJ fails, we accept that there will be some disruption while their clients look for help from another adviser. However, [the Legal Services Commission] believe that capacity will not be adversely affected as clients and caseworkers will be able to transfer to other organisations, as has happened in similar situations." Except that they wont be specialists in immigration law and their potential clients wont get the best legal advice possible. Still, they will be cheaper. One up to Nu Labour.

Then there was the Tory-Whig Alliance's announcements both of the resumption of deportations of Iraqi asylum seekers directly back to Baghdad, a scheme that had failed miserably last time it was tried, and the plan to send Afghan children back to Afghanistan in direct contravention of any number of international laws and conventions (this was more of a leak than a planned announcement), a move that was roundly condemned by everyone from the UNHCR though the Refugee Council to Human Rights Watch. The tender for the £4m "reintegration centre" in Afghanistan designed to 'process' 120 adults and 12 boys aged under 18 who had been forcibly returned from the UK. Up to 150 teenagers would be sent back in its first year of operation.

The British plans forms part of a wider European move to plan the return of unaccompanied migrant children to Afghanistan. Norway wants to open their own reception centre in Kabul, whilst Sweden, Denmark and the Netherlands are to follow suit soon. All this is as the direct result of Nu Labour circulated a policy paper on unaccompanied minors in February during a Brussels workshop that called for an "EU-wide presumption" that a child's best interest was to return. It also argued that formal safeguards such as guardianship were "immensely expensive to put in place", emphasising the cost cutting basis of the plan.

According to the Home Office, there are currently 4,200 unaccompanied child refugees in the country and a fair portion of these have had their asylum applications refused by the Home Office on the basis that they are lying about their true age, never mind actually accepting their reasons for fleeing persecution. However, child protection laws guarantee that they will not be left destitute and homeless and many of these children are currently living in care homes across the UK.

Amongst those who are highly critical of the plan is Kamena Dorling, legal and policy officer for the Migrant Children's Project at the Children's Legal Centre: "If a child has no family to whom they can be returned safely, then it is difficult to see how returning them alone to Kabul will be in line with the UK Border Agency's duty, under the Borders, Citizenship and Immigration Act 2009, to ‘safeguard and promote the welfare' of that child."

However the government's main interest is solely in presenting a picture of the UK as not being a 'soft touch', hence Damian 'The Omen' Green repeating the same tired old clichés focusing on the 'pull factors', such as they are, rather than the 'push factors': "No one should be encouraging children to make dangerous journeys across the world." Just how trite can one get?

We, and numerous others, have worked with these children who (along with their families) have been so desperate to escape their circumstances that they have spent months (if not years) travelling halfway around the world; often walking hundreds of miles through all weathers; risking life and limb; often being beaten, robbed or raped; often trusting their lives to people traffickers (sometimes paid by their families selling everything they own); all in the hope of reaching the relative safety of a land they have only ever seen on the TV or heard of on the radio. That Green should denigrate them with this tosh would be outrageous if it weren't totally to be expected.

The UNHCR also objected to the forced return of Iraqi asylum seekers that the UK and other EU countries have jointly carried out in the past 2 weeks whilst all that well-known snake oil salesman David Cameron could come up with was praise for "our brave servicemen and women fought and died" in Iraq. Yet the war that those troops have pursued in Iraq (and Afghanistan) is the very reason why many of these people were forced to become refugees. Strikes two and three for Nu Labour.

Days later the UNHCR released a report entitled 'Trees Only Move In The Wind' which further reinforce the general dangers that unaccompanied child migrants face, not only on their journeys to the EU, but also when they reach here. It makes for salutary reading.

On top of all this this week saw a report entitled 'Not Gone But Forgotten' from the Red Cross criticising the government's asylum system as "shameful" and "inhumane", and laying into the 'section 4' hardship provision. A survey carried out by the organisation suggested that 87% of the 11,000 plus destitute refused asylum seekers that it helped last year often lived on one meal a day.* Not particularly good PR for the government but no doubt of more concern to them is news from their own newly created Office for Budget Responsibility (OBR) of another report that effectively torpedoes the government's plans to cap migration.

The OBR's message is that the demographic time bomb of a falling birth rate and an increasing elderly population coupled with a massive cut in non-EU migration, the cutbacks, a weakening pound and a slowing economy will lead to a further decrease in migration. The net result will be even less of a tax intake to pay for the growing pensions bill and fewer people to fill the low paid carers jobs in the dwindling public and outsourced private sector care providers. Strikes four and five to Nu Labour but the last one is all down to the Tory-Whig Alliance, and from now on the buck will have to stop with them.

* See also the Guardian article 'The asylum seekers who survive on £10 a week'.

Tuesday, 15 June 2010

Tagging - The Answer To Ending Child Detention?

Yes, that right, tagging children of school age and below is one of the potential answers being considered by the Tory-Whig Alliance is the tagging of so-called 'failed' asylum seekers AND THEIR FAMILIES! According to immigration minister Damian 'The Omen' Green on a visit to Glasgow yesterday, it is one of the options for their supposedly new-look 'humane and efficient' asylum system.

