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Updated: 7 min 25 sec ago

Emergency Picket Of The Italian Embassy Tomorrow

Tue, 21/06/2011 - 10:59
The Italian government has approved an emergency decree which foresees the immediate expulsion of all irregular immigrants, and at the same time has extended the detention period from 6 to 18 months. The decree also allows for the forced expulsion of EU citizens. We are talking about a manhunt that is taking place throughout Italy, where the police are rounding up Roma citizens and migrants, while access to the detention centres - where the worst abuses occur - have been forbidden to the press and to everybody else. Continuous protests and riots where already happening inside the detention centres, one of which (Palazzo) had to close down because of a fire.

Join the picket in front of the Italian Embassy tomorrow, Wednesday 22 June, from 4.30 pm - but most people are expected to arrive after 5 pm, with a peak at 5.30.

Bring banners, pots, drums, whistles and everything that makes noise. All welcome!

Contact: 07940 143983

Address: Italian Embassy
14 Three Kings Yard
Grosvenor Square
Westminster
London W1K 4EH
(Nearest tube: Bond Street)

Stop Racism and Xenophobia in Italy

Sun, 19/06/2011 - 14:31
The Italian government has approved an emergency decree which foresees the immediate expulsion of all illegal immigrants, and at the same time has extended the detention period in the CIEs* to 18 months.

According to hundreds of witness accounts (many of which have been published in the national newspapers) these Centres of Identification and Expulsion are authentic concentration camps. The decree also allows for the forced expulsion of EU citizens. We are talking about a manhunt that is taking place throughout Italy, where the police are rounding up Roma citizens and migrants, identifying them, and charging them with every kind of offence (from begging to insulting a public official, from illegal occupation of public land to resisting police officers).

The magistrates, therefore, basing their sentences on convictions that are often served through “penal decrees” (trials without the right to a defence) or by summary judgement (an immediate trial that does not allow those accused to defend themselves properly, forcing them to negotiate a reduced prison sentence even when innocent) can order expulsions for reasons of "social dangerousness". 18 months in a CIE is harsh punishment, because after a few weeks in detention most of the migrants carry out acts of self-harm and many even contemplate suicide (often seeing their plan through). Poor immigrant families often experience the further tragedy of seeing their children taken away from them, with no opportunity to protest. The children are taken into care, and some are later adopted by Italian families.

The European Union must avoid falling prey to the same indifference that allowed the Holocaust and other persecutions in modern history to take place. We are asking the EU authorities to organize a committee of inquiry to inspect the conditions of persecution that migrants and refugees are living in in Italian cities. The committee should observe the waste of European funds allocated to immigration; the spread of intolerant ideologies promoted by politicians and the media; and the failure to implement programme to combat racism, neo-Nazism, antiziganism,** anti-Semitism and racial ideologies. The new agreements that the Italian Minister of the Interior (a top man in a party that combats foreigners and immigrants without posing ethical limits) is about to sign with Libya, will result in more pushing back of refugees, or the blocking of groups of refugees fleeing from persecution. This is today’s Italy, where the Italian people are becoming accustomed to the serious discrimination taking place against the Roma, poor Africans and migrants, and the many episodes of anti-Semitism, xenophobia and homophobia.


* Centres for Identification and Expulsion
** Hostility, prejudice or racism directed at the Romani people.

[Repost]

Update On Hunger Strike & Deportations To Iraq

Thu, 16/06/2011 - 11:14
In recent weeks the government has detained at least 70 Iraqi asylum seekers, in preparation for a mass deportation to Baghdad and detainees have been given removal directions for 21 June 2011, at 23:00 hours.

Officials from the Iraqi government are currently visiting detainees to confirm their identities so that they can be deported, as part of an agreement between the two governments. 37 Asylum seekers in Campsfield detention centre have responded with a hunger strike. Today will be its fourth day. Supporters have gathered outside Campsfield to protest against the forced removals.

Many of these asylum seekers have been in the UK for several years, making close friends and starting families. Take Adam Aziz Ali, who is due to be removed on a flight to Baghdad on 20th June. Adam is a Kurdish Iraqi. He has been here for five years, living with his partner, Joanne, in County Durham for almost four years. In that time he has become part of her family. They see him as a son, a brother, and an uncle. They cannot understand why a close member of their family should be removed. The Home Office has judged, rather robotically, that Adam has not developed relationships “beyond normal emotional ties”. His human right to a family life is not being affected “disproportionately”.

Iraq is a rocked by civil unrest: sectarian violence, suicide bombings and, more recently, a bloody backlash against civil rights protests.

The International Federation of Iraqi Refugees has reported that “many of those who have been deported to Iraq in the past are now living in hiding, in fear of the persecution they originally left Iraq to flee. Some have been assassinated. Others have committed suicide only days after being deported or have been kidnapped and killed, while others have had mental breakdowns. Many more have had to leave the country and become refugees again.”

