At 5:30am this morning, Tuesday 29 May, a group of dozen protesters from Unity and the No Borders Network blockaded and closed the gates at the UKBA reporting centre in Brand Street Glasgow, in protest against the continuing detention of children and the practice of early morning raids, following the harrowing dawn raids and subsequent detention of two African families in the city over the last month.
Protesters attached themselves through lock-on tubes across the entrance of the main gates, blocking the exit for dawn raid vans, and closing all vehicle exits to the building where the heavy handed UK enforcement teams are based.
The team of protesters were chained together through tubing on which were the slogans “STOP DAWN RAIDS” & “END DEPORTATIONS”. Banners in support of refugee rights were hung across the gates.
As protesters blocked the road this morning, members of the UKBA Enforcement Teams, which carry out the dawn raids arrived, protesters believe, in preparation to carry out a dawn raid on another family. It’s believed that the protest action managed to successfully stop the UKBA detaining a family today!
Photos and updates at http://www.indymediascotland.org/node/27467
This week supporters of Unity and friends held a day long protest at the UK Border Agency reporting centre at Brand Street in Glasgow.
Early in the morning on Monday 21 November, a group of people used a tripod to block the vehicle entrance and three demonstrators locked to gates, shutting the vehicle entrance and preventing any ‘dawn raids’ that would have happened that morning. The action was carried out in response to a return to the bad old days of dawn raids on the streets of Glasgow – following several dawn raids on the homes of asylum seeker families in the past few months – and to the continued practice of detaining children.
In a dig at the UKBA’s attempt to justify their inhumane practices, one of those involved in the blockade said, “We have given them every chance to end this abhorrent treatment of families voluntarily. Unfortunately, they refused to take these opportunities, and our last resort is direct action “.
At 10am, a lively demonstration arrived at Brand Street, with participants from the No Borders Network, Peace & Justice Scotland, Glasgow Campaign to Welcome Refugees, NCADC and the Govan & Craigton Integration Network as well as individuals registering their objection to dawn raids.
The demonstration continued all day, with police unable to remove the tripod, and ended at 5pm when the reporting centre closed for the night. A magnificent 11-hour blockade!
Following the eastward expansion of the EU, countries like Bulgaria and Romania are progressively cracking down on those that try to cross their borders and rampantly working against freedom of movement. The Bulgarian government’s current target date for joining the Schengen zone is 2012. to be able to join, Bulgaria would have to increase restrictions on people migrating, as well as increase the militarization of the border. Already, detention centres are being built. Following the participation of Bulgarian border police in FRONTEX operations along the Greek-Turkish border, there is talk of extending the agency’s operations to the border between Bulgaria and Turkey.
These developments, together with the deterioration of the migrants’ situation in neighboring Greece, are the two immediate reasons for organizing a No Border camp at the border between Bulgaria, Greece and Turkey this month.
The NoBorder camp Bulgaria will take place between the 25th and the 29th of August, 2011.
The topics that will be addressed include:
The militarization of the borders;
Deterioration of freedom of movement across the Balkan borders
The criminalization of the situation of migrants and refugees in Bulgaria
The neo-liberal politics that support and enhance these problems
How to organize in ways that will better the human, social, legal, and economic condition of migrants and refugees in Bulgaria and around Europe
More info at www.noborderbulgaria.org/
Detainees at the immigration prison, Campsfield, are on hunger strike ‘indefinitely’, protesting the appalling situation in Britain’s expanding detention ‘estate’. Assault by guards, racist abuse, completely inadequate facilities, little or no access to legal process, and indefinite detention (up to 3 years in some cases) without trial or charge, are all common features of the ever-expanding network of immigration prisons and ‘holding centres’ in the UK.
In February this year a 3-week hunger strike by women in Yarl’s Wood was met with brutal force and harsh reprisals. The next month an official report concluded that private security guards had been abusing detainees, as reported by the Independent.
147 detainees are staging a protest by refusing meals at Campsfield immigration removal centre. The protest erupted as a result of the treatment of detainees in detention centres especially for people who have been detained for a long period of time. We continue to refuse meals indefinitely for our voices to be heard.
