- Created: Thursday, 02 June 2011 12:53
- Written by FRFI
John Freddy Suarez Santander arrived in this country along with his family more than 17 years ago, when he was only six years old. Unfortunately, when he was 17 he committed a criminal offence and was sent to a young offenders’ institute for seven months. Two years after his release, the British Labour government implemented a law to the effect that immigrants with criminal records should face deportation. John Freddy was arrested and served with a deportation order.
His deportation was stopped following a protest at the airport by more than 50 family members and friends wearing T-shirts with his face on them and the slogan ‘Please don’t take my son away!’ John Freddy was removed from the aeroplane and the deportation was suspended. Our protest was legitimate because John Freddy’s case had been taken to the European Court of Human Rights and was awaiting consideration of the following arguments:
Prime Minister David Cameron chose to make a statement about what he calls ‘state multiculturalism’ on 5 February, the same day as a much publicised English Defence League march through Luton in south east England. Cameron’s speech was a muddled mixture of clichés recycled from those of his Labour predecessor Gordon Brown promoting Britishness, but it contained nothing as specific as Brown’s suggestion that Labour’s supporters should ‘embrace the union flag’ (Union Jack). Cameron gave no indication of what he means by ‘state multiculturalism’, but made the usual attacks on behaviours ‘that run counter to our values’, throwing in terrorism and forced marriage as examples.
On 13 March 2011, 300 migrants won a hard-fought struggle against the Greek government. The migrants, most of whom faced deportation to North Africa, began a hunger strike at the end of January in protest at the refusal to grant them documentation to remain in Greece.
Their demands were:
• The immediate legalisation of the 300 undocumented workers on hunger strike;
• The legalisation of all undocumented workers;
• The abrogation of the Dublin II Regulation which puts the lives of migrants in danger by turning immigration detention in some countries into warehouses where violence and human rights violation are commonplace. (Under the Regulation asylum seekers can be returned to the first EU country they entered. Due to its geographical location, Greece is commonly a first country.)
On Saturday 19 March, over 30 members of the English Defence League (EDL) descended on Grey’s Monument, the main site for progressive stalls and demonstrations in Newcastle. Their first target was a Socialist Party (SP) anti-cuts stall. The EDL members surrounded the stall, tried to put their own anti-Muslim literature on the stall, and harassed the SP activists. As FRFI has consistently argued, the EDL is not only racist but is rapidly developing into a fascist organisation.
On 21 February 2011 the British state’s latest attempt to deport disability rights activist Peter Gichura to Kenya was averted by last minute legal action.
Peter has been in Britain since 2001, having fled persecution in Kenya as a result of his activities there, which included the establishing of an organisation which advocated for the rights of disabled street sellers. He sought asylum in 2006 on the basis that: ‘As someone with spinal injury I am vulnerable to chronic kidney infection and need sanitary living conditions to survive - but there is no running water where I am from in Nyahururu, Kenya. I cannot afford medical treatment - and there is no free healthcare.’ Expert evidence confirmed this but was ignored, and Peter’s claim was turned down.
70% of Kenya's national wealth is in the hands of foreign corporations especially British companies such as Brooke Bond and Unilever (Kenyan Sunday Standard, 17 April 2005). These companies benefit directly from the poverty of Kenyan people which exploded into violence in early 2008, when over 1,500 people were killed and 350,000 forced to flee their homes in a tribal conflict orchestrated by the British-backed Kenyan state. Vast tracts of Kenyan fertile land are used to grow flowers, tea and coffee for export to supermarkets in Europe, while millions of Kenyans starve.
When the Conservative/LibDem coalition government took power in May 2010 it inherited a massive immigration policing machinery constructed over the previous 13 years by the Labour government. Labour had brought in a complex series of laws, each more punitive than the last, and built up an infrastructure that included 12 immigration detention centres, 25 reporting centres, five coastal patrol boats and the capacity to effect mass deportations on specially chartered aeroplanes to countries such as Afghanistan, Iraq, Nigeria and Democratic Republic of Congo. Nicki Jameson reports.
‘What you are running here is not a factory, it is a zoo, in a zoo there are many types of animals. Some are monkeys who dance on your fingertips; others are lions who can bite your head off. We are those lions, Mr Manager’.
Jayaben Desai was born in India and settled in England in 1969. She started working at the Grunwick Film Processing Laboratories in northwest London in 1974. This mail order photographic business had a largely female workforce of 440 of whom 80% were of Asian origin and 10% Afro-Caribbean. Average pay was £28 per week while the average national wage was £72 per week and the average full time wage for a female manual worker in London was £44 per week. Conditions were said to be ‘not bad’ but workers were expected to do overtime and long hours at short notice and the management were well known for their bullying, rudeness and racism. The boss, George Ward, refused union recognition and a number of workers who had joined the Transport and General Workers Union in 1973 had been sacked.
