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School Exclusions: Marketing the Marginalised

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 06:08

Recent initiatives on school exclusions miss the point, ‘alternative provision’ has been transformed into a business opportunity.

According to A. Sivanandan, ‘the adult occupies the world of the child far more than the child occupies the world of the adult.’ [1] Nowhere is this statement truer than in the realm of education. The British education system makes or breaks poor working-class children. The ones who just about survive generally achieve five GCSEs (previously at grade C, now grades 4 or 5) at key stage 4, the supposed golden ticket into the world of work, even if that work is precarious and low paid. While the rest, the broken, those who are routinely excluded or permanently expelled, leave school with nothing. The only golden tickets these young people will go on to hold are scratch-cards. A gambling analogy is not far-fetched. Access to a good, meaningful and inclusive education is a postcode lottery as the practice of exclusions is heavily concentrated in cities. What is more, the geography of British school exclusions tells us that young Londoners are at higher risk of exclusion and entering the ‘alternative provision system’.

The failings of the Timpson Review

Privately educated former Conservative MP, Edward Timpson, was recently commissioned by the government to explore the practice of school exclusions in England. In particular, he was tasked with digging into racial disparities; ‘why some groups of children are more likely to be excluded including … children from particular ethnic groups’. The specificity of the task was launched in response to findings from the Race Disparity Audit, but despite this, as the Runnymede Trust pointed out, the review did very little to update already existing knowledge, that black Caribbean boys and Gypsy, Roma and Traveller children are at the sharpest end of exclusionary practices across the country. [2] And the report’s recommendation that the education sector and those affiliated to it should ‘collect and share data to help understanding of how exclusion is used in local areas, assess and act to reduce disparities, with particular reference to certain ethnic groups’ also falls seriously short of addressing the issue. For families on the front line, dealing with increasingly neoliberal, marketised and ultimately, tyrannical education policies [3], which disproportionately affect racialised communities, Timpson’s review is just another example of the government paying lip service to a problem.

Where do the excluded go?

Theresa May’s ‘indictment’ in 2016, that the ‘burning injustice’ of racialised school exclusions was preventing Britain from ‘transform[ing] into a Great Meritocracy’ has left working-class parents and young people screaming into the void. The issue of school exclusions, is not limited to who is being excluded, but also, where the excluded are sent and the impact this has on their lives. May might have talked convincingly about the ‘scandal’ of the British education system, but it is on her watch that we have seen the significant expansion of the alternative provision sector.

Over the past three years, the sheer number of children that have been removed from mainstream schooling has soared. An investigation conducted by Schools Week found that local authorities up and down the country have increased spending on privatised alternative provision, with an extra £7 million being siphoned off from diminished council budgets between 2016 and 2019. ‘Last year Ofsted also warned MPs’, argues Schools Week, ‘that private companies were profiting by offering illegal AP [alternative provision] that gave pupils “a very limited educational experience.”’ What we are witnessing is a small sector being transformed into a system – the ‘alternative provision system’ – that is increasingly influenced by the market and privatised. And, with this going on behind closed doors, we should think carefully before blindly welcoming recent parliamentary and think-tank expressions of interest in addressing school exclusions, and consider what future government policies may be adopted in their wake.

What is next for alternative provision?

In 2017, think tank The Institute of Public Policy Research (IPPR) published Making the Difference: Breaking the Link Between School Exclusion and Social Exclusion, in which the case was made that redesigning the alternative provision sector would address ‘Britain’s social mobility failure’. On the back of the report, a new charity The Difference was launched earlier this year, to ‘improve the outcomes of vulnerable children by raising the status and expertise of those who educate them’ (read Oxbridge and Russell Group graduates). While hiring very privileged graduates to teach society’s most marginalised young people is problematic in itself, in that they are unlikely to stay [4], we should also be concerned about other, less overt issues.

To start with, the IPPR in its report boasted, ‘some of England’s largest multi-academy trusts have already endorsed the development of The Difference and expressed a desire to partner with the programme’. Multi-academy trusts (a conglomerate of schools) epitomise the neoliberal turn in British education, hallmarked by parlous deregulation and opaque policies that allows a good many of Britain’s ‘schools’ to be run as businesses for private profit. The irony is that IPPR critiqued the then current alternative provision sector for exactly the same problems (lack of regulation, unclear policies etc.) that multi-academy trusts are known for!

But endorsement for The Difference has also come from cross-party politicians, including the House of Commons Education Committee and Edward Timpson, with the former saying in a recent report ‘we consider that the work by The Difference is a step towards improving relations between mainstream schools and alternative provision’, and the latter writing the preface to the IPPR report. While these may suggest that politicians are taking the education of excluded children seriously, we should be wary this does not turn into just another opportunity to subcontract the management of serious social problems out to the private sector. In fact, a senior educator at a Pupil Referral Unit (PRU) in London warned IRR News in a discussion that ‘the increased scrutiny of PRUs is linked to the potential academisation, and therefore privatisation of the alternative provision system’.

Alternative provision in London

Another, arguably more acute issue is the increasing size and influence of the alternative provision system in London. With young people in London expelled from mainstream schooling at almost double the national rate we have to ask ourselves why is this specific to London? In terms of policy and legislation changes in mainstream schooling, there were two key moments. The introduction of the London Challenge, a school improvement programme that was launched under New Labour in 2003, aimed at increasing the performance of London secondary schools. [5] Then subsequent changes made by the Conservative-Liberal coalition government which passed the Academies Act 2010 made it easier for all publicly funded schools in England to become private academies. While no statistics are available on the number of London schools that have been converted into academies, any Londoner will tell you that they now dominate the capital’s educational provision. (What happened to free market choice?) Furthermore, since academies are not beholden to local government and enjoy greater administrative autonomy over matters of spending, teaching and organisation, this has also given rise to a wider do-as-you-like culture, allowing them to exclude and off-roll pupils at will.

With mainstream schools now judged almost exclusively on their examination results, this system produces winners and losers, and the losers are almost always poor children, seen to possess no academic value in an increasingly marketised education system. So what happens to them? They are abandoned. Sent to the lower sets, excluded, expelled and then carted off to alternative provision, where they are said to ‘underachieve [in their GCSEs] on a spectacular scale’. The disposability of working-class children’s education is scandalous, but it does not stop there.

Educational disenfranchisement, knife crime and imprisonment

London Mayor Sadiq Khan, has recently, in the context of a rise in the capital’s knife crime, condemned the government for failing to fully acknowledge the impact that the practices of school exclusions and off-rolling are having on serious violence in the capital, attributing ‘a fragmented education system in which local authorities have little control over academies and free schools’ as a significant factor. Knife crime has not appeared out of thin air, it is the manifested violence of the violated. A violence born out of deprivation, desperation and defilement. Dispossessing a great swathe of young people of their right to a proper mainstream education runs in tandem with the politics of our time that is producing a highly disenfranchised surplus population.

It is no mere coincidence that 89 per cent of ‘imprisoned’ young people (aged 12-18) in Britain have reported being excluded from school. [6] The writing is on the wall: exclusions, compounded by alternative provision, fuel serious youth violence, which, in turn, leads to higher rates of incarceration. But who is being locked up? Predominantly, poor black, Asian and minority ethnic boys. In January 2019, Her Majesty’s Inspectorate of Prisons found 51 per cent of boys in young offender institutions and 42 per cent of children in secure training centres were from BME backgrounds. [7] It is worth remembering that the proportion of incarcerated BME young people is almost four times the proportion of the UK’s entire BME population (14 per cent). [8]

The government is making a weak attempt at the moment to examine school exclusions as a catalyst for serious youth violence and knife crime, often resorting to semantic debates about ‘causation’ and ‘correlation’. Whether it is causal or correlative is neither here nor there; we know there is a deleterious connection. Facile explanations are not wanted by parents and young people. A recent reminder from London-based Drill artists Skengdo & A.M and Drillminister of a cross-section of state failings: ‘how they [the government] gonna ask what the ends need? Then after, they don’t do a thing. Then they wanna act all clueless…’. [9]

Green New Deal – panacea or problem?

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 06:07

As the notion of a Green New Deal rapidly spreads as an answer to capitalism in US and UK media and political circles, our lead article in July 2019 asks if Green capitalism can propose a real solution to the ecological crisis and the human crises of poverty, austerity, immigration and racism.

Green capitalism and the large scale investment in environmental technologies ‘neither breaks with neoliberalism, nor can potentially reverse environmental disaster’, argues Jerry Harris, an authority on global capitalism, in his lead article on ‘The future of globalisation’.

Rather than providing a radical solution, the merging of sustainable development to neoliberal ideas of growth markets is a form of ‘sustainable accumulation’ through which ‘global investments and regulations are presented as planetary environmental solutions’.

Harris is determined that: ‘The Left must play a decisive role in pushing capitalism towards a deep structural transformation, linking the ecological crisis to the human crises of poverty, austerity, immigration, and racism […] We can’t stop the exploitation of the planet without stopping the exploitation of humanity’ – and this must be pushed by social movements from below.

In a similar vein, leading educational theorist Henry A. Giroux argues in his piece in the July issue on ‘Neoliberalism and the weaponising of education and language’ that ‘the struggle against neoliberalism has to begin with a struggle for education’. Giroux highlights the wave of resistance against neoliberal approaches to education that are taking place through strikes and walkouts in the US.

Two other articles, one by Victoria Canning on women and asylum in northern Europe and another by Mark Payne on Slovak Roma school students navigating the educations system in Sheffield, reveal the devastating impact of neoliberal policies on human rights and education respectively.

Articles

Commentary

Reviews

 

Further links

Order the July 2019 issue of Race & Class for £5 here

View the whole issue online here

Calendar of racism and resistance (3 – 16 July 2019)

Wed, 07/17/2019 - 07:54
POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

4 July: A study by the University of Essex, based on analysis of six live trials of facial recognition technology by the Metropolitan police in Soho, Romford and the Westfield shopping centre in east London, finds that matches were correct in only a fifth of cases, leading to wrongful stops and breaches of privacy, freedom of expression and the right to protest. (Guardian, 4 July 2019)

8 July: Stop and search has almost doubled in eight of England’s largest forces in the last two years, according to data analysed by the Guardian following freedom of information requests to Greater Manchester, the Metropolitan police, Merseyside, Northumbria, Devon and Cornwall, Thames Valley, West Midlands and West Yorkshire. (Guardian, 8 July 2019)

9 July: In a case brought by Just for Kids Law, the High Court rules that the police recruitment and use of child spies to infiltrate ‘county lines’ drug gangs and other criminal and terrorist organisations is not unlawful and does not breach human rights. (Guardian, 9 July 2019)

11 July: Three police officers are referred to the Met’s central east command professional standards unit after being filmed by onlookers striking a man of Moroccan origin and pinning him down while he shouted ‘I can’t breathe’ and ‘my heart’ and appeared to have a  seizure during a traffic stop in Poplar, east London. Tower Hamlets council express concern that the case has not been referred to the Independent Office of Police Conduct. (Independent, 11 July 2019)

11 July: A public inquiry chaired by Thomas Teague QC into the police shooting of Anthony Grainger, who was unarmed, concludes that Greater Manchester police were entirely to blame for his death in Cheshire in March 2012, owing to serious failings and a ‘cavalier attitude’ within its  firearms unit. Corporate manslaughter charges are now being pursued by lawyers representing Grainger’s partner. (Guardian, 13 July 2019)

12 July: An east London police officer recorded on video striking a handcuffed black teenager with a baton in Romford in April is placed under criminal investigation for a potential disciplinary offence related to the grounds of the stop and search. The Guardian reports that four other officers are under investigation over a separate stop and search incident in north-west London in October 2018 when a man was sprayed with CS gas while on the ground. (Guardian, 12 July 2019)

15 July: Government figures reveal that half of all law centres and not-for-profit legal advice centres in England and Wales have closed in the past six years because of cuts to legal aid and local authority funding. (Guardian, 15 July 2019)

Knife crime and related issues

15 July: The home secretary announces a new legal duty for public health bodies to help prevent knife crime by sharing data, intelligence and knowledge. The duty does not require doctors, nurses and teachers to report children feared to be involved in violence, as originally proposed, because of widespread resistance. (Independent, 15 July 2019)

© Shayan Barjesteh van Waalwijk van Doorn

15 July: London mayor Sadiq Khan cites statistics from London’s Violence Reduction Unit to show how youth violence is linked to deprivation, social exclusion and austerity. (Guardian, 15 July 2019)

ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP Asylum and migrant rights

3 July: The government blames Brexit for its continuing failure to introduce legislation enabling compensation to be paid to the victims of the Windrush scandal, 15 months after prime minister Theresa May’s apology and promise of compensation, and a fortnight after the death of another victim, cricketer Richard Stewart. (Guardian, 4 July 2019)

6 July: After Kindertransport survivors receive €2,500 in reparations from the German government for their ordeal, one recipient, Dame Steve Shirley, donates her cheque to Safe Passage, the charity helping child refugees reach sanctuary in the UK, and calls on others to do the same. (Observer, 7 July 2019)

12 July: After a three-year ordeal, Eritrean refugee Medhanie Tesfamariam Berhe is released from prison as a Sicilian court confirms that he was the victim of mistaken identity when he was arrested in a joint Italian-British operation and wrongly accused of being a leading international human trafficker. Berhe’s relatives call for damages for his wrongful detention following extradition from Sudan, and an investigation into the framing of an innocent man allegedly by Sicily’s top prosecutors. (Guardian, 12 July 2019, 2 stories)

Borders and internal controls

30 June: The frozen body of an unidentified man who hid in the wheel arch of a plane from Nairobi to London falls into a garden in Clapham, south London, on the flight path to Heathrow. Aviation officials later indicate he could have been a Nairobi airport worker. (BBC News, 1, 3 July 2019)

7 July: A secret programme by the Home Office to deport rough sleepers using sensitive personal data acquired from homelessness charities is denounced by civil liberties groups as bypassing privacy and data protection laws. (Observer, 7 July 2019)

credit: @redfishstream

Citizenship and status

12 July: Hundreds of undocumented migrants mostly from West Africa, known as the ‘black vests’, storm the Panthéon mausoleum in Paris and demand the right to remain in France. (BBC News, 12 July 2019)

13 July: In Ireland, a High Court judge overturns a decision by the justice minister to refuse citizenship to a Nigerian woman because she is not ‘of good character’, having been cited as a witness in a child neglect case. (Irish Times, 13 July 2019).