And his new-look 'humane and efficient' asylum system would initially involve putting refugees through the Borders Agency mincing machine as quickly as possible: “What we need to do is decide as quickly as possible who is a genuine refugee (sic) and who isn’t, and once that decision has been made treat both groups as well as possible... Those who are genuine refugees we want to help stay here and integrate with the community, and those who aren’t we want to remove from this country as quickly as possible, but also with humanity and dignity.”*

Notice the use of the term 'genuine refugee'. Despite claiming to want to introduce a new 'humane and efficient' asylum system, he chooses to continue to repeat all the usual tired prejudicial clichés and loaded terminology. For example, he also claimed: “I think the problem is trying to develop a system that can distinguish quickly, efficiently and fairly between genuine refugees and those who are just using the asylum system to come here as economic migrants... Regrettably a lot of people do abuse the system." This is a standard trope but what is the evidence? In fact, what do any of these terms actually mean?**

Some will gain refugee status and some will not and it is in nobody’s interests if the families go underground." Again, another myth. Where is the evidence Mr Green that asylum seeking families will 'go underground'? We all know there is none. You may have partially salved your conscience by ending child detention in Scotland (even though it merely pushes the problem south of the border) but just more anti-immigrant rhetoric from another tired political hack.

* Where is the humanity and dignity in retaining ID cards for foreign nationals only and forcing English language tests on non-EU spouses?
** See for example: The Myth Of The 'Failed' Asylum Seeker.

The Myth Of The 'Failed' Asylum Seeker

What exactly does the term 'failed' asylum seeker really mean? Put simply it means that a person [the asylum seeker] has applied for asylum i.e. to be accepted as a refugee under the terms of the 1951 UN Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees*, and had their application turned down under the country's own self-regulated criteria.

Historically, the movement of peoples across borders was always a small-scale event until the late C20th, at least in terms that rich First World countries would find economically threatening. And the mass movements of populations across Third World borders as the result of war or famine never posed such a threat until the advent of cheap air travel and the globalised economy.

It was only then that what we now understand to be modern immigration controls came in as before then international travel was the privilege of the wealthy few plus the armies and bureaucrats that carried out their delegated activities world wide c.f. the British Empire, Dutch East India Company, etc.

The first immigration controls in the UK didn't occur until 1905 and the Aliens Act, which was specifically targeted at limiting Eastern European Jews from entering the county and as a direct result of the proto-fascist agitation of the British Brothers League in the East End of London. However, it wasn't until the 1962 Commonwealth Immigrants Act and 1968 Commonwealth Immigration Act were passed, and the right to settle in the UK was removed from the citizens of ex-Empire countries, that recognisably modern immigration controls arrived in the UK.

Again this was a direct result of fascist and racist agitation, this time by Oswald Mosley's Union Movement and Colin Jordan's White Defence League, which precipitated the 1958 Nottingham and Notting Hill 'race' riots. Both Immigration Acts reneged on the promise to those Empire soldiers who had fought for King and Empire, a promise guaranteed by possession of a British passport, that, as subjects of the Empire, they could settle in Britain after the war if they fought to defend it. Then, when they and their families could finally afford to avail themselves of that promise, the opportunity was snatched away from them.

The 1962 and '68 Immigration Acts were then consolidated by the 1971 Immigration Act, which brought in a provision for the 'administrative detention' for an 'indefinite period' of those who have been refused leave to enter the UK or who are required to submit to further examination at ports of entry; internment in other words.

Subsequent Acts have sought to codify the criteria under which the UK 'seeks' to carry out its international obligations under the UN Convention, and the other treaties it is a signatory of, with regard to refugees and asylum. Inevitably, those subsequent Acts have sought to further restrict the 'rights' of asylum seekers to gain meaningful refugee status, both in terms of numbers and length (duration) of the protection granted.

And to the general dismay of the political class, those restrictions have failed to keep up with the ability of people to afford, both in money terms and in terms of desire/desperation to reach the UK to build a better life for themselves. Hence the massive increase in anti-immigrant rhetoric and the ever spiralling attempts to legislate against migrants in general and asylum seekers in particular.

So, the bottom line is that there is no such thing as a 'failed' asylum seeker, just more and more REFUSED asylum seekers - refugees who have failed to jump through the ever increasing number of hoops that have been placed in their way before they can gain any form of meaningful protection under national and international laws.

* "Owing to a well-founded fear of being persecuted for reasons of race, religion, nationality, membership of a particular social group, or political opinion, is outside the country of their nationality, and is unable to or, owing to such fear, is unwilling to avail him/herself of the protection of that country."

Iraqi Mothers Of Oxford, Leeds & London Statement Sgainst Deportation Of Iraqi Youth

On behalf of a group of concerned Iraqi mothers of Oxford, Leeds and London we are issuing this statement in opposition of the deportation of Iraqi youths on Wednesday 16th of June.

We believe that the devastation in Iraq is unbearable for any living person. As the news illustrates, the bombing has not subsided, there is no peace, proper public health services and not even electricity or water.

These youths have been living here for at least 2 years and have been studying English to adapt to the way of life here in Britain. It is also important to consider that most of them are not on benefits.

Last week, a group of about 40 Iraqis were sent back to Iraq- their families are now worried as they have not received them. They have been held in an Iraqi prison as they have no documents to prove that they are Iraqi people.

We feel that this is against the rights of humanity. We strongly think that they have the right to stay here in Britain

“They are sending me to my death. There is nothing there for me- I’ve lost all my family due to the conflict there.” says one Iraqi youth, currently held Gatwick Deportation Centre.