On 6 August 2010, Iranian Kurdish refugee and communist Faraydun Abdullazada won his asylum claim after almost eight years of struggle. He was an active member of the Worker’s Communist Party of Iran – Hekmatist (WCPI-H) and has been active in Britain against racism, oppression of migrants and Zionism.
Faraydun Abdullazada fled Iran after his communist views were made known and he was arrested. Whilst on bail he fled to escape possible torture or execution in a country known for repression of Kurds and communists. A people-trafficker in Turkey starved and tortured him and he had to jump out of a window to escape. He arrived in Britain in January 2003 and was in London until the ‘7/7’ terrorist attacks in July 2005. ‘Racist attacks became too much after that…the police never came’. He was attacked many times, his ribs broken and he had to flee London. He escaped to Finland but was deported back to the UK in January 2006 and ‘dispersed’ to Manchester a month later.
In October 2010, Birminghamand Wolverhampton Councils announced that they will no longer house asylum seekers on behalf of the government when their five year contract with the UK Border Agency (UKBA) ends on 30 June 2011. This will mean that asylum seekers will be housed by private housing providers, like the notorious Angel Group, who make millions out of government contracts to house asylum seekers in intolerable conditions.
Birmingham and Wolverhampton Councils are part of a consortium with Dudley and Coventry. Birmingham, the biggest council in the country, currently provides up to 190 homes for asylum seekers and Wolverhampton provides 124 homes. Dudley Council, which provides 73 homes, said it will remain in the consortium until at least June 2012, and Coventry Council, which provides 74 homes, said it will continue working with UKBA but will closely monitor the situation. Other councils could soon follow suit.
On 24 October, Unite Against Fascism (UAF) called a counter-protest to an English Defence League (EDL) demonstration in support of Israel outside the Israeli Embassy in London. Although the UAF claimed it held a ‘lively anti-fascist event’, there were at most 60 anti-fascists, of whom only a handful were actually from the UAF; they were significantly outnumbered by 200 EDL supporters.
The event revealed UAF’s completely unprincipled stance on the Palestinian struggle. In a statement beforehand it said ‘UAF does not have a position on the question of Israel and Palestine but unites around the common aim of opposing fascism and racist division’ – as if the question of Zionism were not one of fascism and racism!
Let us be clear: Zionism is racism, and until US imperialism got its way in 1991, had been defined as such by the United Nations since 1975. Its aim is genocide: making life so intolerable for the Palestinian people that they are remorselessly driven from their lands in the West Bank and Jerusalem, completing the expulsions of 1948.
Between 16 and 19 September the state visit of Pope Benedict XVI provoked a range of reactions: many Catholics turned out to welcome the pontiff, while a 20,000-strong demonstration opposed the visit for multi-faceted reasons, including the long-running and massive international scandal of child abuse perpetrated and covered up within the Catholic church and the Vatican’s general attitude to women’s rights, contraception and homosexuality. The visit also saw the latest in a catalogue of arrests of innocent Muslims accused of plotting imagined acts of terrorism.
George Jackson 1941 – 1971
‘The monster they’ve engendered in me will return to torment its maker, from the grave, the pit, the profoundest pit. Hurl me into the next existence, the descent into hell won’t turn me. I’ll crawl back to dog his trail forever. They won’t defeat my revenge, never, never. I’m part of a righteous people who anger slowly, but rage undammed. We’ll gather at his door in such a number that the rumbling of our feet will make the earth tremble.’
George Jackson was an Afro-American working class communist. Born in a Chicago ghetto in 1941 he was murdered by warders in San Quentin Prison in 1971. At 18 he was sentenced from one year to life for the theft of $70. He spent the rest of his life in prison. There ‘I met Marx, Lenin, Trotsky, Engels, and Mao…and they redeemed me.’ In prison he also joined the Black Panther Party. One year before his death, the police murdered his 17-year-old brother Jonathon who, single handed and armed, invaded San Rafael Courthouse to free three black comrades. EDDIE ABRAHAMS and CAT ALLISON chart George Jackson’s contribution as a revolutionary.
On 28 August in Bradford the English Defence League (EDL) held another anti-Muslim demonstration. According to the EDL, Bradford was going to be ‘the big one’, a show of strength in a city where working class Muslims had risen up against poverty and racism in 2001, fighting back against police and fascists. But although the EDL claimed that they would mobilise 5,000 people, on the day they had closer to 700. When around 200 EDL members left the area designated by the police, they were physically opposed and contained by a mobilisation of several hundred, the vast majority of whom were working class Muslim youth, including members of the Muslim Defence League. The EDL were harassed until they were bussed out of the city, with reports that some of their coaches were stoned and the tyres slashed. The only reported arrests were of five EDL members.
