Why MFJ will be joining the ‘No to Tommy Robinson, No to Brexit’ bloc on 9 December

The following statement was put out on the fifteenth Surround YarlsWood demonstration on 1 December 2018 (pictured above):

Defend & Extend Free Movement of People – Stop Brexit!

  • Shut down Yarl’s Wood – Shut down all detention centres
  • Stop scapegoating of immigrants – End the racist Hostile Environment
  • Amnesty Now for ALL those who don’t have secure immigration status
  • Open the Borders of Britain & Europe!   

Sunday 9 December, ‘No to Tommy Robinson, No to Fortress Britain’ Demonstration, 11am, Portland place

Stop the rise of Fascism & the Far-Right – Join MFJ on the ‘No to Tommy Robinson, No to Brexit’ Bloc

Build independent, integrated, youth & immigrant led mass movement against racism, fascism & poverty

Bring Down this Racist, anti-Working Class Brexit Government!

Across Europe and in the USA, immigrant workers, immigrant communities and refugees are on the frontline fighting for justice and equality, against racism, fascism and poverty. They are far more than scapegoats who get blamed for low pay, failing public services, insecure jobs etc; they are feared by the rulers as the most determined and conscious fighters.

In Britain the resistance by immigrants and asylum seekers inside detention centres is the driving force that has won a whole series of victories; detainees & ex-detainees in Movement for Justice (MFJ) are playing the leading role in this struggle. That’s why Yarl’s Wood, which has once more been a site of struggle against mass deportation in the past week, now stands half empty.

In the USA, the real leaders of resistance to Trump and his fascist allies are immigrants, Latina/o & black communities and youth, and the refugee caravan at the border with Mexico. MFJ’s American sister organisation, BAMN, has been in the frontline of these struggles for immigrant rights and shutting down the fascists. In Italy, the independent SI Cobas union, 80% immigrant workers, is the most militant section of the workers’ movement and the focus of militant political opposition, especially by youth, to the new racist Far Right government. They are demonstrating today against the reopening of a detention centre in Milan.

These powerful struggles are the basis from which we can build – internationally – an integrated mass movement to defeat the biggest growth of fascism & far-right racism since the 1930s.

We must defend and extend the free movement of people and stop Brexit

The rich and powerful regard free movement as their exclusive privilege – free movement for themselves, their money & investments, and the goods & service they buy and sell in a globalised economy with super- fast communications. They deny the same rights and benefits to the poor and oppressed, the people they exploit, impoverish and dispossess. That is divide and rule on an international scale: a global labour market for bosses looking for cheap labour, but not for people looking for work and safety. Mass migration is a rebellion against that injustice.

In an increasingly unequal world the free movement of people is the most basic human right – fundamental to workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, the right of asylum and to life itself. The ruling classes deny us those rights, with their borders, detention centres, immigration laws, and by condemning thousands to death and starvation.

Movement for Justice demands Open the Borders of Britain & Europe, because it is what hundreds of thousands of people are doing, by any means necessary, in order to solve crushing material problems in their lives. The alternative to Open Borders is a world of barbarism and tyranny.

And the forces of barbarism and tyranny are growing here, across Europe, in America, and elsewhere   in the world: the Trump movement, the new government in Italy, the Orban government in Hungary, and their model, Putin’s de facto dictatorship in Russia. Brexit is its British form. Brexit is the biggest victory for racism and biggest attack on immigrants in Britain in the lifetime of anyone living today.

The far right racists are facing our resistance everywhere and they can be defeated. That will take a movement that’s independent of the powers-that-be – a movement with consciousness, a strategy and leadership.

Exposing the lies about Brexit

The Government and the Labour leadership say we must accept Brexit because it is democratic. That’s a lie: it’s not ‘democratic’ for a majority to take away the rights of a minority. The referendum was an exercise in lies and demagogy, not democracy. Millions of people who are part of this society were denied a vote by racist nationality and immigration laws.

Some people on the Left, including leading people in the Labour Party, say we should accept Brexit because a big part of the Leave vote expressed the anger of white people in impoverished communities who had every right to feel betrayed. That is true, but does not make it any less racist. One section of the working class was venting its anger in an attack on another section, based on race and national origin.

The same people say we should put Brexit behind us and unite on the ‘real’ practical issues that affect our lives, like housing, jobs and the NHS. They can’t or won’t see that free movement and fighting racism are real practical issues for millions of people. They can’t or won’t see that racism and immigration have a profound impact on housing, jobs and the NHS.