The Libyan crisis

3/4 July:  53 migrants are killed as a missile hits a hangar housing around 120 refugees and migrants at the Tajoura detention centre, situated close to a militia HQ. US diplomats block a move to set up an independent inquiry which potentially could lead to war crimes charges. (Guardian, 5 July 2019)

12 July: In the run-up to the EU foreign ministers’ meeting in Brussels, Human Rights Watch, AI and ECRE issue a joint statement calling on EU states to facilitate the evacuation of detainees in migrant detention centres in Libya to safe spaces, including in Europe, and to issue a clear call to the Libyan authorities to close down the detention centres. (Reliefweb,  12 July 2019)

Reception and detention

7/8 July: Italian police use tear gas to break up protests after Sahid, a 32-year-old undocumented Bengali migrant, dies in an isolation unit at the Centre for Permanence and Repatriation detention facility in Turin. Fellow detainees say that the young man had been sexually assaulted at the facility prior to being placed in solitary confinement for fifteen days. (Are You Syrious, 7-8 July 2019)

8 July: A study by the data mapping project After Exploitation finds that in 2018, the Home Office held over 500 people in immigration detention after deciding that they were likely victims of trafficking, breaching the department’s own guidance. (Guardian, 8 July 2019)

Deportation

9 July: Activists claim that two people were beaten unconscious as German police attempted to repel 500 people spontaneously demonstrating against the deportation of a Kurdish man from their Leipzig neighbourhood, who were dispersed with pepper spray. (Perspektive Online, 9 July 2019)

Sea-Watch Captain Carola Rackete

13 July: Are you Syrious reports that since 9 July Afghan families facing deportation, with the support of Life without borders, have staged a peaceful sit-in at the Norra bantorget in Stockholm city. (Are you Syrious, 13 July 2019)

Crimes of solidarity

6 July: Thousands of people march in Hamburg, Bonn, Münster, Frankfurt, Oldenburg, Bremen, Berlin, Munich and Cologne in support of the German NGO vessel Sea-Watch 3 and its captain Carola Rackete, after her arrest in Italy. (Deutsche Welle in English, 6 July 2019)

8 July: Following the example set by Sea-Watch 3, the Italian-flagged Alex, run by NGO Mediterranea, defies the Italian interior minister and disembarks forty-one refugees at the port of Lampedusa. The captain is placed under investigation for aiding illegal immigration and the NGO is fined €16,000 as Salvini tweets ‘Jackals!’ ‘They should go to prison!’ (Guardian, 8 July 2019)

ELECTORAL POLITICS

5 July: At a Conservative party hustings event in Darlington, Boris Johnson says ‘too often there are parts of our country, parts of London and other cities as well, where English is not spoken by some people as their first language and that needs to change’, prompting speculation as to whether he is calling for immigrants to learn English or for the repatriation of all non-natives. (Guardian, 5 July 2019)

5 July: The European Network Against Racism claims a pattern of discrimination against non-white EU parliamentarians after Magid Magid, British Green party MEP for Yorkshire and the Humber, is asked to leave the Strasbourg parliament on his first day. The European parliament says no member of staff was involved. (Guardian, 5 July 2019)

12 July: The far-Right Freedom party of Austria suspends one of its elected representatives, who has not been named, following the deployment of a police tactical unit to deal with an incident in which the 57-year-old local politician in Bergheim flew into a rage and fired 29 pistol shots indiscriminately from his balcony.  No one was injured. (Deutsche Welle in English, 12 July 2019)

13 July: As it emerged that many Golden Dawn voters switched allegiance to New Democracy in the Greek general election, the Central Board of the Greek Jewish Communities calls on the new transport and infrastructure minister Makis Voridis to ‘repudiate his dark anti-Semitic past’. (Times of Israel, 13 July 2019, Haaretz, 9 July 2019)

14 July: Yiannis Lagos, recently elected to the European parliament for Golden Dawn and currently facing charges related to the murder of rapper Pavlos Fissas, has defected from the party, whose policies he says he no longer agrees with, to sit as an independent. (Times of Israel, 14 July 2019)

8 July: Brent Council adopts the all-party parliamentary group (APPG) definition of Islamophobia, which states that ‘Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness’. (This is local London, 9 July 2019)

ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT

5 July: A Newsnight investigation finds that far-right online abuse disproportionately targets female politicians, citing widespread abusive and misogynistic language, including threats of sexual assault, across mainstream and fringe social media platforms. Cases include abuse directed at Katharina Schulze, leader of the Greens in Bavaria, and at Sibeth Ndiaye, a government spokesperson in France. (BBC News, 15 July 2019)

5 July: Vox party activists including Jordi de la Fuente head a demonstration at the town hall and then an attack on a migrant minors’ hostel in Masnou, Barcelona, inciting violence against the residents, after a young person from the centre is arrested on suspicion of attempted rape. Four people are injured in the attack on the hostel.  (Catalunya Radio, 5 July 2019 (2 pieces)

6 July: German police stop the bands Sturmwehr (Storm Forces) and Unbeliebte Jungs (Unpopular Boys) from playing prohibited tracks at a festival in Themar, Thuringia. Anti-fascists had staged protests against the far-right rock concert. (Deutsche Welle in English, 6 July 2019)

7 July: A study by the Institute for Strategic Dialogue finds that the extreme rightwing ideology of ‘the great replacement’ that inspired the Christchurch mosque killer has been promoted so effectively by the far Right that it has entered mainstream political discourse. (Observer, 7 July 2019)

7 July: The neo-fascist Golden Dawn, previously the third-largest parliamentary grouping in Greece, scores just 2.98 per cent of the vote in the Greek general election and is left with no seats. But the newly-formed Greek Solution scores 3.7 per cent of the vote and wins 10 seats. (Guardian, 8 July 2019, Ekathemerini, 8 July 2019)

Desfile del orgullo gay en Madrid.

8 July: Madrid’s Gay Pride mobilises with the message ‘not one step back’ in protest at the far-right Vox party’s attack on LGBTQI rights. The centre-right Ciudadanos (Citizens) and the Popular Party are barred from the parade owing to their support for Vox in the Madrid and Murcia regional assemblies. (El Pais in English, 8 July 209)

10 July: Shelter Scotland expresses concern after Generation Identity Scotland Alba targets white  homeless people in the centre of Glasgow for food packages parcelled up with its branding and logo. (Daily Record, 10 July 2019)

10 July: Sir Mick Davis, chief executive of the Conservative Party and former Jewish Leadership Council chairman, condemns as a ‘betrayal of Jewish values’ the screening in front of a largely Jewish audience of Katie Hopkins’ anti-Muslim documentary Homelands at the Pillar Hotel in Hendon, hosted by Sharon Klaff and Ambrosine Shitrit – well-known Israel advocates and founders of Campaign4Truth. (Jewish Chronicle, 10 July 2019)

11 July: Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, is given a nine-month sentence after being found guilty of contempt of court for breaching a reporting ban and encouraging ‘vigilante action’ and ‘unlawful physical’ aggression against defendants in a sexual exploitation trial at Leeds crown court. Reacting to the sentence, supporters hurl smoke bombs and fight with police outside the Old Bailey, before marching on Parliament, blocking roads, tearing down EU flags and verbally abusing and physically intimidating journalists. Four people are arrested. Earlier in the week, Robinson broadcast an appeal for asylum to the US president, claiming he could be killed in prison. (Guardian, Metro, 11 July 2019)

15 July: Northern Italian police investigating Italians who have fought in eastern Ukraine detain three men after uncovering a huge stash of automatic weapons, material featuring Nazi symbols and a three-metre missile. One of those arrested is Fabio Del Bergoli, who in 2001 was an electoral candidate for the neo-fascist Forza Nuova party. (Guardian, 15 July 2019)

15 July: Hans-Georg Maaßen, the dismissed former head of Germany’s intelligence agency, has drawn criticism for his use of Twitter to spread conspiracy theories after he shared a blog from the extreme-right Journalist Watch that claimed that a German TV broadcast on the arrest of Sea Watch captain Carola Rackete was a ‘piece of propaganda’ . (Guardian, 15 July 2019)

16 July: Following an investigation, the Electoral Commission announces that the now-defunct far-right party Britain First must pay a fine of more than £44,000 for electoral breaches, including undeclared donations and failure to provide proper accounts.  (Guardian, 16 July 2019)

EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION

10 July: Analysis by the Office for National Statistics reveals that workers of Pakistani or Bangladeshi heritage have the lowest median hourly pay of any ethnic group, with Bangladeshi workers earning 20.2 percent less than white British workers. London has the largest pay gap between white and ethnic minority groups, at 21.7 percent. (Guardian, 10 July 2019)

Credit: @Bbk_J4W

11 July: Cleaning staff at Birkbeck, supported by Unison, win their campaign to bring outsourced cleaning back in-house, which will give them more workplace rights. (Birkbeck Unison, 11 July 2019)

15 July: New research by the charity Unlock into the impact of criminal records on employment for BAME people shows that more than three-quarters of people surveyed (78 percent) felt their ethnicity made it harder for them to overcome the problems they faced as a result of having a criminal record. (HRM magazine, 15 July 2019)

HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS

5 July: The Council of Europe Committee of Social Rights requests the Italian state to take immediate measures to protect the housing rights of Roma and end the destruction of Roma camps and forced evictions which trample procedural safeguards and fail to provide families with adequate alternative housing. (Amnesty International press release, 5 July 2019)

credit: Sisters Uncut

10 July: Hackney council is accused of ‘gross negligence’ by direct action group Sisters Uncut for its continued failure to rehouse two families living in Marian Court which is soon to be demolished. The council allegedly offered one family a vandalised property covered with threatening graffiti, in an area where they previously faced Islamophobic abuse, and offered a viewing to the other family on the same estate where a violent ex-partner lives. (Hackney Citizen, 10 July 2019)

EDUCATION

5 July: Freedom of information requests made by the Guardian to 131 universities show that students and staff have made at least 996 formal complaints of racism over the past five years, of which 367 were upheld, resulting in at least 78 student suspensions or expulsions and 51 staff suspensions, dismissals and resignations. (Guardian, 5 July 2019)

Shukri Yahya Abdi (Image: Family handout)

5 July: The family of Shukri Yahya Abdi, a 12-year-old refugee schoolgirl who drowned in the River Irwell, Bury, say that Shukri was bullied at school, and a petition calling for an investigation into the school’s anti-bullying policies has amassed more than 20,000 signatures. The family, originally from Somalia, call for a further investigation into her death and criticise the police’s characterisation of the death as an accident and their lack of communication with the family. (Guardian, 5 July 2019)

9 July: UK exam board Edexcel has included more BAME authors, including Malorie Blackman and Benjamin Zephaniah, in its English GCSE syllabus following calls for the curriculum to be more ethnically diverse. (Voice online, 9 July 2019)

9 July: Figures released by the police show that bullying incidents in schools in Aberdeenshire and the Highlands in the last two years reached the level of ‘hate crimes’, with four incidents linked to race and one in which a disabled pupil was bullied. (Press and Journal, 9 July 2019)

10 July: An eight-year-old schoolboy has been awarded £3,500 in compensation by Tower Hamlets council after teachers wrongly assumed the name on his T-shirt was an Isis terrorist and reported him to social services. (The Huffington Post, 10 July 2019)

15 July: Kirklees Council approves plans for Almondbury Community School in Huddersfield to be closed following imposition of special measures and a poor Ofsted inspection, and nine months after a teenage Syrian refugee was filmed being attacked by another pupil at the school in October 2018. A petition against the proposal has been signed by more than 1,250 people. (BBC News, 15 July 2019)

MEDIA AND CULTURE

credit: @lgsmigrants

5 July: Lesbian and Gays Support the Migrants (LGSM) place alternative pro-refugee and anti-homelessness ads on buses along the Pride Route questioning why the Home Office, the Metropolitan police and global corporations are able to participate in this year’s Pride while ‘marginalised groups’ can’t afford to participate.’ (Guardian, 5 July 2019)

9 July: The Muslim Council of Britain publishes a study of coverage of Islam and Muslims in British news outlets, which cites the Mail on Sunday as having the most negative coverage of all, with 78 percent of its stories featuring Muslims having negative themes, above an already-high industry average of 59 percent. (Guardian, 9 July 2019)

11 July: The Labour party makes a formal complaint to the BBC about its ‘unbalanced’ programme ‘Is Labour Anti-Semitic?’, warning that it could be viewed as an attempt at undue influence into the EHRC investigation into the Labour party’s disciplinary and complaints procedure. The BBC has failed to investigate Islamophobia amongst Conservative party members, it points out, adding that John Ware was an ‘unsuitable’ choice as producer, given a series of articles and programmes on the Muslim community, including the 2005 Panorama programme ‘British Muslims: A Question of Leadership’, which has been described as ‘McCarthyite’. (Labour List, 10 July 2019)

SPORT

10 July: Arsenal FC complains about ‘unacceptable racial abuse’ of Jordi Osei-Tutu – on loan to the German side VfL Bochum – at a cup fixture against St. Gallen, with the Swiss club suggesting that they are not going to take any further action. (Goal.com, 10 July 2019)

RACIST VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

3 July: In a case brought by anti-racist group Licra, six men are found guilty of planning an attack on a Roma camp in Paris in March following fake news posted online that Roma were kidnapping children in the north-eastern suburb of Bobigny. Two sentences were suspended, while the remaining four were sentenced to five to six months in prison. (New York Times, 3 July 2019)

10 July: Beirut Today reports that the condition of Daniel Ezzedine, a 17-year-old German exchange student of Lebanese descent, has improved since he was left with life-threatening injuries and placed in an induced coma following a mob attack in Canterbury. An anti-racist crowdfunding campaign has meant that his family, who are Lebanese nationals in Germany, could afford to come to the UK to stay by his bedside. (Beirut Today, 10 July 2019)

11 July: At Dunfermline Sheriff Court, a 50-year-old man is given a community payback order for acting in a racially aggravated manner towards a nurse who was examining him at a police station in April 2019. (Dunfermline Press, 11 July 2019)

12 July: Police remove two women from a Thomas Cook flight from Turkey to Gatwick after they allegedly call three Muslim men ‘terrorists’ and a ‘threat’ to safety. (Independent, 14 July 2019)

12 July: A woman apologises for posting racist comments on social media after a six-year-old girl tried to bring a ceremonial religious knife into school in Rotherham. (Rotherham Advertiser, 12 July 2019)

15 July: Joan Ellis, a Labour councillor for Cockermouth’s Christchurch ward, calls on Allerdale council to publicly condemn racism after a woman and her children were subjected to racist abuse in Workington town centre earlier this month. (News and Star, 15 July 2019)

Boris Johnson: Liverpool, lies and bigotry

Fri, 07/12/2019 - 04:27

In this article Phil Scraton recalls a defining month in the career of Boris Johnson that laid bare his deep-seated prejudices, disregard for factual accuracy and self-serving arrogance.

On 7 October 2004 Ken Bigley, a civil engineer, was beheaded in Iraq by Islamic extremists. Just two days later a respectful silence was held in his home city, Liverpool. It was a death that resonated throughout the city and across the region, resulting in many public expressions of sympathy. In an editorial on 16 October 2004 the editor of the Spectator, Boris Johnson, condemned the ‘mawkish sentimentality of a society that has become hooked on grief and likes to wallow in a sense of vicarious victimhood’. He derided ‘according [Mr Bigley] the same respect offered annually to the million and a half British servicemen who have died for their country since 1914’.

Accepting that Mr Bigley had witnessed the decapitation of two fellow hostages, a fate to which he knew he was consigned, Johnson opined that a ‘sense of proportion’ had been lost. He dismissed the public, collective mourning of this single death as an ‘extreme reaction fed by the fact that he was a Liverpudlian’. The city shared a ‘tribal sense of community’, its people possessed by ‘an excessive predilection for welfarism’, reflecting ‘a peculiar, and deeply unattractive, psyche’.