"These youths have escaped the massacre of Iraq to live a proper life- they have every reason to stay in Britain. With the situation in Iraq as it is, even a person's most basic needs cannot be met," states an Iraqi citizen.

Please stop their deportation to Iraq to prevent further blood shed.

'Africa House' Evicted For Demolition By French Authorities In Calais

Calais Migrant Solidarity Press Release

For immediate release:

African migrants are today going to be left homeless after the French Police this morning evicted an abandoned warehouse in Calais that was home to around 80 African migrants from Sudan, Eritrea and Ethiopia.

The eviction had been pre-announced in yesterday's local newspapers for 13:00 today. Most of the migrants had therefore left the building when the police arrived. The police have sealed off the building and have placed a chemical toilet outside for the workers who will carry out the demolition.

It is believed that the warehouse will be demolished later this month, along with half a dozen other empty buildings on the same street, including one home, next door to 'Africa House', which belongs to French citizens.

Calais Migrant Solidarity activists (1) are however currently trying to help re-house the African migrants in defiance of both the ban on shelter in Calais and the anti-solidarity laws in France (2).

The French police, working with the UK government, have escalated their attempts to drive migrants out of the French port town through systematic harassment, of which home demolitions is just one tactic (3) (4) (5).

CMS activist Kirsty Johnson said ?it is shocking to see in Calais the similarities in state policies and actions of those used against European Jews in the 1930s, which are now supposedly assumed to be found repugnant.?

Many migrants in Calais do not have anywhere to go. Kirsty Johnson described: "Some of the other communities who are routinely harassed by the police here include unaccompanied minors from Afghanistan, Palestinians from Gaza (6), and Iranian migrants. Many have travelled for years to get here, risking their lives, in order to find a home. They have lost everything."

Sammy Umal-Haram from Darfur said, "the police chase us every day, but they don't understand why we are here. All across Europe there are borders that are killing many people who are trying to cross from escaping violence and poverty. Many of us have travelled for years, and many are children. Where can we go? This is not a life." (7) Mohammed, 18, Darfur: "Everyday police come, take people to prison and mistreat us. Sometimes they say to me ?You are black, you are shit. You need to leave France."

Claire Braude continued, ?Life on the streets of Calais is the unseen reality of the policies of the French, British and European Union governments that exclude desperate non-EU migrants from accessing the very opportunity that was created out of the historical exploitation of non-European labour and resources.?

However, Jacques Anciot, present at the eviction, said: "They have been met with resistance at every turn. Calais Migrant Solidarity has had a constant presence on the ground since June last year working in solidarity with the different migrant communities and resisting police activity. We demand freedom of movement for all, and the right to stay."



Tel: +33699746155 (In France)

+447531647480 (In the UK)




(1) Calais Migrant Solidarity is a network of activists from across Europe that has been working on the ground every single day in Calais since June 2009, following the No Borders Camp. We provide practical solidarity to all migrants in Calais, and we are responsible for opening the well publicised Kronstad Hangar in February, which was violently shut down by the police. We are trying to communicate the effects of European Immigration policy in Calais, as well as work with migrants to help resist raids, organise protests, provide basic medical assistance, advice, space, English language lessons and friendship.

(2) It is well publicised that France has a law called the 'offence of solidarity' which applies to all migrants without papers and caries a harsh 5 year maximum sentence. The French government states that it does not use these laws against activists, but instead against people smugglers. However, a French legal association 'Gisti' is documenting instances of often hefty prosecution of individuals who have helped migrants without papers with issues such as housing.


(3) The process of demolishing migrant homes began publicly last September with the large scale demolition of the Pashtun 'jungle', which saw 278 Afghans being detained, of which over half were unaccompanied minors.

(4) Police regularly slash migrant tents and blankets, ransack homes, destroy property, and assault migrants. In the last few weeks police have kicked prayer spaces, thrown Qur'ans, drawn fascist symbols on the walls and made monkey noises at migrants.

There are other reports from migrants of police putting chemicals into drinking water and suspected sleeping-pill substances being put into food served while in detention.

(5) It is believed that a building lying in ruins about 400 meters along the same road from Africa House, which is currently home to Arabic speaking migrants, will be the next home to be demolished.

(6) The Israeli killing of least 9 activists in international waters off the coast of Gaza has once again put the spotlight onto the hellish conditions suffered by Palestinians in Gaza, with the Israeli government denying many vital supplies to reach Gaza.

(7) 6 Darfurian Sudanese have recently been convicted in the French court of law for failing to identify themselves. They were unable to understand the court proceedings as there are 136 languages spoken in Sudan. Around thirty activists from a range of campaigns across northern France attended the trial. The Sudanese are currently in prison at Longuenesse.

Monday, 14 June 2010

Refugees Welcome Here (In The Pages Of The Mail!)

Ironic-use-of-a-quote of the week award:

Peter Yoak, a refugee from war-torn Sudan, who now lives in Bolton, Greater Manchester, said: 'I find that most British people I meet are welcoming, friendly and polite. Of course you find a couple who are not like that, but that is the same everywhere. As a nation though, I think Brits are tolerant and kind."

