MFJ Statement on deaths of refugees in the Channel on Wednesday 24 November 20221
The refugees who died in the Channel on 24/11/21, whose true number may never been known, were victims of a politically motivated crime against humanity committed by the British government. Movement for Justice declares that Boris Johnson’s government is guilty of racist mass murder.
The policies and actions of this government made yesterday’s tragedy inevitable, sooner or later. Its actions have made the deaths of many smaller groups of cross-Channel refugees inevitable over the last three years. The government actually instigated a policy of pushbacks at sea whereby big Border Force boats are to physically block small refugee boats and force them out of UK waters, action so life-threateningly dangerous that even their own officials are afraid to carry it out.
Of course, they were ready with their prepared responses to Wednesday’s deaths. With solemn faces, they put the blame on ‘people smugglers’ and France. Most of the media has followed that line.
What hypocrisy! People smugglers are only in business thanks to the racist policies of Britain and other European governments. They are the offspring of Fortress Britain and Fortress Europe. As for France – the refugees were trying to seek asylum in Britain; that was their right, and they died because the UK government used every means possible to deny them that right.
Defeat the Borders Bill – Defeat the Far Right Government
These deaths came as the Government is pushing a new Nationality & Borders Bill through Parliament. This Bill takes the racist, anti-immigrant, anti-refugee Hostile Environment policies of previous governments to new depths of barbarism. It will tear up established rights and safeguards, including the United Nations Refugee Convention. Without doubt it will lead to the deaths of many more refugees and immigrants, in Britain and trying to get here.
Johnson heads a far right government that sees this Borders Bill as the most important public, political element in a raft of repressive anti-democratic laws. It isn’t just another immigration bill, it is a move towards a more dictatorial form of government – and in reality towards fascism.
That makes the response of most liberal and charity groups to the deaths in the Channel thoroughly alarming. They are calling on this government to establish ‘safe legal routes’ for asylum seekers. The founder of the well-known refugee rights charity, Care for Calais, is even saying that the Home Office should set up a ‘screening centre’ in Calais to decide which potential asylum seekers could go on to pursue their claim in Britain.
Defend asylum rights, no to ‘safe legal routes’
Movement for Justice strongly opposes such proposals. ‘Safe legal routes’ is code for no-route at all. It effectively means ‘off-shoring’ the asylum process – a betrayal. The power to decide who can arrive would be used invisibly and entirely at the will of the political elite. There would be no opportunity for a challenge. Refugees only have a realistic chance of asserting their rights if they are in Britain, with a wider public that believes in the right of sanctuary.
The government is truly afraid of the presence of determined, bold refugees in Britain, because these are people who took the initiative to get free rather than waste away in despair, as happens to generations of refugees who are stuck in the limbo of United Nations refugee camps. They have the most to contribute and teach the anti-racist communities and the poor and oppressed in Britain.
That is why the government is so eager to off-shore the asylum process to concentration camps, where officials have dictatorial control to privately pick and choose who they deem ‘worthy’ of asylum, leaving the rest to languish for years in unseen squalor (and perhaps desperately hoping to get a place in one of the UN camp lotteries).
There would be no difference if this policy was operated by a Labour government. Any Labour leadership that implemented ‘safe legal routes’ would be a leadership committed to maintaining the same racist anti-immigrant system. Labour governments have in fact shared responsibility for this system since the 1960s.
Labour’s current shadow Home Secretary has been attacking the government, not for its racism and cruelty, but for failing to stop large numbers of refugees crossing the Channel. He proposed to work with other governments to prevent refugees getting anywhere near the Channel. Many black, Asian and anti-racist Labour Party members are unhappy with the leadership. They must openly challenge those racist policies, not only in words and conference motions, but by joining the active resistance to make the Borders Bill unworkable.
Open the Borders of Britain and Europe
Movement for Justice asserts that the only fair and progressive alternative to the persecution of cross-Channel refugees, and the government’s attempts to consolidate a Far Right racist base, is to Open the Borders.
Opening the Borders is what hundreds of thousands of men, women and children are actually doing around the world because they have no alternative. It’s what refugees are doing in the Channel, the Mediterranean, the deserts of north Africa and on the southern borders of the USA. It will continue and grow because mass migration is a global rebellion against an increasingly unequal and unjust world. It is a rebellion against tyranny, poverty, racism, imperialist wars and global heating.
Open the Borders is not an abstract demand on the British government; it is a Call to Action for a movement of immigrants, refugees, black, Asian & Muslim communities, and youth. It means building that movement on both sides of the Channel and across Europe, to counter and resist the activities of the Home Office, stop deportations, create real safe routes and build & defend real asylum communities. We must pull down the walls of Fortress Britian and Fortress Europe.
Building that movement is how we can best honour those who have sought freedom and justice and died in the Channel and around the world
The trade unions must be prepared to lead, organise and mobilise resistance to this bill, to support their members who will be asked to participate in facilitating concentration camps, mass deportations and racist discrimination. RESIST the Nationality & Borders Bill!
