Asylum: Labour government – blood on its hands

tony blair jack straw

On 18 June 58 Chinese people were found dead in a lorry at Dover. Their deaths are directly attributable to British immigration laws, and in particular to the Labour government's 1999 Asylum and Immigration Act, which renders almost all methods of openly arriving in Britain to claim asylum illegal and forces immigrants into the hands of unscrupulous racketeers.

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Lindo family carry on the fight for justice

Fight Racism!: 'The public has a right to know about racism' 

On Wednesday 20 December, comrades from Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! joined Sonia and Delroy Lindo and supporters at a lively picket outside Scotland Yard, to demand a copy of the report detailing police harassment against the Lindo family. The fact that the Metropolitan Police had been forced to carry out an internal investigation into this harassment is a victory for the campaign.

Throughout the year 2000, the Lindo Family Defence Campaign organised pickets of Tottenham police station and local courts, and had a vocal presence in community meetings. They used the media to demand that an investigation be carried out into the relentless harassment of the Lindo family by Haringey police.

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Sans-papiers organise in Switzerland

FRFI 163 October/November 2001

Switzerland is one of the two richest countries in the world, with an annual per capita income of over $33,000. During the 18th and 19th centuries it was a country from which people emigrated but since the First World War it has been a country to which people migrate. A public debate is currently taking place about the role played by the Swiss state in building up the German war machine through provision of financial support for Nazism and by blocking the assets of the communities persecuted under the Nazi reign and since. This is in addition to the routine role of Swiss finance capital, which is to camouflage the huge sums of money extracted by dictators and racist politicians throughout the world.

In Switzerland itself, a racist, xenophobic ideology is gaining strength, especially in the richer, German-speaking, eastern part of the country. In September 2000, Swiss people voted down proposals to restrict immigration by limiting the proportion of non-Swiss residents to 18% of the population. 64% voted against the new measures, however the voting was not even and in cantons where the political agenda is dominated by conservative movements, the percentages voting in favour of repressive measures were far higher.

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Racist Britain

The viciously racist climate which led to the murder of Firsat Yildiz is being replicated throughout Britain, as the Labour and Conservative parties compete for the title of ‘toughest’ on asylum seekers.

All sections of the media are contributing to this relentless build-up of racism, with the Daily Express leading the pack. On a daily basis its front pages scream of the chaotic system currently in force, of deportees who are never deported, of Iraqi refugees smuggling in bombs for Saddam, of a visible and terrifying assault by tens of thousands of aliens who arrive in boats and planes, or run through the Channel Tunnel at night, hell-bent on reaching Britain, where they will threaten our jobs, our homes and all that middle England holds dear.

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Fortress Europe

The strengthening of border controls around ‘Fortress Europe’ continues, as European Union (EU) countries discuss joint measures to repel immigration from outside the Fortress. Although Denmark, which will take over EU presidency from Spain later this year, has the strictest immigration policies of any individual European country, it is undoubtedly Britain which is leading the pack of wolves baying for yet more vicious controls to be implemented throughout the EU.

At the Seville summit this June, EU leaders failed to wholeheartedly embrace British and Spanish plans to deprive poor countries of economic aid, unless they signed up to draconian measures to prevent migration. However, Foreign Secretary Jack Straw announced that the EU would nonetheless be adopting a different version of the policy, focussing on the carrot, rather than the stick. While Tony Blair had hoped the EU would agree to actively withhold aid from uncooperative countries, Straw announced that bribery will be used instead, with additional aid being provided to countries that are prepared to provide the required amount of self-policing. To complicate matters further, several of the targeted countries, including Turkey and Poland, are themselves currently attempting to join the EU.

The Seville summit agreed to create a network of immigration liaison officers and speed up negotiations on readmission of refugees who have been refused in one member state and who then attempt to enter another. It also agreed to tighten the terms of the 1990 Dublin Convention, which deals with asylum applications to EU member states, in order to render it legally binding that the state where an asylum seeker first sets foot on EU soil is responsible for handling all that person’s asylum applications.