Found in the Daily Mail, that well-known friend of asylum seekers, refugees and foreigners in general - and lifted almost verbatim in classic 'churnalistic' fashion from the Press Association copy. Except they put a helpful/patronising [delete as applicable] explanation of what Refugee Week is for all its readers, who are normally only interested in ranting about refugees in the paper's comments message boards: "a nationwide programme of events to bring Britons and refugees closer, through a Simple Acts Campaign, using everyday actions such as watching a film about exile or having a cup of tea and a chat with an asylum seeker." And thereby displaying their own ignorance as Refugee Week has been going since 1998 and the Simple Acts Campaign is just the latest manifestation of it.

Blockade BMI Airlines!

*BMI Airlines* have been identified as the company conducting the regular charter flights to Afghanistan.

The sole purpose of these flights is to forcibly return refused asylum seekers to Afghanistan. Charter flights have the advantage of secrecy, since the deportations and the severe restraint sometimes used takes place away from public view, and large numbers of people can be deported at the same time.

BMI Airlines are known to have been involved in deportations in the past and their CEO is unrepentant about what he and his company are doing.

*Blockade BMI!*

Anti-deportation campaigners are calling for a blockade of BMI’s phone lines on Monday and Tuesday, before the next charter due to take place on Tuesday evening at 22:00hrs.

Please call the following numbers:

Head Office switchboard: 01332 854000888 (Mon-Fri, 8am-6pm)

Charter department: 0844 244 7040 (Mon-Fri, 9am-5pm)

IMPORTANT: Take note of the info and advice here if you wish to protect your privacy.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Yarl’s Wood Update: Releases, Returns, Reprisals

RELEASES: Thirteen former hunger strikers have now been released of the 25 or so we were in touch with on a daily basis.

All had spent months in detention and one woman had been there for a year and a half. Some had won their case but were being kept inside by a vindictive Home Office which was appealing the judgement. Women described feeling like forgotten people. One of the key demands of the hunger strike was for an end to indefinite detention.

The collective power generated by the hunger strike has had a huge impact helped greatly by the widespread publicity. Judges who were previously hostile and discriminatory are suddenly more willing to consider granting bail. Women, previously disparaged as “bogus asylum seekers” who “prolong their own detention” are being seen for who they are: rape survivors who have suffered terrible violence and trauma and mothers who have lived and raised families in the UK for years and who are distraught at being separated from their children.

Ms D was released in April. She has lived in the UK for 23 years. She had been detained for just under eighteen months at the time of the hunger strike. She was sent to Yarl’s Wood from prison, having been convicted and imprisoned for benefit fraud, despite the judge acknowledging that she had been forced to act as she did by her violent husband. He fled when the fraud was discovered, leaving her to face charges. She is still waiting for a Home Office decision!

Ms D said: “I cannot believe how our protest and the support we got has changed my life around. I was facing deportation and permanent separation from my family. Now I’m back home with my children in my arms looking forward to the birth of my grandchild. The support me and other women got while we were on hunger strike was critical to our survival and all that we have been able to achieve.

Ms L was released four weeks ago. However, almost immediately she was forced to leave her accommodation when her surety demanded she have sex with him. We helped her find somewhere to stay temporarily while she waits to hear if her court bail hearing will accept her new address. She is terrified of being sent back to Yarl’s Wood.

Ms A was released in May but with a tag. She had been detained for six months at the time of the hunger strike. She refused food for the full six weeks and lost over six kg. She ended up in Yarl’s Wood after serving six months in prison for working without papers. Her applications for bail fell on deaf ears until the hunger strike brought the situation of women detained there to national attention.

On being released Ms A said: “When they gave me bail they restricted my movements . . . I can only be out of the house to take my kid to school, in the morning and to collect her in the afternoon . . . but at least I’m with all my family now.

Ms J a single mother from St Lucia was released on bail. She was in detention for seven months. She had been kidnapped by a criminal gang, was raped and suffered other torture at their hands, and in fear of her life was forced to carry drugs to the UK. Ms J won her case but the Home Office appealed and she was kept in detention pending a decision. She was released after the hunger strike and is waiting for a decision on whether her status will be revoked. If it is, she faces being returned to St Lucia where, a fortnight ago, her sister was murdered by a gang looking for Ms J. Several members of her immediate family were also shot in the attack.

Ms K won her release from Holloway prison in April. Press release with details here.

But Ms O, a lesbian woman from Jamaica, remains inside because the Home Office won their appeal against the court’s original decision to grant her leave to remain. Her legal team have submitted a further appeal based on evidence of the violence she would suffer if returned, which is overwhelming and widely documented.

Seven other former hunger strikers are in regular contact but still detained. Four are still in prison even though they have not been charged with any crimes. All are battling against the refusal of the courts to grant them bail.

RETURNS: Two key hunger strikers were returned to their home country.

Both had pending civil claims against the Yarl’s Wood authorities. Using Legal Action for Women’s Self Help Guide both were instrumental in stopping other women being removed.

Ms P was sent back to Nigeria two weeks ago. She initially fled to the UK following years of extreme domestic violence which culminated in her being hospitalised for three months. We visited Ms P in Yarl’s Wood two days before she was deported. Whilst inside she helped other women, many of who had no legal representation and struggled to speak, read and write in English. She learned how to make legal submissions from another woman, and when that woman was released, Ms P stepped into her shoes. Word got around quickly and before long many women were knocking at her door with their papers. Ms P would spend several hours reading them before asking the woman to join her while she drafted the submissions they needed. When removals were imminent she would work late into the night. Her efforts were often sabotaged by the authorities: “If women had removals for a Friday and I asked the High Court to fax a JR form, nothing would arrive till Thursday, and usually at the last minute. This brave, charming, determined woman helped countless others and will be sorely missed. One woman whose case she took on commented “they took a good woman away from us”.