Some of us detainees have been detained for over 3 years with no prospect of removal or any evidence of future release. There is no justification whatsoever for detaining us for such period of time. Our lives incidentally have been stalled without any hope of living a life, having a family or any future. More often than not, we are been detained even when our family (wife and children) are resident in the United Kingdom, depriving us of having a life with our family. We the detainees are also humans.
In certain cases, some of us are tortured and even face death or mental distress. On 14 April 2010, a detainee of Kenya national Eliud Nyenze died at Oakington IRC due to negligence. Mr. Nyenze, age 40, had a heart attack, requested for painkillers, repeatedly and kept crawling around the floor in pain before he died.
Detainees are currently undergoing mental stress with some of us developing mental problems on a monthly basis. We are issued removal directions without given enough time for an appeal.
It has become a habit by the UK Border Agency to use force in enforcing removal of detainees who have a pending Judicial Review without giving appropriate time or consideration to our case and forcing our removal before our cases are concluded. In some situations, we are not given enough time to appeal against the decision which breaches our rights under Article 6 of the ECHR. Our liberty and security has been taking away.
We as foreign nationals are often been criminalised for the purpose of detention and removal as the law under the European Convention of Human Rights permits the removal of foreigners who have established there lives in the United Kingdom and are a treat to national security. Foreign nationals are now been sent to prison for 12 months custodial sentence or more prompting the deportation of such individual. Removals are enforced on specially chartered flights with security personnel who abuse and torture detainees in the process. Detainees are restrained, strapped, beating and forced on the airplane.
On 26 July 2010, one of the detainee at Campsfield attempted suicide due to the level of treatment received at the detention centre.
The Amnesty International has also reported that our detention breaches the internationally recognised human rights.
On a regular basis, we are tortured, restrained, strapped like animals and beating to effect removal. This cannot be lawful given that there is provision within the ECHR convention that prohibits torture both mentally and physically.
We painfully ask that the government, the house of parliament, the house of common, the parliamentarians and all concerned to rise to our aid and address these issues that affects not only our lives and our future but the lives and future of the thousands of our families who are constantly under pain and torture.
Detainees – Campsfield House
Benjamin is a 37-year old Iranian human rights campaigner. Detained by the UK Border Agency, this is their second attempt to remove him from the UK. He has been trying to claim asylum in the UK as he is at risk of facing torture from the Iranian authorities. He fled his home country after being imprisoned and tortured for 2 years for his political beliefs. Benjamin was tortured not only in Iran but also in Greece, where he was imprisoned in 2 different places for 6 months. During this time he was tortured, beaten and denied essential medication. He now suffers from several medical problems as a direct result.
He has been threatened with deportation in just a few days – but public pressure on both British Airways, and the Home Office, can work. If removed to Greece (where asylum refusal rate is 99% and immigration prisons are notoriously violent and inhumane) he faces great danger, as he would if removed to Iran, where execution of political prisoners has become even more frequent since the post-election crackdown.
*Please take five minutes to fax the Home Secretary and British Airways*
Free faxes can be sent through this website:
From Bristol No Borders: http://bristolnoborders.wordpress.com/
By Frances Webber
17 June 2010, 5:00pm
The government’s much vaunted freedom agenda entrenches a two-tier system of rights, with migrants and other unpopular minorities largely excluded.
On 25 May 2010, the Queen’s speech promised: ‘Legislation will be brought forward to restore freedoms and civil liberties, through the abolition of Identity Cards and repeal of unnecessary laws.’ The following day, 26 May 2010, the Identity Documents Bill was introduced into parliament. Its provisions cancel the UK national identity card and the identification card for EEA nationals, and abolish the National Identity Register (NIR). Nick Clegg, introducing the Bill, described the ID card scheme as ‘wasteful, bureaucratic and intrusive’ and claimed the Bill was a major step towards dismantling the ‘surveillance state’.