The following is an appeal drafted by MFJ chair Antonia Bright, in her capacity as UNISON Black Members Officer at SOAS. Appealing against a decision to rule out of order the SOAS motion to UNISON London Regional Council to organise resistance to the most draconian and racist immigration legislation in British history, the Nationality and Borders Bill. This appeal and the motion lays down a strategy that is essential to building the resistance to this racist legislation. The trade unions must be prepared to lead, organise and mobilise resistance to this bill, to support their members who will be asked to participate in facilitating concentration camps, mass deportations and racist discrimination. Please spread the motion, pass it in your branch, in your union. If you are a member of UNISON pass it in your branch.
Appeal for SOAS Unison’s motion Black Members Against racially divisive “Nationality and Borders Bill” to be heard at Regional Council.
To the Regional Secretary.
SOAS Branch object to the ruling to deny Regional Council the opportunity to discuss and vote on our motion ‘Black Members Against racially divisive “Nationality and Borders Bill”.’ The motion urgently tackles the dangerously racially divisive piece of proposed legislation while it is at committee stage, not yet law. We appeal the ruling. We were informed that the motion would not be included on the agenda on the grounds that:
“the union cannot support activity that is beyond the law, as referred to in the fourth action point”.
The fourth action point in question calls for London Region to
“Work with Labour Link to support those local authorities / councils that make public pledge that they will resist collaboration with the Home Office on its targeting of immigrants”.
We make the following three requests:
We request that the motion be accepted on to the agenda for the Regional Council meeting now timed for the 2nd November.
We request a copy of the legal advice on which this claim is asserted, and a list of which laws it is claimed would be breached by supporting locally elected councils that pledge to resist the targeting of our immigrant communities. What is the specific ‘activity that is beyond the law’, given that the immediate Bill referred to has not become law, and many local councils have made similar such pledges?
We request a meeting with whomever made the decision where we can make our challenge.
There is nothing in the motion to justify taking the extreme unilateral position of ruling it ‘out of order’.
Firstly, the assertion that support of local authority’s resistance to Home Office activity is equal to support of ‘activity beyond the law’ is a speculation that the decision-maker has chosen to imply – it is not what the motion actually states. Loose speculation of this kind is dangerous to our unions’ democracy; it could be applied to any motion that ever seeks to resist any of the abhorrent things the government of the day may try to impose despite there being many ways to resist and challenge such things.
In Higher Education we had resistance to “Prevent”, for example. The legally binding obligations placed on educational institutions by Prevent, did not stretch to forcing those institutions to force staff to carry out harassment of particularly Muslim students, though that was the implication. Unison HE Conference debated supporting members who refused to comply with the demands from state powers through Prevent legislation. There is always scope for resisting discriminatory practices and asserting protections, which we should be using when the objective of an activity pushed by the government is the blanket discrimination or harassment of particular oppressed groups.
But unlike with Prevent, this motion is talking about a Bill that has not even passed. It is NOT law – it can’t be ‘broken’ since it’s not even clear what it is capable of legally imposing. It can however be fought, withdrawn, amended, and delayed. The ruling against discussing this motion inherently presumes that councils will have no lawful means to resist the racist and sexist outcomes of what they might be asked to do in the furtherance of the hostile environment policies.
In fact, the Bill is already demonstrably likely to face legal challenges for years to come. That challenge could conceivably come from local authorities, or dare we say, trade unions. We are not discussing settled law, it is precarious unclear immigration law which is an area where Home Office activities have been found unlawful in lots of areas including the workplace.
Action point 4 anticipates that councils will be faced with choices and will be asked to do things that they have the power to refuse. It would mean Unison working through its Labour links to further the very resistance that is already underway against the anti-immigrant Hostile Environment policies. Councils including Hackney, Lewisham, and around 100 others have refused to assist the Home Office. That is a sign of the strength of the international, integrated communities they represent and serve.
While so many local council’s have already been resisting collaboration with the demands of the Home Office’s racist hostile policy, why are we now being told this is unsupportable? What a weak message to send a parliament as they weigh up this deplorable racist attack on refugees and Black communities, alongside major attacks on the right to protest, Judicial Review and legal aid. No wonder we have MP’s openly envisaging their path towards getting rid of the Human Right Act too.
This is the time we need to state where we stand – as the RNLI did by stating what should be obvious: that their obligation is to rescue without discrimination; and that is not compatible with any law that tries to order them to let human beings drown in the sea. The local authorities have public sector duties too and are accountable to communities; they are in a position to challenge and to resist demands on them to breach human rights.
If locally accountable councillors actually use what powers they have (the few powers central government have not yet destroyed), to resist measures that the Home Office may attempt to impose that would racially target and discriminate against immigrants, turn public services into a trap for the harassment of Black people and of non-citizens, lead to racial division and cause real damage to their community worse than what the hostile environment already has, clearly they should be supported and celebrated.