Ms S was removed three weeks ago. She was one of the few Chinese women in Yarl’s Wood who could speak good English and crucially brought women together across the barrier of language. Chinese and Vietnamese women said that they joined the hunger strike in particular to protest the length of their detention and because they are systematically denied translation. Some women didn’t even know they had been refused asylum. One woman had been held for over two years without knowing why and had received no help to find out. Ms S translated for women when they wanted to speak to us. She worked tirelessly to get help from outside and press women’s MPs to respond for appeals for help. She was also one of the key witnesses to the violence hunger strikers suffered when they were “kettled” on 8 February.

We are trying to stay in touch with both women to help ensure their safety and help pursue ongoing civil claims. Many believe they were both fast tracked out of the UK as punishment for the crucial legal and co-ordinating work they did. We would like to be able to send both women money to help them remain in touch with their supporters and solicitors while their civil claims are being processed. To donate please visit our website.

Recent Press:

We must end the detention of families, Guardian Letters, 18 May 2010.

Con-Dems break detention pledge, Morning Star, 20 May 2010.

More information:

Black Women’s Rape Action Project
T: 020 7482 2496 M: 07980659831 F: 020 7209 4761
Crossroads Women’s Centre, 230a Kentish Town Rd, London NW5 2AB


Tuesday 29 JUNE 7-9pm

Women’s Hunger Strike – Louder Than Words - Over 40 days • across races & languages • mothers defend families • many released • deportations halted.

Committee Room 8, House of Commons, London SW1, Westminster.

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

UK To Cut Immigrant Numbers By Teaching Them To Read The Daily Mail

Something we found at the Daily Mash. Not to everyone's taste but we found it amusing:

The government is to cut the number of immigrants applying for UK citizenship by teaching them how to read the Daily Mail, it has been confirmed.

Ministers believe that using the newspaper as the main teaching resource in English language classes should persuade more than 90% of applicants to go straight back home.

The plan, described by BNP leader Nick Griffin as a 'stroke of genius', will see each new immigrant handed 10 copies of the Daily Mail, a box of high-strength paracetamol and a bucket.

Rahman Ahmed, a carpenter from a small village in northern Bangladesh who signed up to the pilot programme, revealed it took him just 90 seconds to realise he had made a 'terrible, terrible mistake'.

Standing at the the check-in queue at Heathrow airport, he said: "It not just fact that you all obviously hate me - I prepared for that - it that so many of you seem fascinated with fatness or thinness of stupid, talentless women.

"Then I notice how you all in constant panic about whether or not to eat tomatoes. Some days they are best thing ever, other days they kill you. I am thinking 'this is not product of healthy brain'."

He added: "And I afraid I simply cannot live in country where people like Jan Moir are not fed to ravenous leopards in front of large, happy crowd."

Ahmed's friend and fellow student Khaled Assani said: "After five minutes I have to look up my Bengali-English dictionary for phrase 'demented fascist'. I go home now. Leave me be."

Meanwhile officials insist the newspaper's attitude to women should be particularly effective in persuading the wives and fiancées of immigrants to attempt to swim back to the country of their birth if they cannot afford the air fare.

A Home Office spokesman said: "To women from muslim countries, the Daily Mail should makes Islamic fundamentalism seem like a Germaine Greer seminar on the power of the vagina."

When Deportation Is Welcome?

You might remember back in March our story 'Shock Horror: UKBA Refuse To Lock People Up!' about two Indian nationals who had been sleeping rough on the suburban streets of Leicester throughout the recent harsh winter, surviving on the handouts of locals. Sarbjit Singh and Ashok Masah were destitute, having lost their passports and all other forms of identity and consequently were being refused entry back into India even if they could have afforded the airfare. The UK Borders Agency were also refusing to become involved and it took a (less than supportive) campaign by the local Leicester Mercury and the subsequent involvement of local MP Keith Vaz to set the bureaucratic wheels in motion.

Now the 2 men have finally been detained by the UKBA, which is apparently good news for Mr Singh as the Indian High Commission at long last have arranged a passport for him. However, for Mr Masah things appear to be less rosy as he evidently remains intent on continuing to refuse to communicate, let alone cooperate, with the authorities. It not even known whether he wished to return to India or not. Consequently the Indian government will not issue him with travel documents and he will remain in immigration limbo, banged up in a detention centre somewhere in England.

Two Days Of Action Against Racist Press

Autonomous, decentralised actions and protests against racist press across the UK.

2nd – 3rd July 2010

Sick of being lied to?

Border controls, detention centres, surveillance cameras, anti-terrorist laws, restrictions on movement, militarisation and never-ending wars… Britain in 2010 is a fortress state much like George Orwell’s 1984. One difference is that the Ministry of Propaganda is now privatised. The mainstream/corporate media manufacture a culture of hatred and fear: fear of migrants, fear of strangers, fear of difference, fear thy neighbour, fear each other. And they do so by twisting facts and recycling politicians’ lies: Migrants are the cause of unemployment and inflation; Muslims are a threat to democracy; Gypsies are stealing ‘our’ land; and so on and so forth. The real causes (profit-driven capitalism and state repression) are sidestepped as irrelevant little details.