The fundamental belief of all such people is that you can’t shift the racism of poor and working class white people – and that is the biggest lie of all. But the basis for that belief is that racism is simply too big an issue, that it is too ingrained in the economic and political system, that overcoming it would shake things up too much. And that is true! It is too big a fight for their politics and their methods.

Racism can’t be overcome by reliance on the present system – Parliament, the courts, elections – any more than it will be overcome by moral sermons. It can only be overcome in and through the independent power of a mass movement, and it’s only on that basis that intervening in Parliament, the courts, elections etc will yield any positive results. We must not be afraid of the power of the poor and oppressed.

Building the movement – Defending free movement of people – Stopping Brexit

MFJ fights to stop Brexit in order to maintain the free movement of people and defeat anti-immigrant racism. That is central, all other considerations are secondary. Staying in the European Union while ending free movement would be a defeat; keeping free movement while being outside the EU would be a victory. The institutional and legal arrangements through which free movement is maintained are merely a matter of the mechanism that achieves our goal.

The method through which a movement can achieve these goals is the method that MFJ applies to every fight, big or small, that we are involved in: independent collective action to shift the balance of power in favour of the oppressed and exploited, and always speaking the plain truth about racism, as we have done about Brexit ever since the referendum campaign. It’s what we are doing at Yarl’s Wood today, organising inside and outside, together, to shift the balance of power against the Home Office and Serco. It takes resistance and exposure to make detention unsustainable; neither happen without organisation.

It is the same method we employed last year to drive a fascist recruiting march out of Croydon – campaigning and organising in the community, especially the black & Asian community, and among the youth, to take over the streets.

This is the method that can maintain and extend the free movement of people and stop Brexit and reverse the growth of fascism. Our aim must be to bring down this racist, anti-working class, brutal – but weak & divided – government. On 11th December Parliament votes on Theresa May’s Brexit deal, which will almost certainly be defeated; the Brexit crisis enters a new and more dangerous phase, and the fascists are preparing to take advantage of it to build their movement. The notorious racist thug and former EDL leader known as ‘Tommy Robinson’ has summoned his supporters to a ‘Great Brexit Betrayal’ march in London on Sunday 9th December.

Some members of the Labour Campaign for Free Movement and the left-wing anti-Brexit group ‘Another Europe Is Possible’ (AEIP) are with us at Yarl’s Wood today. MFJ welcomes the positive decision of AEIP to organise a No to Tommy Robinson! No to Brexit! bloc as part of the mobilisation against the fascists on 9th December. It is endorsed among others by David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, Manuel Cortez, leader of the TSSA union, Caroline Lucas MP of the Green Party and Peter Tatchell. They are rightly demanding ‘vote down the Brexit deal’ and ‘defend free movement,’ and point out that,

“… It is not enough to simply oppose racism in the abstract. Brexit is being used to attack migrants, end free movement, deregulate the economy, divide communities and legitimise racism in the political mainstream. It is driven at its core by the British wing of a movement that includes Donald Trump, Jair Bolsonaro, Marine Le Pen and Geert Wilders, among others…. Brexit has from its earliest days been driven by the far right, and the far right will benefit from it for decades to come unless we defeat it and the conditions on which it feeds.”

MFJ will be part of this bloc and we call on everyone here today to join us there. We will do everything we can to build the bloc.

Immigrants, black & Asian communities and youth must take the lead

This leaflet started, in its first four paragraphs, by explaining that these are the forces on the frontline of the fight for equality and justice internationally, and that are leading the fight against detention and the Hostile Environment policy in Britain.

With regard to Brexit, by far the biggest percentage of votes against this racist project came from black, Asian and Muslim voters, and from young voters – the most integrated generation, with their futures at stake. These are overwhelmingly working class communities and groups, and include some of the poorest sections of the working class. And they are a core part of Labour’s ‘traditional supporters.’ They knew from the start that Brexit is racist, and they have directly experienced its toxic impact. Recent polls indicate a further increase in opposition to Brexit among these groups.

The decision of the Labour leadership to endorse Brexit, to deny that it is racist, and to abandon free movement is a shameful insult to these communities and to the young generation. But, the most prominent anti-Brexit organisations have also been, at best, reluctant to fight on the issues of racism and free movement because they don’t want to undermine the Labour Party. As a result they isolated and undermined the very forces that most strongly rejected Brexit – while the Labour leadership continues to undermine itself anyway with its Brexit policy.