Regional Council is our voice. It is for us as members to raise debate, in this case to call for Unison to be clear where its support lies before our members, (which includes several serving as local councillors), are faced with the dilemma of how to uphold their obligations and ethics to help and serve our communities without discrimination, in the face of a political pressure to harass and stigmatise immigrants including refugees.
The meaning and necessity of ‘Resistance’.
Our motion express the strength we want to convey. Discriminatory laws get repealed or changed when oppressed communities build resistance, with no guarantee of achieving justice. Universally, resistance is a means of struggle essential to fighting oppression.
The Nationality and Borders Bill, if it passes, would not be the first time a British parliament has attempted to codify into law a set of deeply racist or bigoted ideas that opened a section of our society to legally sanctioned harassment and abuse. Look at the whole series of immigration and nationality laws that have systematically written the Black out of ‘Britishness’. Look at Section 28 that made an offence out of encouraging openness towards gay sexuality and empowered school leaders to drive out gay teachers. Had Unison been asked to declare “we support teachers and students who resist collaboration with the authorities implementing Section 28”, a motion to that effect would have shut down as ‘out of order’. What a way to prolong the misery suffered living under unjust laws.
Without resistance to unjust laws there would be no fighting racism, segregation or apartheid, there would be no defeating anti-gay laws, or the legalised oppression of women. We fight unjust and oppressive laws, or we give way to even greater oppression. Fighting unjust laws begins with resistance, the means of which is decided by the context and what power exists.
Our motion opens a legitimate debate that must be had, about the nature of the Nationality and Borders Bill, its relation to past experiences of resistance to racism and unjust legislation, and the actions of local councils and communities currently resisting the racist hostile environment for immigrants. This is a trade union issue, recognised by the TUC statement quoted in the motion.
To block this motion by claiming that a trade union should not support resistance to a proposed law which seeks to introduce concentration camps for asylum seekers among other reprehensible measures, is offensive to the very historic struggles that the organisations of the oppressed have led and which we ‘celebrate’ in words if not in deeds.
 Unison HE Conference 2012, Motion 16: “WE WON’T SPY ON OUR STUDENTS”
Defeat the Borders Bill – Don’t cooperate with racist laws – Build Action nowto make the Bill unworkable
Justice for cross-Channel refugees – Justice for Nabil Abdulmajid – Drop the charges now
• Stop criminalising refugees – Seeking Asylum is Not a Crime • Stop arresting & prosecuting refugees who steered cross-Channel boats – drop the charges, quash the convictions, free the prisoners – Seeking Asylum is Not a Crime • No “pushbacks” in the Channel – seeking asylum is not a crime • End the policy of deporting immigrants & refugees with criminal convictions • Shut down detention centres, detention hotels & detention camps • Build homes for all – refugees, citizens, immigrants – expand social housing • Papers for all! Amnesty now! Organise community defence against immigration raids – Home Office out of our communities, workplaces, schools, universities and NHS Open the borders of Britain and Europe
The battle for our future The Movement for Justice by any means necessary (MFJ) is fighting for a New Britain that will be a nation of equality, integration and progress. Britain is already an increasingly multiracial, multi-national society. It is part of a world whose different peoples are increasingly connected. It can only develop as a truly democratic country if all of us who live here now and who come here in the future have full and equal rights. We must have those rights without any discrimination, wherever we have come from or however long we have lived here. Britain must become a country with Open Borders. It must be a society where we have those rights as the people we are – whatever our culture or religion, whatever the colour of our skins or the colour of our passports, whatever our gender or sexuality. The British government is moving rapidly in the exact opposite direction. It is establishing authoritarian rule based on racism. Its new Nationality and Borders Bill is a major part of that plan. Its policies are one long attack on democracy, on justice, on human rights, civil rights, immigrant rights and workers’ rights. It is attacking the lives of the poor and oppressed. It is taking away our right to protest against those attacks. It is introducing measures that will prevent many poor people and black and Asian people from voting (just like Donald Trump’s Republican Party in the USA). It is using its majority in Parliament to tear up constraints on government power. This government’s policies are driven by privilege – and by desperation. It is defending the privileges of the richest and most powerful capitalists. It is desperate because the system that makes them rich and powerful is in a deep historic crisis. Over several decades the ruling class shut down a huge part of its industries, or moved them abroad. That was part of its attack on the working class in Britain. Now the declining economy is dominated by financial speculators and Brexit is making the decline worse.