But non-EU citizens, who are required to hold biometric identity cards, are untouched by these proposals: the Bill does not include them, and the National Biometric Identity Service (NBIS), a scheme set up in 2009 under a £265 million contract with IBM, appears to be going ahead, according to the Immigration Law Practitioners’ Association (ILPA). Because the NBIS is non-statutory, it contains none of the safeguards of the NIR – and UK Border Agency has and uses vast powers of information-gathering on foreign nationals. There is no indication from the new government that these powers will be abandoned or curtailed.
In opposition, the Lib Dems’ so-called Freedom Bill, published for the Convention on Modern Liberty in January 2009, contained a large number of proposals to restore and enhance civil liberties, including halving the period of detention without charge of terrorist suspects from twenty-eight to fourteen days, repealing the Prevention of Terrorism Act (which imposes draconian control orders on suspected terrorists), restoring the freedom to demonstrate outside parliament and restricting the length of time criminal suspects’ fingerprints can be retained by police – and many other measures. But there was no proposal to abolish fingerprinting of asylum seekers and certain migrants, and other clauses restricting police powers contained exceptions for immigration.
By 20 May 2010, when the coalition agreement, with its commitment to restore civil liberties was published, even these proposals had been diluted, softened or simply disappeared. The Lib Dems’ proposals in relation to counter-terrorism had been replaced by a commitment to introduce ‘safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation’. The proposal to restrict police retention of fingerprints had gone, replaced by a commitment to ‘outlaw the finger-printing of children at school without parental permission’. And the coalition’s commitment to restore the right to peaceful protest did not refer to Parliament Square – and as Conor Gearty pointed out (London Review of Books 10 June 2010), was accompanied by the noise of police evicting non-violent protesters from the square. CCTV cameras are not to be dismantled but will instead be regulated.
These particular dilutions are significant. Among the resident population it is disproportionately black people whose fingerprints are taken (and retained) by police, while recently, many of those who engage in peaceful protest are Muslim, a hugely disproportionate number of those stopped and searched under terrorism laws are black, and all (or virtually all) of those arrested or subjected to control orders under the Prevention of Terrorism Act are Muslim. And in May 2010 it was revealed that Muslim areas of Birmingham have comprehensive CCTV coverage, paid for by the Prevent programme (but sold to residents purely as an anti-crime initiative).
The Freedom or Great Repeal Bill has not yet been published. But when it is, black, Muslim and migrant communities will be watching to see whether they are included in deputy prime minister Nick Clegg’s, promise, in his 19 May 2010 speech, of ‘sweeping legislation to restore the hard-won liberties that have been taken one by one from the British people’. So far, the signs are not good.
It has been instructive watching the way the media in the UK, and those who were actually caught up in the ‘chaos’, have reacted to the consequences of the suspension of air travel in Western Europe courtesy of Eyjafjallajokull, have reacted to the inability to travel as of where and when one expects and desires. After all this is one’s ‘right’ if one has the correct passport, the money and, above all, the expectation to be allowed to “pass freely without let or hindrance”.
Instead, travellers found themselves stuck at internal (airports and train stations) and external (ports) borders unable to proceed, to get to where they wanted to be. They found themselves, when they could not afford the hotel bills, having to rough it: sleeping in uncomfortable and often increasingly squalid conditions, on floors and in chairs (the modern equivalent of the park bench?) in departure lounges, wherever they could or were allowed to doss down and wait for the opportunity to proceed; unable to shower and having to wear the same clothes for days on end.
And, of course, the major trope of the UK media coverage was the stoic British / ’Dunkirk’ spirit: the endless queuing and resigned complaining; the polite exasperation at bureaucracy and the lack of information; and the apparent propensity of the (largely European) businesses to seize the opportunity to ‘profiteer’ and make a quick Euro by putting up the price of dwindling resources such as hotel rooms, hire cars, train and ferry tickets was one of the subtexts.* Fortunately, that picture that was counterbalanced by the large number of people interviewed who chose to highlight the positive nature of their experiences, the solidarity and general helpfulness of others and the sheer liberatory adventure of having boring routine existence confounded.
