Red door apartheid for asylum seekers

Jomast, the company contracted by the Home Office to provide housing for asylum seekers in the North East of England has finally agreed to repaint the characteristically red doors on their properties in Middlesbrough after reports of years of racist attacks hit the headlines.

Jomast, self-styled ‘urban regeneration specialist and pre-eminent force in the UK property market’, holds assets of more than £250m. Allegedly to cut costs, Jomast bought a lot of red paint to be used mainly on properties housing refugees. The Home Office’s forced dispersal policy means that Middlesbrough is home to 982 asylum seekers, one per 173 of the population, the highest proportion in Britain, breaching government guidelines. Middlesbrough has the second highest unemployment rate in Britain at 14.4%, and the End Child Poverty campaign reports that 35% of children in the city live in poverty. Refugees, after facing huge obstacles to enter Britain, are lumped in one of the most deprived areas of the country and singled out with a bright red door.

 

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Imperialism is to blame for the refugee crisis

The responsibility for the large number of refugees and migrants coming to Europe, fleeing climate change, poverty, war and violence, must be laid squarely at the feet of the imperialist system. Britain, one of the world’s major imperialist powers, has meddled in the affairs of these regions for centuries – plundering, exploiting and massacring millions to bolster the profits of imperialism. In FRFI 220 we pointed out that the campaign against Libya was the 46th British military intervention in the Middle East and North Africa since the end of the Second World War. Since then, Britain has launched new airstrikes on Iraq, and has begun covert airstrikes on Syria. Britain is the world’s sixth-largest arms exporter. British imperialism is culpable in the causes of each flow of refugees and migrants. Any movement which fights in solidarity with refugees, must fight British imperialism. Toby Harbertson reports.

 

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Britain’s racist immigration history

Poster advertising public meeting in 1902 calling for restrictions on the immigration of 'destitute foreigners'. In 1905 Britain introduced the Aliens Regisration Act.

In response to Prime Minister David Cameron’s heartless stance in the face of the deaths of migrants, many commentators – from the Green Party to his own backbench MPs and Lords – have cited Britain’s ‘proud tradition’ of providing sanctuary to refugees fleeing persecution. NICKI JAMESON looks at the real history of Britain’s immigration laws.

Fleeing persecution – facing racism

Until the 20th century there were no laws regulating immigration to Britain. The first British immigration law was the 1905 Aliens Act, which was specifically designed to limit the numbers of impoverished East European Jews fleeing pogroms who could seek sanctuary in Britain. The Act was accompanied by a media campaign in which newspaper headlines railed against a threatened invasion of ‘dirty, destitute, diseased, verminous and criminal foreigner[s]’ (Manchester Evening Chronicle).

Further Aliens Restrictions Acts followed in 1914 and 1919, and in 1938 Britain introduced visa requirements for nationals of Germany or Austria. This directly reduced the possibility of seeking asylum for Jews fleeing Nazism.

 

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Cracks open up in Fortress Europe

Since the beginning of 2015, hundreds of thousands of migrants have crossed Europe’s borders; hundreds of thousands more are expected to try to do so over the coming months. The vast majority are fleeing the ravages of imperialist-backed wars in Syria and Afghanistan; others are escaping civil war, poverty, desperation and human rights abuses in Africa and elsewhere in the Middle East that are the legacy of years of exploitation, intervention and under-development by imperialist nations. Many have risked their lives to reach safety and embark on a better life for themselves and their families in the wealthy countries of northern Europe. Their sheer determination has overcome all the brutal and racist attempts of Fortress Europe to shut its borders against them, and has exposed the deep fault-lines of the European Union. Tom Vickers reports.

A crisis of Europe’s making

The so-called crisis is not the inevitable result of the numbers of people involved. Migration is a global fact. There are an estimated 60 million refugees in the world today, in addition to millions forced to move because of economic necessity. The 500,000 unauthorised crossings since the start of the year reported by the EU’s Frontex enforcement agency is significantly higher than 2014, but still only amounts to 0.8% of refugees in the world and 0.1% of the population of the EU – a number that could easily be accommodated. The ‘crisis’ has been created by the response of the EU states.