Britain in crisis We are witnessing the dying pains of British imperialism. This so-called ‘great power’ can’t protect the health and safety of its people. Its response to the Covid-19 pandemic is to tell people to get used to ‘living with Covid,’ so that capitalist businesses can keep making a profit. This former ‘world power’ is increasingly isolated and scorned. This government and its Brexit policy have increased the likelihood that we will see the break-up of the ‘United Kingdom’ – destroying the state that the English ruling classes put together by centuries of conquest and bribery. This government is incompetent, corrupt and reckless; those failings reflect a political system in terminal decline. Racism and the rights of immigrants and refugees are the decisive issue in the battle between two alternative futures – the New Britain MFJ is fighting for, or the crushing, racist future that this government is taking us to. History has made racism the decisive issue because the peoples of the world are increasingly interconnected and increasingly unequal. The only hope for millions of people is to move. And the British government and its supporters make racism the central issue by blaming immigrants and refugees for the consequences of their own policies: the cuts and privatisation in the public services, low pay and insecure jobs, food poverty, housing shortages etc. They make racism the central issue when they promote the false idea that human rights for immigrants and refugees, and for black and Asian people, are taking something away from white people.
Cross-Channel refugees and the government’s Borders Bill Racism and hostility to immigrants were the driving force in the campaign that led to the UK leaving the European Union (Brexit). Those policies brought Boris Johnson’s government to power with a majority of MPs, but on the votes of a minority of the people. Its new anti-immigrant law (the Nationality and Borders Bill) is the most brutal, oppressive and unjust immigration law that any British government has ever produced. The aim of this law is to stir up racism and nationalism by treating asylum seekers as criminals. Its immediate target is the most recent generation of refugees – those who have risked everything in the bold attempt to cross the Channel in small boats, because they hoped to build a new life in Britain, in freedom and safety. The government is using attacks on those refugees to slash the rights of ALL immigrants and asylum seekers. Johnson’s main advantage is not the strength of racism in British society. That is often exaggerated by politicians and journalists. His main strength is the wretched weakness of the ‘opposition’ parties and the organisations that believe change can only come from the rich and powerful and their political system. Now more than ever, we must build independent ACTION by the oppressed and exploited in order to defeat the government’s racist policies and win progressive change in British society. That action has to be led and initiated by those who are under direct racist attack from the government. It must be principally led by refugees and immigrants.
Mass migration is a rebellion against global inequality The rich and powerful regard free movement as their exclusive privilege: free movement for themselves and their money & investments. They deny the right of free movement to the poor and oppressed – the people who they exploit, impoverish and dispossess. There is a global labour market for bosses looking for cheap labour, but not for people looking for work, safety and freedom. Mass migration is a rebellion against that injustice. In an increasingly unequal world the free movement of people is the most basic human right. It is fundamental to workers’ rights, women’s rights, LGBT rights, the right of asylum and the right to life itself. The ruling classes use their border controls, detention centres and anti-immigration laws to deny us the right of free movement. However, those same imperialist ruling classes are forcing millions of people to move: people are moving to escape the poverty caused by imperialist exploitation, the tyranny of dictators and elites who are backed by the imperialists, the endless wars caused by the imperialists and their rivalries, and the climate crisis (global heating) that imperialist corporations have created by their drive for profit. Refugees are opening borders by any means necessary because they need to solve crushing material problems in their lives. MFJ demands Open the Borders of Britain & Europe, because that is what hundreds of thousands of people are doing. The alternative to Open Borders is a world of barbarism and tyranny. The ruling classes condemn millions of people to death, drowning, torture and starvation, and they know what they are doing. That is barbarism. MFJ welcomes the refugees who risk everything when they cross the Channel. We welcome them as new members and allies in the fight for equality, justice & immigrant rights. Those who we welcome, Boris Johnson’s government fears, because their bold action is a direct challenge to its racist ideology of ‘taking back control of our borders’.
The Government’s racist build-up to the Borders Bill Since spring 2020, Home Secretary Priti Patel has used the arrival of cross-Channel refugees to build racist support for the policy of criminalising asylum seekers. The attack on people who have crossed the Channel shows clearly that anti-immigrant policies are not about numbers. The number of people immigrating to Britain or claiming asylum here is falling, despite the 26000+ who have (at the time of writing) crossed the Channel in the last two years. The Home Office has used dubious legal grounds to prosecute many cross-Channel refugees. The government’s UK Border Force arrested refugees who were steering the boats, sometimes using a photo from a drone as evidence. Then they were charged as though they were ‘people traffickers.’ In addition, the government ran an ugly racist campaign of mass deportations during summer this year. Charter flights were arranged to Vietnam, Zimbabwe, Nigeria & Ghana, and to Jamaica. These were ‘celebrated’ in articles by Patel in the Daily Mail and Daily Express – two papers with a shameful history of promoting racism. The Home Office is acting as though its new Borders Bill has already become the law, but this summer festival of racism has not been a success for the government. The number of people who were deported on those charter flights has been small. Only seven men were deported to Jamaica, out of a total list of 90. MFJ and Jamaican detainees organised inside Colnbrook detention centre and told the real stories of the men who Patel called dangerous criminals. The Home Office had to take many of them off the list; one group resisted successfully by blockading themselves in a room in the detention centre. There were only a few people deported on the flight to Nigeria & Ghana in July. It was the same on the flight to Zimbabwe. A later flight to Nigeria was cancelled. Everyone on the Home Office lists for the charter flights to Jamaica and Vietnam had the de-humanising label ‘Foreign National Offender’ (FNO). That means they have been convicted of a crime and they don’t have British citizenship. All those ‘FNOs’ had served their sentences, so deporting them was a double punishment. Most of the Jamaicans the Home Office tried to deport have families, partners or children in Britain. Many came to Britain as children and don’t know anyone in Jamaica. Most of them have suffered the racism of Britain’s police and ‘justice’ systems. Many of them experienced racism in education or from social services.Many of those on the charter flight to Vietnam were victims of trafficking. They are all likely to be in danger if they are deported. The Home Office was prepared to sacrifice them in order to reinforce white racist prejudices and racist stereotypes. The unjust and racist deportation of ‘FNOs’ must stop.