The ‘No Brexit’ bloc on the 9th December can be the start of changing that situation. Our organisers must focus on London’s multiracial schools & colleges, and the predominantly black, Asian and working class universities. We must call on David Lammy and other anti-Brexit MPs, especially black and Asian MPs and councillors, to call on their communities – on Tottenham, Lewisham, Hackney for example – to come out with us. We must call on Manuel Cortez and other anti-Brexit union activists to bring out the immigrant workers who are the most exploited and some of the most militant workers in London.

Time is short before 9th December, but we have a long fight after that because this is profound and long- running crisis in our history. We must step up our action now.

MFJ is building a movement of immigrant, black, Asian and young leaders because that is central to defeating the Far Right and overcoming the huge roadblock of racist, anti-immigrant and anti-Muslim discrimination and prejudice that is the chief barrier to progress in British society and internationally. That is the most important task before us, Only such a leadership can awaken and inspire a new movement of united mass struggle against exploitation and poverty.

We call on EVERYONE here today to join this fight.

Windrush ‘Lessons Learned’ means ending second class citizenship for the #WindrushGeneration their descendants and families

Movement for Justice submission to Windrush Lessons Learned Review

  1. INTRODUCTION

“Like a boil that can never be cured so long as it is covered up but must be opened with all its ugliness to the natural medicines of air and light, injustice must be exposed, with all the tension its exposure creates, to the light of human conscience and the air of national opinion before it can be cured.” MLK, Letter from a Birmingham Jail, 1963

  • The Windrush scandal has exposed the rotting carbuncle of racism that rests at the heart of British immigration legislation. An open secret which black, Asian and immigrant communities have known for decades; the whole system of British immigration controls and Home Office decision-making is inherently racist and shaped by anti-immigrant rhetoric by sections of the media and politicians of all stripes.
  • The challenge before this review is to ensure that ‘lessons learned’ – does not become another euphemism for ‘time to move on,’ and that real, lasting and radical change to British immigration and nationality laws and rules happens. That requires a full, in depth, public inquiry into the Windrush Scandal, this Review should join the many voices calling for an Inquiry. This can achieve what the Lawrence Inquiry achieved for equalities legislation and the recognition of institutional racism in the British police.
  • Movement for Justice began campaigning on the issue of Windrush as a result of our work inside and outside Yarl’s Wood Immigration Removal Centre to get it and all detention centres shut down. In the course of that work, in April 2018, not long after the Windrush scandal broke into public consciousness, we met two women detained there, Yvonne Smith and Yvonne Williams. Aged 63 and 59, these Jamaican grandmothers have extensive British families, who came to the UK as part of the Windrush Generation; they themselves did not come to the UK until the death of their grandparents in Jamaica in the late 1990’s/00’s. They had been held in Yarl’s Wood for almost nine months when we met, separated from their families, including their children, British born grandchildren and elderly Windrush Generation parents. Trying to regularise their stay for almost 20 years, every time the Home Office told them that their family ties were not “significant” enough.
  • That’s when we realised, despite their being so intimately connected to the Windrush generation, these two ‘children of Windrush’ were not recognised as part of that generation by the Government and so were not being catered for as part of the measures to support people, the Windrush Scheme and Taskforce. Both women were given removal directions on a charter flight to Jamaica.[1] Thankfully, because of the publicity[2] about their cases, they were both released, but remain at risk of detention and removal.
  • Since then we have met many more people who fall into the category of ‘not quite’ Windrush according to the government, but who all have Windrush generation families and who are part of the interconnected web of family connections of this important generation.
  • We have included anonymised case histories in appendix A for these ‘Widen Windrush’ Cases. Three of these people have submitted applications to the Windrush Inquiry. Yvonne Smith, whose application was the first to be submitted on 25th June 2018, is still waiting for a decision 15 weeks later; none of the other 3 has yet received a decision.