Central to this generic pathological condition was, Johnson declared, the fact that ‘whenever possible’ Liverpudlians self-defined ‘as victims’. They ‘resent their victim status’, he opined, yet they ‘wallow in it’. A key element in their ‘flawed psychological state’ was a profound failure ‘to accept that they might have made any contribution to their misfortunes’. Liverpudlians, he railed, consistently ‘blame someone else’, thus ‘deepening their sense of shared tribal grievance against the rest of society’. On what foundation did Johnson build his scurrilous attack on the collective integrity of a city’s people?

Repeating Hillsborough lies

Johnson’s calumnies came fifteen years after 96 men, women and children, many from Liverpool, were unlawfully killed at Hillsborough. The editorial continued that the ‘deaths of more than 50 Liverpool football supporters’ had been ‘undeniably a greater tragedy than the single death, however horrible, of Mr Bigley’. Yet, ‘that is no excuse for Liverpool’s failure to acknowledge, even to this day, the part played in the disaster by drunken fans at the back of the crowd who mindlessly tried to fight their way into the ground that Saturday afternoon’.

Not content deliberately resurrecting the myths of drunkenness, hooliganism and violence that had dogged successive inquiries and investigations, Johnson laid bare his ignorance and prejudice, the twin characteristics of his lazy journalism. In his narrow mind the South Yorkshire Police had become ‘a convenient scapegoat’ and the Sun ‘a whipping-boy for daring, albeit in a tasteless fashion, to hint at the wider causes of the incident’.

According to The Sun ticketless fans had rushed the stadium, stolen from the dying, beaten up and urinated on a police officer who was administering first aid and verbally sexually abused a dying woman. Such unfounded allegations were not ‘tasteless hints’ but were lies orchestrated in the immediate aftermath and given credibility by the South Yorkshire Police Federation, senior police officers and the Sheffield MP Irving Patnick.

Returning to Mr Bigley, Johnson questioned why he had sought ‘to make a living by undertaking work in one of the most dangerous areas on the planet’. It had been a decision taken ‘against the express advice of the Foreign Office’. He had lived ‘with a pair of Americans’, seemingly ‘unconcerned about his personal security’. Mr Bigley’s choice, Johnson opined, should ‘temper the outpouring of sentimentality’.

Such mawkishness reflected a ‘form of behaviour’ that had been ‘kick-started in this country’ following the death of Princess Diana, a woman he considered ‘an even more ambiguous figure’. Apparently ‘more ambiguous’ than Mr Bigley. Johnson disparaged public expressions of collective grief as a ‘manifestation of our apparently depleted intelligence and sense of rationality’ together boding ‘extremely badly for this country’.

According to Johnson, this creeping malaise was rooted in twin conditions of ‘peace and welfarism’. Together they had delivered ‘a society where the blame and compensation cultures go hand in hand’, where ‘modern-day buccaneers seem determined to go about their activities not merely unprepared for the likely consequences, but indignant about them’. What had to be excised was ‘the cancer of ignorant sentimentality’. Johnson’s editorial was crass and hurtful.

Fake remorse

The public outrage that followed led the leader of the Conservative Party, Michael Howard, to insist that Johnson visit Liverpool to apologise. Johnson characterised his trip as a ‘penitential pilgrimage’. Having arrived in the city, his ‘heart in his boots’, he felt trapped in ‘a cold, damp three-star hotel’, afraid to venture out for fear of being ‘beaten up’. He could not bring himself to sign a book of condolence honouring Mr Bigley as it would be dismissed as ‘playing politics’. In Liverpool no-one was convinced of Johnson’s remorse.

His 23 October 2004 Spectator column was headed ‘What I should apologise for’. His dismissive tone, his casual ignorance – characteristically masked by occasional Latin asides that impress no-one other than contemporaries at the notorious Bullingdon Club – were evident in his crass representation of his reluctant trip as ‘Operation Scouse-grovel’. During the course of a ‘companionable and bibulous ceremony’, aka lunch, he had been castigated by the Spectator’s media editor for succumbing to political pressure to venture north. Johnson portrayed himself a ‘whipped cur’, granting his critic a ‘sizeable rise’.

Following the ‘firestorm of hate that had engulfed the Spectator’, Johnson mused that his Liverpool trip had given the impression of a ‘penitential pilgrimage at the behest of a party leader’. Demonstrating regret falling well short of remorse, he compounded his initial offensive behaviour. While, he mused, ‘welfare-addicted Liverpudlians’ might well exist, it had been ‘wounding and wrong to suggest that this stereotype’ was applicable across the city. Further, it had been ‘sloppy to repeat the old canard that the Hillsborough tragedy was caused by drunken fans’.

Yet Johnson steadfastly refused to accept that his editorial had been wholly inaccurate and offensive. Such a climb-down ‘would require me to perform a kind of auto-prefrontal lobotomy’. He defended the central premise that ‘bogus sentiment, self-pity, risk’ generated a shared ‘refusal to see that we may sometimes be the authors of our misfortunes’. The public expressions of grief at the deaths of Mr Bigley and the 96 at Hillsborough together reflected the ‘tendency to blame the state’.

Reactionary tropes

The meaning of Johnson’s broadside now became clear. We live, he wrote, at a time when ‘means-tested benefits multiply, and where good human emotions and affections that might once have been directed towards neighbours and family are now diverted into outbursts of sentimentality’. Warming to his reactionary theme he reiterated the reactionary tropes that since have remained his stock-in-trade at Tory Party conferences.

Collectively ‘we’ eagerly ascribe to ourselves ‘victim’ status inducing an ‘increasingly hysterical health-and-safety compensation culture’. He condemned journalists as ‘scaremongers’, politicians ‘cowards’ and judges ‘muddled’. Johnson’s parting shot was to ‘heartily and sincerely apologise for offence caused’ and ‘for the tasteless inaccuracies with which the point was made’. Yet the ‘point’, he asserted, remained valid.

Behind a veneer of class privilege Boris Johnson is neither buffoon nor intellectual. Successive political gaffes and economic failures as London’s mayor or as the state’s foreign secretary, mega-lies proclaimed on Brexit hoardings and the ‘battle-bus’, profoundly offensive comments directed at victims and survivors alongside his numerous personal indiscretions, reveal a whited sepulchre. Weak on detail, careless with facts and consistently insincere, fifteen years on from his Liverpool sojourn his crass insensitivity and provocative outpourings continue undiminished.

Phil Scraton is Emeritus Professor, School of Law, Queen’s University Belfast, primary author of the Hillsborough Independent Panel’s Report, author of Hillsborough: The Truth. He holds the Freedom of the City of Liverpool.

Sink Without Trace: migrant deaths in the Mediterranean

Thu, 07/04/2019 - 04:25

An exhibition that bears witness to migrant deaths in the Mediterranean challenges us to confront the UK’s complicity in Europe’s war on asylum.

Two image-events bookended Refugee Week 2019. The first was artist-provocateur Christoph Büchel’s ‘installation’ of the migrant shipwreck known as The Boat of Innocents in Venice’s Arsenale. Rechristening it Barca Nostra (Our Boat) was no doubt Büchel’s way of acknowledging European culpability for the deaths of at least 800 people when it capsized in April 2015. But valid criticism of the project centred on its cost – reportedly in the tens of millions – and his rash insistence on presenting it without comment and lack of any strategy to engage passersby (locals, tourists, Biennale-goers). The second ‘event’ was the front-page photo of a Salvadoran father and daughter, Óscar and Valeria Ramirez, lying face-down, dead and drowned, a kilometre from the Texan border. For those already aware of the consequences of United States border violence, it prompted critical ethico-political questions regarding the circulation and consumption of the deaths of ‘others’ as spectacle.

There must be alternative ways of seeing that resist the logic of dehumanisation and also avoid diminishing the enormity of the ongoing calamity.  Some of these can be found in Sink Without Trace, an exhibition on migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, hosted by Euston’s P21 Gallery. Succeeding two previous exhibitions on the subject in Gateshead (2017) and York (2018), it’s the most comprehensive in Britain yet, displaying work by eighteen artists from ten different countries in a variety of forms. Thankfully, the curators are conscious of art’s limits. One of them, artist Maya Ramsay, asks in the exhibition booklet: ‘Are audiences being encouraged through art to campaign for change in migration policies or is there simply an empathetic response followed by inaction? How much of what we are doing as artists and curators has any real impact on those that we are making the work about?’ What follows is an attempt to situate the exhibited works historically and politically, in the hope that those who see them come away with a better sense of what’s at stake in Europe and the Mediterranean.

The UK in and out of Europe

Since 2015 especially—though there are precedents going back decades—the European Union and its member states have taken increasingly extreme measures to prevent refugees and migrants from reaching Europe via the Mediterranean. It’s a deliberate political project that has cost thousands of lives, as a group of international lawyers recently charged. Those who succeed in crossing, if they aren’t deported, are subject to multiple overlapping forms of state and popular racism, as well as exploitation. In Britain, the domesticated borders of the ‘hostile environment’ have been challenged on many fronts since the Windrush scandal. Meanwhile, Britain’s highly-securitised external borders, its relationship of convenience with ‘Fortress Europe’, and its role in perpetuating a ‘global framework of massive injustice’, remain less understood and thus harder to oppose.

Polarised opinion on Brexit can sometimes obscure the EU’s fundamentally exclusionary nature. Remainers exalt it as the guarantor of internationalism and multiculturalism while leavers condemn it as the borderless supra-state allowing mass immigration to push Britain to ‘breaking point’. That last phrase appeared on a notorious UKIP campaign poster in June 2016, captioning a photograph of a long queue of non-European migrants at the Croatia-Slovenia border. Unmentioned was the fact that passage across the Balkan corridor had been severely restricted by those two EU countries just months earlier. Indeed, free movement within the Schengen Area has always been coupled with strong external borders. including pernicious externalisation agreements with countries in the ‘global south’, while over the past few years controls at internal European borders have also intensified. This architecture of deterrence and containment is designed to render the struggle of refugees and migrants, and Europe’s ‘unknown war’ on them, invisible.

Europe’s unknown war

The ‘left-to-die boat’ case

Sink Without Trace begins in 2011—the ‘deadliest year’ in the Mediterranean since its records began, the UN Refugee Agency declared at the time. On 27 March, only two weeks after NATO’s intervention in Libya, seventy-two migrants set sail from war-torn Tripoli; after running out of fuel, they drifted helplessly for fourteen days before being borne all the way back with only nine survivors. In their report on the ‘left-to-die boat’—presented in video form at the exhibition—the Goldsmiths-based research collective Forensic Oceanography (FO) combine information derived from official sources and sophisticated geo-spatial technologies (the view from above) with the testimony of survivors (the view from below), to prove that the latter’s fate was not the result of fortuitous oversight but of callous non-assistance by several actors (national, supra-national and commercial). Accordingly, in his intimidating Annex canvasses, artist Mario Rossi maps a Mediterranean sea that is simultaneously a turbulent expanse that kills and a controlled political space governed by maritime bureaucracies for western military and trade interests.

FO’s subsequent reports detail the declension of European migration policy in the Mediterranean after 2011. Mare Nostrum (Our Sea), an unprecedented Italian search and rescue (SAR) operation, was launched in October 2013 after hundreds of migrants drowned in a widely-reported shipwreck off Lampedusa. But it was soon pilloried as a ‘pull-factor’ and, under EU pressure, consequently abandoned in November 2014. The ensuing ‘SAR vacuum’ was filled initially by commercial vessels that were ill-equipped for the job, however well-intentioned their crews. The ‘pull-factor’ argument was then redeployed to create a ‘toxic narrative’ around the NGO SAR missions that stepped in to counter the EU’s policy of non-assistance. Over the last few years, Italy – with EU backing – has revived and in effect taken full strategic and operational control over the Libyan Coast Guard, enlisting it to execute a policy of ‘refoulement by proxy’, effectively outsourcing its dirty work.

Asylum after empire

Burgher Brookes

Where does the UK fit into this narrative? On one side of a canvas protest banner by English artist Victoria Burgher, A. Sivanandan’s defiant aphorism is reworked from the standpoint of white Britain: ‘they are here because we were there’. Quite literally, this reminds viewers that Britain colonised, occupied or invaded – in some cases very recently – many of the world’s largest refugee-producing countries. On the other side is a reproduction of the famous Brookes slave ship woodcut, a document of barbarism powerfully wielded by late-eighteenth-century abolitionists. The radical demand for open/no borders functions, in Britain, as both a humane response to a contemporary crisis and as an act of historical redress, acknowledging its roots in empire and its foundational role in racial capitalism.

Many migrants set out with Britain as their ultimate destination – because of historical or familial ties or, rightly or wrongly, its reputation as a haven compared to less tolerant and economically stable European countries. But the obstacles they must overcome to reach it are stupendous. In London-based artist Aida Silvestri’s Even This Will Pass photograph series, the blurred faces of Eritrean migrants to Britain are inscribed with the jagged cartography of their journeys. The difficulty of reaching Britain is not a natural outcome of its ostensible geographical distance and isolation. Since the early 1990s, the UK has extended a sophisticated system of ‘juxtaposed controls’ to checkpoints in France and Belgium. The few who attempt the alternative route across the Channel are dismissed a priori as ’illegals’. When the EU Border Agency (Frontex) was established in 2005, the government sought full participation. Europe’s unknown war is Britain’s too.

Barca Nostra?

Lucy Wood

The exhibition’s one intervention in public space occurs on nearby Regent’s Canal, where English artist Lucy Wood has moored a small migrant boat from Libya, aboard which thirty-six North Africans successfully reached Lampedusa in 2012. (This isn’t the first time it has come to Britain: in late 2013, Wood encouraged a group of politicians to make a short journey on it along the Thames, something repeated in similar fashion with a different boat by German SAR NGO Sea-Watch in Berlin in October 2015.) The boat’s preservation as a ‘floating museum’ is important because most such vessels are summarily hacked to pieces and burnt in Lampedusa’s ‘boat graveyard’, a process recorded in Adam Broomberg and Oliver Chanarin’s film The Bureaucracy of Angels.

Asmat (Names), by Dagmawi Yimer

But what happens to the bodies of the dead? Max Hirzel’s photo series Migrant Bodies focuses on the rare occasion when the Italian government salvaged a migrant shipwreck – the very Barca Nostra that now sits in the Arsenale – in order to forensically identify victims and provide at least some form of accountability and closure. But the clinical, bureaucratic nature of the process fails to overcome what  SA Smythe described as ‘the farce of the recurrent practice of enumeration, of counting people without being accountable to them’. In Asmat (Names), the Ethiopian refugee filmmaker Dagmawi Yimer, who founded the Rome-based Archive of Migrant Memory, substitutes naming for counting and calls European powers to account while doing so, offering an alternative form of memorialisation.

Refugee art

 The curators have chosen to frame the exhibition around migrant deaths, foregoing more positive concepts like ‘resistance’ or ‘struggle’. Fortunately, there’s no reduction of these deaths to a matter of mere ‘bodies’, as sometimes occurs in work shaped by politico-aesthetic discourses of bare life and necropolitics. For the most part, as in Hirzel’s work, it’s not death itself that is the focus but the systemic factors that do or not make such deaths ‘grievable’. Ramsay’s graphite rubbings of unidentified Sicilian graves remind us that even those who don’t sink without trace still often remain only as persone sconoscitue (unknown persons).

