May 19 day of action - Organising against Labour’s racist immigration laws

On 19 May a successful day of action took place in cities throughout England and Scotland in protest against the British government’s continuing attacks on asylum seekers.  The action was called and co-ordinated by Tyneside Community Action for Refugees, who organised a 200-strong demonstration in Newcastle city centre on the theme of ‘You will not snatch us silently!’

The demonstration was anything but silent. Participants brought pots, drums and whistles and there was constant chanting of ‘One, two, three, four: Deportation no more!’, ‘Together! Together! Together we are stronger!’ and ‘Deportation is a crime: Lock up Labour!’ The march culminated in an open mic rally. Speakers included members the RCG, the Palestine Solidarity Campaign, the Zimbabwean opposition group MDC, as well as many more members and supporters of TCAR. At least three of the speakers were under the age of 14 and young people were the main participants in the street theatre, which told a story about a dawn raid, the detention and deportation of a Congolese woman and her baby. Young members of TCAR, some of who have witnessed dawn raids themselves, acted out an immigration snatch squad, kicking down a door and dragging out mother and child. Costumes and a large cardboard cage added to the visual impact of the theatre while a narrator explained what was happening so that passers-by could learn more about the reality for asylum seekers. Demonstrators hissed and booed the immigration officials.

Comrades in TCAR report that the last year has shown a distinct shift in attitudes about asylum seekers with a lot more open support being shown in communities and on the streets. The organisers of the 19 May events were inspired by the support the demonstration received from working class residents of Newcastle, who spoke spontaneously and passionately on the open mic about the racism of the current system and  the need for solidarity with asylum seekers.

In Manchester FRFI and the North West Asylum Seekers Defence Group (NWASDG) responded to TCAR’s call for action by organising a march in from Strangeways prison where asylum seekers are detained, to the city hall. The march was attended by asylum seekers and refugees from the Congo Support Project (CSP), International organisation of Iranian Refugees, and Ethiopian, Eritrean and Kurdish communities, as well as by the Sukula Must Stay Campaign, Drumroots, and local working class people and students. Over 80 people rallied at Strangeways in the rain for 20 minutes with good speeches about the need to work together against the oppression of asylum seekers and calling for those held at the prison to be released. This was followed by a lively militant march to Albert Square, where militant CSP speakers highlighted the treatment of asylum seekers in Britain by the racist Labour government and denounced Britain for supporting Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC) president Kabila just as it supported the late despot Mobutu.  A speaker from Ethiopia denounced Britain’s deliberate policy of using destitution as a means of trying to force asylum seekers to leave this country. A 10-year-old Kurdish girl spoke about how people in her country were being attacked and her family were not allowed to live in peace - ‘that’s why we had to run away'.

An FRFI speaker spoke about how Cuba was now free from the very oppression and exploitation that asylum seekers were fleeing, having rid itself of imperialism in 1959: 'it is clear that people don't want to live under imperialist oppression, that why asylum seekers are fleeing in the first place'.
In Glasgow, 60 people marched from the immigration courts to the city centre, with banners demanding equal rights for all. Members of Unity handed out leaflets to the public informing them of the reality of asylum seekers’ lives as the march chanted against dawn raids and detention. At the rally in St Enoch square asylum seekers spoke out against criminalisation and vowed to resist deportations back to Turkey, Rwanda, DRC, Algeria and other countries deemed ‘safe’ by Home Office bureaucrats. A comrade from the RCG spoke, stating the real criminals are those British politicians who support the brutal occupation of Iraq, the genocidal war in the DRC and the fascist state in Turkey. He urged Scottish people to unite with asylum seekers in the struggle against poverty and racism. The demonstration finished with chants of ‘the Home Office is the real criminal!’

In London Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! called a demonstration outside Communications House Immigration Reporting Centre on Friday 18 May, supported by London No Borders, Crossing Borders, Crossroads Women's Centre, All African Women's group and the Medecins du Monde London Project.  It was a noisy, lively and visual event with banners, speakers and chanting. One woman speaker, herself targeted by the racist immigration system, graphically described the degrading and humiliating practices used against women and children during their detention and deportation.

On 19 May a group of activists mobilised by north London FRFI held a street stall at Wood Green. In Nottingham No Borders also responded to TCAR’s call out and held a street stall on the Saturday afternoon, while in Leeds No Borders held an Asylum Solidarity Day in a social centre, which was attended by about 60 people.

No detention! No deportation!
Fight Labour’s racist immigration laws!
An injury to one is an injury to all!