The Windrush Generation – an inspiring legacy of struggle

  • The ‘Windrush Generation’ from across the Commonwealth were actively recruited, invited to come to the UK. Young, ambitious and talented people from across the commonwealth made the journey, seeing opportunity to secure their families futures and the future of their descendants. It was not an easy process, people faced great hardship, racial discrimination, violence and the pain of leaving children behind. Many managed to raise the money needed to bring all of their children to the UK but many did not, and some children stayed in their home countries with a grandparent or aunt.
  • Family life developed across countries and continents, parents sending back money, cards and gifts for their children. For some of the Windrush children who did not make it to Britain, their parents only made enough money to get home to visit when they were in their late teens or twenties because of the meagre amount they earned in Britain’s public services and factories. Arthur Curling, who arrived on the Empire Windrush summed up this difficulty “England was the easiest country to get in to and the hardest country to get out of, for the mere fact is, if you working, you never earn enough money for your fare, but at the same time you always say you always have another 10 year, 15-20 years”[3].
  • Some of the children left behind never saw one or both of their parents again. Windrush descendant Yvonne Smith was the youngest of her siblings at 4 years old, when they all left with her mother to join their father in the UK; one year her mother died. The family could not afford to bring her mothers body home to Jamaica, or to bring Yvonne or her grandmother to the UK for the funeral. Her mother died ‘rebuilding Britain’ and yet in the eyes of the Home Office Yvonne Smith does not have ‘significant family ties’ and remains at risk of detention and removal.
  • Windrush Generation families spread throughout every sector of British society, building and strengthening our pubic services and enriching our communities. Through their battle against racism they initiated sweeping changes to Britain’s equalities legislation. They joined the British working class, broke down barriers, fought racism in the unions and became an integral part of working class history and British history.
  • They are the Bristol Bus Boycotters, the Grunwick Strikers, the Civil Rights activists of the 60’s & 70’s; their children fought racist SUS laws, police brutality and, over generations, have shaped far-reaching British Equality legislation that has benefitted all sectors of society. If Britain is to do justice to this pivotal section of British society it requires more than an apology and a few passports issued. It requires deep and far reaching investigation, radical legislative change and real justice for that generation, all of their descendants and their families.

[1] The Independent, https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/windrush-deportations-jamaica-charter-flight-immigration-detention-grandmother-a8328461.html

[2] Channel 4 News https://www.channel4.com/news/grandmother-child-of-the-windrush-told-she-cant-stay-in-uk and The Independent https://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/home-news/windrush-scandal-yvonne-williams-immigrants-migration-theresa-may-uk-government-a8320401.html

[3] BBC Website, testimonies from Windrush Arrivals, http://www.bbc.co.uk/history/british/modern/arrival_01.shtml

VIEW AND DOWNLOAD OUR FULL SUBMISSION HERE

Windrush-Lessons-Learned-Review_FINAL-EDIT

lambeth Says “Apology NOT Accepted” time to #WidenWindrush

Lambeth Council to hear motion on #WidenWindrush campaign on 10 Sept 2018. Justice for the Windrush Generation and ALL their descendants & families – End the Hostile Environment!

On 10th October Lambeth Council will be voting on a motion submitted by Green Party Councillors and supported by Labour Councillors  on Windrush and the governments Hostile Environment.

MFJ will be lobbying and speaking at the Council meeting making the case for the importance of expanding the Governments Windrush Scheme to include the descendants and families of the Windrush Generation. This follows on from MFJ’s March through Brixton on 8th September which heard from so many of the Windrush Generation, their descendants and family members, many still at risk of detention & removal, the Scheme MUST be widened!

Text Of Motion (download here):

Council notes that:

Lambeth residents are part of the historic struggle for equality in this country and that those of the Commonwealth diaspora – the Windrush generation, their descendants and families – have played a crucial role in shaping our borough. Our diversity makes us strong, and is to be celebrated.

The Windrush scandal has brought to prominence the Government’s ‘hostile environment’ policy which is having a terrible impact on many Lambeth residents. Detaining and deporting members of the Windrush Generation and their descendants is a betrayal and a shame on this government and our country. The UK’s immigration detention system is not fit for purpose and the Government must end immigration detention.  Anyone whose grandparents and parents are here has the right to reunite with their family.

Despite the Government’s apology for the Windrush scandal many of the Windrush generation, their descendants and families are still suffering great hardship. Children, grandchildren and family members from Commonwealth countries who joined their families in the UK after 1st January 1973 are still facing detention and deportation. They have not been included in the Government’s apologies or measures to put right this wrong.

