Racist onslaught on asylum seekers

Since 8 January 2003, about 14,000 people have been left destitute as a result of the Labour government’s implementation of Section 55 of the racist Nationality, Immigration and Asylum Act 2002, which denies state support to refugees who don’t claim asylum ‘as soon as reasonably practicable’ after arrival. These ‘failed’ asylum seekers, including victims of rape and torture, are not allowed to work and have no other means of support. CHARLES CHINWEIZU reports.

Seventy-four per cent of all refugee organisations have reported seeing clients refused support although they had applied for asylum within a few days, many within hours, of arrival. Many are forced to sleep rough, lacking essential toiletries and clothing, some with poor physical and mental health. (Hungry and Homeless, Refugee Council, April 2004). On 21 May 2004, after the homelessness charity Shelter and others fought through the courts on behalf of three such destitute refugees, three Appeal Court judges ruled that this was illegal, and contravened Article 3 of the European Convention on Human Rights (subjecting people to inhuman and degrading treatment). Home Secretary David Blunkett now plans to appeal to the House of Lords in defence of his ‘tough measure’ and to end ‘abuse’ of taxpayers’ money.

Another appeal court ruling in 2002, that only evidence of torture can stop the deportation of refugees, was unanimously overturned by five law lords on 17 June, as it would have denied asylum seekers the rights to a fair trial, to worship, and freedom from slavery. However, according to the Home Office, this ruling ‘is unlikely to make much difference in practice.’ And so it transpires, as the UK has been secretly deporting ‘failed’ refugees to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Somalia, two extremely dangerous war zones. Evidence has been obtained by BID (Bail for Immigration Detainees, www.biduk.org) and the UNHCR of torture by the DRC authorities of failed asylum seekers returned by Britain to Kinshasa. Since August 1998, over 3.3 million people, mostly women, children and the elderly, have died in the war in that country, mainly from disease and starvation, and more than 2.25 million have been made homeless, most beyond the reach of humanitarian agencies. In Somalia, more than 100 civilians have been killed since April alone. In the words of failed Somali refugees living in poverty in Salford, ‘[we] fled because we were raped, [we] saw our sons, husbands and fathers killed. [We] lived every day in fear.’ (The Observer, 28 March 2004,) These deportation decisions are ‘routinely based on ignorance of the actual status of claimants and of conditions in Mogadishu’ (Prof IM Lewis, The Guardian, 17 June 2004). Labour immigration minister Des Browne ‘announced’ the unannounced policy change on 13 May in a written Commons answer, but the policy of delivering people into the hands of torturers has been going on since March (UNHCR).

Blunkett also plans a ‘blitz’ on ‘bogus marriages’ and ‘fake’ colleges. Colleges offering non-EU nationals English language courses will have to be given accreditation, and make sure ‘that students actually turn up and stay on their courses’. ‘Sham marriages’ involving particular categories of overseas nationals will be restricted to specialist registry offices linked to the immigration service. If the registrar is not satisfied, then the happy ‘sham’ couple will have to apply for written permission costing £200. This racist ‘blitz’ has already resulted in hundreds of raids of marriage ceremonies in Britain, contravening EU human rights legislation.

Failed asylum seekers who avoid deportation will be forced to do unpaid community work. Anyone who refuses will be left destitute. Those awaiting deportation will now be electronically tagged and tracked using satellite equipment like that to be used to monitor sex offenders. Meanwhile the money allocated to detention centres, such as Lindholme, Doncaster, is not being spent on the detainees who are being held in ‘filthy and dilapidated’ conditions, according to the chief inspector of prisons Anne Owers (Prison Inspectorate report, 16 June 2004). Floors caked in dirt and chunks of plaster falling off the walls, with no telephones or chairs were reserved for detainees, while the staff quarters were in excellent condition. ‘Troublesome’ detainees were being sent to segregation or punishment cells in neighbouring prisons.

The government has also announced that it will use quotas to bar thousands of young visitors to Britain by restricting working holiday visas issued to people from certain countries such as Nigeria, Kenya, Pakistan and Bangladesh. This is claimed to be due to abuse of such trips as ‘a backdoor route to permanent settlement’, but will not affect travellers from Australia, South Africa and Canada. Simon Woolley of Operation Black Vote
opposed the quotas on the grounds they will ‘play into the hands of...the BNP...and fuel right-wing bigotry’. So don’t vote for the BNP, but vote for the racist Labour party instead!

FRFI 180 August / September 2004


Our site uses cookies to improve your browsing experience. By using the site you consent to the use of cookies.
More information Ok