Sick of being lied about?

We are workers, migrants, refugees, Africans, East Europeans, Muslims, youths, single mums, queers, unemployed, lefties, anarchists… We are ordinary people sick of being lied about. We are not ‘others’ and we have the right to be here. We are here because you were there, plundering our countries and killing our planet, waging wars and arming dictators. The mainstream/corporate media have always sided with those in power, justifying their crimes and demonising their victims, softening up their brutality and blaming others. The result is that much-repeated lies become given facts and the victims of this screwed-up system are blamed for it.

It ain’t just about headlines

The tabloids’ rants against migrants, travellers and Muslims are nothing new. The Daily Mail’s campaign against Russian Jewish immigrants helped pave the way for Britian’s first ever immigration law, the Aliens Act of 1905. In the 1930s, the Mail supported Mussolini and Hitler (“Adolf the Great”), shouted “Hurrah!” for Moseley’s fascist Blackshirts and campaigned against the “outrage” of Jewish refugees “pouring in” from Nazi Germany.

With the alarming rise of the English Defence League and the BNP, who are increasingly treated less hostilely by journalists and editors across the industry, history needs to be relearned. It’s the headlines that grab our attention, but it’s the column inches that mount up. This same uncritical coverage has allowed the draconian ‘anti-terror’ policies to be accepted as normal; has supported the state’s repression of Muslims and others in the name of ‘extremism’; and created a general climate of fear in which immigration has become a scapegoat for just about every social and economic problem you can think of. Politicians capitalise on this scaremongering and newspapers sell it. The consequences are grave.

All the way down

The Daily Mail is just the most obvious symbol of media racism. Porn-king Richard Desmond’s Daily Star and Daily Express match it blow for blow in hate-speech. But even liberal papers like The Guardian and The Independent, or the ‘impartial’ BBC, share the same biases: anti-immigration, pro-government, pro-war… although in more subtle ways. When the former immigration minister Phil Woolas, calling for a cap on immigration and population growth and justifying his agenda by the economic crisis and British people’s ‘worries’, when he is given prime coverage by The Times and BBC, while his critics are silenced or hardly mentioned, one must ask: was this what a racist minister wanted to say through stupid media, or what racist media wanted to say through a stupid minister? Capitalism and the state feed on fear; the racist press supplies the poison.

Do something about it!

We are calling upon all concerned groups and individuals to stand up to counter fear with action on the 2nd and 3rd July. Let us put the racist press in the spotlight. From owners, journalists and editors to printers and distribution hubs, they are all guilty of turning journalism into hate- and scaremongering.

For more information, see http://pressaction.wordpress.com

To contact us, please email pressaction(at-)riseup.net

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

Libya Gives UNHCR The 'Order Of The Boot'

The Libyan government has decided to kick the UNHCR out of the country. Libya, which is not a signatory of the 1951 United Nations Convention Relating to the Status of Refugees, has no asylum system of its own and has never been particularly accommodating to the UNHCR. In fact, the UNHCR has effective been operating in the country under sufferance, with no formal agreement having been negotiated between the agency and the Libyan government. Almost all contact between the two bodies has been via third parties such as International Centre for Migration Policy Development, the International Organization for Peace, Care and Relief (a Libyan NGO) and, more importantly, the International Organisation for Migration.*

Despite having a presence in Libya since 1991, it was only in the past couple of years that the UNHCR had been granted limited access to Libyan detention centres. However the signing of the 'push-back policy' agreement with the Italian state has seen increased frostiness between the UN body and Libyan authorities following UNHCR criticism of both governments.

The UNHCR have been given no deadline nor any reason for the decision and the fate of the 9,000 or so refugees and 3,700 asylum seekers that the organisation has so far registered in Libya, together with the healthcare, shelter, education and training programmes and legal advice services that it provides, is not known.

* For more information on the background of UNHCR activities in Libya see: [1], [2], [3], [4].

Tony Baldrick MP

'It's amazing what you find in the press' Part 52:

From the pages of the Oxford Mail we have just learnt that children are no longer detained in immigration prisons in the UK: "a shift in [government] policy meant children were no longer detained in removal centres." This is the paper quoting local MP Tony Baldry about his request to the current government to clarify their plans vis a vis the planned 800-bed Bicester detention centre, and making as much sense as his Blackadder (near) namesake.

But then again, it might just be the Oxford Mail's cub reporter Sam McGregor not knowing what he's talking about, as in the same article he also came up with the bizarre appellation "an open door asylum centre" in reference to Labours previous plans for the ex-MOD site. What on earth is an 'open door asylum centre'? Maybe he actually believes that Nu Labour did really have a measure entitled the 'Open Door Immigration Policy'? Definitely a case off 'repeat the lie often enough and people will believe it'.