Maya Ramsay

In spite of death, the works by refugee artists – seven of the eighteen exhibited – are necessarily the products of survival, displaying an agency and vision that cannot be reduced to numbers or structural push-and-pull factors. The Kurdish refugee Shorsh Saleh’s miniature paintings of migrant boats in different situations – floating, capsizing, and even breaking through borders – are a particular highlight. Such works challenge a neo-colonial visual economy in which, as Susan Sontag remarked in Regarding the Pain of Others, the other is regarded ‘only as someone to be seen, not someone (like us) who also sees’. Unforgettable, above all, are Ramsay’s photographs of anonymous drawings on shipwrecked migrant boats. One shows the simple black outline of a bird, wings spread in flight – the symbol of life beyond borders.

 Spectatorship or solidarity

 A curated exhibition in a private metropolitan art gallery can’t ‘do justice’ to an issue of this gravity. Perhaps all that Sink Without Trace can achieve is, to quote Sontag once again, to ‘invite us to pay attention, to reflect, to learn, to examine the rationalizations for mass suffering offered by established powers.’ And, ideally, it wouldn’t end there. Those of us with citizenship and other privileges, who aren’t and won’t be compelled to cross seas to escape oppression and immiseration, should feel sympathy, compassion and anger. But more urgent is finding concrete ways to express and act in solidarity with those affected by border violence. Well before the photograph of 3-year-old Alan Kurdi shocked Europe into momentary compassion in September 2015, many ordinary Europeans were – and still are – busy engaging in a wave of voluntary solidarity efforts. In Britain, as in Europe, there remains much to be done.

 

Sink Without Trace is showing at P21 Gallery until July 13, with free entry. Proceeds from the exhibition go to Alarm Phone, a vital hotline for those crossing the Meditteranean.

 

BAME women fight to retain refuge

Thu, 07/04/2019 - 04:25

In a major blow for one of the few BAME women-led organisations left in the UK, Newham council has decommissioned London Black Women’s Project’s refuges for BAME women escaping violence.

With one in four women in the UK experiencing domestic violence in the course of a lifetime, the scale of violence against women in the UK is huge. And although violence against women can affect anyone, we know that for BAME women and girls, the picture is even more stark.

Figures collated by Sisters For Change reveal that BAME and refugee women experience higher rates of domestic homicide and are three times more likely to commit suicide than other women in the UK. In addition, ‘40% of BAME women live in poverty and are more likely than other women to be living in a deprived area, have experience of the care system and suffer from discrimination and racism’. Yet despite these startling figures that reveal the desperate need for specialist services, since 2012, 50 per cent of shelters for BAME women in the UK have been forced to close due to government cuts.

© London Black Women’s Project

And now, London Black Women’s Project (LBWP), a vital organisation which has provided specialist services for BAME women escaping violence across London for over three decades – including providing refuges, counselling, legal advocacy and help with housing and welfare – has been informed by the London Borough of Newham that it has lost its tender for providing refuge accommodation. ‘A generic charity with no specialism in the needs of Black and minoritised women, would be awarded the tender to deliver our work instead’, LBWP write in an open letter, ‘If the decision is not reversed our specialist refuges and our ability to deliver lifesaving services for women and children in Newham will be at serious risk.’

Why we need specialist services

Set up in 1981, the London Black Women’s Project (formerly Newham Asian Women’s Project) is an integral part of the radical history of women’s refuges in the UK and has been a lifeline for the community for thirty-two years. Led by BAME women, and for BAME women, the organisation provides specialist services which incorporate an understanding of the additional barriers around racism, cultural expectations, language barriers and immigration issues which make it even more difficult for victims from a minoritised background to access support.

LBWP recognises that you cannot address gendered violence without dealing with larger societal structures and power imbalances: ‘We work under a gendered, anti-racist and anti-discriminatory framework to ensure that local communities are represented in an organisation that looks like them, spoke their languages, represented their needs and valued their voice, agency and presence.’

© Yara Rodrigues Fowler

The need for BAME safe spaces for victims cannot be overestimated, as these provide an essential point of access to services such as health, social services and housing. This is particularly crucial at a time when people with insecure immigration status cannot access welfare benefits or publicly-funded services because of  ‘no recourse to public funds’ (50 per cent of casework of BAME service providers relates to victims with insecure immigration status). Immigration enforcement is increasingly coming before the protection of migrant victims of domestic abuse under ‘hostile environment’ policies. Without specialist support services, the exclusion of BAME women victims from systems of support remains a very real risk.

The gendered and racialised impact of austerity

Austerity cuts made by the government since 2010 have made BAME women’s lives more financially precarious and hit specialist support services particularly hard – between 2011-2012, BAME service providers for victims of domestic abuse experienced a loss of 47 per cent of funds. There are now only thirty-four specialist BAME services left in the UK which run on very little – Imkaan has found that the combined income of fifteen BAME-focused organisations in London is now less than the income of a single, more generic, provider.

Painting by Sarbjit Johal, ‘Our Rights’

A focus on cost-cutting and generic service provision has led to a ‘one size fits all’ approach to violence against women and girls which has decimated specialist services for minority ethnic groups. Tendering processes have depoliticised organisations that originally emerged out of community organising at a time of need, which in turn professionalises those services which do win out and aligns them closer to the state –all the more dangerous when violence against BAME women is often at an intersection between interpersonal and state violence.

International NGO Sisters For Change documents how, across the country, specialist services are being replaced by generic organisations with very little experience or understanding about culturally-appropriate ways of supporting BAME victims. Zlakha Ahmed, founder of Apna Haq in Rotherham, writes on the irony of this: ‘while the government and local authority constantly highlight specific forms of violence against Black and Minority Ethnic women like forced marriage and honour crimes, they ignore and try to do away with the organisations which have shown to be effective in dealing with these forms of domestic violence’ [1] – pointing to the partial nature of the state’s commitment to supporting victims of domestic violence.

The fight continues

On 1 July 2019 a powerful protest took place outside Newham council with groups including Million Women Rise, Sisters Uncut, Imkaan, Latin American Women’s Aid, Apna Haq, Solace Women’s Aid, the Magpie project and the Ending Violence Against Women coalition  all demanding that the council recommissions LBWP. The Mayor of Newham Rokhsana Fiaz spoke at the protest and affirmed that she is looking into the seriousness of the situation.

©Gurpreet Virdee

Minoritised women need specialist services, and the fight to protect these spaces will continue. LBWP is asking for support from communities across the UK to demand that Newham Council withdraws their decision to decommission their services, and to call for central government to create a pot of ring-fenced funding for BAME services. As Anjum Mouj stated at the rally, ‘We are not going to go quietly. They didn’t want us here when we set up our services, and they don’t want us here now. This isn’t about money, this is about murder. We cannot let it happen.’

 

Related Links

Sign an open letter here: https://www.change.org/p/london-black-women-s-project-s-newham-refuges-at-risk-of-closure

Rebecca Wood, ‘Can community campaigns against racism survive the new funding agenda?’ http://www.irr.org.uk/news/can-community-campaigns-against-racism-survive-the-new-funding-agenda/

 

Newham council were approached for a comment but did not respond before we went to press. 

Calendar of Racism and Resistance (19 June – 2 July 2019)

Thu, 07/04/2019 - 04:25

A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.

ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP 

ASYLUM AND MIGRANT RIGHTS 

19 June: The Supreme Court rules that the Home Office acted illegally in requiring EU citizens from eastern Europe to register after 2009 to have residence rights, making hundreds of thousands eligible for a refund and for reconsideration of refusals of citizenship, permanent residence and pensions. (Free Movement, 19 June 2019)

19 June: Twenty migrants’ and rights groups accuse the EU of empowering unaccountable militias and undermining the rule of law and human rights in Africa through its migration policies there, in an open letter to Donald Tusk and other EU leaders. (Statewatch, 19 June 2019)

23 June: MPs and lawyers call for an inquiry into the Home Office’ recent outsourcing of visa applications to French firm Sopra Steria, which makes millions while forcing migrants to travel long distances or pay premium charges to submit applications in time. (Independent, 23 June 2019)

27 June: Home Office figures obtained by the BBC show that delays on decisions for asylum seeker children have tripled since January 2014, with almost 1,400 children waiting for more than five years for a decision about their right to remain. (BBC News, 27 June 2019)

1 July: Days before the hearing of a legal challenge to its policy of stopping support for survivors of trafficking after 45 days, the Home Office says it will drop the 45-day limit for needs-based support. (Free Movement, 2 July 2019)

BORDERS, TRANSIT ZONES AND INTERNAL CONTROLS

23 June: Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini announces that Slovenia and Italy will launch joint border patrols next month. (STA, 23 June 2019)

25 June: The EU announces funding of €14.8 million for the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in Bosnia and Herzegovina, with only €1.8 million to go towards humanitarian assistance and the rest on ‘migration management’. (EU Press Release, 25 June 2019)

CRIMES OF SOLIDARITY 

20 June: A French court acquits British volunteer Tom Ciotkowski on charges of contempt and assault. He was arrested in Calais in July 2018 for filming and challenging a police officer who hit another volunteer with a baton while they were distributing food. (Amnesty Press Release, 20 June 2019)

29 June: Carola Rackete, the captain of Sea-Watch 3 is arrested after she defies Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini and brings forty refugees to shore in Lampedusa. Salvini describes her as an ‘outlaw’ who has put law enforcement officers at risk. Watch a video here. Sign a petition in support of Carola here. (Independent,  29 June 2019)

2 July: An Italian judge orders the release from house arrest of Sea-Watch 3 captain Carola Rackete, saying that she had been carrying out her duty to protect life and had not committed any act of violence. Campaigners have already raised £1.2m for a defence campaign. (Guardian, 2 July 2019)

RECEPTION AND DETENTION 

21 June: The French Council of State (the highest administrative court) orders the northern prefecture to provide clean water, showers and toilets within eight days for around 700 migrants living around a sports hall in Grande-Synthe, in a case brought by the Grande-Synthe commune and migrant rights groups. (FranceInfo, 21 June 2019)

25 June: After visiting ‘repatriation centres’ (CPRs) in Rome, Potenza, Bari and Brindisi, Italy’s Guarantor for the Rights of Detained Persons concludes that people in detention are still living in ‘deplorable conditions’, with people often held for up to six months and sometimes more. (Info Migrants, 25 June 2019)

26 June: Mette Frederiksen’s incoming Social-Democrat government in Denmark abandons plans for an immigration detention centre on the uninhabited island of Lindholm. (The Local, 26 June 2019)

26 June: Twenty prominent pro-migrant organisations, including Amnesty International and Medicins du Monde, warn the French government about dire conditions in its administrative detention centres (CRAs), where children and those with mental ill health suffer extremely. (Info Migrants, 26 June 2019) 

27 June: The Home Office is ordered to pay £45,000 in compensation to a Vietnamese trafficking victim who was unlawfully detained in Morton Hall detention centre for five months last year after officials mistook him for a man deported from the UK in 2011. (Guardian, 27 June 2019)

RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS 

27 June: According to Italian interior ministry figures, the number of asylum seekers deported to Italy from elsewhere in Europe under the Dublin regulation has tripled since 2014, raising concerns about their treatment in the country. (Guardian, 27 June 2019)

29 June: At Gay Pride in Paris, around a hundred mostly women protesters from the ‘Gouines against deportations’ collective block an Air France float in protest at the airline’s complicity in deportations. (Huffington Post, 29 June 2019)

ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT 

18 June: An email signed by the ‘musicians of the Straatsstreichorchester’ is sent to politicians and media organisations across Germany warning that the murder of CDU politician Walter Lübcke is the first of ‘upcoming purges’ on left-leaning politicians, refugees and Jews in Germany. (Guardian, 20 June 2019)

26 June: Police in Austria search two apartments in Vienna linked to Generation Identity leader Martin Sellner as the investigation into the Christchurch massacre widens to include his US-based fiancée Brittany Pettibone and her alleged connections with the Australian far-right figure Blair Cottrell. (Guardian, 26 June 2019)

26 June: The Guardian reveals that Scotland Yard has paid over £700,000 in out-of-court compensation settlements to 153 anti-fascist activists who were detained during a counter-demonstration against Tommy Robinson in London in September 2013. Internal documents also show that two undercover officers were paid to spy on the anti-fascists. (Guardian, 26 June 2019)

26 June: Stephan Ernst, a 45-year-old German man with previous convictions for serious anti-migrant crimes, confesses to the ‘political murder’ of CDU politician Walter Lübcke, who was known among the far Right for supporting Merkel’s refugee policies in 2015. (Guardian, 26 June 2019)

26 June: Thessaloniki municipal authorities refuse to allow the far-right Golden Dawn to use public spaces to campaign for national elections in early July. (Keep Talking Greece, 26 June 2019)

27 June: Germany’s domestic intelligence service publishes a report showing a 3.2 per cent increase in violent crimes committed by known right-wing extremists, a new upturn following a dip after the peaks of 2015 and 2016. (Deutsche Welle, 27 June 2019)

28 June: The research agency RedaktionsNetzwerk Deutschland warns that the Nordkreuz (Northern Cross) group, which has close links with police and military, has accessed police records on 25,000 people in order to compile a  ‘death list’ of left-wing and pro-refugee targets, has stockpiled weapons and ordered 200 body bags and quicklime to kill and dispose of victims.  (Guardian, 28 June 2019)

29 June: After far-right group Cs take a bus to Barcelona’s Gay Pride march, ignoring organisers’ refusal of permission to join the march, LGBTI activists surround the bus chanting ‘They shall not pass’ and paint the bus with ‘fascists out’ and ‘LGBTI in struggle’, forcing the group to leave. (Público, 29 June 2019)

2 July: Britain First leader Paul Golding speaks at a special session of the Russian State Duma at an event hosted by the Liberal Democratic Party of Russia entitled the International Conference of Peace-Loving Forces. The Polish extreme-right party Falanga also attended. (Independent, 2 July 2019)

ELECTORAL POLITICS 

22 June: In a video obtained by the Observer, shot in July 2018, Trump’s far-right former campaign manager Steve Bannon discusses his contact with Conservative leadership candidate and ex-foreign secretary Boris Johnson, who last summer dismissed rumours of their association as a ‘lefty delusion’. (Guardian, 22 June 2019)

24 June: In Spain, Toni Roldán, the economic spokesperson for the centre-right Citizens party, resigns over the party’s drift to the Right and its alliance with the far-right Vox party after regional and municipal elections. (Guardian, 24 June 2019)

POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

20 June: In France, a 17-year-old boy, identified only as Farès, is taken to hospital after being stabbed in the neck with scissors by a police officer in Vaujours, Seine-Saint-Denis. Police claim that the teenager was with friends when he was arrested for taunting the police. (Le Point, 27 June 2019)

24 June: An inquest finds that Rafal Sochacki, a Polish cleaner subject to a European Arrest Warrant, died in June 2017 from excessive body temperature after being transported in a hot custody van by a Serco driver and subsequently held in a cell at Westminster Magistrates’ Court for almost 5 hours with only ‘faulty’ air-conditioning, on one of the hottest days of the year. (BBC News, 24 June 2019)

25 June: An inquest rules that ‘excessive’ and ‘probably avoidable’ restraint by Warwickshire Police, including the use of tasers and batons, contributed to the death of Darren Cumberbatch in July 2017. (BBC News, 25 June 2019)

