- Created: Wednesday, 29 June 2016 20:51
- Written by Newcastle Branch
On Saturday 25 June, two days after the EU referendum, the Migration and Asylum Justice Forum marched through Newcastle against the racist 2016 Immigration Act. Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! North East is centrally involved in the Forum and played a key role in organising the demonstration. Anti-racist and migrant-led organisations from all over the country joined the Forum’s protest: the Edinburgh Migrant Solidarity Network, Manchester Migrant Solidarity and the South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group from Sheffield, the Newcastle-based Angelou Centre, Beyond Borders, Keep Our NHS Public, Amnesty International and Peace of Mind, as well as supporters of Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! from Edinburgh, Glasgow, Manchester, Newcastle and Nottingham.
The Immigration Act is intended to deepen the oppression of migrants from outside the EU, making it even easier for the government to deport them, restrict their access to jobs, health services and housing, and increase powers of surveillance with immigration checks ordered at every level of society. The purpose of this is to force migrants into accepting super-exploited, casualised, poverty pay jobs. With the post-Brexit rise in xenophobia and racism, now is the time to redouble our efforts in the fight against state racism, and, despite EDL threats, we went out onto the streets confidently, loudly and defiantly marching down the roads and stopping traffic from the heart of Newcastle's West End, a working class community, home to many migrants and black people who will be subject to the Immigration Act.
The demonstration was a success despite attempts by the Labour Party to undermine it through its Newcastle Unites front, led by Labour councillor Dipu Ahad, notorious for his cowardly support for savage council cuts. First, Newcastle Unites refused to respond to Forum invitations to support our march or advertise it. Then, when the EDL announced it would mobilise against us, Newcastle Unites advertised a counter-protest but continued to censor any mention of our action. On the day, about 60 Newcastle Unite supporters occupied the Monument, the widely-advertised destination for the Forum march, and refused to give way when we arrived or allow our speakers to use their sound system. The Labour racists had the open support of the SWP throughout this opportunist manoeuvring. The EDL turnout was small - perhaps 30 people. We have to be clear: declaring that the fight against the EDL is the same as a fight against racism is a deliberate deception. Labour is a racist party, and the majority of its MPs want the party to become even more overtly racist in its drive to recover the electoral support of the most backward sections of the working class which have turned to UKIP.
Newcastle Socialist Party were if anything even worse. Having first agreed to support the Forum march, the SP demanded that the march should instead focus on austerity, saying that ‘To go ahead without this emphasis poses a serious danger that simplistic [!] slogans, which do not address the issue of austerity, zero hour contacts etc, will be interpreted by significant sections of the working class as ignoring their genuine fears as expressed in yesterday's exit vote...This could push a layer, who could be won over by the left, towards the far-right.’ In other words, don’t talk about the fight racism as it will stop the left from winning over this layer. These are not socialists.
Lastly, the Regional Refugee Forum told some 30-odd people from a refugee drop-in centre in Sunderland who had wanted to join the march that ‘people (especially foreigners and asylum seekers) are advised not to go to Newcastle tomorrow. It is learnt that the English Defence league (EDL) are planning to attack foreigners in Newcastle for not voting to leave the EU. Please avoid going to Newcastle unless for very important matter and be careful when you go. Thanks. Abdul (Regional Refugee Forum).' No one from Sunderland came as a consequence of this scaremongering.