Government Solicitors Tell High Court To Facilitate Baghdad Deportations

Stop Deportations Network Press Release:

A letter from the government solicitors has asked High Court judges to facilitate a mass deportation flight to Baghdad, scheduled for Wednesday, by not considering last-minute Judicial Review applications by detainees due for deportation. [1]

The letter by Andrea McMahon of the Treasury Solicitor's Department (TSol), which providers legal services to over 180 government departments and agencies, addressed to the Administrative Court Office at the High Court, states that, "Because of the complexities, practicalities and costs involved in arranging charters flights [sic] it is essential that these removals are not disrupted or delayed by large numbers of last minute claims for permission to seek judicial review." [2]

"To ensure the viability of this latest operation to Iraq," the letter continues, "the Home Office may decide not to defer removal simply on receipt of a last minute threat or application to seek judicial review in cases where removal directions have been set and served at least 5 working days before departure."

The flight is scheduled to depart the UK, from an undisclosed airport, at 5:15am on Wednesday, 9th June. It is expected to carry up to 10 Iraqi nationals from the UK, who are currently being held at different immigration detention centres, mainly in Colnbrook, near Heathrow airport. More deportees will then be picked up at Halmstad, Sweden, before the flight continues to Baghdad. The joint 'operation' is being coordinated by the EU border agency, Frontex, under the new Joint European Union Charter Flights Initiative.

The letter claims that a memorandum of understanding with the Iraqi government had been signed in 2005 but that, "due to concerns regarding the security of those on board the aircraft," the UK did not previously enforce forcible returns beyond the Kurdistan Regional Government-controlled region in the northern part of the country. "These concerns," the letter continues, "are no longer an issue for our charter flight operations to Iraq."

The document then provides a detailed legal discussion of whether the indiscriminate violence in Iraq is of a high-enough level that deportees' lives would be at risk by merely being in the country.

The United Nations refugee commission (UNHCR) has repeatedly expressed its concern that some European states have begun forcibly returning Iraqi refugees despite the "serious human rights violations and continuing security incidents throughout Iraq, most predominantly in the central governorates." Asylum seekers from these areas, the international body advises, "should be considered to be in need of international protection." [3] The UK is one of a few European countries, beside Sweden and Denmark, that have forcibly deported people to central Iraq in recent months against the advice of the UNHCR and other international organisations.

The TSol letter also claims that the UK government "successfully conducted its first charter flight to Baghdad on 15 October 2009." The flight was, in fact, a huge embarrassment to the UK government after Iraqi army officers confronted UK immigration officials at the Baghdad airport and forced them to fly back to London with 33 of the 44 deportees. [4]

Although the letter does not mention this, it does assure the High Court that those who are to be returned on this flight "have been cleared in advance with the authorities in Baghdad." Detainees in Colnbrook, near Heathrow, and Brook House, near Gatwick, have reportedly been interviewed over the last few days by Iraqi officials, who told detainees they were from the Iraqi embassy. The embassy, however, denies any knowledge of the detention interviews.

Last year, following the not-so-successful charter flight to Baghdad, an Iraqi government spokesman said his government was against the UK policy of forcing people back to the country. According to the International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, some of the deportees are of Kurdish origin and do not even speak Arabic.

In a section explaining the "rationale" behind using charters for mass deportations, the TSol letter states that "charter flights allow [the] UKBA to effect volume returns to countries where asylum intake is high or where there are a significant number of foreign national prisoners awaiting return. This also makes charter flights a cost effective option."

The letter concludes with a kind request to High Court judges to effectively not do their job: "It is respectfully requested that Duty Judges take the above information into account when considering any applications made for injunctions to prevent the removal of those due to be returned on the flight on 9 June."

A spokesperson for the Stop Deportation network, which campaigns against mass deportation flights, said: "We have been trying to highlight, and challenge, the unlawfulness of these 'special arrangements' that deportation charter flights are subject to. It is incredible that the government would go as far as telling judges not to do their job."


For further information and questions, please contact: stopdeportation(at)riseup.net

Notes for editors:

[1] A copy of the letter can be found at: http://stopdeportation.net/sites/default/files/letter_to_HC_re_Baghdad_flight.pdf

[2] Chapter 60 of the UK Border Agency's Enforcement Instructions and Guidance, which explains the notice that must be provided of any removal and how the UKBA should respond to any challenge to this, states that charter flights "may be subject to different arrangements where it is considered appropriate because of the complexities, practicalities and costs of arranging an operation." Deportees are usually notified in their Removal Directions letter that "removal will not necessarily be deferred in the event that a Judicial Review is lodged". If proceedings are lodged or JR is threatened by, or on behalf of, a person who is due to be removed on a charter flight, the case must be referred to the Operational Support & Certification Unit immediately. OSCU will then consider whether it is appropriate to proceed with the removal in order to "guarantee the viability of the operation." If the OSCU decides not to defer removal, the claimant or their representatives must be informed of this decision and the reasons for it in writing and must be told that removal will proceed unless an injunction is obtained - which is often difficult due to lack of time and access to adequate legal representation.

[3] See: http://www.unhcr.org/4ae1998e9.html.

[4] See: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2009/oct/16/unhcr-uk-baghdad-deportations, for example.

[5] For more information on Stop Deportation, see http://stopdeportation.net.