Stop the Channel “Pushbacks!” This summer’s charter flight plan was a failure, and the Home Office also suffered set-backs in its attempts to prosecute cross-Channel refugees. In March, the Court of Appeal quashed the conviction of an Iranian refugee who had steered one of the small boats. After a few months the Home Office had to drop the charges of 11 ongoing cases, and a month later (in July) the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced publicly that it would not be prosecuting any more cross-Channel refugees. However, there are still people who steered boats serving prison sentences for their convictions, and the Border Force is still arresting refugees who have steered a boat; MFJ demands all convictions are quashed, the prisoners are released and the arrests are stopped. The setbacks for the Home Office, especially the failure of Patel’s charter flight plans, are victories for refugee and immigrant rights, so they have created a crisis for the government. The Home Secretary has been criticised by her own racist supporters. She has responded by increasing her racist attacks on refugees. She has announced that the UK Border Force will start to push refugee boats back into French waters, and Boris Johnson is supporting her. The Border Force has already started training exercises in the Channel. Patel is following the dangerous example of the Greek and Italian governments in the Mediterranean. The government is prepared to defy maritime law and the anger of the French government. Border Force officers have insisted that every single ‘pushback’ is personally authorised by Patel – they don’t want to take responsibility themselves. That is a clear sign of how dangerous and legally dubious this plan is. However, the government has decided to make a public show of being ‘tough’ on refugees, whatever damage it causes.
Justice for Nabil Abdulmajid! Seeking asylum is not a crime – drop the charges now The Home Office was determined to reverse the impact of the Court of Appeal decision and the CPS announcement. During the summer it started more prosecutions of cross-Channel refugees and the CPS had to fall into line. MFJ member Nabil Abdulmajid, a cross-Channel refugee from Sudan, is a victim of that policy. He was charged on 14th June, six months after his arrest and police interview. The attempt to criminalise Nabil is entirely political. All four people in the boat with Nabil were Sudanese refugees like him. Nabil was a victim of persecution in Sudan because of his ethnicity. Like many other refugees, he was enslaved and tortured in Libya. He travelled through Italy to France, but was deported back to Italy under the EU’s Dublin Agreement. He was destitute there and crossed more borders to reach Germany and claim asylum. His claim was refused, however, and the German authorities planned to send him back to persecution in Sudan. Faced with that threat Nabil made the choice to save his life and join the people crossing the Channel to Britain. He contributed to buying a boat and was doing his best to steer it and keep them all safe until they were rescued. They were crossing in the night in rough, dangerous waters. They battled for hours in the dark to keep the boat afloat while the waves crashed around them. By the time they were rescued they were soaking wet and traumatised. Months later Nabil was arrested and charged because he was steering the boat. The decision to prosecute Nabil is an attack on all cross-Channel refugees. It is part of the government’s propaganda for the Borders Bill, and so it is a threat to the right of all asylum seekers and to every immigrant without papers. That is why MFJ says We Are All Nabil. MFJ demands that the charges against Nabil are dropped and we have demonstrated at every stage in his case. If the charges are not dropped we will hold a mass demonstration at his trial before a jury in Canterbury Crown Court, currently scheduled for 30th May next year (2022).
“Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow” MFJ exists to build the independent leadership of and for the poor and oppressed. The method MFJ applies to this struggle was summed up a long while ago, in a speech by an escaped black slave, Frederick Douglass, who was the greatest leader of the struggle against slavery in the USA. Speaking clearly and forcibly he set out these principles for the struggle of the oppressed and exploited: “A man who will not fight for himself, when he has the means of doing so, is not worth being fought for by others…. a man who does not value freedom for himself will never value it for others.” “The poet was true… [who] said, Who would be free, themselves must strike the blow.” “The whole history of the progress of human liberty shows that all concessions… have been born of earnest struggle…. If there is no struggle there is no progress.” “Power concedes nothing without a demand. It never did and it never will….” Douglass made that speech to a black audience in 1857. It was a tense and difficult time for the black anti-slavery struggle, just four years before the CivilWar that ended slavery in the US. In the speech he refers directly to white leaders who opposed slavery but looked down on black people: “We may fight, but we must fight… under white officers…. They don’t like any demonstrations whatever in which coloured men take a leading part.” This is a tense and difficult time for refugees and immigrants in Britain – and more generally for the black, Asian and Muslim communities. We have too many politicians, charities and ‘sympathisers’ who have the privilege of UK citizenship and who don’t want refugees to ‘take a leading part.’ They want to preserve their ‘peaceful co-existence’ with the established political system. They don’t want refugees taking action that might disrupt that relationship. Refugees and immigrants, especially cross-Channel refugees, are the front-line of the fight for human rights. They are in a fight against the most racist and dangerous government in the modern history of Britain. The front-line is an exposed position. We can’t afford the luxury of peaceful coexistence with those enemies.
Changing the balance of power The task facing our movement is to change the balance of power in society. We need to change the balance of power in favour of the poor, exploited and oppressed, and we need to weaken the power of the rich and powerful who control the machinery of the state (detention centres, border guards, police etc). In practice, that means we must change the balance of power in favour of those sections of the poor and oppressed who are most conscious of their oppression, who are most aware of their conflict with the state and who feel the urgent need for change. In today’s British society that means immigrants and asylum seekers, and black, Asian and Muslim communities – especially the youth of those communities. Action by those groups is the necessary force that will undermine the government’s efforts to crush them. This has been the consistent method of MFJ’s organising in Yarl’s Wood and other detention centres and in our struggles for asylum rights. Similar action has also occurred ‘spontaneously’ (though resistance is never truly spontaneous). When a Kenyan detainee died as a result of neglect in the former Oakington detention centre, fellow detainees prevented a cover-up by stopping the removal of his body, taking control of the building and contacting the media. When the BBC arrived detainees broke down the doors and went outside to demonstrate. Oakington was shut down within months. Similar uprisings and exposures occurred after deaths in the former Morton Hall detention centre. In May/June 2014 hundreds of asylum seekers in Harmondsworth and Colnbrook detention centres took part in a series of mass protests to demand that they be taken off the notorious Detained Fast Track (DFT) asylum process and released. (DFT was a system that isolated asylum seekers and rushed them through interviews and appeals in a few days or weeks.) In the 12 months after the protests a series of court decisions said DFT was illegal and it was stopped. These actions and many others shifted the balance of power in the detention centres and between the detainees and the Home Office. Cumulatively, they led to the government’s decision to reduce the use of detention. Seven detention centres were shut down between 2015 and 2020. The number of people held in the detention system is now at the lowest level since it began.
The movement we need to build – the action we need to take The current stage of our struggle is marked by that shift away from using detention centres. The policy in those that remain is for a quick turn-over of detainees and rapid deportation. Since the arrival of cross-Channel refugees the Home Office has moved to using hotels and camps as places to hold asylum seekers – especially those who came in small boats. The Home Office says the refugees are free to come and go, but without money they are not really free. Some of the places are too isolated for them to go anywhere. Each hotel needs to become a centre of organisation and resistance. Cross-Channel refugees in MFJ have already organised successful collective struggles against restrictions and bullying by managers who are appointed by Home Office contractors. Some of these refugees have spoken to journalists and got media coverage for their action. There needs to be more action inside more detention hotels. That will undermine the authority of the management companies and the Home Office. The networks of contacts between refugees in different hotels should be expanded and used to co-ordinate action. Such action can take many forms: collective action to get attention and treatment for people who are ill and being neglected; calling an ambulance if management doesn’t respond; going as a group to reception or a manager’s office to protest over any injustice, abuse or complaint, and refusing to leave until you get a satisfactory answer. None of this should be left to the individual. Refugees in hotels need to build links and support in the communities where they are located. We need to take to the streets with marches and rallies in local communities, especially in integrated communities with large black, Asian and immigrant populations. There are many detention hotels in such neighbourhoods. We need more demonstrations and rallies like the one MFJ organised in Lewisham with refugees from a local hostel. We need to show the strength of our movement and involve local communities. We need to speak to students in schools, colleges and universities now the new term has started. If you are in an English class, speak to the other students about this struggle. If you are in a student society, (for example, an anti-racist or refugee support group, a black or Muslim students society, or a law society) invite speakers from MFJ. We will win their active support because the policies and actions of this government are a real threat to the future of all young people. The more we build these connections and unite Britain’s different refugee ‘generations’ in action, the more we will shift the balance of forces and be able to defend our communities from the Home Office. The most effective way to stop deportations is to stop immigration raids. We can build on what is happening already in many communities and establish community-based defence organisations everywhere, to watch out for raids, give warnings and take collective action to block raids and chase out Immigration Enforcement vans. The more we build these forms of action the easier it will be to get workers, students and teachers to enforce a policy of non-cooperation with the Home Office.We need people refusing to ask questions about immigration status or pass information to the Home Office. We need that happening in every school, college, hospital, doctors’ surgery, local council office, university and every workplace where immigrants, with or without papers, are employed. The more we shift the balance of power the more inspired and confident people will be to defy the government.