Despite the establishment of the Government’s Windrush taskforce Windrush citizens are still being forced to wait months for their immigration cases to be resolved despite a government pledge to process them in two weeks.  The Home Office’s response is chaotic and is forcing people into distress and destitution.

 

41312861_2319994241360760_5942983553561133056_nCouncil believes that:

It is unacceptable that older members of the Windrush generation are spending their last years alone in care homes because their own children and grandchildren are not allowed back into the country, or that families continue to be separated as a consequence of racist immigration policies.

It is unacceptable that those who have lived and worked here for decades are the subject of immigration raids and harassment.  Those who work in our hospitals, schools and other parts of the public sector should not be made into border guards in sweeping measures that have criminalised entire communities.

It is unacceptable that people have to go through all of the bureaucratic processes of different departments such the Department for Work and Pensions and Home Office, to get their lives back on track.

No one from the Windrush Generation, their descendants or families should be charged additional fees for naturalisation or passport applications. Additional hardship payments should be issued to those who need them.

Council will:

(i)  Support the campaign calling for the government to widen the Windrush Scheme (#WidenWindrush) to include descendants and family members who came to the UK after 1st January 1973, publicise the legal challenge to the discrimination against Windrush descendants who arrived after that date, and call on MPs and other Councils to support this campaign.

(ii)  Support the call for fees for naturalisation to be waived for all those who have been affected; call on the Prime Minister to commission a public inquiry into the Windrush scandal; actively campaign for an end to the ‘hostile environment’ policy and indefinite detention, and oppose the criminalisation of Windrush families.

(iii)   Call on the Government to ensure that the Windrush taskforce becomes a ‘one stop shop’ for the Windrush Generation, their descendants and families. That would mean that in one place people would not only get their residence permit but also their British passport and their welfare benefits/pensions reinstated.

(iv)  Set up a working group that will explore the impact of immigration policies on Lambeth residents who are members, descendants or close family members of the Windrush generation, champion and secure their rights, and come forward with proposals to ensure Lambeth residents do not continue to suffer from the Hostile Environment policy.

(v)  Review the Council’s policies and procedures to ensure the Council supports those affected to the fullest extent possible, including fully supporting advice agencies and local community organisations in Lambeth in their work to achieve justice for all Lambeth residents of the Windrush generation.

vi) Endorse the ‘These Walls Must Fall’ Campaign

vii) Call on the Government to implement the recommendations of the Joint Inquiry by the All Party Parliamentary Group on Refugees & the All Party Parliamentary Group on Migration into the Use of Immigration Detention in the United Kingdom.

viii) Ask Lambeth MPs to raise these matters in the House of Commons, and support alternatives to immigration detention.

ix) Seek further support for this motion via the Local Government Association, and by encouraging other Councils in the UK to show their support.

March moving landscape

MFJ Motion for Labour Party Members: Labour Must Bring Down The Government this Autumn!

Conference notes:

  1. On 10 August a YouGov poll indicated that 53% would vote to remain in the EU in a new referendum, including 77% of Labour voters;
  2. On 12 August, research by Focaldata indicated there is a majority for staying in the EU in 341 constituencies out of 632 (compared with 229 in June 2016).

Conference believes:

  1. Public opinion is shifting and opposition to Brexit is growing; this is a set-back for the anti-immigrant racism that was central to the Leave campaign;
  2. Labour must encourage this development in order to take power, and must therefore end the confusion over the Party’s approach to Brexit;
  3. No-one in Labour believes immigrants and free movement of people cause cuts and poverty, but the Party’s opposition to the free movement of people legitimises that prejudice;
  4. Continuing Tory government means a disastrous Brexit fostering higher levels of racism and leading to more poverty and austerity.

Conference therefore calls on the Leadership to:

  1. Commit to maintaining free movement of people with no new restrictions;
  2. Seize the earliest opportunity to vote down Government Brexit measures that do not meet that requirement as well as Labour’s commitments to a customs union and the “Exact Same Benefits” as single market membership;
  3. Force a general Election and make those policies a key part of its campaign and its programme for a fairer, thriving and more equal Britain.

Download motion

Why MFJ is promoting this motion for the Labour Party Conference

Movement for Justice has drawn up this ‘contemporary motion’ for this year’s National Conference of the Labour Party (23-26 September). We are circulating it to MFJ supporters and others who are committed to saving and extending the free movement of people and understand the depth of the crisis posed by Brexit. We are asking you, if you are a Labour Party member, to circulate and discuss the motion among other members and get your Constituency Labour Party (CLP) to submit it for debate at the forthcoming conference (the deadline for submissions is Noon on 13 September). If you are not in the Labour Party, please discuss it with friends and relatives who are members and ask them to put it forward.