On Saturday 17 July, 500 members of the English Defence League (EDL) rampaged through Dudley in the West Midlands, attacking Muslim and Hindu residents. The EDL is fast developing in the direction of a new organised and violent fascist street movement, which offers a focal point to sections of the working class who support Britain’s wars in the Middle East and are prepared to physically confront public opposition to those wars.
The EDL represents a popular reflection of government strategy. Its rhetoric focuses on Islam, in a context in which Britain’s wars in the Middle East, Israel’s occupation of Palestine, and attacks on Muslims in Britain are all depicted as part of a battle against ‘Islamic extremism’. The EDL first developed out of a violent response to an anti-war demonstration by a small group of Muslims in Luton in March 2009. In the months before this thousands had come out on the streets to protest against the Israeli massacre in Gaza, with sections of Muslim youth playing a leading role. This was not the first time, with predominantly working class Asian youth playing a leading militant role in the anti-war and Palestine demonstrations during the early anti-war movement in 2000-2002.
For the past year the English Defence League (EDL) and its local variants, the Scottish and Welsh Defence Leagues, have been staging regular, vocal demonstrations throughout Britain, directed ostensibly against the spread of Islamic fundamentalism. In reality their target appears to be Muslims in general. Although the EDL is clearly nowhere as dangerous as the British state, which has an entire machinery at its disposal with which to attack the Muslim community, its persistent and confrontational street presence means that anti-racists must have an understanding of what it is and be prepared to join mobilisations to physically oppose its racist message.
The new Tory-Liberal Democrat coalition government has announced plans for a cap on non-EU immigration. Any hopes of the Lib-Dems’ promised ‘amnesty’ for migrants who have lived in the country for 10 years, can speak English and hold no criminal record have been dispelled as this proposal fell by the wayside in the coalition bargaining process. The only seemingly positive note in the new government’s agenda is the promise to end child detention. However, there is no guarantee that this will be enacted soon and even when it is, it signals the horrific prospect of ‘free’ children with detained parents being taken into care and traumatised by separation.
The state’s response to the Unite Against Fascism (UAF) counter mobilisation to the English Defence League (EDL) event in Bolton on 20 March was a change in tactics from previous confrontations.
The police used a clear strategy of attempting to criminalise the UAF demonstrators and leaders, by using ‘kettling’, snatch-squads and dogs to attack and arrest people. From mid-morning they blocked entrances to Victoria Square, preventing many anti-racists from joining the demonstration. Over 50 people were arrested, with many suffering head wounds as police riot squads covered in body armour lashed out all around with extendable truncheons. UAF Joint Secretary Weyman Bennett was lifted by a snatch-squad from the speakers’ area and arrested, apparently on suspicion of ‘conspiracy to organise violent disorder’. He was later released on bail. Rhetta Moran, a leading figure in Greater Manchester UAF, was also arrested and released on bail, with conditions which prevent her from attending any EDL or UAF gathering in the country. While she was being held, the police entered her house and copied the data on her computer.
From 5 February to 19 March women asylum seekers at Yarl’s Wood immigration prison staged a defiant hunger strike in protest against their detention and treatment. Nicki Jameson reports.
They withstood physical reprisals from the guards employed by Serco, the private security firm that runs Yarl’s Wood on behalf of the UK Borders Agency (UKBA), the snatching and imprisoning in criminal gaols of some of their most vocal spokeswomen on the grounds they were the protest’s ‘ringleaders’ and the summary deportation of some participants. UKBA lied to the press, claiming there was no hunger strike and that there has merely been a short-lived protest that was ‘peacefully resolved’. As FRFI goes to press, the hunger strike has been suspended for three weeks to give the Home Office an opportunity to respond to the women’s demands. If they are not met, the protest will resume.
By now the cleaning companies that service London’s banks, offices, universities and transport systems should have realised that their low-paid migrant workforce is not as much of a pushover as they might have hoped! Despite repeated attacks on working conditions, the imposition of anti-social shift patterns, refusal to pay the London Living Wage and the use of immigration snatch-squads to terrify the workers into submission, London’s migrant workers continue to organise in defence of their rights. Leading the struggles are comrades such as Alberto Durango and Juan Carlos Piedra Benitez, both members of the Latin American Workers Association (LAWA).
Manchester FRFI supporters spoke to two Kurdish refugees from Iran. Faraydun Abdullazada and Rahman Rasoulzada, who told us about a horrifying catalogue of racist attacks they have suffered and the total lack of response from the police.
July 2005 Faraydun was approached by 10 white people in Stoke-on-Trent city centre, asked ‘What are you doing here?’ and set upon as he tried to walk away. He was attacked with sticks and chased into a Chinese takeaway as the racists yelled, ‘come on motherfucker’ ‘bastard terrorist’ and so on. Faraydun called the police, who never came.