However, from the viewpoint of those of us involved in the struggle against borders and who understand the futility of the concept of the ‘nation state’, the most astonishing and overtly hypocritical feature of the media’s coverage of the whole episode was what occurred in Calais, that transport-bottleneck between continental Europe (and ‘Johnnie Foreigner’) and ‘home’ (‘Dear Old Blighty’).
First, we had the bizarre sight of some minor BBC celebrity deciding to try and do his very minor bit to try and revive the ‘Dunkirk spirit’ (sic) by taking a handful of inflatable speedboats across the Channel to ‘liberate’ ‘stranded’ UK passengers supposedly stuck on the other side of the water (just what he expected to achieve by shuttling a few dozen people back to Dover when the ferries manage to carry tens of thousands of passengers a day is a bit hard to fathom, but that’s celebrities for you!). Only to be frustrated by the collective deadweight of Border bureaucracy, as the Calais port officials (after apparently initially OK’ing the enterprise, only to have second, and probably job-saving, thoughts) passed the buck up the bureaucratic command chain till the Prefect of the Pas de Calais vetoed the whole scheme and the combined Stuka squadrons of EU border policy sank his little ego-fuelled enterprise.
The other vomit-inducing spectacle was the endless shots, hourly updated just in case we failed to grasp the apparent monumental significance (or maybe it was purely one of those endless non-news creating side effects of the 24 hour news experience?) of more bloody Brits queuing for tickets, this time for an average 3 hours we were helpfully informed, in order to get on a Calais-Dover ferry. And to top it all, the Red Cross, who many years before had run another less favourably received humanitarian project in the area called Sangatte, was out in force, handing out cups of tea and emergency blankets to combat the overnight cold to the endless line of people snaking across the ferry terminal car park, as they slowly made their way to the ticket office windows, only 3 of which were open we were also helpfully told (it’s amazing the fact one accumulates from watching 24 hour news).
Now, not demeaning in any way the trauma some people experienced whilst having their comfortable and ordered lives so disrupted by the suspension of air travel for a few days, but the errant hypocrisy of this non-epic saga (the only good think we can say about it is that it cleared the airwaves of some of the interminable coverage of the election) was mind boggling in the extreme.
Has no one noticed the irony that the few days of discomfort experienced by a bunch of privileged Westerners, temporarily stranded on the journey to England by the Calais ‘bottleneck’, occurred in precisely the same town that has been the host of a very different, and largely untold, story of the discomfort (and more) for a group of people also stranded on their journey to England by exactly the same barrier?
Except they have often been stranded for years rather than days and their barrier has added 4m high double fences topped with razor wire to contend with, plus a massive security operation armed with EU laws, CO2 and infra red detectors, sniffer dogs, Eurodac, Schengen, etc. All policed by hundreds of borders guards, CRS and PAF cops; subjected to routine tear-gassing whilst one sleeps in the ‘Jungles’, the sort of shanty town structures that would never pass muster in even the worst fevala; to casual officially-sanctioned brutality, arrest and overnight detention; evictions, theft and destruction of ones personal property; not to mention the exploitation by the trafficking gangs who control the truck-stops and lay-bys and who are more than willing to main or even kill anyone who crosses them (one of the inevitable problems of criminalising a whole class of people is that one renders them open to exploitation by the only people they can turn to themselves for any form of ‘help’, criminals).
And then there is the sort of maiming and killing, that which occurs because of the extremes that these marginalized and desperate people are driven to in order to get to where they want to be, injuries and death in the backs or under the wheels of lorries and on the train tracks in the Channel Tunnel, just the sort of thing that happened to a 16 years old Afghan named Ramahdin just day before the volcano erupted. On April 11 he was hiding under a lorry that was boarding a ferry at Loon-Plage just up the coast from Calais but was found crushed to death. His repatriated body was then caught up in the air traffic chaos at a German airport en route back to Afghanistan.