27 June: An inquest rules that Leroy ‘Junior’ Medford died of a heroin overdose while in custody in April 2017, but that officers tasked with supervising Medford lacked awareness of drugs procedure, including the need for constant observation. (Get Reading, 27 June 2019)

27 June: A freedom of information request reveals that just one per cent of complaints made against Avon and Somerset police for racism since 2014 have been upheld. As local community leaders say they have lost faith, the police issue a statement saying that all complaints are treated seriously and ‘racism has no place in our police force’. (Bristol Evening Post, 27 June 2019)

2 July: The Guardian reports that a National Crime Agency investigation (Operation Probitas) into claims that some Metropolitan police officers involved in the Stephen Lawrence murder investigation were corrupt, has collapsed. The Independent Office for Police Conduct confirms that no further action is to be taken against the prime suspect, former detective sergeant John Davidson. (Guardian, 2 July 2019)

NATIONAL SECURITY

29 June: The Belgian press report that dual Belgian-Moroccan national Ali Aarrass, wrongly imprisoned in Morocco since 2010 and adopted by Amnesty International in its campaign against torture, is named by an anonymous official as a suspect in a notorious string of 28 unsolved killings in Brabant, Belgium in the 1980s. The Free Ali campaign points out that the accusation comes as Ali, due for release next year, takes the Belgian state to court for its failure to protect his interests. (RTBF, 29 June 2019)

DISCRIMINATION 

19 June: The parliamentary human rights committee publishes evidence from human rights and data protection organisation warning that widespread data collection practices by private companies are not fully understood by most users, and may embed existing discrimination and lead to self-censorship. (Guardian, 19 June 2019)

19 June: The Equality and Human Rights Commission publishes a report saying that discrimination is going unchallenged because of lack of legal aid for those affected to take cases to court. Read the report here. (EHRC press release, 19 June 2019)

26 June: A report by Sisters for Change and the Manchester Maya Project warns that, as a result of institutional racism and sexism, BAME women and children in Greater Manchester who have been victims of domestic violence are not receiving the protection or specialist help they need. (Guardian, 26 June 2019)

27 June: A leaked draft report into the causes of the Windrush scandal, commissioned by the Home Office, finds that when the department implemented its ‘hostile environment’ policies it failed in its legal duty to prevent racial discrimination. It also accuses officials of ‘recklessness’. (Guardian, 27 June 2019)

1 July: A crematorium worker is awarded £6,000 compensation in a case that ended up at an employment tribunal but started in 2016 when a parks cemetery official, speaking at a meeting of Greenwich council about a burial ground in south-east London, asked whether the ‘residents of Bromley would want to be buried next to a Muslim’ and ‘No offence to the Muslim community but that’s what the Muslims do, they move in and take over.’ (Kent Live, 1 July 2019)

1 July: The Court of Appeal confirms a previous ruling in favour of the Agudas Israel Housing Association, confirming that it is not discriminatory to provide specialist services for Orthodox Jews in north London because of the significant disadvantages they face in accessing social housing. (Inside Housing, 1 July 2019)

2 July: A discrimination claim against the Ministry of Defence is launched by Hani Gue, a former black paratrooper, who claims that he suffered years of racist abuse in his 3 Para army unit and that fellow soldiers decorated company accommodation with Nazi, Confederate and SS flags, as well as pictures of Hitler. This is the latest in a series of controversies involving 3 Para, with one video showing paratroopers supporting Tommy Robinson and another shooting wax bullets at a poster of Jeremy Corbyn on a target range in Kabul. (Guardian, 2 July 2019)

HEALTH 

27 June: Research by psychologists at the University of Manchester and Lancaster suggests that discrimination is associated with a greater risk of psychosis. (Open Access Government, 27 June 2019)

EDUCATION

20 June: The charity Refugee Action says that funding for English lessons for refugees and migrants (ESOL) has been slashed by over 60 per over the last decade, falling from £212.3m in 2008 to £105m last year, as a result of austerity cuts to the Adult Education Budget. (Metro, 20 June 2019)

27 June: After a petition by 100 overseas students called on Sajid Javid to make a public statement about the English language testing scandal, the House of Commons public accounts committee announces an investigation into the issue. (Guardian, 27 June 2019)

27 June: Trustees of the University of Warwick student’s union launch an investigation into institutional racism and allegations that the student union’s ‘exclusively white’ senior leadership demonstrate ‘a culture of ignorance and complacency’. (Coventry Live, 27 June 2019)

2 July: Netpol reports that a 14-year-old Derbyshire schoolboy was labelled a ‘domestic extremist’ and his family hounded by counter-extremism police, after he said he was an anti-fascist during a lesson on the US civil rights movement. (Netpol, 2 July 2019)

MEDIA AND CULTURE 

20 June: Six writers and activists withdraw from the annual Bradford Literature Festival after learning that organisers of the 10-day event accepted money provided as part of the Home Office’s counter-extremism ‘Building a Stronger Britain Together’ strategy. (Guardian, 20 June 2019)

28 June: Hollywood actors and directors issue a public statement of support for Cinema America after four cinemagoers are attacked by men suspected of belonging to the youth wing of the far-right Casa Pound party, at an outdoor screening of Paul Schrader’s First Reformed in Rome. (Guardian, 28 June 2019)

28 June: Stormzy becomes the first black British solo artist to headline Glastonbury Festival, and is gloriously received by the crowd and reviewers. He wears a stab-proof Union Jack vest and, three songs in, samples a speech by David Lammy MP describing racial disproportionality in the criminal justice system. (BBC News, 29 June 2019)

HOUSING, EVICTIONS AND HOMELESSNESS

19 June: One man dies in hospital and another remains in a critical condition after their tarpaulin tent was set on fire in a suspected arson attack in Ilford, east London, the previous night. Police believe the men were homeless Romanians labourers, and are appealing to the East European community to identify the two victims. (Guardian, 20 June 2019; Evening Standard, 22 June 2019)

20 June: The Big Issue Foundation calls on Heather Wheeler, minister for homelessness, to resign after it emerges during the filming of an ITV documentary that she described rough sleepers in her South Derbyshire constituency as ‘the traditional type, old tinkers, knife cutters wandering through’. (Guardian, 20 June 2019)

20 June: A report by Help Refugees, L’Auberge des Migrants, Human Rights Observers and Refugee Info Bus reveal that there were over 800 forced evictions of displaced people in Calais and Grande-Synthe, near Dunkirk, between August 2018 and June 2019. Read the report here. (Help Refugees press release, 20 June 2019; Guardian, 22 June 2019)

27 June: A hundred demonstrators tie a chain to Serco’s Glasgow offices during a protest against the security company’s resumption of its lock-change eviction policy against asylum seekers it houses in the city. (Common Space, 27 June 2019)

2 July: Civic Platform accuses Brussels’ city authority of caring only for the city’s image when it hosts the Tour de France, after police with dogs move around 90 homeless migrants from Maximilian Park. The authorities say that complaints had been made by local residents and that the city’s homelessness agency has been given money to provide extra accommodation for those removed for one month. (Guardian, 2 July 2019)

SPORT

2 July:  British Sikh amateur boxer Aaron Singh challenges the Welsh Amateur Boxing Association over a rule that fighters must be clean shaven, which he claims is discriminatory as it prevents him from competing because of his faith. England Boxing overturned the rule following a campaign by Sikh and Muslim boxers and the WABA must now consider its position. (BBC News, 2 July 2019)

EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION

25 June: The European Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) calls on European countries to enforce labour laws to protect migrant workers as it publishes new research on severe exploitation of migrant workers across global supply chains where workers complain of ‘concentration camp conditions’  and of being treated ‘like dogs’ and ‘slaves’.  FRA claims its study was impeded by ‘mafia networks’. (European Union Agency for Fundamental Rights, press release, 25 June 2019).

25 June: New Home Office country guidance on asylum seeking women who have been trafficked from Nigeria says that some become ‘wealthy from prostitution’ and attain a ‘high socio-economic status’ upon returning home. (Free Movement, 28 June 2019)

RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

19 June: Following allegations of a racist attack on a Middlesborough taxi driver, who received hospital treatment for his injuries, police confirm they have received ‘a number’ of other reports of assault in the same area at a similar time. (Teesside Live, Teesside Live, 19 June 2019)

19 June: In Burnley, a court hears that a drunk woman punched a bus depot boss in the nose, racially abused him and called him a rapist, after she was told to leave the bus. (Mirror, 19 June 2019)

21 June: At Bellingham train station, two men sipping cans of pink gin are filmed hurling racist and homophobic abuse at a black man, telling him to ‘f*** off’ after Brexit. (Mirror, 22 June 2019)

21 June: Julia Ogiehor, a Liberal Democrat councillor for Muswell Hill in Haringey, north London, is aggressively confronted by two men asking her where she is from – refusing to believe that she was from London – and calling her uneducated. (Ham & High, 22 June 2019)

21 June: A 14-year-old boy’s hair is ripped out in an alleged racist attack by a girl in Long Ashton, Somerset. (Bristol Post, 26 June 2019)

23 June: The mother of a 14-year-old boy who was racially abused and punched in the stomach on his way home in Woodbridge, Suffolk, says that the ‘growing culture of intolerance’ is getting worse, and that the family has discussed moving as a result. (East Anglian Daily Times, 23 June 2019)

24 June:  In a case described as the ‘worst known peacetime atrocity against women in Cyprus’, Nikos Metaxas, a  Greek-Cypriot army captain, is given seven life sentences after pleading guilty to the premeditated murder and abduction of five migrant domestic workers from the Philippines, Romania and Nepal, and two of their daughters, between September 2016 and July 2018. (Guardian, 24 June 2019)

26 June: Avon and Somerset’s police launch a CCTV appeal after a racially aggravated assault at a post office in Warmley. (Avon and Somerset police news, 26 June 2019)

27 June: Police appeal for information after a 15-year-old girl is racially abused and punched in the face by a man in Swindon. (Swindon Advertiser, 27 June 2019)

28 June: At Southern Derbyshire Magistrates’ Court, a 40-year-old woman pleads guilty to racially aggravated threatening behaviour, for racially abusing a mother and threatening to set fire to her house while her children were inside in May 2019. (Derbyshire Live, 28 June 2019)

1 July: New figures show that despite the fact that mosques account for  52% of all religious hate crime, just 22 mosques received funding last year, with applications by 24 mosques rejected. The Muslim Council of Britain has told the Home Office that widespread distrust of the Home Office’s Prevent counter-extremism strategy has led some Muslim communi8ties to ignore the fund. (Guardian, 1 July  2019)

2 July: A south London pensioner is found guilty of a racially-aggravated public order offence after a court hears how he ‘unleashed a torrent of racist abuse’ at a black female customer in a betting shop describing her as a ‘f***ing n****’ and telling her ‘when Brexit comes you will be gone’ (Independent, 2 July 2019)

2 July: A man is arrested for a suspected racially aggravated public order offence following an anti-Semitic incident in Bethnal Green during which a Jewish man was threatened with a knife. (East London Advertiser, 2 July 2019)

This calendar was compiled by the IRR News Team with the help of Joseph Maggs, Ifhat Shaheen-Smith and Graeme Atkinson.

Sink without trace | exhibition on migrant deaths at sea

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 08:08

Sink Without Trace presents works by seventeen artists on the subject of migrant deaths at sea. The exhibition includes artists from both refugee, migrant and non-migrant backgrounds; from Denmark, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Israel, Italy, Kurdistan, Slovakia, South Africa, Syria and the UK.

  • 13 June – 13 July 2019, P21 Gallery, 21-27 Chalton Street, London, NW1 1JD 

Other events include:

  •  Book Launch: Thursday 13th June, 6- 9pm, P21 Gallery
  • Artists Talks: Wednesday 19 June, 6- 9pm, P21 Gallery
  • Workshop: Weave a Flying Carpet, Saturday 6 July, 12- 6 pm, P21 Gallery
  • Symposium: Deaths at Sea: Migration and Art, Wednesday 10 July, 6- 9pm, P21 Gallery

 

More information here

Enforcing Belonging – racial violence and the far Right

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 08:04

On the third anniversary of the death of Jo Cox, the IRR reports on racist violence  across Europe, highlighting also cases involving police officers and soldiers.

Following the arrest in Germany on 17 June of a far-right extremist in connection with the murder of Walter Lübcke , the Christian Democrat head of city administration in Kassel, Hesse, speculation is rife that Lübcke was shot dead at close range on the terrace of his home because of his pro-migrant views. Meanwhile, in Malta the trial of two men, both serving soldiers, for the drive-by shooting of Lassana Cisse Souleymane ,  a 42-year-old factory worker from the Ivory Coast , raises uncomfortable questions about racism in the Maltese armed forces.  In the UK, the impact of  insider-outsider racism in post-Brexit Britain  on the behaviour of young people is once again up for discussion, following a vicious assault by teenagers  on Daniel Ezzedine, a 17-year-old  German-Lebanese exchange student  who is fighting for his life after a street attack in  Canterbury, Kent on 6 June.

These three appalling cases may have taken place hundreds of miles apart but they constitute links in a much wider pattern of violence across Europe in which far-Right supporters are not always, but usually, the instigators.  Sadly, three years since the murder of Jo Cox, politicians are still being targeted for far-right attack, but so are many others, with poor marginalised Roma, migrant and refugee communities bearing the brunt of mob attacks. The main factors – and evolutions – in this violence are as follows.

Paramilitarism, vigilantism and attacks by organised squads

Migrants’ graveyard, Myteline, Lesbos, September 2016

Paramilitary formations, ‘self-defence’ patrols, street vigilantism and mob behaviour often sparked off by rumours on social media of some heinous crime committed by foreigners, Muslims or Roma is very much the modern face of the far Right. In May of this year, a Greek court acquitted over 100 refugees who were arrested in April 2018 after a far-right mob, some hooded and armed, attacked them in the main square of Mytilene, the capital city of the island of Lesvos, where they were protesting at the inhumane conditions and the death of an Afghan refugee at the Moria camp.  (Police sympathies for the far Right are evidenced by the fact that not a single fascist was arrested).  The Refugee Support Aegean (RSA) is amongst groups documenting racial violence against migrants on the Greek islands.  In a 2018 report, RSA drew  attention to organised squads  operating  in Gera, Lesvos, going from house to house checking accommodation to see  whether asylum seekers had been transferred there, and also mobilising anti-migrant sentiment, on the basis of  ‘fake news’ that an abandoned factory was to be  transferred into a refugee camp at an old factory. Another Greek neo-nazi  vigilante group is Crypteia, which is said to be a  splinter group from Golden Dawn, taking its name from  a group of ancient Spartans infamous for attacking slaves. Crypteia first came to national attention after it claimed responsibility for an attack on the  home of a 11 year old Afghan boy in November 2017.  In March 2018, it claimed responsibility for an attack on  the offices of the Afghan Community in Greece smashing computers and dousing the office in petrol and setting it ablaze.

In Spain in May 2019  there were similar incidents of organised squads of young Spaniards attacking accommodation for young unaccompanied refugees in  Catalonia. In one incident , 25 people, wearing hoods and with their faces covered, broke into a shelter where 35 unaccompanied foreign minors were living and attacked the children with rocks ‘bigger than their heads’.