Thursday, 3 June 2010

Oakington To Continue 'Welcoming All Comers'

South Cambridgeshire District Council's planning committee yesterday passed an application to extending Oakington Immigration Reception Centre's 'temporary planning permission' until June 2013 by "six votes to eight"! One can understand why the paper constantly refer to Oakington as a Reception Centre*, after all that's what the UKBA sign at the entrance says, but how can a motion be passed "six votes to eight"?**

Another strange claim made in the article was that following the protests in Oakington at the death of Eliud Nyenze in April, "[m]ore than 180 inmates took part in the riot, which led to 60 arrests." How 180 people forcing open a locked gate to protest outside the detention centre's administration office amounts to a 'riot' only the piece's author, Jack Grove, knows.***

Also, 60 detainees were moved to prisons and other detention centres as part of a process of speeding up their removal and of course punishment for complaining. They were not 'arrested', and no one has heard of any charges being brought against detainees, let alone G4S guards for apparently ignoring Mr Nyenze's calls for medical attention or for turning away from the camp's gates an ambulance that had been called by fellow detainees via mobile phone.

However, getting back to the planning meeting, amongst the objections made by councillors on the planning committee, the paper quotes:

Liberal Democrat Cllr Sebastian Kindersley: “Innocent people in 2010 should not be treated like this. It still staggers me we consented to allow any prison facility. I am disgusted by this application and could never possibly support it.
Independent Cllr Deborah Roberts: “Taking away people’s liberty and imprisoning them is a terribly serious matter, particularly when they are not criminals. If we are expecting people to stay there, the Home Office should be improving provision for them much more.
Independent Cllr Sally Hatton: “I wonder what makes a man or woman leave their homes, but then put up with these appalling conditions rather than return home.

These objections were not enough to stop the committee red-stamping the application - Conservative Cllr Nick Wright: “There is no valid planning reason that this should not go ahead. As a planning committee, we are not here to give the Home Office a bloody nose.” But the council surely is there to protect the interests of the people living in its area, even if those are only temporary residents held at 'Her Madge's pleasure'. It could have added riders to the permission, calling on the UKBA to significantly improve the crumbling infrastructure of the ex-WWII RAF base. But that of course would have been too much to expect.

* Shades of nice friendly smiling faces, saying: "Welcome to our lovely country. How may we help you?"
** No doubt it was 8 to 6, and the 8 for were the committee's Tory majority.
*** Though this drivel was also the line taken by fellow reporter Raymond Byrne whilst the incident was going on.

Demonstration Against Deportations

Saturday 5th June, 2pm in Parliament Square.

All welcome

We are a network of different organisations who stand together against the immigration policies the last government introduced and the new government has pledged to continue. We have lost friends and families to detention and forcible deportation. Our members have been beaten and tortured in detention centres. Their immigration status has been used as a weapon against them when they have fought for a decent wage. They have been killed, kidnapped and disappeared when they have been deported back to countries where their human rights have not been respected.

We are demonstrating outside parliament to say that no one is illegal and to call for an end to forcible deportation policy, the closure of all detention centres, freedom of movement and equal rights for all.

Groups attending include: International Federation of Iraqi Refugees, Kurdish and Turkish Community Centre, Kurdistan National Congress, International Organisation of Iranian Refugees (No Border), Coalition to Stop Deportations to Iraq, London Coalition Against Poverty, Campaign Against Immigration Controls, Cameroon Support Network, South Asia Solidarity Group

Please contact stopdeportation@riseup.net to add your group

This demonstration is part of a European Week of Action against the deportation machine. Details can be found at www.stopdeportation.net

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

G4S Alert In Brighton: Want To Work For G4S??

G4S, the company contracted by the UKBA to take care of large chunks of the deportation and detention process, will have а booth at the City Future Job Fair in Brighton on the 4th of June from 10:00am-4:00pm, which happens to be the same week as the European-wide Week of Action against the Deportation Machine.

The job fair, organized by Brighton & Hove City Council, the Evening Argus, and Job Centre Plus (who also employ G4S Security in their Brighton office), is meant to give Sussex “the chance to visit over 30 key employers with hundreds of current job vacancies all under one roof.” G4S will be one of those 30 employers. (See: www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/jobs-fair)

Groups throughout Brighton are issuing а statement to the Council that it is unacceptable to invite a company to participate in the job fair with such а horrendous and well-documented record of rights abuses towards migrants.

Join us in complaining to the City Future Job Fair sponsors, Brighton & Hove City Council and the Argus for allowing G4S to have а stall in this job fair. Also contact the Brighton Centre (run by the Council) for its role in hosting and organizing the event.

Brighton and Hove City Council
· Location: King’s House, Grand Avenue, Hove, BN3 2LS
· To make а complaint, online form: www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/index.cfm?request=c1191434
· Online form: www.brighton-hove.gov.uk/index.cfm?request=b1153064

City Employment Initiatives Team
· Brighton Town Hall, Bartholomew Square, Brighton, BN1 1JA
· Phone: (01273) 296397
· Email: futurejobs@brighton-hove.gov.uk

Argus (Brighton’s main local newspaper)
· Location: Argus House, Crowhurst Road, Hollingbury, Brighton BN1 8AR
· Phone: 01273 544 544
· Fax: 01273 566 144
· Editorial Editor: Michael Beard, editor@theargus.co.uk, 01273 544 501
· Letters to the Editor: letters@theargus.co.uk

Brighton Centre: Please contact Debbie Matthews, in charge of conferences
· Location: Kings Road, Brighton, East Sussex, BN1 6GR
· Phone: 01273 290131
· Fax: 01273 779980
· Email: debbiematthews@brighton.gov.uk