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Victory against the Terrorism Act

FRFI 178 April / May 2004

On 1 March 2004 the charges against six people accused of DHKP-C (Revolutionary Peoples’ Liberation Party-Front) membership were thrown out. They had been arrested in December 2002 by the Metropolitan Police’s Anti-Terrorist Branch, held and interrogated at Paddington Green police station for a week, then released on bail. They had been awaiting trial for 15 months.

Shortly before the trial the defence counsel noticed the Attorney General’s written consent for the prosecution had never been given, which is a requirement under the Terrorism Act as the charges concerned the affairs of a foreign jurisdiction – in this case Turkey. In an attempt to cover this up the prosecution claimed that membership of a foreign organisation and sending funds abroad to a proscribed organisation did not actually involve the affairs of any foreign jurisdiction! Although the defendants lost that particular legal argument they won the next one concerning abuse of process.

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Terrorism Act powers abused – same old story

A climate of racist hysteria is being engendered by the government, police and media. Repeated mass raids under anti-terrorist laws are widely publicised and arrests given a high media profile. When those arrested are later released the story is barely reported. Thousands of people are being subject to police stop and searches under the guise of anti-terrorism. The real purpose is intimidation.

On 19 April ten people were arrested in Manchester amidst a blaze of publicity, when 400 police officers from four forces raided premises in Greater Manchester, Staffordshire, South Yorkshire and the West Midlands. Intense speculation followed about threats to local shopping centres and possible plots to bomb a Manchester United football match, causing unprecedented carnage. When the eight men, one woman and one boy were released ten days later having been charged with nothing related to any terrorist activity, there was hardly a murmur. The Iraqi Kurds at the centre of this furore were neither political nor religious. One of them had been a professional footballer in Iraq and a Manchester United supporter for ten years. The tickets for Old Trafford found in his possession were not a clue to a target but a souvenir.

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Supporting asylum seeekers in the North East

In Newcastle, FRFI comrades have been playing a leading role in the Tyneside Community Action for Refugees network (TCAR), which brings together local and refugee communities in defence of asylum seekers. The main focus has been regular pickets outside North Shields Reporting Centre, where ‘failed’ asylum seekers have to sign their continued compliance with an unfair system. TCAR offers tea and coffee to asylum seekers going to sign and engages in discussion.

On 11 March TCAR held a lively demonstration demanding the right to legal work for all asylum seekers. Protesters gathered in the snow in central Newcastle under the banner ‘We’re not here for benefits. Let us work!’ We used street theatre and organised an open mic so that as many people as possible could speak. A woman from the Congo demanded asylum seekers be treated with respect and dignity while a man from Nigeria pointed out the irony of the British ruling class portraying asylum seekers as scroungers when imperialist Britain has been pillaging and exploiting Africa for centuries.

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Asylum and immigration: maximising Britain’s economy

Labour’s racist attacks on asylum seekers are set to intensify. The government intends to increase deportations (already 1,350 per month), detentions and use of ID cards and electronic tagging for all new adult asylum seekers. At the same time, 345,400 immigrants from Eastern Europe have been encouraged to enter Britain under temporary work permits since 1 May 2004. This ‘managed migration’ is now to be extended via a five-tier points system based on age, skills and qualifications to migrants from outside the EU, while asylum seekers are not allowed to work and deliberately driven into destitution.

Destitution as policy
Thousands of asylum seekers have been thrown into poverty. 1,600 Iraqi refugees in Yorkshire and Humberside have been denied Section 4 (‘hard case’) support (a room and £35 in food vouchers/week). In Leeds 250 single men were forcibly evicted and have ‘vanished’ into Britain’s cold winter (Yorkshire Evening Post 14 December 2005). Over 300 asylum seekers in Newcastle are homeless and surviving on charity; many have physical and mental illnesses. Even those who do receive ‘hard case’ support, including new mothers, are denied basic toiletries like nappies and sanitary products.

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Protests after man dies in police custody in Burnley

Hundreds of people protested in Burnley on 7 July after the death of Nadeem Khan in police custody. On 30 June the 28-year-old, known as Dean, was arrested following what officers described as a ‘violent struggle’. His family, including his mother Brenda, currently suffering from cancer and who signed herself out of hospital, led the protest.