Anti-foreigner, anti-Roma violence and ‘fake news’

The worst example over the last year of anti-foreigner violence based on social media rumour-mongering undoubtedly occurred on 27/28 August 2018 during the anti-foreigner riots in the former industrial east German city of   Chemnitz . In scenes reminiscent of the 1991 pogroms in Rostock and Hoyerswerda, police in Saxony all but lost control of the streets to the far Right. It all started after a fight at a local town festival left a German-Cuban man dead, was exploited by neo-nazis and a local far-right football association which began to spread rumours online that a German man had been stabbed to death because he was protecting women and that a second man had been killed.

Two other more recent examples of these kind of street mobilisations – this time directed against Roma – have taken place in 2019 in Paris and Rome.  In March 2019,  anti-Roma vigilante squads mobilised in the north-eastern Paris suburbs of Clichy-sous-Bois and Bobigny, after posts on messaging apps and social media above a picture of white van circulated warning that organ trafficking and child abductions were taking place. The vigilantes vandalised vans belonging to the Roma and  in some of the worst incidents, around 50 people armed with sticks set upon Roma families living in slums in the suburb of Bobigny. Voice of Roma spokesperson Anina Ciuciu said that that occurred was a ‘revival of the medieval stereotype’of Roma in which ‘Gypsies are likened to thieves and child-catchers’.

CasaPound protest

More anti-Roma incidents took place in May 2019 in the run up to the June European parliament elections this time in Italy, in the suburbs of Rome. After rumours circulated that a Bosnian Roma family, that had been evacuated from an informal Roma settlement had been given a council flat in  Casal Bruciato, the self-styled ‘fascists of the third millennium’ Casa Pound  seemed to have instigated – and swelled – a local protest. The Roma family had to be escorted to their new flat  by the police, forced to run the gauntlet of a mob shouting ‘We don’t want you here’ and ‘You all have to burn’ with one person captured on video shouting at the mother, ‘Whore, I’ll rape you’. It wasn’t the first attempt to drive Roma out of social housing in Rome, nor was it to be the last, as diligently documented by Stefano Fasano for  Equal Times.  But it should also be noted that there has been concerted anti-fascist opposition amidst warning  that the media are not assisting things by amplifying the far-right’s message. In another Rome neighbourhood, Tor Vergata, a local committee comprising teachers and parents was formed  to support Suzana, a Roma woman and mother of four who had been victimised by the far right Azione Frontale.

Terror plots and treachery discourses

Back in 2012, when IRR published ‘Pedlars of hate: the violent impact of the European far Right’ we pointed out that not only was Europe experiencing an ‘early form of far-right terror’ but that there was disturbing evidence of collusion between far-right terror cells and elements within the police and military. That far-right cells have formed, have amassed weapons, are conspiring to carry out violence against minorities, sometimes with the connivance of police officers and soldiers, is demonstrated by a number of cases in the UK, Austria, France, Germany, Italy and Greece, with investigations ongoing or concluded including of  the  following: the  Federation of States (Austria),  Combat 18 Hellas (Greece),  Revolution Chemnitz, Citizens of the Reich ,  Uniter Group, Freital Group(Germany), National Action (UK), which after the murder of Jo Cox in June 2016 posted a message on social media in support of her killer, stating ‘Don’t let this man’s sacrifice go in vain. #JoCox would have filled Yorkshire with more subhumans’. In many of the investigations, the far-right conspirators also had in their sights politicians, journalists and lawyers who have dared to voice pro-migrant opinions. These kind of plots, which we have seen in the UK with the National Action plot to kill the West Lancashire  Labour MP Rosie Cooper in 2017, are spiralling in Germany. A number of ongoing investigations give something of the context for the murder of Kassel Christian Democrat politician Walter Lübcke.

Birthday memorial for Jo Cox, 2016. © wikicommons

After Lübcke had supported Angela Merkel’s policy of allowing refugees from Syria entry to Germany at the height of the Summer 2015 refugee crisis, he became the victim of repeated death threats before he was shot dead on the terrace of his house on 2 June. And rather like National Action’s approval of the murder of Jo Cox, Lübcke’s death soon became the subject of celebration on   far-right social media accounts. Following the arrest of a 45-year-old man  whose DNA matched that found at the murder scene, it emerged that the suspect is a known neo-nazi with links to Combat 18 and the National Democratic Party of Germany and previous convictions for an attempted pipe bomb attack on a home on a shelter for asylum seekers  in 1993 and in 2009 when he was arrested following a far-right attack on a trades union event in Dortmund.  Though the suspect has not been linked to these groups, it is also well known that Citizens of the Reich and Uniter have discussed plots to murder treacherous politicians. Uniter, a secret far-right network of active and former soldiers and police officers (some reports estimate 200 soldiers are involved), which communicate via chatrooms, has been placed under state surveillance in Germany. The Berlin newspaper Focus claims that Uniter had discussed a  plot, codenamed  ‘Day X’, a reference to the day in which left-wing people will be herded together, smuggled through checkpoints, and eliminated. Members are said to have stolen weapons and ammunition from the military, discussed plans to  target leaders of asylum groups that they blamed for rape, terror and social arrest  and come up with a list  of  politicians to eliminate, including the Green MEP Claudia Roth, foreign minister Heiko Mass and ex-president Joachim Gacuck.

Politicians like 75-year-old Yiannis Boutaris, the mayor of Thessalonki known for his anti-nationalist views, and Syriza MP Theodora Tzakri, whose house was firebombed,  have also been singled out for attack. Boutaris, was left with head, back and leg injuries, after being attacked by far-right nationalists in May 2018 while attending an event commemorating a second world war massacre. Greek  and German journalists are also being targeted, as noted by the European Federation of Journalists. In one notorious case, again in Lesvos, Stratis Balaskas, who writes on refugee issues for the Athens News Agency, came under coordinated online death threats and verbal attacks on the streets by people aligned to the neo-nazi Golden Dawn. After Balaskas expressed fears that an organised attack squad was operating on the island, and complained of the slow pace of justice,  seventeen arrests were made, with  three police officers and an army officer who had also been accused of attacking another journalist,  as well as refugees, amongst those arrested.

Malta’s first racial murder – suspects are soldiers

Lassana Cisse Souleymane via @amam_malta

While here in the UK there is ample evidence that Tommy Robinson is popular amongst military cadets, the problem of far-right penetration of the military, as the examples above demonstrate, is far more extensive than this. There are some signs that the military are slowly waking up to the problem,  especially in the UK and Germany. But the fact is that in too many cases acting police officers and soldiers have been linked to racist violence, including murder. In May, two members of the Armed Forces Malta were arrested in for the drive by shooting  6 April of Lassana Cisse Souleymane, who died after being fired at on a countryside  road in Birżebbuġa,  in an area notorious for attacks on migrant workers. Two other African migrant men, all residents at the Hal Far Open Centre for Refugees, were also shot at. One of the arrested soldiers allegedly confessed to involvement on a hit-and-run incident on the same road when a 17 year old migrant from Chad was injured.

How these plots feed of popular racism

©_ANGELO_TRANI

But plots such as these draw strength from a much wider political culture of nativism, which is tacitly supported by most mainstream parties. (The Danish Social Democrat party even won the recent general election by embracing the policies of the Danish People’s Party).  And  extreme-right politicians who are now very much part of the mainstream European political landscape are too often allowed to set the terms of debate unchallenged. The extreme Right is using its position of  power to popularise  frameworks that threat  those who  oppose their asylum  and immigration policies as race traitors. Repeating the behaviour of US president Donald Trump, Italy’s interior minister Matteo Salvini constantly uses his twitter account to attack search and rescue NGOS, judges and journalists who attempt to hold him to account. Most recently, he has gone on the offensive against judges, attacking the pro-migrant sympathies of three female magistrates. After he posted comments denouncing Florence judge Luciana Breggia, there were around  4,500 responses   and many many death threats.

Protest following the attack on Daniel Ezzedine ©Francis Mayer, Canterbury CLP.

In the UK, too many recent attacks, not just on Daniel Ezzedine but also on 16-year-old  Huddersfield schoolboy Jamal Hijazi, are carried out on young people by other young people. Indeed, a recent report by the NPSCC reveals that racist hate crime against children has reached a three year high. There is a sense that these young people, no doubt inspired by the likes of Tommy Robinson, as well as mainstream politicians who think it amusing to describe Muslim women wearing the burqa as ‘letter boxes’ and ‘bank robbers’ are picking up wider messages in society about who belongs and who does not belong and feel a thrill when they enforce belonging with violence.

 

 

Calendar of Racism and Resistance (5 – 18 June 2019)

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 07:17

A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.

ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP REFUGEES AND THE CONFLICT IN LIBYA

7 June: In the context of renewed clashes around Tripoli, the UN human rights office says that 22 people have died of tuberculosis since last September at the Zintan facility south of Tripoli, and that some of the 2,300 people intercepted by the Libyan coast guard and returned to Tripoli since 30 April may have been sold into forced labour, sexual exploitation or to smugglers offering transit to Europe. (UN News, 7 June 2019)

ASYLUM AND MIGRANT RIGHTS

6 June: In an escalating row over judicial independence, Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini says he will ask the state attorney to examine whether three pro-migrant magistrates should have abstained from making rulings on immigration cases that contradicted anti-immigrant government policy. (Guardian, 6 June 2019)

7 June: German lawmakers pass a raft of laws on immigration and asylum, including a threefold increase in the maximum length of detention of single adult asylum seekers, measures lowering the threshold for detaining and deporting rejected asylum seekers, and some that incorporate skilled migrant workers into the labour market. (Info Migrants, 7 June 2019)

8 June: German media report that in April the Federal Office for Migration and Refugees accepted only 2 of 147 asylum applications from people granted protection in German churches, which provide a final refuge for those facing imminent deportation. (Deutsche Welle, 8 June 2019)

13 June: The European Court of Human Rights rules that the Greek government subjected 5 unaccompanied Afghan minors to inhuman and degrading treatment and violated their right to liberty and security. Entering in 2016, they were ordered to leave the country and subsequently detained in police stations without explanation. (Ekatherimini, 13 June 2019)

13 June: Continuing a trend since 2017, over 50 per cent of Home Office immigration decisions are being overturned by judges at immigration tribunals, with immigration lawyers saying media coverage is playing a significant role. (Independent, 13 June 2019)

17 June: The Home Office announces plans to resettle between 5,000 and 6,000 more of the ‘most vulnerable’ refugees from beyond the Middle East and North Africa by 2021, with the caveat that actual numbers will depend on factors such as the availability of accommodation. Campaigners call for the UK to accept 10,000. (Independent, 17 June 2019; Guardian 18 June 2019)

17 June: Campaigners criticise the Home Office after a Guardian investigation reveals that almost 40 per cent of Syrian asylum seekers between 2011 and 2018 were made to take ‘discredited’ language tests in order to prove their nationality, even in cases where documents had been issued. (Guardian, 17 June 2019)

BORDERS, TRANSIT ZONES AND INTERNAL CONTROLS

9 June: The UNHCR says that due to the lack of the NGO rescue ships and the increase in departures due to the conflict in Libya, the risk of migrants and refugees dying in the Mediterranean is the highest it has ever been and that ‘if we do not intervene soon, there will be a sea of blood’. (Guardian, 9 June 2019)

16 June: Italy’s interior ministry permits 8 migrants, including pregnant women, minors and sick men, to disembark from the German NGO vessel Sea-Watch 3 on Lampedusa. Over 40 migrants remain on board the vessel, which Salvini says could remain at sea ‘until New Year’ after he signed a decree banning its entry into Italian waters. (Deutsche Welle, 16 June 2019; Morning Star, 16 June 2019)

18 June: A new map that ‘documents and denounces’ the push-backs of migrants at the internal, external and externalised borders of Europe is launched, having been initiated by activist groups and individuals active in the Balkan corridor, which was closed to migrants in March 2016. (Push Back Map, 18 June 2019)

RECEPTION AND DETENTION

6 June: The Department of Justice & Equality in Ireland apologises after it emerges that Sylva Tukula, a transgender woman from South Africa who died at the all-male Great Western House Direct Provision Centre in Galway in August 2018, was buried last month without ceremony or prior notice to friends. Campaigners also criticise the governmant’s general lack of transparency around deaths in Direct Provision. (Irish Times, 6 June 2019; The Journal, 6 June 2019)

11 June: In response to the Italian interior ministry’s sudden decision to close the via Mattei reception centre in Bologna, local organisations and unions protest and help the roughly 140 migrants to relocate to other centres, preventing their removal to Caltanissetta in Sicily. (Peoples Dispatch, 14 June 2019)

12 June: The inquest into the death of Polish national Marcin Gwozdzinski in Harmondsworth immigration removal centre, near Heathrow, in September 2017 concludes that the premature closure of suicide and self-harm prevention procedures by untrained staff was the main contributing factor towards his death, possibly exacerbated by his prolonged detention of 9 months. (Inquest, 12 June 2019)

14 June: A high court judge orders the government to establish a public inquiry into allegations of systemic abuse at G4S-run Brook House immigration removal centre, following a successful legal challenge by two victims who appeared in a BBC Panorama exposé in September 2017. It will be the first public inquiry into immigration detention in the UK. (Guardian, 14 June 2019)

16 June: Authorities in the Una Sana Canton in northwest Bosnia begin transporting migrants squatting in private accommodation in Bihac to a new centre in rural Vučjak, which the UN warns is unsafe because of the presence of landmines and potentially explosive methane gas, and the absence of sanitary facilities and electricity. (Sarajevo Times, 16 June 2019)

CITIZENSHIP AND STATUS

9 June: Immigration lawyers warn that the Home Office’s use of a secretive ‘streaming tool’ algorithm, used by the department to grade visa applications according to risk levels, could be discriminating against applicants on the basis of nationality and age. (Financial Times, 9 June 2019)

10 June: A government review reveals that over 1,350 migrants, including Gurkha families and Afghan servicemen in the British armed forces, were unlawfully forced to provide DNA evidence to the Home Office in support of their applications to live and settle in the UK, with some being rejected solely for failing to provide it. (Telegraph, 10 June 2019)

13 June: A report by The Unity Project and Deighton Pierce Glynn solicitors finds that the ‘no recourse to public funds’ (NRPF) policy disproportionately impacts women, pregnant people, disabled people and children, and that a majority of families living in poverty as a result of the policy have at least one British child. TUP says the policy ‘is creating second-class citizens, the majority of whom are BME.’ Read the report here. (Guardian, 13 June 2019)

17 June: It is revealed that since 2011, Home Office officials have required almost two in five Syrian asylum seekers to take a highly criticised language test, administered by private companies, to verify their country of origin. Syrians make up two-thirds of those required to take the language test. (Guardian, 17 June 2019)

CRIMES OF SOLIDARITY

8 June: 60,000 people sign a petition calling on Italian authorities to drop criminal proceedings against Pia Klemp, the captain of migrant rescue vessel Sea-Watch 3 who may face up to 20 years in prison on top of fines. (Deutsche Welle, 8 June 2019)

11 June: The Italian government adopts a decree threatening NGOs with fines between €10,000 and €50,000 and the permanent seizure of their vessel if they transport rescued migrants to Italian ports without authorisation. The decree gives Salvini’s interior ministry the power to order the NGOS to pay up. (Deutsche Welle, 11 June 2019)

RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS

6 June: Migrant rights NGO La Cimade protests the French government’s decision to deport an Eritrean woman detained in Toulouse back to her country of origin, France’s first refoulement to the country, which is widely considered unsafe for those returned. (Info Migrants, 12 June 2019)

14 June: German regional interior ministers agree that the moratorium on deporting Syrians will be extended until the end of the year, while states deporting people to Afghanistan are permitted to continue doing so. (Info Migrants, 17 June 2019)

17 June: Some Irish garda immigration officers have travelled business and first class on deportation flights, with some fares exceeding €10,000, freedom of information requests reveal. (Irish Times, 17 June 2019)

ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT

5 June: Youtube announce it is updating its hate speech policy and is banning white supremacist content on its video platform but ‘borderline’ cases (which it does not define) will be allowed. (New York Times, 5 June 2019)

7 June: Britain First leader Paul Golding is given a suspended sentence for distributing anti-migrant material in Ballymena, Northern Ireland, in October last year. (Irish News, 7 June 2019)

7 June: Two days before the fifteenth anniversary of the National Socialist Underground (NSU) Cologne nail bomb attack in the Turkish neighbourhood of Mülheim, neo-nazi flyers that warn of ‘imminent’ violence against ‘Muslims’ and claim to be published by the Attomwaffen Division, are delivered to homes in Mülheim. (Deutsche Welle, 7 June 2019)

11 June: French media report that police in the south-eastern city of Grenoble have charged five men from a neo-nazi cell who were developing a plot to attack Jewish or Muslim places of worship. (France 24, 11 June 2016)

14 June: Following international scrutiny, the Hungarian government withdraws its sponsorship of the far-right Felvidéki Hungarian Island festival in Slovakia organised by the Sixty-Four Counties Youth Movement. (Politico, 14 June 2019)

16 June: US President Donald Trump retweets British far-right commentator Katie Hopkins’ attack on Sadiq Khan’s ‘Londonistan’, adding that Khan is a ‘national disgrace’ whose mayoralty will make serious youth violence ‘only get worse’. Downing Street refuses to comment, but foreign secretary Jeremy Hunt says he ‘150 per cent’ agrees with the sentiment. (Guardian, 16 June 2019; Guardian, 17 June 2019)

17 June: German security sources say that a 45-year-old man suspected of the murder of the pro-migrant Kassel district president Walter Lübcke earlier this month is believed to have been imprisoned for attempting to bomb a refugee home in 1993 and to have links to the National Democratic Party, Combat 18 and other far-right and neo-nazi groups. (Guardian, 17 June; Deutsche Welle, 17 June 2019)

ELECTORAL POLITICS

5 June: In the Danish general election, the Danish People’s Party’s (DPP) share of the vote drops by half (8.7%) and the far-right Stram Kurs (Hard Line) fails to reach the 2% threshold for a parliamentary seat. The Social Democrats win the most seats having fought a nativist campaign promising tougher measures on immigration. (Guardian, 6 June 2019)

6 June: The Labour Party accuses the Brexit party of deploying a ‘racist trope’ by attributing its Peterborough by-election defeat to Labour’s reliance upon a mainly Pakistani vote in inner-city wards. Official police investigations into allegations of electoral malpractice are ongoing, though three out of five have already been dismissed. (Guardian, 6 June 2019; BBC News, 18 June 2019)

8 June: After publicly admitting he made a ‘mistake’ by indulging in cocaine over twenty years ago, Conservative party leadership candidate and former justice secretary Michael Gove MP is accused of hypocrisy for supporting punitive drug policies which result in disproportionate numbers of young black men being convicted. (Guardian, 8 June 2019)

12 June: Spain’s third-largest party, the centre-right Ciudadanos, agrees to a power-sharing arrangement with the far-right Vox party and the conservative People’s Party in the Madrid and Murcia regional parliaments. (Reuters, 12 June 2019)

14 June: Anti-immigrant and far-right MEPs across Europe form Identity and Democracy, the 73-strong largest group of far-right parties in the European parliament which will be led by Marco Zanni from the League in Italy. (Guardian, 14 June 2019)

17 June: Despite winning the first round, the far-right Alternative for Germany party, the main opposition to Angela Merkel’s Christian Social Democrats, fails to win its first mayoral seat in the eastern city of Görlitz in an election considered a test for the party’s future prospects. (BBC News, 17 June 2019)

18 June: During the televised Conservative leadership candidate debate, home secretary Sajid Javid calls for an independent investigation into Islamophobia within the party, with the other four candidates appearing to nod in agreement. (Guardian, 18 June 2019)

POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

8 June: Hampshire Constabulary in southern England is criticised by The Monitoring Group for refusing to disclose information regarding the content of complaints made about 19 employees who have been under investigation for racist and homophobic language and behaviour since February. (Sky News, 8 June 2019)

8 June: The inspectorate of Scottish police warns that delays in holding inquiries into deaths in police custody are having a profoundly negative impact on bereaved families, with investigations into only 4 of 14 deaths since 2013 published. (The Scotsman, 8 June 2019)

11 June: Taha Bouhafs, the journalist who became famous for the photo of Alexander Benalla assaulting a protester, is himself assaulted by police, leading to a dislocated shoulder, and arrested whilst filming a protest of undocumented workers in the Parisian suburb of Alfortville. (CPJ, 18 June 2019)

14 June: The Head of the General Inspectorate of the National Police, France, Ms Julian releases a report ‘Policing of the Police’ that shows no suspensions in 2018 for police violence. The same day a video of a young  social worker and ‘community mediator’, Boubacar Drame, being violently arrested in Gennevilliers (Paris), goes viral, the latest case highlighting the institutional violence of the police. (Mediapart, 17 June 2019)

NATIONAL SECURITY AND COUNTER-TERRORISM

14 June: Home Office data reveal that 41 per cent of terror-related suspects arrested in 2018-2019 were white – the highest percentage since March 2004. The number of Asian suspects dropped to 36.2%, its lowest percentage since 2006. (Independent, 14 June 2019)

EDUCATION

8 June: Academics in Britain say Home Office institutional racism is damaging British research projects by refusing visas to African researchers on arbitrary and ‘insulting’ grounds. (Guardian, 8 June 2019)

MEDIA AND CULTURE

11 June: Penguin rebuts charges of anti-Semitism against one of its authors, Pedro Baños, for his book How They Rule the World: the 22 Secret Strategies of Global Power, which features octopus tentacles on its cover. Rabbi Baroness Julia Neuberger is later asked to independently review the book, especially the imprint’s decision to cut 30,000 words from the English edition, including passages on the Rothschild family. (Guardian, 11 June 2019; Guardian, 17 June 2019)

Sink Without Trace – Remains of a burnt migrant shipwreck

13 June: A counterpoint to the de-contextualised Barca Nostra in Venice, the first UK exhibition focusing on migrant deaths in the Mediterranean, Sink Without Trace, opens at the P21 Gallery in London, displaying work from 18 artists from 10 countries, 7 of them refugees who crossed the sea to seek asylum. (Guardian, 13 June 2019)

14 June: The publisher of the Daily Mail pays £120,000 in damages plus costs to the humanitarian charity Interpal after Associated Newspapers apologises unreservedly for a piece in which it accused Interpal of funding a ‘hate festival’ in Palestine where it claimed the murders of Jews were acted out. (Guardian, 14 June 2019)

THE GRENFELL TOWER FIRE TWO YEARS ON

(Credit: Daniel Renwick)

6 June: Emma Dent Coad, Labour MP for Kensington, claims that following the Grenfell Tower fire in June 2017 senior council officials treated the area with ‘racism or snobbery’, describing it as ‘little Africa’ and its people as ‘from the Tropics’. (Evening Standard, 6 June 2019)

10 June: Scotland Yard says police have identified potential suspects for offences of corporate manslaughter and gross negligence in relation to the Grenfell Tower fire, though charges are unlikely to be brought prior to the publication of the inquiry in 2021. (Guardian, 10 June 2019)

11 June: The families of victims and survivors of the Grenfell Tower fire launch one of the largest ever product liability legal cases against two US-based companies responsible for manufacturing the Tower’s cladding and insulation. Lawyers for the families say the materials were sold knowing they were flammable. (Guardian, 11 June 2019)

12 June: Grenfell United illuminates tower blocks in London, Manchester and Newcastle with projections drawing attention to the fact that two years after the Grenfell Tower fire such buildings are still not fitted with sprinklers, suitable fire doors or safe cladding. (Guardian, 13 June 2019)

HOUSING

4 June: Police evict around 200 migrants living in the ‘Five Star’ squat in Lille, northern France, which had been precariously squatted for over a year. Protesters form a human chain in front of the building, but the migrants amongst the squatters are removed to reception or detention centres. (France 3, 4 June 2019)

11 June: Serco, the private provider of asylum accommodation in Scotland, announces that it is restarting its lock-change policy to evict refused asylum seekers in Glasgow, just months after a legal challenge against the company was defeated. Glasgow city council responds warning of an ‘imminent homelessness crisis’. (Guardian, 12 June 2019)

EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION

12 June: Several hundred migrant activists from the Gilets Noirs and La Chapelle Debout groups occupy the headquarters of the catering multinational Elior Group in Paris’s La Défense district, accusing it of forcing them to work under the ‘threat of denunciation and deportation’. (RT France, June 12 2019)

14 June: In a report based on visits to seven cities and two detention centres in the UK, the UN’s special rapporteur on racism concludes that austerity has disproportionately impacted racial and ethnic minority communities, who are also discriminated against and excluded by ‘hostile environment’ policies. (Guardian, 14 June 2019)

14 June: The Maltese government announces the creation of a special ‘reporting unit’ to crack down on undocumented labour, with officials in charge of controlling residency and work permits, and inspectors given wide-ranging powers to inspect workplaces and accommodation. (Info Migrants, 14 June 2019)

RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

10 June: After a 41-year-old man of African origin is viciously attacked and left with serious injuries while working at a discotheque in Palma, Spain, police arrest two German men identified by witnesses as neo-nazis. Images of the Ku Klux Klan and swastikas are found stored in their mobile phones. (Arablears, 10 June 2019)

10 June: The Valediction Memorial at Prague’s main railway station, which honours the escape of mostly Jewish children to Britain during World War II, is vandalised in an allegedly ‘carefully planned attack’ with a hammer and chisel or screwdriver. (Guardian, 10 June 2019)

10 June: Police appeal for information about a racist attack in April that left a man with a broken jaw in Cave Hill Country Park in northern Belfast, Northern Ireland. (Belfast Telegraph, June 10 2019)

Credit: Francis Mayer, Canterbury CLP.

12 June: Hundreds march against racism in Canterbury, six days after a racist attack on 17-year-old Daniel Ezzedine, a German student of Lebanese descent in Canterbury on a school trip, left him in a coma, with severe head injuries. Racist attacks on children and young people in Kent are at a three-year high, according to NSPCC. (Kent Online, 12, 13 June 2019)

13 June: Police in Alghero, Sardinia, say that a 27-year-old Senegalese resident of the Vel Mari migrant reception centre was kicked and punched by two men in the street in a suspected racist attack. (Ansa, 13 June 2019)

16 June: Three years after the murder of pro-refugee MP Jo Cox by far-right local Thomas Mair in her Batley and Spen constituency, her sister warns that ‘brutal and toxic’ political discourse is in danger of being normalised, the lessons of her murder forgotten. (Independent, 15 June 2019)

This calendar was compiled by Joseph Maggs with help from Graeme Atkinson and the IRR News Team.

After Grenfell: Violence, Resistance and Response

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 07:43

Book launch of After Grenfell: Violence, Resistance and Response, edited by Dan Bulley, Jenny Edkins and Nadine El-Enany (Pluto Press, 2019).

  • 18 June 6pm
  • Room B01, Clore Management Centre, Torrington Square
  • London WC1E 7JL
  • Speakers include: Shareefa Energy (award-winning spoken word poet), Daniel Renwick writer (youth worker and videographer), Phil Scraton (Queen’s University Belfast)
  • Book free tickets here

 

Calendar of Racism and Resistance (22 May – 4 June)

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 04:40

A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.

ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP ASYLUM AND MIGRANT RIGHTS

22 May: Six UN special rapporteurs and independent experts write to the Italian government demanding the withdrawal of the interior ministry directive that, in prioritising security over refugee rights, justifies the closure of Italian ports and criminalises civil society organisations carrying out search and rescue operations. (Statewatch News, 22 May 2019)

25 May: A 27-year-old Afghan refugee named Habib commits suicide in a park in Strasbourg, where he had been living alongside 50 other migrants. One resident of the camp says Habib had spent the previous evening trying unsuccessfully to find emergency shelter. (France 3, 25 May 2019)

25 May: The court of appeal rules that Home Office policy for assessing the age of young asylum seekers is unlawful. Assessing someone’s age based on their appearance or demeanour, lawyers for an Eritrean asylum seeker successfully argued, was ‘inherently unreliable’. (Free Movement, 28 May 2019; Guardian, 29 May 2019)

26 May: Maltese NGOs issue a joint letter calling for Maurice Mizzi, the head of a government commission promoting sustainable development in state policy to be sacked after he says that  Muslims are ‘taking over’ by a demographic shift , that children born to migrants should not be given Maltese citizenship and that his Guardian for Future Generations commission will support development in migrant origin countries as a means of reducing migration to Europe. (Times of Malta, 26 May 2019)

An image of The United List of refugee and migrant deaths in Europe installed at Great George Street, Liverpool

31 May: A government response to a parliamentary question reveals that Germany’s Federal Office for Migration and Refugees has rejected around three-quarters of applications for family reunification from refugees in Greece this year. (Deutsche Welle, 31 May 2019)

3 June: Experienced international lawyers submit a 245-page legal indictment to the international criminal court calling for the prosecution of the EU and member states Italy, Germany and France for causing the deaths of thousands of migrants in the Mediterranean, the refoulement of migrants to Libya, and the commission of inhuman acts against them. Evidence cited in the submission includes internal Frontex papers which warned that the move away from successful rescue policies in 2014 would result in a ‘higher number of fatalities’. (Guardian, 3 June 2019)

BORDERS, TRANSIT ZONES AND INTERNAL CONTROLS

23 May: Two asylum seekers are acquitted by the court of Trapani, in Sicily, on charges of provoking a ‘revolt’ on board the Vos Thalassa vessel, which had rescued them and 65 other migrants in the Mediterranean last July, but was returning to Libya under orders from the Libyan coastguard. (Alqamah, 23 May 2019)

1 June: Kent Refugee Action Network criticises Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s ‘inflammatory’ rhetoric about migrants crossing the English Channel, after British border police responded to 13 small boats carrying 74 people off the coast of Kent on Saturday morning. (Guardian, 1 June 2019)

RECEPTION AND DETENTION

25 May: In Samos, Greece, police fire warning shots and use tear gas as they block the route of refugees attempting to march from the Samos camp to the city in protest at overcrowding and intolerable living conditions. NGO workers and a photographer who refuses to hand over his photographs are also briefly detained. (Euro News, 26 May 2019)