On the morning of Sunday 7 March, the bodies of Serge Serykh and his wife and stepson were found at the bottom of a 30-storey tower block on Petershill Road, north Glasgow, used by the YMCA to house asylum seekers. The Russian family had apparently committed suicide by throwing themselves off the 15th floor balcony. Since the deaths were announced, the police and the BBC have repeated like a mantra that there were ‘no suspicious circumstances’. But there clearly are ‘suspicious circumstances’ surrounding these tragic deaths, and the prime suspects are the British Labour government and its punitive immigration policies.
Neighbours told Unity (the asylum seeker support group) that Strathclyde police visited the family’s flat last Friday to tell them their asylum application had been refused and that they would be evicted. Generally, the police only come to the door of refused asylum seekers at the request of the landlord after the family have refused to leave. The landlord in this case, the YMCA, has a history in Glasgow of colluding with the state to attack asylum seekers (http://tiny.cc/aDgpi).
I want to highlight an incident that has seriously affected my situation in prison. I am serving a ten-year sentence. Since my conviction I have been exemplary in behaviour and incurred no disciplinary reports prior to the incident I am about to describe. I am of Pakistani origin and until recently had not experienced any discriminatory treatment in prison or ill-treatment at the hands of other prisoners. Sunny Nasir Ahmed writes from HMP Glenochil.
With the General Election looming most of the left, running scared at the thought of a Tory victory, are openly calling for a vote for the racist war-mongering Labour Party. We say don’t vote, organise the fightback!
Over 80 women detained in Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre in Bedfordshire have been staging a hunger strike since 5 February in protest at their continued detention and treatment. On 8 February private company Serco, which runs Yarl’s Wood, tried to end the protest by force, but the women have continued to stand firm and 50 remain on hunger strike. The UK Borders Agency has issued several statements claiming the protest is over, but despite brutal reprisals and the removal of some women to criminal prisons, the protest continues.
Fight Racism! Fight Imperialism! opposes all immigration detention and stands in total solidarity with the Yarl’s Wood protesters. We reproduce in full a statement from protesting detainee Mojirola Daniels, circulated by the National Coalition of Anti-Deportation Campaigns
‘My three year old daughter realised we were locked in a prison. She would point at the window and say “out, out”. Even if they improved conditions inside, they still won’t get rid of this negative impact on children’. Laureine - member of Tyneside Community Action for Refugees (TCAR) who was detained in Yarl’s Wood with her two small children last year.
Recent headlines and parliamentary questions have highlighted the scandal of child detention in Britain. Asylum seekers and campaigners have been calling for an end to this appalling practice for years and this sudden and belated interest is welcome but will only be of any practical use if accompanied by action, rather than simply by hand-wringing.
Berminie Carine Lili, known to her friends as Lili, faces deportation with her two year old son Keiran Nana on Monday 25th January 2010. They were detained by six immigration police who demanded entry to their home in Hendon, Sunderland, in the early hours of Tuesday 12th January.
In the June 2009 election to the European Parliament, the openly racist British National Party (BNP) won 6.2% of the vote, giving it two seats. On 22 October BNP leader Nick Griffin appeared on BBC television debating show Question Time alongside Labour Party Minister of Justice Jack Straw. Griffin’s appearance was greeted with widespread and understandable outrage. At a series of meetings around the country the RCG posed the question ‘Who is more dangerous – the BNP or the Labour Party?
FRFI’s criticism of Unite Against Fascism (UAF) as no more than a vehicle for shoring up Labour’s disintegrating electoral support, was confirmed by the announcement that the UAF will support Barking MP Margaret Hodge against BNP leader Nick Griffin at the next general election. It comes after the UAF and its joint secretary Weyman Bennett, a leading member of the SWP, have cosied up to reactionaries and opportunists in a series of protests against the English Defence League (EDL) and Scottish Defence League (SDL) and undermined effective opposition to racism and fascism.
FRANCE: Law of the Jungle
At daybreak on 22 September, more than 500 police officers encircled the migrant squatters’ camp known as ‘The Jungle’ outside the port of Calais in northern France as police helicopters hovered overhead. Despite protests by migrants and their supporters, who shouted out ‘Shame on France’ and held placards reading ‘We need shelter and protection, we want peace’, 278 migrants, half of them children, were rounded up, with riot police cordoning off the area to pick up any who tried to escape, and herded onto buses. The tents and tarpaulins, including a makeshift mosque, were razed to the ground with bulldozers and flame-throwers.
Since May 2009, racists under the banner of the English Defence League (EDL) have organised a number of demonstrations and rallies against ‘Islamic extremism’. A march in Luton in May was followed by two demonstrations in Birmingham on 8 August and 5 September, a rally at a mosque in Harrow on 11 September and a counter-protest to the annual Al Quds march through central London two days later. The EDL is planning further events in Manchester, Leeds and Bristol.