Quash ALL the convictions – Free the refugees from prison!
Crown Prosecution Service must drop all pending prosecutions of cross-Channel refugees and refuse any further prosecutions – SIGN & SHARE THE PETITION!
Refugees who have risked their lives crossing the Channel to seek asylum have been slandered, persecuted and politically exploited by Johnson’s racist government. Now they have won an important victory. Yesterday the Court of Appeal ruled that it is not a crime for refugees to steer small boats across the Channel, to do their best to keep themselves and fellow refugees safe so they can exercise their legal right to claim asylum in Britain.
The decision came following a special hearing last week, in which the Court of Appeal brought together four claims made separately by cross-Channel refugees. There were at least seven other refugees who were determined to fight for justice and waiting for the outcome of this hearing. They all have been or still are imprisoned for that supposed ‘crime.’ The quashed all four convictions, making it almost certain the other seven will be quashed in January.
Movement for Justice (MFJ) welcomes this decision. It is a defence of human rights and the UN Refugee Convention, made in defiance of a government that is tearing up asylum rights and human rights, and under the threat of a new Nationality & Borders Bill – the purpose of which is to change the law so that it will, automatically, be a crime for any refugee to cross the Channel or seek to enter the UK without a legal document.
Politically, yesterday’s decision is a challenge to the whole direction in which this Far Right, authoritarian government is moving – and not only on asylum and immigration policy.
Since 2019 the Home Office has used photographic evidence from drones to get the police to arrest refugees who steered boats across the Channel, and then treated them as ‘people traffickers.’ That accusation was obviously false and the Home Office knew it was false. Nevertheless, the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) agreed to prosecute the refugees who the Home Office identified.
The legal principles of today’s decision were actually established by a Court of Appeal hearing in April this year – in the case of Fouad Kakaei, an Iranian asylum seeker. Over the next few months prosecutions were dropped in another eleven cases, and in July the CPS announced publicly that it would not be bringing any further prosecutions against cross-Channel refugees.
However, the Home Office has continued to target refugees who steered boats. The CPS soon fell into line and brought more prosecutions. There are still many hearings scheduled: the next one is on January 4th and the list includes the case of MFJ member Nabil Abdulmajid in May.
The plain truth is that the government and the Home Office have consciously ignored the legal decisions and acted as though the new Borders Bill was already on the statute books. The CPS has agreed to be their accomplice. Canterbury Crown Court, where every one of these cases has been heard, is a racist production line churning out guilty verdicts for the Home Office.
This is the state of affairs under a regime that despises democracy and humanity; it has no respect for us or even for the law. It sees all such concerns as obstacles to its political and economic objectives. In that context yesterday’s decision in the Court of Appeal can be described as a defence of democracy and human rights. It has fired a kind of warning shot at the development of dictatorship and fascism. It further undermines the tattered legitimacy of this government and its policies.
The full significance of this decision will become a reality if we understand the authority it will give a refugee, immigrant and youth led movement to resist the Home Office and make the Borders Bill unworkable.
We have the advantage that Britain’s ruling elite is increasingly divided – important sections of the judiciary against the Home Office, different sections of capitalist businesses against the government or against each other, and the government increasingly divided against itself. Our movement must learn how to build collective action to take advantage of these divisions in order to increase the power and unity of the poor, exploited and oppressed.
The Home Office, the Court of Appeal and the CPS are at loggerheads on many fronts. On the Borders Bill and the Home Office’s general anti-immigrant measures they are in conflict over the central public plank in the government’s political agenda. We must demand that the CPS grows a backbone and refuses to bow any longer to the government’s demands that it ignores the decisions of the courts. Specifically, we demand that the CPS immediately drops all prosecutions of refugees who have steered boats across the Channel and refuses to bring any new prosecutions.