 

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Islamophobia now a public sector duty

In a speech on 20 July, Prime Minister David Cameron identified the ‘struggle of our generation’ as ‘the fight against Islamic State’. Cameron defined ‘extremism’ as an antagonism toward British Values. His address to the nation was delivered from Ninestiles Academy in Birmingham, a school which was subject to an investigation by the Department of Education and other government agencies into the so-called Trojan Horse letter.* The speech deflected much media attention from the vote on the welfare bill that took place that evening in the House of Commons. It was a speech to inspire in a fearful public a message about British security and British Values.

 

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Close Yarl’s Wood immigration prison now!

© 2015 Peter Marshall www.mylondondiary.co.uk

Pressure is growing on the British government to close Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre (IRC) in Bedfordshire. On 5 August 2015 the Movement for Justice led the latest in a series of large demonstrations in solidarity with Yarl’s Wood detainees and on 12 August the Chief Inspector of Prisons Nick Hardwick issued a critical report of an unannounced inspection in April, which ‘found that in some important areas the treatment and conditions of those held at the centre had deteriorated significantly, the main concerns we had in 2013 had not been resolved and there was greater evidence of the distress caused to vulnerable women by their detention’.

Yarl’s Wood is run by infamous private security company Serco and holds 350 detainees, the majority of whom are single women, with a few men and some family units. According to the inspectorate: ‘A few detainees were held for very long periods. At the time of the inspection, 15 detainees had been held for between six months and a year and four for more than a year. The longest had been held for 17 months. The Home Office’s own policy states pregnant women should not normally be detained, but 99 had been held in 2014.’

 

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Fight racist immigration controls

The capitalist crisis is driving a proliferation of wars, new forms of political persecution, and deepening poverty in many parts of the world. This is increasing the desperation of many people from oppressed countries to seek the relative safety and prosperity within the European Union (EU). These new migrants, and some who migrated long before, are being met with an increasingly sophisticated apparatus of racist repression and control that operates within EU member states, at the EU’s borders, and beyond them. Its purpose is to either keep migrants from oppressed countries out of the EU entirely, whatever the human cost, or to subject them to special conditions of exploitation. Tom Vickers reports.

 

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Britain attacks migrants at home and abroad

In the run-up to the general election, David Cameron came under attack for failing to meet his 2010 election promise to reduce immigration to Britain. For despite vicious, racist immigration laws and appalling treatment of migrants who make it past border controls, the numbers making the dangerous journey here keep on rising, fuelled by poverty, oppression and war. So this time round, with an eye to the millions who voted for the anti-immigration UKIP, David Cameron is making even tougher controls, at home and abroad, a central plank of government policy. The new Immigration Bill announced in the Queen’s Speech aims to make life unbearable for those who do make it to Britain, and make it more difficult for migrants to leave for Europe in the first place.

 

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Support migrants in Calais!

The town of Calais in the north of France is witnessing a drastic situation, as asylum seekers and migrants from Eritrea, Sudan, Afghanistan, Syria and Ethiopia, continue to arrive, fleeing hunger and war and seeking a normal life of the kind that everybody should be afforded.

Across Europe there are twice as many empty houses as there are homeless people (‘Scandal of Europe's 11 million empty homes’ The Guardian, 23 February 2014). In the Calais area there are over 2,500 migrants living in the streets, in tents and on mattresses. This is a problem created by capitalism, which in turn cannot find a solution. The physical conditions which the asylum seekers face are inhumane. The very fact that they call the places where they live ‘the jungles’ shows that they are treated like animals. Most of the migrants have no shelter from the cold and rain; they have no sanitation and very limited access to running water. During a recent visit by Human Rights Watch (HRW)*, daytime temperatures were as low as 1C, with below freezing conditions at night time. Zeinab, a woman from Ethiopia interviewed by HRW, explained that ‘more than food, not having a bathroom is a bigger problem’. The majority of migrants depend on food provided by local organisations and volunteers.

 

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No vote for racists

As the 2015 General Election approaches, the racism of Britain’s ruling class is in full flow. On 20 November UKIP gained its second MP in the Rochester and Strood by-election, triggered by the defection of sitting MP Mark Reckless from the Conservatives. In a televised debate, Reckless admitted that UKIP supported the repatriation of migrants following withdrawal from the EU. UKIP leader Nigel Farage hastily issued a correction, but Reckless maintains that up to that point repatriation had been party policy. A few days later, Farage claimed that children born to immigrants in Britain should also be viewed as immigrants – a position this time defended by a UKIP spokesperson. Tom Vickers reports on the escalation of racism.