Mr Khan, a father of two, was arrested at around 8.50am Saturday. Police were called to the area after residents said they had seen a man in the street vandalising cars and homes whilst leaving a trail of his own blood. It is then reported that Mr Khan walked into a hairdressers shop on Burnley Road asking staff and customers for help but was followed by officers and sprayed with gas.

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Close down Communications House!

Solidarity with asylum seekers.  Close down Communications House!

London FRFI has been holding monthly demonstrations outside Communications House Immigration Reporting Centre for over a year. We spoke to Dixy, an asylum seeker from Congo Brazzaville, who reports there weekly:

‘I came to England in 1999. My brother was granted asylum because he was an activist in my country. But they said that because I was too young, I would not be persecuted if I returned. In June 2006 I was taken to Harmondsworth. It is not a good place to be, the regime is bad, the people who run the centre bully detainees. For example they don’t allow you to go to the library, to move around. What it says on paper is not what happens in practice. You are stopped from researching your case. You are told to get back into your room. They want you to take voluntary return so they make it harsh deliberately to force you to want to go.

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Free the Harmondsworth 4 –no show trial

On 13 November activists from London No Borders, Crossroads Women’s Centre, the Institute for Race Relations, National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns, Barbed-Wire Britain and Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! met to launch a campaign to defend and support the Harmondsworth 4, who face trial early next year following the uprising at Harmondsworth Immigration Removal Centre on 28 November 2006.

Harmondsworth is run by private company Kalyx, a subsidiary of Sodexho. The protest came the day after the publication of a damning inspection report by Chief Inspector of Prisons Anne Owers into conditions and treatment of detainees at Harmondsworth, and was directly triggered by the attempts of members of staff to prevent a group of detainees from watching a news broadcast about the report. Prison riot squads (Tornado teams) were drafted in to batter the protesters into submission. About 50 detainees were left in a courtyard all night and others were locked in their rooms even though parts of the detention centre were on fire.

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Defend migrant workers

On 24 April, armed police and immigration officials broke down the doors of a number of shops owned by Latin American migrants, predominantly from Ecuador, in Elephant and Castle, south London, in a city-wide trawl for so-called ‘illegal workers’. Children who were off school because of the teachers’ strike that day saw their parents pushed up against the wall, intimidated and treated as criminals. Jimena Espinoza, wife of Ecuadorian community activist Paul Fierro, was taken into custody along with their young son and kept in a prison cell for two days. Espinoza was put under huge pressure to call her husband, who gave himself up. The family, whose asylum application had been rejected, were taken to a detention centre in Dover.

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'Britain is forging a new relationship with Europe...I have no doubt at all that is where the future interests of my country lie.' Thus spake Tony Blair having announced the 'historic' St Malo Declaration on 4 December with French President Chirac and Prime Minister Jospin. This was a declaration of intent to build a unified European military force. It came just weeks before the 1 January 1999 launch of the European single currency, the euro. Trevor Rayne reports.

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Labour's racist asylum policy

'The worldwide carnage and exploitation by British imperialism is the basis for racism in Britain...Any struggle against racism in Britain which does not struggle against British imperialism will inevitably fail because it leaves the basis of racism untouched...The racism and racial oppression within Britain today is a particular form of imperialist oppression. It is the form taken by national oppression within the oppressor nations.' (Revolutionary Communist 9 'Racism, imperialism and the working class', 1979) The Labour government is engaged in a vicious racist attack on refugees seeking asylum in Britain. While the Tories and tabloid press compete to employ the most vitriolic language against asylum-seekers, it is actually Labour which is implementing the policies of race hatred. Nicki Jameson reports.

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The murder of Stephen Lawrence - A stinking shambles of police racism and corruption

The first stage of the public inquiry into police handling of the murder of Stephen Lawrence on 22 April 1993 has ended after 57 days of evidence. Each day has brought new revelations of police racism and a negligence so gross that no one can doubt the police deliberately ensured Stephen's killers would never be brought to justice. Cat Wiener reports.

A wall of lies and incompetence

The police said they faced 'a wall of silence' in their search for evidence. This was a lie. The internal Police Complaints Authority inquiry concluded the police had satisfactorily followed up every lead. This was a total whitewash.

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