Labour Conference policy on Free Movement & immigrant rights must be in the Election Manifesto

This election is about the future direction of our society…

Movement for Justice Open Letter to the Labour Party leadership

(sign on to this open letter here)

Dear Comrades,

This year’s Labour Party conference ended on a high note of political aspiration. On 25th September, delegate after delegate spoke in enthusiastic support of Composite 20: Free movement, equality and rights for migrants are socialist values and benefit us all. Those delegates spoke from their own experience and the experience of their black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, the communities that are battling against racist Home Office policies and the increasing racism and anti-immigrant prejudice that has dominated the campaign for Brexit. They spoke as immigrants, as the children and partners of immigrants, and as Labour councillors and activists. Nobody spoke against the motion. At the end of the debate Composite 20 was passed unanimously, to loud acclaim. That vote sent out a message of struggle and hope against the threat of a government led by Boris Johnson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, Dominic Raab and Priti Patel.

With that vote, conference delegates presented you with a huge opportunity to change the dangerous direction in which this country and its political system are moving. If you put the inspiring programme of equality set out in Composite 20 at the heart of Labour’s election campaign, you will inspire millions. It will represent a decisive break with the disastrous racist policy that has been followed by politicians of ALL the main parties for decades – the policy of scapegoating immigrants for the social problems created by government policies and capitalist greed.

There are very good reasons why the great majority of black, Asian, Muslim and other minority ethnic voters, youth and students, and significantly more women than men are opposed to Brexit – because it is racist and reactionary and driven by anti-immigrant prejudice. We are experiencing its impact and we will not be silenced while our rights and futures are destroyed by the Brexiteers’ backward-looking, chauvinist project. You, the Labour Party and trade union leadership, cannot stay silent on this. You must listen to our voices.

On Saturday you will gather to finalise the Manifesto for the forthcoming election, in the ‘Clause 5 meeting.’ It is imperative that you include the policies in Composite 20. A clear commitment to fight for those policies can only benefit Labour in this election campaign and on 12th December.

Composite 20 called for Labour to include the following 10 points in the Manifesto:

  • Oppose the current Tory immigration legislation and any curbing of rights.
  • Campaign for free movement, equality and rights for migrants.
  • Reject any immigration system based on incomes, migrants’ utility to business, and number caps/targets.
  • Close all detention centres.
  • Ensure unconditional right to family reunion.
  • Maintain and extend free movement rights.
  • End “no recourse to public funds” policies.
  • Scrap all Hostile Environment measures, use of landlords and public service providers as border guards, and restrictions on migrants’ NHS access.
  • Actively challenge anti-immigrant narratives.
  • Extend equal rights to vote to all UK residents.

These are the policies of hope, and Labour is nothing if can’t inspire real hope. They are the policies for Britain to move forward as a progressive, democratic society that is integrated on the basis of equality for all. For nearly a decade, British governments have ratcheted up divide-and-rule, anti-immigrant policies, while imposing poverty and insecurity on working class and struggling middle class people of all races. The Tories and the Far Right are using Brexit to spread this racist poison. They must be stopped.

You can’t afford the illusion that Labour will unite ‘Leavers’ and ‘Remainers’ and win this election just by focussing on the NHS, public housing, Universal Credit, privatisation, the minimum wage etc, while saying as little as possible about Brexit or being neutral on it. Such a policy means being evasive, neutral and inactive on the continuing rise of racism and hostility to immigrants. It means ignoring the voices and the experience of black, Asian and minority ethnic communities, immigrants and youth

We are traditional Labour supporters if anyone is, and we will not be ignored, side-lined and taken for granted in order to appease the misplaced prejudices that Johnson and the Tories have spent their whole political careers encouraging. We will keep fighting for the progressive demands of Composite 20, and we will fight to win.