Like Adam, many of the asylum seekers due to be removed are Kurdish. The IFIR has shown particular concern for the situation in Iraqi Kurdistan – a society maligned by corruption, institutional violence and a poverty of basic services such as hospitals and clean water. While protests have been held outside Campsfield, sister protests planned in Kurdistan have been denied permission by the regional government. In Adam’s case, the Home Office suggested that “there is nothing to prevent Joanne from accompanying Mr Ali”. We disagree.

It is clear that the government plan to carry out the removals imminently, unconcerned by the asylum seekers’ right to a family life or by the dangers they will face in Iraq.

Meanwhile the asylum seekers are determined to fight the decision.

Asylum Groups Warn Jewish Community Over London Citizens

Tue, 14/06/2011 - 10:50
Campaigners working to end the detention of the children of asylum seekers have warned the Jewish community against collaborating with Citizens UK, the controversial "community organisers" currently running a campaign to win over synagogues and Jewish organisations.

End Child Detention Now has told the Jewish Chronicle that Citizens UK hijacked the campaign to end child detention, and then began working as agents of the UK Border Agency, which is responsible for the removal of families whose asylum claim has failed.

"Citizens UK, the self-styled home of community organising in Britain, has, bizarrely, claimed credit for single-handedly ending child detention, while collaborating with the UKBA, specifically helping to ensure that asylum seekers go quietly," said End Child Detention Now spokesman Dr Simon Parker.

Citizens UK, which grew out of London Citizens, enjoys the patronage of Ed Miliband's guru Lord Glasman, Philip Blond, an adviser to David Cameron, and former Labour Cabinet minister James Purnell.

"They are well known in the sector as a UKBA fifth column and they don't care where they recruit their stage army from," said one campaigner contacted by the JC.

Several activists said they were too scared to speak out because of the influence of London Citizens/Citizens UK.

A letter from the UK Border Agency, leaked to the JC, shows that Citizens UK is working closely with the government on a pilot scheme to provide Home Office-sanctioned "community sponsors" to work with families seeking asylum.

According to the letter from UKBA strategic director David Wood, Citizens UK is developing a pilot for the "community sponsors" who have a "pre-existing relationship of trust with an asylum seeker". These individuals would give "ongoing, pastoral support to the individual/family going through the asylum process which is of benefit to both the applicant and UKBA".

The issue has become an increasing public relations problem since Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg made a pledge, immediately after last year's election, to end child detention.

Critics say that working directly with government to facilitate asylum removals goes against the philosophy of community organising, which is supposed to be independent of government.

Two weeks ago the JC revealed that London Citizens deputy chair Junaid Ahmed had celebrated the Hamas leadership as resistance heroes.

In a video entitled Gaza: The Martyrs Meadow, Mr Ahmed paid tribute to Sheikh Yassin, the founder of Hamas, and present leader Khaled Meshaal.

London Citizens issued a statement saying the video did not constitute support for terrorism. Mr Ahmed remains in post as a trustee and deputy chair of London Citizens as a representative of East London Mosque. The community leader is also closely associated with the Islamist organisation, Islamic Forum Europe.

The issue of London Citizens, which brings together grassroots groups and religious organisations, has proved deeply divisive within the Jewish community.

In particular, attempts to affiliate New North London Synagogue to London Citizens hit the buffers when concerns were raised about the organisation's campaigning tactics, especially on the issue of child detention.

Members of the synagogue complained that London Citizens had hijacked the campaign and claimed "victory" when Mr Clegg announced after the election last year that the policy would be scrapped. In fact, child detention has continued, although the government now plans to set up family-friendly "pre-departure accommodation" in a village near Gatwick Airport.

After the vote went against them at the synagogue's council in March, the pro-London Citizens faction in NNLS set up a break-away organisation, the Citizens Group, to affiliate to the community organisers. London Citizens has confirmed that the splinter group is a member. Individuals cannot join the organisation, but groups pay up to £2,000 for the privilege.

One member of NNLS, who has opposed the move to join London Citizens, told the JC: "If the whole £2,000 has been paid, then effectively the whole synagogue has joined, despite the verbal acrobatics to make it sound as if we haven't". The Citizens Group were founder members of North London Citizens when it launched at the end of March and a statement issued at the time said: "It was a hugely inspiring event and set the scene for a new beginning for working with our neighbours on issues of common concern." NNLS Rabbi Jonathan Wittenberg also spoke at the event, despite the vote going against membership.

Other organisations which have joined London Citizens include the New London and Finchley Reform Synagogues, the North London Progressive Jewish Community, Masorti youth movement Noam and its organisation for young adults, Marom.