As we point out in the motion, there are clear indications of a shift in public opinion away from support for Brexit, driven by those groups that were already anti-Brexit – youth, black and minority ethnic voters, and Labour voters – but also affecting some strongly pro-Brexit areas. That is encouraging, and it’s a set-back for the racist anti-immigrant bigotry that defines Brexit. By itself, however, it won’t dispel the looming crisis. Firstly, the actual level of support for Brexit remains quite solid and Britain is still a deeply divided country. Secondly, the likes of Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg and Nigel Farage are stepping up their efforts to regain ground. That was the purpose of Johnson’s racist rant against women wearing the Burka.

Instead of evasion, the refusal to call out racism and xenophobia, and the self-defeating efforts to appease irrational fears and prejudices that have dominated the discussion about Brexit on the Left, we need…

  • A bold Labour leadership that takes an uncompromising stand against the anti-immigrant racism and xenophobia that is the driving force of Brexit;
  • A Labour leadership that will fight unequivocally to maintain the free movement of people and oppose any new immigration controls;
  • A Labour leadership that will seize the initiative and take decisive, inspiring and timely action to bring down the Government that is heading fast for a Brexit disaster;

That policy can enthuse millions; it can release the dynamism of youth and black, Asian and immigrant communities. For hundreds of thousands of mainly young people it will be the leadership they dreamed of when they flocked into the Labour Party and rallied round Jeremy Corbyn, with his long history of opposition to austerity, racism and imperialist wars. A mass movement that is on its feet and fighting for what it believes can arouse hope and make it infectious – the racist politics of Brexit, after all, are the politics of despair.

What we are proposing is not ‘business as usual’ – because now is not the time for ‘business as usual! The situation is urgent, and we must not under-estimate the danger of the political crisis. It extends across the ‘western democracies’ as the result of the deep-seated problems of their economic policies and relations. Its sharpest expressions are: Donald Trump’s rapidly escalating attack on democratic government in the US, as he attempts to get Kavanaugh on the Supreme Court and shut down the Mueller investigation before November’s congressional elections; the far-right, fascist-backed government of Salvini that is now in power in Italy, pledging to deport 600,000 immigrants, attacking Roma communities, and inspiring a deadly spike of racist and fascist violence; and here in Britain, the disintegration of the Tory government and party, and the looming prospect of a ‘No-Deal Brexit.’

This is reflected in the signs of establishment panic – the business operations moving out, the Government’s ‘public information’ notices about the eventuality of a ‘No Deal’ Brexit, the talk of ‘stockpiling’ and police chiefs’ warning of coming ‘social unrest.’

If Labour continues to duck this challenge it is entirely possible that the Government will simply collapse at some point under the weight of its internal conflicts and there will be ‘civil war’ among Tory MPs. A new government with a parliamentary majority can’t be formed and there has to be a general election. Will that be the same as if Labour brings down the Government in Parliament? Absolutely Not.

If, during the autumn, Labour comes out decisively against the attacks on immigration and brings down the Government – or even makes a serious attempt to bring down the Government – over the Brexit negotiations or preparations, and fights the election on that basis, then the progressive forces have the political initiative and will have a real sense of optimism because they have come out stronger. If Labour fails to take that course and there is an election simply because of a Tory split, the situation will be more negative and confused. The Left will be weighed down by pessimism and the Far Right will feel more confident. Such an election is likely to be dominated by the Brexiteers’ rhetoric of ‘betrayal.’

Those on the Left who support a ‘People’s Vote’ on the outcome of Brexit are overwhelmingly motivated by a desire to stop Brexit, at least to stop a ‘hard’ or ‘no deal’ Brexit, and to offer a possible route to staying in the EU. They are opposed to the racism and ant-immigrant bigotry of Brexit and for the most part they are in favour of the free movement of people – that is certainly true of Another Europe Is Possible, who drew up the ‘People’s Vote’ motion that a number of constituencies are submitting to the Labour conference. It is conceived as an attempt to thwart the attempts by Corbyn’s Blairite enemies to present their pro-capitalist, corporate agenda as the ‘liberal,’ ‘progressive,’ ‘internationalist’ alternative to Brexit.