This is a struggle we can win Most white people in Britain are not as racist as the government needs them to be, and British society (especially in the major cities and among the younger generation) is too integrated for the racist plans of the Home Office to be fully effective. From the Home Office point of view, too many white people who know a refugee or an immigrant without papers personally are likely to recognise their humanity. They are likely to sympathise with them and support them against the Home Office. In the run-up to the Borders Bill we are seeing an example of this. The Royal National Lifeboat Institute (RNLI) has said publicly that it will continue to save the life of anyone who is in danger at sea. The RNLI is the charity that organises the lifeboat rescue service round the coasts of the UK. The rescue crews are all volunteers from the coastal communities, which are mainly white. They are rescuing desperate men, women and children who are in the cross-Channel boats; they see their humanity and they carry on, even in the face of abuse from anti-refugee racists. Under the Borders Bill those lifeboat crews will be liable for prosecution – but they have declared they will continue to save anyone who needs rescuing. That is part of a wider problem for the government. British society is now too integrated to make things easy for the Home Office, especially in the major cities where most people live, and among the younger generation. We recently saw that demonstrated in Glasgow, when an integrated working class community turned out, occupied the streets for eight hours, and successfully stopped the deportation of two Indian Sikh ‘over-stayers.’ If refugees and immigrants take the lead we can inspire a whole movement of such resistance. There are many people of all races who are angry, bitter about this government’s cynical approach to the Covid pandemic and alarmed by its racism. They are frustrated. They need to see an organised movement of the people who have been through the harshest struggles, who have the greatest need to fight and have the greatest need to win – they need to see a movement of refugee and immigrant leaders. This government is neither strong nor stable. It is makingup policies as it goes along. It does not have the undivided confidence of the ruling class. Many of the rich and powerful are alarmed by the chaos it is creating, or they are unhappy with the damage that Brexit has done to their trade with Europe. If our refugee and immigrant led movement continues to grow and wins more battles, we will inspire wider sections of the population to join their struggles with ours. That will change the balance of power and widen the divisions among the rich and powerful. It will create a situation of flux in which we can derail and defeat the racist agenda of Johnson and Patel. We can defeat the Borders Bill in action even if it is passed by Parliament. That will be a big step forward in the fight for a New Britain – equal, open and integrated.
Imperialist powers out of the Middle East – Stop arming & supporting Israel and Saudi Arabia
Open the Borders to refugees/migrants – Defend cross-Channel refugees – Amnesty for ALL immigrants without papers
Free Speech on Palestine – Stop government attack on campaigns for Palestinian rights – Stop Boris Johnson’s attacks on the right to protest
To stop racist wars abroad we must fight racism in Britain
To fight racism in Britain we must stop racist wars abroad!
The Arab population of Palestine has once more risen up in a heroic revolt against brutal military repression and ‘ethnic cleansing’ by the Israeli state and extreme nationalist forces in Israeli society. The Palestinian people have responded to these attacks on a wider front than ever before.
Palestinians in east Jerusalem have fought back against the repression of Muslim worshippers at the Al Aqsa Mosque during Ramadan, when Israeli troops repeatedly attacked Palestinians inside the mosque. Now they are resisting Israel’s plan to evict Arab families in the Sheikh Jarrah neighbourhood and replace them with Israeli settlers. In the occupied West Bank, Palestinian villagers are resisting renewed attacks by the illegal, land-grabbing Israeli settlers and marching in solidarity with Gaza and the struggle in east Jerusalem. In Gaza, which Israel has turned into a giant prison, they face yet another round of bombardment and killing. Within Israel’s ‘official’ borders there is an unprecedented rebellion by the Arab communities of the cities against their status as third-class citizens and the fascist-style attacks by right-wing Israeli mobs.
Every community in Britain that is threatened by Boris Johnson’s racist, anti-immigrant and anti-working class government must support the Palestinian struggle. The victory of the Palestinian uprising will be our victory too – a victory for black, Asian, Muslim and immigrant communities, and for all the poor and oppressed – because it will be a defeat our common enemy: the imperialist ruling class of Britain.
The rulers of Britain and the USA support and defend Israel’s crimes. Israel is the chief agent of US imperialism in the Middle East. It was established on Palestinian land by the US and other western imperialist powers, and it is armed to the teeth and financed by them. Israel an oppressor nation in relation to the Arab population of the Middle East, and most immediately to the Arab population of Palestine. That role has prevented the Jewish population of Israel from being an integral part of the Middle East region with relations of equality and co-operation with its neighbours. It has compelled the subjugated Arab population to assert its identity in a struggle for Palestinian national self-determination.