[Repost]

News Release From Dale Farm Solidarity

Tue, 14/06/2011 - 10:47
A report prepared by Carta Developers for the Gypsy Council has identified that much of the legal underpinning for the proposed £18.5 million eviction operation against Dale Farm in Essex - the UK's largest Travellers’ community - may be flawed.

Residents at Dale Farm this week discovered that on 10 of the 54 properties they have a right to operate a scrap-yard. This means bailiffs Constant & Co., who are expected to be contracted at a cost of £3.5 million to bulldoze these homes cannot legally remove existing hard standing and fencing.

According to the Report the same situation applies to as many as 48 of the properties as enforcement notices issued by Basildon Borough Council are either flawed or have already been declared void by the Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government in 2003.

This leaves Basildon Council and the present Secretary of State for Communities and Local Government, as well as the Home Office - which has agreed to fund policing of the eviction - in an embarrassing situation, the Carta Report reveals.  They have planned and are financing an eviction operation which appears to lack legal foundation.

The Gypsy Council expects to raise the issue on Thursday 16 June at 5pm at a meeting chaired by Lord Avebury in Committee Room 4, Houses of Parliament, with members of the All Party Parliamentary Group on Gypsies and Travellers, and with representatives of the Department of Communities and Local Government.



Notes for Editors/Background

Basildon Council proposes to take action against Dale Farm under section 178 of the Town and Country Planning Act ('TCPA'). The Council has sought and obtained grants from Central Government of about £6 million and proposes to make about £12 million of Basildon Council's money available to fund eviction of half of the estate.

On 1 June the Gypsy Council and Dale Farm Housing Association forwarded a draft report to Basildon Council and ministers in an attempt to secure consensus as to what the Council could take planning enforcement action against at Dale Farm.

The report identifies that in 2003 the then-Secretary of State said that it was lawful to stand caravans at Dale Farm, use the land for the deposit of hardcore and road scalpings and that use of certain areas of the land was formally lawful. The Secretary of State determined that notices 4 and 8 issued by the Council in 2002 were nullified, and that notice 6 issued by the Council should be modified.

Reissue of the enforcement notices first issued by the Council would have enabled the owners and occupiers of Dale Farm to identify that the site was a former scrap yard, and that the majority of the land was covered in concrete when they purchased it in around 2001. The Council failed to reissue notices and denied the travellers a right of appeal to the Secretary of State.

The report identifies that Basildon Council has been proposing to take enforcement action against Dale Farm for the last five years yet has failed to examine its own notices to determine if it actually has the right to do so.

s178 TCPA only allows a council to take enforcement action if it actually has enforcement notices. The Carta Report identifies that Basildon does not have enforcement notices which could enable it to take enforcement action against most of the Dale Farm properties.

s178 TCPA raises significant issues for the Gypsy and Traveller community. Under s178 a Council, if it claims to have enforcement notice, is able to clear land, and determine what costs are reasonable to secure clearance. Local authorities are able to act in this way without supervision.

Dale Farm is the latest example of a council seeking to use powers against the Gypsy and Traveller community, which in reality it does not have. This has involved significant resources to fund clearance of land without supervision being obtained. This time Government ministers have made funds available to clear a site despite having previously determined that the Council's acts would be illegal.

Grattan Puxon, secretary of the DFHA, said, "Issue of an enforcement notice by a council is the same as imposing a mortgage deed on a property. The council is able to foreclose on the mortgage and claim the land without any supervision. We have asked the Council and ministers to identify why they have made about £18 million available to foreclose on enforcement notices that don't exist to evict Travellers from their own land."

"This is a serious matter and we would have expected the Council to have ensured that it actually had mortgage deeds against the land before seeking to dispossess people of their land. The residents find it amazing that government ministers will make millions of pounds available based on lobbying by a council leader and a local MP."

Candy Sheridan vice chair of the Gypsy Council stated: "Dale Farm is the latest example of a council seeking to foreclose on mortgages that don't exist against Gypsies. We have sought to obtain clarification from both government and Basildon Council as to why they have acted in this way. They have failed to reply and we are raising the issue with Parliament. We have examples of other councils that have foreclosed on mortgage deeds that don't exist, and in one case the Council unreasonably stopped Gypsies clearing the site so that they could claim a mortgage and dispossess them of their land. The same Council obtained £200,000 as a grant from Communities and Local Government in 2009 and has not spent the money. It refuses to identify how the funds can be accessed to address pressing needs in the district, that have caused avoidable hardship."

Dale Farm raises major issues for the government as it unambiguously shows that mortgages claimed by Councils need to be better regulated. It shows that Councils will seek to use non-existent mortgages to engage in harassment of people.


Contacts:
Candy Sheridan, vice-chair of the Gypsy Council 0789 9723177
Grattan Puxon, secretary, Dale Farm Residents Association 01206 523528

A copy of the Carta Report can be obtained from Grattan Puxon.

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