That is perfectly understandable, but because they are trying to save Corbyn from himself they are stuck in the manoeuvres of ‘business as usual.’ Since Corbyn has committed to ending the free movement of people (while he is prepared to maintain the free movement of goods, services and capital) they won’t call on him to change policy and defend it. Worse still, the first action point is to “Oppose any Brexit deal that does not satisfy Labour’s 6 tests.” They must know that the third of the six tests is “Does it ensure the fair management of migration in the interests of the economy and communities.”

Of course, Labour has always claimed that its immigration laws are ‘fair’ and ‘in the interests of the community,’ ever since the 1968 Immigration Act to keep East African Asians who had British passports they fear that would ‘undermine’ his leadership. But, does the ‘Left Against Brexit’ want Labour to bloc an agreement that guarantees continued free movement? It doesn’t seem so: while the original version of their motion, given out at early ‘Left Against Brexit’ rallies, avoided any mention of free movement, the final version slipped in three word, to note that May’s Brexit is “A threat to jobs, freedom of movement, peace in Northern Ireland and the NHS.”

Of course, that statement is perfectly true. The problem is that Corbyn’s Brexit is a threat to the free movement of people as well, but they don’t call on him to remedy that situation. In their eagerness to defend Corbyn’s leadership while staying true to the idea of free movement they have simply produced confusion. And how do they think calling on Corbyn to defend free movement would undermine him? It can only be that they fear calling, in the public arena of a national conference, for a vote to maintain the free movement of people would force Corbyn to come out against them, relying on the support of his right-wing enemies. What they fear is losing Corbyn’s left-wing reputation.

For the Blairites and their backers, a nebulous ‘People’s Vote’ campaign has the great advantage of hiding their unpopular policies behind a veneer of ‘democracy.’ They can afford the cynical manoeuvre; they have the establishment behind them. The Left can’t afford this manoeuvring and confusion, because it plays into the hands of the right wing by dodging the most important political fight in the present crisis, the fight against racist scapegoating which demands that we resolutely defend free movement.

These manoeuvres are simply another aspect of ‘kicking the can down the road,’ the response to the current crisis of all sides in the UK political system. We are near the end of this ‘road’ and the ‘can’ is looking more like a time-bomb. The proposals in the MFJ motion set out the only practical, progressive way forward for Labour in this increasingly urgent situation.

Extend the ‘Windrush Scheme’, time for UK govt to right a historic wrong

Windrush Descendants and Windrush families – Let them ALL Stay! Parliamentary Campaign Launch

Tuesday 17th July, 6pm, Committee Room 11, Houses of Parliament (Register)

Windrush Descendants Briefing

Facilitated by Janet Daby MP, herself a child of Windrush generation parents, alongside David Lammy MP who has been at the forefront of the fight for the Windrush Generation – this meeting will launch Movement for Justice’s campaign to expand the Government’s ‘Windrush Scheme’, and act in this crucial moment to bring an end to a historic wrong. At present, many descendants of the Windrush Generation remain at risk of detention and removal: children, grandchildren and close family members who came to the UK as adults after 1973.

Windrush Descendants Launch.jpg
Windrush Descendants & Families, L-R: Yvonne Williams, Yvonne Smith, Jennifer Ulett-Hall & Charmaine Simpson

Hear from two of those descendants at risk, Yvonne Smith and Yvonne Williams, Jamaican grandmothers detained in Yarl’s Wood for 9 months who have been fighting for the right to stay with their extensive British families for almost 20 years. Despite being the children of Windrush Generation immigrants, they do not fit into the governments ‘Windrush Scheme’ because they came to the UK as adults after 1973. Thousands of people are being turned away from the governments Windrush Taskforce because they do not fit the narrow criteria which is defined by immigration laws passed in the 60’s and 70’s; blatantly discriminatory laws designed to stop further black and Asian immigration from Commonwealth countries whilst still allowing many white people from the Commonwealth the right to British citizenship.

Grace Brown, Barrister Garden Court Chambers (also a child of Windrush generation parents) and Vinita Templeton, Director of Immigration & Public Law at Duncan Lewis Cardiff will speak about the legal campaign to extend the right to stay to the descendants and families of the Windrush Generation, to put right an historic injustice.

What are we calling for?