Moreover, Labour can’t win unless it challenges those divisive prejudices. The opinion polls make that clear. When asked what they regard as the most important issue in the election, most people put Brexit at the top of the list, especially among those who are not already planning to vote Labour. The NHS, the economy etc come much lower down the list of priorities. This is not surprising. At times of profound crisis – and Britain is going through its biggest peace-time crisis for a century – political direction and action become the decisive issue. It subsumes and determines the economic and social policies. It becomes a question, as many Labour supporters are saying, of what kind of country do we want this to be.

In reality, Labour will get more respect from the majority of Leave voters if you make it clear that you are taking action based on Composite 20, than you ever will by avoiding the very issues that are dividing the country. For decades, politicians of ALL the main parties have told voters that immigration is a threat. There are millions of people in impoverished, working class and struggling middle class (and predominantly white) communities that voted ‘Leave,’ who are not ideologically tied to the Far Right, and they deserve some political honesty and leadership from the Labour Party.

When you put the policies of Composite 20 at the heart of the election campaign you will send out a direct political challenge to everything the Tories and the Far Right stand for, you will inspire millions and multiply the numbers and commitment of Labour campaigners. You will encourage thousands of Labour Party members and voters to engage in a debate with their Leave voting friends, family members, neighbours and co-workers – tens of thousands of conversations that can change minds.

The stakes in this election are high. A victory for Johnson will not ‘get Brexit sorted,’ but it will establish the most reactionary British government since World War Two. It will mean an increase in racism, a deepening of the hostile environment for immigrants, greater repression, insecurity and inequality, and a bonfire of workers rights and human rights, along with tax cuts for the rich. The outcome of this election will shape the future direction of our society for years and decades to come. Labour must act boldly and without equivocation on the political issues of racism and immigration that have dominated discussion on Brexit, just as much as when you talk about the economy, public services or housing.

We urge you to seize the opportunity that the Labour conference provided you with when it unanimously backed Composite 20.

Movement for Justice

12th November 2019

MFJ Demonstrate at Labour Party Conference
MFJ at Labour Party Conference calling on the Labour Party to stand up for immigrant rights.

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.

MFJ Statement for USB (rank & file union) mobilisation, Rome 16/06/18

Read flyer in Italian here

Open the Borders! Open the Ports! No Deportations!

No to the racist Salvini/Di Maio government! – No to the racist Brexit project! No government & no electoral majority can take our rights away

  • For a pan-European immigrant & youth led movement against ‘Fortress Europe’ – No to Racism! No to Austerity!

  • Build integrated worker/community defence to shut down the fascists

  • Defend & extend the free movement of ALL people

Rome: 16 June 2018

Movement for Justice by any means necessary (MFJ) in Great Britain greets today’s mass demonstration in Rome. MFJ welcomes the mass protests that are part of the Transnational Action across countries in Europe and West Africa. In the face of an international crisis and the rise of the racist Far Right across the ‘western democracies,’ our movement has to be international.

The movement is advancing. In February, thousands of immigrants and anti-fascists demonstrated in Macerata a week after Traini’s racist attacks – in defiance of opposition from the leaderships of the Democratic Party and big trade union federations. On the morning after the national election in March, immigrant youth took to the streets of Florence to express their rage, just a few hours after the racist murder of a Senegalese immigrant, Idy Diene. Strikes and marches have been organised hours after the racist murder of unionist Soumalya Sacko, an immigrant agricultural worker from Mali and organiser in the bold fight in San Ferdinando against racist exploitation by bosses, for decent homes and working conditions and for equality. Thousands in integrated marches across the country and especially in Sicily have protested against the inhumane racist decision of deputy PM Salvini to close the ports to a boat with 629 immigrants.

The militant protests, marches and strikes by immigrant workers and youth have continued, from the north to the south, against a political system and a government that have plumbed new depths of anti-immigrant racism, emboldened the fascists and given them a licence to kill. There is an increasing awareness in Italy, echoed across Europe, that the fight for immigrant rights and the fight against fascism are one and the same struggle. Continue reading “MFJ Statement for USB (rank & file union) mobilisation, Rome 16/06/18”