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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Racism, lies and violence: scapegoating the Roma

In November 2013, Labour’s former Home Secretary David Blunkett warned of a potential explosion in his Sheffield constituency if recently arrived Slovakian Roma migrants did not change ‘their behaviour and culture’. Deliberately raising the spectre of the 2001 uprisings in northern cities, by Asian youth who were described as insufficiently assimilated into British life, he accused the Roma of being anti-social, of dropping litter and congregating on the streets, saying: ‘We’ve got to be tough and robust in saying to people you are not in a downtrodden village or woodland, because many of them don’t even live in areas where there are toilets or refuse collection facilities. You are not there any more, you are here – and you’ve got to adhere to our standards.’

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Repression and resistance in immigration removal centres

On 15 September, The Observer published the testimony of ‘Tanja’, a former detainee at Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre (IRC), run by private company Serco. Tanja described the blackmail and sexual abuse heaped upon detainees by Serco employees in graphic detail. Her testimony ranged from accounts of guards promising favours or offering to make life easier, saying they would have more chance of winning their case or staying in the country in return for sexual favours, to accounts of rape: ‘There were two occasions when I was made to do “blow jobs”... [The guard] was well aware that I did not want to’. Tanja’s experience is by no means unique. In her testimony, she stated that several other women were abused, one guard boasting of sexual behaviour with at least four women.

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Theresa May’s Immigration Bill – lies, half-truths and more repression

Amidst a climate of increasing state and media racism typified by government-sponsored vans featuring anti-immigrant ‘Go home!’ adverts and a Daily Express campaign against Romanian and Bulgarian immigrants which would not have been out of place in Nazi Germany, on 10 October Home Secretary Theresa May introduced the Immigration Bill 2013, which it is anticipated will become law in spring 2014. Nicki Jameson reports.

The Bill’s introduction was accompanied by a flurry of publicity, most of which centred on May trumpeting how living in Britain would become ‘tougher for illegal immigrants’. Most of the Bill does not relate directly to illegal immigration but this did not prevent May, when interviewed by the BBC on the morning of 10 October, using the word ‘illegal’ every time she said ‘immigrant’ and ‘hardworking’ every time she said ‘tax-payer’.

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Charges against Newcastle 14 dropped

On 1 August, after a ten week police investigation, the Newcastle 14 (N14) received letters from Northumbria Police stating that no further action would be taken against them. The N14 are anti-racist activists, including FRFI supporters, who were pre-emptively arrested before a national English Defence League march on 25 May. They were investigated under suspicion of ‘conspiracy to violent disorder’. Northumbria police used this as a justification to raid the homes of the 14, seizing computer equipment, mobile phones, cameras, literature and notebooks. It is clear that the primary purposes of this exercise were intelligence gathering and intimidation.

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Hunger strike in Yarl's Wood as women expose sexual abuse and the deportation of witnesses

More than 30 women have been on hunger strike in Yarl's Wood Immigration Removal Centre, demanding justice and legal rights and in protest against ongoing sexual abuse. On 1 October, six of the women were deported, four of whom have witnessed and experienced sexual abuse at the hands of officers in the Serco-run centre. It will now be near-impossible to hear evidence from the women who were forced onto a charter flight to Pakistan, in what seems a deliberate attempt to silence them. The women who remain at Yarl's Wood continue their hunger strike.

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Defend the Newcastle 14!

On 25 May, 14 anti-racist protesters, including FRFI supporters, were arrested while leafleting for a counter-demonstration against the English Defence League (EDL) organised by Newcastle Unites. a coalition of Labour Party members, the Socialist Workers Party (SWP) and the Newcastle TUC. Newcastle Unites had told FRFI supporters we would be prevented from attending the demonstration because of our opposition to the Labour Party, and then worked hand-in-glove with the police to ensure this happened. Those arrested had their houses raided, and their computers and mobile phones seized. Since then the Newcastle 14 Defence Campaign (N14DC) has been active in mobilising support for the comrades, going from door to door with petitions, hosting speak-outs, and on 20 July, marching to the city’s central police station.

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After Woolwich

During the past two months, the killing of off-duty soldier Lee Rigby in Woolwich on 22 May has been exploited to boost the propaganda offensives of both the British military and the English Defence League (EDL). The day after Rigby’s death, over 100 EDL supporters gathered in Woolwich, draped in St George’s flags, many sporting black balaclavas with the EDL logo on, chanting: 'No surrender to the Muslim scum', ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Eng-er-land’. Since then the EDL has held marches and rallies in Newcastle, London, Sheffield, Birmingham and elsewhere. Most of these events have not been especially well attended and anti-fascist counter-demonstrations have frequently been as big or bigger; however the increasing frequency of these set-piece events is only one facet of the ongoing backlash. Nicki Jameson reports.

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