  1. Amend the Windrush Scheme to add a sub category, which covers adult children, grandchildren and other close family members of the Windrush Generation, people who came to the UK after 1973 as adults and so are not currently covered in the Scheme.
  2. A public Inquiry to investigate the historic injustice done to black and Asian Commonwealth Citizens by the racial discrimination embedded in British Nationality and Immigration legislation from 1962 to 1981. For a far reaching review of British Immigration and Nationality legislation and its compatibility with the Equality Act and Human Rights legislation.
  3. For the widening of family reunion rules to allow for the reunion of adult children with their parents in the UK and the reunion of parents with their adult children in the UK.

Britain’s Broken Promise to the Windrush Generation – time to make good!

In 1948 The British Nationality act was passed, it conferred a shared citizenship status for everyone in Britain and its colonies (Citizen of the United Kingdom and Colonies), all Commonwealth citizens (including those who gained independence) had the right to enter the UK free from immigration control. That same year the Empire Windrush arrived at Tilbury Docks, the symbolic beginning of large-scale immigration from Commonwealth countries to the UK. People were actively recruited from the Caribbean, Africa and South Asia to ‘rebuild Britain’ in the post war boom period. The Evening standard welcomed the arrival of the Empire Windrush with the headline “Welcome Home”. For many who arrived it was not the first time they had come to the aid of Britain, they had served as soldiers in the II World War. In return for (once again) coming to the Britain’s aid, Commonwealth Citizens were promised equality of opportunity, fair treatment, work and a home in the ‘Motherland’. Citizens of the Commonwealth kept their side of the promise despite great hardship. 14 short years later Britain began the process of breaking that promise with the 1962 Commonwealth Act, which began the process of restricting Commonwealth immigration creating second-class citizen status for those not born in the UK.

The European Human Rights Commission in 1973 found that the Commonwealth Immigration Act of 1968 was racially discriminatory in East African Asians case.  The 1971 Immigration Act maintained this racial discrimination by introducing concept of ‘patrials’, which benefited white commonwealth citizens over black and Asian Commonwealth citizens. It enabled those who were British Citizens by birth in the UK to pass on their citizenship to children and grandchildren. This excluded children of the vast majority of Windrush generation arrivals from African, Caribbean and Asian countries who were British Citizens (CUKC) not born in Britain. Though the ‘No Blacks, No Dogs, No Irish’ signs were made illegal by the 1968 Race Relations Act, the Immigration Act passed in the same year effectively relocated those signs to the UK border.

Border Cartoon Final Final

The 1971 Act and its predecessor the 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Act are widely recognised to be racially discriminatory in practice. At the time of their passage both politicians and campaigners challenged the racism of the Acts.

The 1968 and 1971 Acts created a second class citizenship for those British Citizens who were not born in the UK, one they could not pass on to the children who they had to leave behind when they travelled to the UK.

The ‘Windrush Generation’ from across the Commonwealth were actively recruited, invited to come to the UK. Young, ambitious and talented people from across the commonwealth made the journey, seeing opportunity to secure their families futures and the future of their descendants. It was not an easy process, people faced great hardship, racial discrimination, violence and the pain of leaving children behind. Many managed to raise the money needed to bring all of their children to the UK but many did not, and some children stayed in their home countries with a grandparent or aunt. Family life developed across countries and continents, parents sending back money, cards and gifts for their children. For some of the Windrush children who did not make it to Britain, their parents only made enough money to get home to visit when they were in their late teens or twenties because of the meagre amount they earned in Britain’s public services and factories. Arthur Curling, who arrived on the Empire Windrush summed up this difficulty “England was the easiest country to get in to and the hardest country to get out of, for the mere fact is, if you working, you never earn enough money for your fare, but at the same time you always say you always have another 10 year, 15-20 years”. Some of the children left behind never saw one or both of their parents again, like Windrush descendant Yvonne Smith who was the youngest of her siblings at 4 years old when they all left with her mother to join their father in the UK; after just one year her mother died. The family could not afford to bring her body home to Jamaica, or to bring Yvonne or her grandmother to the UK for the funeral.

That these families to this day are subject to the constant stress and expense of fighting for the right of their loved ones to stay, as the result of racially discriminatory immigration laws of the 60’s and 70’s which excluded them, is a grave historic injustice. The debt owed to the Windrush Generation must finally be paid, the promise Britain made acted upon.