 

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No justice for Jimmy Mubenga as racists walk free

It seems that no-one will be held to account for the death of a black man at the hands of the British state after the three racist and brutal security guards who restrained the Angolan deportee Jimmy Mubenga were cleared of manslaughter at their trial on 16 December.

Terrence Hughes, Colin Kaler and Stuart Tribelnig worked as detention custody officers (DCOs) for the private security company G4S, subcontracted by the Home Office to enforce deportations. The company is notorious for complicity with torture in the prisons it manages in Israel and South Africa, amongst other crimes. They were accused of forcing Mubenga’s head down and restricting his breathing as the deportation flight prepared to take off from Heathrow in October 2010. Originally they had not been prosecuted: the charges arose from the inquest into Jimmy Mubenga’s death in 2013 at which the jury found, by nine to one, that he had been unlawfully killed.

 

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Operation Skybreaker: Defending migrant rights

Supporters of FRFI in north London have been working with the developing campaign against the government’s latest attack on migrants in the capital.  

In a bizarre echo of a recent James Bond movie title, the current initiative is named Operation Skybreaker. Unlike its predecessor Operation Centurion, there was no media fanfare around its implementation and very little information about it is publicly available. Credit is therefore due to the Refugee and Migrant Forum of Essex and London (RAMFEL) charity, which has put the details of Skybreaker into the public domain and has provided information, support and training for those affected by it.

 

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Immigration Act intensifies exploitation

The Immigration Bill became law on 14 May. It includes:

  • the imposition of a racist regime of immigration monitoring at the point of access to health care, bank accounts, privately-rented housing and driving licences;
  • a new system of charging for health care for ‘temporary’ migrants;
  • removal of the right of appeal to many immigration decisions;
  • powers to strip British citizenship from naturalised citizens whose behaviour is judged to be contrary to the ‘national interest’, a euphemism for the interests of the ruling class.

These measures are the latest stages in a process of using immigration controls to divide the working class into special categories of super-exploited labour. They are a particularly vicious and racist element of the wider attempt to make it increasingly difficult to survive without accepting whatever work is on offer, no matter how low the wages or how poor the conditions. Tom Vickers reports.

 

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2014 European and local elections – UKIP the winners

Nigel Farage. © European Union 2012 - European Parliament.

The local and European elections on 22 May were always going to be about whether the United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) would be able to demonstrate significant country-wide electoral support. That it won the most votes in the European elections, gaining 27.5% of the vote, beating the Labour Party into second place (25.4%) and the Tories into third (23.9%), shows the attractiveness of its simple anti-Europe and anti-immigrant message to Eurosceptic Tory voters. But it also appealed to sections of the working class who feel they are being left behind, and who blame their deteriorating position on EU immigrants who they think are getting a better deal than they are, especially in the areas of housing, free health care, jobs and welfare benefits.

 

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Racism and reaction: the Romanian and Bulgarian reception

On 1 January restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian immigrants working in Britain were lifted. Previously, the restrictions meant that workers from these countries would need to apply for an ‘accession worker’s card’ from the Home Office in order to work, were not eligible for benefits and were restricted in the forms of employment that they could accept. Now, with the maximum seven years for these restrictions having expired, Romanians and Bulgarians will be able to live and work here with the same rights as citizens of other EU member states. The response from parliament and the media has been an avalanche of racism, reaction and scaremongering. JAMES BELL reports.

 

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Racism, poverty, and imprisonment – the plight of Syria's refugees

Three years of war in Syria have created a major refugee crisis. At least 2.3 million people have been forced over Syria's borders. Britain, France and other European governments are happy to fuel the war with money and weapons, but less generous when it comes to accommodating these refugees. The entire European Union has offered refuge, under a UN plan, to only 12,000 people – 0.5% of the total displaced. The vast majority are living in Syria's neighbouring countries. Those seeking to escape from these overcrowded and deprived situations face the militarised borders of the EU, immigration prisons, hostility and racism.

 

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