Yes, these people, refugees from their own countries, are driven to do desperate and dangerous things. Driven by fear of persecution, by desperation and poverty. They have been displaced by Western-led wars fought in their homelands, by Western-inspired post-colonial structural debt-induced poverty; by environmental degradation created by multinational mining company operations or IMF-financed dam building and by civil wars in which both sides have been armed by the same Western arms companies. They have been lured westwards by the global hegemony of the Hollywood lifestyle, Rolex watches and Versace jeans (the modern equivalent of 40 acres and a mule, except in reverse, luring people into a form of slavery), to realise Dick Whittington’s dream in a land where the streets are supposed to be paved with gold.
Where are the stories of their epic journeys, which sometimes take years; tales of the circuitous routes that they have had to take to try and get where they wanted to be, to a new safer ‘home’. Where is the outrage at the exorbitant prices they had to pay (often with their own lives) to get there, only to find themselves stuck in limbo, unable to ultimately get where they most want to be because they were born in the wrong place and have the wrong passport/visa/skin colour? And this untold story is not just happening in Calais. It is the same, if not worse, in Ceuta, Melilla, Libya, Turkey, the Canaries, Malta, Yemen, Indonesia, Malaysia, Slovenia, the Ukraine, Mexico, etc. The list is almost endless.
But hey! Let’s look on the bright side. At least the people ‘stranded’ by Eyjafjallajokull’s dust clouds, when they finally did get to take the journey across the Channel to England, whether it was by ferry or Eurostar, didn’t travel terrified by the fear that their long, torturous journey may all have been in vain, that they might be caught by Border guards once they reached the ‘green and promised land’ and be deported back to some detention centre hell-hole in mainland Europe, or even worse, back to a war zone or somewhere where they face the fear of torture or death.
Unfortunately, it seems that some travel stories are far less newsworthy and will not be preserved in anyone’s album of treasured holiday snapshots.
Good day for media… This morning Nick Griffin gets a breakfast slot to fuel racism and hatred on BBC Radio 4. And the rest of the day is taken up with ‘bigotgate’. Brown accidentally caught on tape in his car, referring to someone he’d just spoken to – who’d been moaning about immigrants ‘flocking in’ – as a ‘bigoted woman’. Press pounce, delighted; bigot-woman is interviewed ad nauseum expressing her ‘disgust’ at the PM’s comments; in general the country is ‘shocked’. Or that’s how it’s portrayed by every single media establishment, it seems. There are not many calls for Gillian Duffy, and all the xenophobic ‘not racist but…’ people like her, to apologise for their comments or views. Milena Popova’s article about the failure of the ‘fluffy’ left and the media to defend immigrants is here, along with the clip, should you wish to see it yet again…
Obviously Brown’s comments don’t seem particularly heroic given the past ten years of Labour’s noxious immgration ministers, mass deportation, expansion of detention sites and child detention, racist abuse at the hands of private companies, rocketing refusal rates, and the militarisation of European and British borders. But it’s interesting to see the backlash when he does voice – albeit accidentally – a single comment on latent racism in this country.
A leading UK charity for lesbian and gay asylum seekers published a study this week which highlights disproportionate levels of rejection for homosexual applicants.
The UK Lesbian & Gay Immigration Group – a charity promoting equality and dignity through supporting lesbian and gay people who are seeking asylum in the UK – conducted a study of 50 Home Office Reason for Refusal letters issued from 2005 to 2009 to claimants from 19 different countries who claimed asylum on the basis of their sexual identity.
Entitled Failing The Grade, the report looks at the decisions of UK Border Agency at interview stage. They found that although refusal at this stage is high for all asylum applicants – 73% in 2009 – refusal of lesbian and gay applicants between 2004 and 2009 was 98-99%.
UKLGIG patron Angela Mason, CBE, – who was joined by barrister S. Chelvan and author of the report, Laura Milliken Gray, at its launch at London’s Mitre House Chambers – told DIVA that the issue was a live one.
“It seems clear that case owners making decisions about lesbian and gay asylum claims do not have training on the particular issues arising from persecution based on sexual orientation or identity.
They are also relying on out of date information on countries of origin and too often ignoring the UNHCR Guidance Note on Refugee Claims Relating to Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity. The result is that lesbian and gay asylum seekers who are already experiencing persecution may also face discrimination in our own country.”