The policies & actions of the US, Britain & Israel have created a state of never-ending war and destruction in a region stretching from Libya to Afghanistan. It has forced and will continue to force millions of people across the region to move and seek refuge for themselves and their families, often enduring new dangers on the way.
A minority of refugees make it to Europe. A smaller minority make it across the Channel to Britain, and thus to the racist hostile environment of Brexit, where government ministers and right-wing media whip up storms of anti-immigrant racism – their chief political weapon in an assault on human rights and a war against the poor.
Movement for Justice (MFJ) believes that a victory in the fight for the rights of refugees & immigrants in Britain will be the most significant support we can provide to the Palestinian uprising. That will require mass action against the government’s growing attacks on immigrants, and the most important asset in that battle is the determination and dynamism of the men and women who fought so hard to get here. Immigrant & youth led community defence against raids, community support that allows refugees to keep out of the hands of the Home Office, and mass action to shut down isolation camps & detention centres will undermine the government’s authority. It will be the base for winning an amnesty for undocumented immigrants and Open Borders so no-one else dies trying to get asylum.
Last year we saw the rapid growth of Black Lives Matter and Justice for George Floyd shift the balance of social power against Trump and movements against racism and injustice internationally. That should be our aim now. The more we shift the balance of forces against imperialist rulers at home the weaker their power will be internationally.
Contact your MP and get them to sign on to Claudia Webbe’s early day motion for permanent status for all undocumented immigrants. Critical to ensure everyone feels safe to get COVID19 tests and vaccinations.
Nobody should be left at risk of infection & death from Covid19 (or any other cause) because they are in Britain without immigration papers or have overstayed a visa. Nobody should face those risks because an unfair asylum system has rejected their claim or kept them waiting for a result, or for some other ‘immigration problem’ to be sorted out.
In January the Government stated that if immigrants and refugees without papers get tested for Covid19 or vaccinated against it, their details will not be shared with the Home Office and used to deport them. Undocumented people who have any experience of the Home Office and its agents are very unlikely to trust this ‘Promise’ – and they are right to be suspicious.
The only way they will feel it’s safe to get Covid19 tests and vaccines is for the Government to give ALL undocumented immigrants a permanent right to live in the UK.
Movement for Justice (MFJ) supports the decision of a group of MPs to raise this demand in a parliamentary motion. They speak the truth about the Government’s racist anti-immigrant policies and they are clear that those policies are a danger to everyone. This is a bold move by the group of black and Asian Labour women MPs who initiated the motion, because it challenges the refusal of Keir Starmer and the rest of the present Labour leadership to campaign against the increasing racism of the Government’s policies.
We urge everyone to contact their MP and call on them to sign the motion below. A campaign around this motion can inspire a fight by the left-wing majority of Labour Party members who Starmer is trying to silence (especially the youth and black & Asian members).
Undocumented migrants and covid-19 vaccination
Early Day Motion 1442: tabled on 03 February 2021
That this House believes that access to essential healthcare is a universal human right; regrets the continued existence of structural, institutional and systemic barriers in accessing NHS care experienced by undocumented migrants and those awaiting determination of their asylum, visa and immigration applications; considers that an effective public health response to the covid-19 crisis requires that the most vulnerable can afford to access food, healthcare, and self-isolate where necessary; understands that some of the most vulnerable people in society will not access vaccination against the virus, since to disclose their identity to the authorities would risk their arrest, detention and deportation; fears that without urgent Government intervention this will lead to further avoidable premature deaths, especially in the African, Asian and Minority Ethnic population; and therefore calls on the Home Office to grant everyone currently in the UK at this time who are undocumented migrants and those awaiting determination of their asylum, visa and immigration applications indefinite leave to remain, and to be eligible in due course to receive the covid-19 vaccination. (Emphasis added)
You don’t have to be a British citizen or voter, but give your address to show you live in their area.
You can use the message below; but it is best if you say why this issue is important to you personally.
Please let MFJ know what reply you get from your MP, email firstname.lastname@example.org
I am writing to urge you to add your name to Early Day Motion 1442, Undocumented migrants and covid-19 vaccination. I believe the motion is absolutely right when it points out that very many undocumented migrants won’t feel it is safe to get tested or vaccinated, whatever the risk to their health. That is why I support the motion’s call on the Home Office to grant Indefinite Leave to Remain to all undocumented migrants. I think this is a matter of basic justice and it is obviously necessary as a public health measure to protect everyone.
This issue is very important to me because……
General information. An Early Day Motion (EDM) is a kind of MPs’ petition, a way to raise an issue that isn’t being discussed in Parliament. This EDM was started by Claudia Webbe, (Leicester East MP who was part of MFJ’s Zoom Rally on Yarl’s Wood last year). It is co-sponsored by three other black & Asian women MPs in the Labour Party (Apsana Begum, Bell Ribeiro-Addy and Kim Johnson) plus John McDonnell and a Scottish National Party MP. So far it has been signed by a further 19 MPs from four parties.