26 May: The Irish Refugee Council and other migrant rights groups call on the Irish government to fulfil its legal obligation to conduct vulnerability assessments for asylum seekers, many of whom are placed in emergency accommodation as a result of over-capacity in Direct Provision centres. They say that failure to do so puts LGBT and torture victims at risk. (The Journal, 26 May 2019)

28 May: Home Office figures obtained by BBC Scotland reveal that 39 per cent of the people detained in Dungavel immigration removal centre at the end of 2018 were classified as ‘adults at risk’. Asylum charities say this shows that guidance aimed at reducing the detention of vulnerable people, including victims of trafficking and torture, is not working. The figures also reveal that 21 under-18s were detained there between 2010 and 2018. (BBC News, 28 May 2019; BBC News, 1 June 2019)

30 May: An inquest jury finds that a series of institutional failings contributed to the death of Moroccan migrant Amir Siman-Tov in Colnbrook immigration removal centre in February 2016. After being treated at Hillingdon Hospital for overdosing on painkillers he was returned to detention, and was found dead the following morning. (Morning Star, 31 May 2019)

1 June: At least thirty-two people are injured in a fire at a migrant centre in Velika Kladuša, north-west Bosnia-Herzegovina, believed to have been caused accidentally by a cooking device. (Guardian, 1 June 2019)

3 June: Human rights lawyers accuse the Home Office of incompetence and a disregard for the safety of victims of trafficking, after several cases emerged in which vulnerable women, following release from immigration detention, were told to return to addresses where they had been enslaved. (Independent, 3 June 2019)

CITIZENSHIP AND STATUS

24 May: In its investigation into the Home Office’s response to the English language testing scandal, the National Audit Office concludes that some students may indeed have been wrongly accused of cheating and also unfairly deported, though it is unsure of the exact numbers involved. (Guardian, 24 May 2019)

26 May: The Guardian reports that hundreds of destitute children, including many who have British citizenship, have been unlawfully denied support under section 17 of the 1989 Children Act because local authorities are wrongly focusing on the parents’ immigration status, which often has the ‘no recourse to public funds’ condition attached. (Guardian, 26 May 2019)

29 May: The Home Office reaches an agreement with the Scottish government that asylum seekers under the age of 18 with ‘no recourse to public funds’ will be allowed to access the new Best Start Grant, which provides parents with £600 for a first child and £300 for each subsequent child. (Holyrood, 29 May 2019)

RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS

26 May: A new report by the chief inspector of borders and immigration reveals that police chief constables compiled an intelligence report on the grassroots Anti-Raids Network in 2016 and the Home Office produced over 60 intelligence reports on anti-raid protests between April 2016 and October 2018. Read the report here. (Morning Star , 26 May 2019)

ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT

21 May: Our Homeland Movement (OHM) leader Laszlo Toroczkai denounces ‘gypsy terrorists’ at a demonstration attended by hundreds of people, including the uniformed militia National Legion, in the provincial town of Törökszentmiklós, in east-central Hungary. The riot police intervene after clashes with local Roma. (France 24, 21 May 2019)

28 May: On a secret audio recording by BBC Northern Ireland, far-right Britain First leader Paul Golding admits to assaulting his former deputy and partner Jayda Fransen and another unnamed woman. (BBC News, 28 May 2019)

29 May: 4,000 people rally against the far-Right Vlaams Belang in the centre of Brussels. (The Brussels Times, 29 May 2019)

29 May: A guide to help high-ranking British officers spot right-wing extremists in their ranks is leaked . The document ‘Extreme Right Wing (XRW) Indicators & Warnings’ was produced in 2017, following the arrest of soldiers linked to the banned neo-nazi organisation National Action (Mail Online, 29 May 2019)

29 May: 29 May: The Swedish Federation for Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender Rights (RFSL) cancels its attendance at the Almedalen political festival after receiving threats from the neo-Nazi group Nordic Resistance Movement (NMR) which also attends the festival. (The Local, 29 May 2019)

31 May: Italy’s cultural heritage ministry says that it has revoked a lease granted to Steve Bannon to rent a monastery and transform it into a far-right training centre after reports of fraud in the tendering process. (Quartz, 31 May 2019)

1 June: The Guardian reports that in the run-up to the European parliament elections, the far-Right Die Rechte party hired a bus, displaying a picture of a convicted Holocaust denier and drove it part a synagogue in Pforzheim shouting ‘Leave Germany’ and ‘Go back to Israel’. (Guardian, 1 June 2019)

1 June: Police in Croatia defend their decision not to ban the civic initiative  ‘I want a normal life’ protest that was targeted at the Roma in the northern town of Čakovec on the grounds that the protest was tolerant and no hate speech took place. (Croatia News, 1 June 2019)

2 June: Peacekeepers sporting  yellow vests rally to protect a group of Muslims breaking fast in Copenhagen’s municipality square against the far-right Stram Kurs and its leader Rasmus Paludan, who burn a Quran and open a banner that reads ‘Europe is ours’. (Hurriyat Daily News, 2 June 2019)

2 June: UKIP leader Gerard Batten, who took over unopposed in April 2018 and steered the party further towards the far right, resigns after the party loses all of its MEPs in the European elections. (Metro, 2 June 2019)

3 June: Dutch Muslim organisations in Eindhoven write to the mayor, protesting at far-right demonstrations at the Al-Fourqaan mosque in Otterstraat and saying that every time Pegida is allowed to demonstrate, they will organise a counter-protest. (Eindhoven News, 3 June 2019)

ELECTORAL POLITICS

25 May: The Middle East Forum is criticised after publishing a paper supporting Alternative for Germany’s billboard in the European parliament election campaign. The poster features a portion of the ‘The Slave Market’ (1866) painting by French painter Jean-Leon Gerome, depicting several dark-skinned men inspecting the teeth of a nude white woman, with the words ‘Europeans vote AfD! ‘So Europe doesn’t become Eurabia!’ (Sputnik News, 25 May 2019)

26 May: The newly re-elected Labour MEP Neena Gill, who is of British-Asian Sikh heritage, is heckled by people telling her to ‘go home’ during her acceptance speech in the West Midlands. Those responsible are said to be Brexit Party supporters. (Evening Standard, 26 May 2019)

26 May: The far-right UKIP party is decimated in the European elections with only 3.6 per cent of the vote, dropping from first place with nearly 27 per cent in 2014. Party leader Gerard Batten loses the London seat he held since 2004. His political advisor Tommy Robinson sneaks out of the election count in Manchester having won only 2.2 per cent of the vote. (Guardian, 27 May 2019; Guardian, 27 May 2019)

26 May: Magid Magid, the 29-year-old Somali refugee and former mayor of Sheffield, becomes an MEP for the Green Party in the Yorkshire and the Humber region. He is known for previously banning Donald Trump from visiting Sheffield and for defending children skipping school to take part in the climate strikes. (Independent, 27 May 2019)

27 May: Following the European parliament election, the far-right Europe of Nations and Freedom Group, which includes Marine Le Pen’s National Rally, emerges with a projected 58 seats, up 21 from five years ago. Europe of Freedom and Direct Democracy, home to Nigel Farage’s Brexit party, increases its seats from 48 to 54. On the continent, there are gains for  Alternative for Germany, People’s Party – our Slovakia, the League in Italy, Fidesz in Hungary, Vlaams Belang in Belgium, National Rally in France, but the Freedom party in the Netherlands, under pressure from Thiery Baudet’s Forum for Democracy, loses all its seats, the Danish People’s party loses three of its four seats, and an extreme-right coalition in Poland fails to cross the 5 per cent threshold. (Guardian, 27 May 2019)

27 May: In the Sicilian capital of Palermo, Pietro Bartolo, a candidate for the Democratic Party, who is known as the ‘doctor of migrants’ due to his commitment to refugees in Sicily, is elected to the European parliament following a campaign in which he is presented as the last defence against the anti-immigration rhetoric of the extreme Right. (Guardian, 28 May 2019)

27 May: In triple elections in Belgium, for federal, regional and European parliaments, the far-Right Vlaams Belang make huge gains, emerging with 18 seats in the federal parliament (up 15), 23 seats in the Flemish parliament (up 17) and 3 seats in the European parliament. (Politico, 27 May 2019; Euractiv, 28 May 2019)

28 May: After undertaking preliminary investigations since March, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launches an official inquiry into anti-Semitism within the Labour Party, to determine whether the party or its employees have committed unlawful acts of discrimination or failed to effectively respond to complaints of such acts. (Guardian, 28 May 2019)

28 May: The Muslim Council of Britain submits a dossier to the Equality and Human Rights Commission calling for an independent inquiry into Islamophobia within the Conservative Party among both politicians and members, and the alleged failures of the party’s complaints process. (Guardian, 28 May 2019)

28 May: Yiannis Lagos, one of two members of the far-right Golden Dawn elected to the European Parliament, is on trial for the suspected murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas and is banned from leaving Greece until the trial is over. (Keep Talking Greece, 28 May 2019)

28 May: In municipal elections, Moses Elisaf becomes the first Jew ever to become a mayor in Greece as he is elected on an independent ticket in Ioannina, a city that was once at the heartland of Romaniote Jewish tradition but now numbers just fifty people. (Keep Talking Greece, 28 May 2019)

4 June: In Tromello, a small Milanese town knowns as a far-right League stronghold, Gianmarco Negri is elected Italy’s first transgender mayor. (Guardian, 4 June 2019)

POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

29 May: During a landmark court hearing in Cardiff, the independent London policing ethics panel says that live facial recognition technology should only be used by police if they can prove that it won’t introduce racial or gender bias into operations and if the overall benefit to public safety outweighs public distrust. (Guardian, 29 May 2019)

30 May: The Northern Police Monitoring Project publishes an open letter calling on Greater Manchester Police to respond to community concerns about Project Servator, a sweeping patrol tactic involving firearms, plainclothes and dog-handling officers. (Northern Police Monitoring Project, 30 May 2019)

3 June: The education watchdog Ofsted says that staff at the G4S-run Oakhill Secure Training Centre must stop using pain-inducing techniques to discipline boys detained in the young offenders centre near Milton Keynes. (BBC News, 3 June 2019)

4 June: The number of Section 60 stop and searches carried out in London has increased by five times since 2017, the Metropolitan police deputy commissioner tells the London Assembly police and crime committee. (Guardian, 4 June 2019)

4 June: The coroner for the inquest into the murder of Vietnamese migrant Quyen Ngoc Nguyen near Sunderland in August 2017 concludes that Northumbria Police and the National Probation Service failed to coordinate and act upon intelligence about Nguyen’s two killers, both of whom were convicted murderers who had breached their licence conditions. (Independent, 4 June 2019)

EDUCATION

27 May: Cornwall Live publishes a story about a ‘mixed-race’ ethnicity 11-year-old child in a primary school in West Cornwall who endures regular racist comments from his peers like ‘black idiot’ and ‘slave’. The child’s parents say they have visited the headteacher several times but no action has been taken. (Cornwall Live, 27 May 2019)

29 May: Following a tribunal hearing, the University of Essex dismisses Dr Maaruf Ali, lecturer in computers and electronics, after he publicly opposed the creation of a Jewish society on campus and made allegedly anti-Semitic Facebook posts. (The Jewish Chronicle, 29 May 2019)

4 June: The University and College Union (UCU) launches a petition calling for the reinstatement of branch secretary and maths lecturer David Muritu, dismissed from Sandwell College for gross misconduct after writing ‘racist’ on a poster promoting the Prevent programme. Sign the petition here. (Birmingham Mail, 4 June 2019)

MEDIA AND CULTURE

24 May: After Morrissey was seen publicly wearing a far-right For Britain badge earlier this month, Merseyrail removes posters promoting the Manchester-born singer’s new album from train stations across Liverpool, while Spillers Records in Cardiff bans the sale of his albums. (Guardian, 23 May 2019; Sky News, 24 May 2019)

3 June: TalkRadio sacks former Labour and Respect MP George Galloway after Tottenham Hotspur F.C. condemned him for ‘blatant anti-Semitism’ for his tweet that read ‘no Israel flags on the cup’ following the club’s loss against Liverpool in the Champions League final. (Guardian, 3 June 2019)

HEALTH

1 June: The Royal College of GPs withdraws an invitation to the TalkRadio presenter and Telegraph columnist Julia Hartley-Brewer to speak at its annual conference after 729 family doctors launch a petition drawing attention to her views on immigration, including a tweet in 2016 in which she said she could not see anything in Enoch Powell’s Rivers of Blood speech that he had got wrong. (Guardian, 1 June 2019)

HOUSING

28 May: A year after its original damning report, a new report by the Galway Travellers’ Movement says that many Traveller sites across Galway city and county are still neglected by local authorities, with no progress being made on overcrowding, structural damage, rodent infestations and several other problems. (Irish Times, 28 May 2019)

EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION

30 May: A University of Sheffield study finds that global fashion companies selling clothes in the UK are still failing to ensure that subcontracted workers receive living wages and decent work conditions, six years after the Rana Plaza disaster. Read the report here. (Independent, 31 May 2019)

31 May: A three-year Guardian investigation into the global supply chain for Italy’s multi-million Euro tobacco industry finds that 80 per cent of migrant workers do not have contracts; and that African migrant labour, including children, in Calabria suffer deep exploitation, working up 12 hours a day without sufficient health and safety equipment, with no access to clean water, and subject to verbal and racial discrimination. (Guardian, 31 May 2019)

RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

28 May: After the artist Luigi Toscano’s ‘Lest We Forget’ installation – photographs of Holocaust survivors mounted on textiles and displayed on Vienna’s Ringstrasse road – is slashed and daubed with swastikas, Muslim and Catholic youth organisations organise nightly security vigils, with Muslim women arriving with sewing kits to stitch the pictures back together. (Deutsche Welle, 29 May 2019)

30 May: Using official police figures, the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children finds that in 2017-18 there were over 10,000 racially-motivated hate crimes against children under 18, adding new evidence of rising racism in British society. Children report being told to go home and being insulted for their skin colour, with some telling counsellors they conceal the pain from their parents to avoid upsetting them. (Guardian, 30 May 2019)

30 May: A man who was convicted of racially harassing a black colleague during their work Christmas party in Cardiff, at which he dressed up as a black and white minstrel and performed a racist singing routine, wins his appeal. (Wales Online, 30 May 2019)

1 June: German ombudsman Felix Klein, having previously warned Jews not to wear the kippah in public because of anti-Semitism, now calls on Germans to wear skull caps in solidarity with the Jewish community, to coincide with al-Quds day. Earlier in the week, chancellor Angela Merkel said that the country has a historic duty to confront the problem of rising anti-Semitism. (Guardian, 28 May 2019; Guardian, 1 June 2019)

This calendar was compiled by Joseph Maggs with help from Graeme Atkinson and the IRR News Team.

The ‘rebel’ history of the Grove

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 04:03

A long-term resident of North Kensington recalls the area’s social history as representative of momentous Black British community struggles.

Beyond memorialising the lynch-murder of Kelso Cochrane on 17 May 1959, we have to look at the history that surrounds it. New arrivants to fashionable twenty-first-century Notting Hill, along with new generations of long-standing residents, will have next to no idea of the social history of the space that they now inhabit around the northern end of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, London’s richest. They will know little or nothing of the area’s working-class ‘slum lands’ of the 1940s and 1950s; of the incoming Caribbean migrants who, from the late 1940s through the ‘50s and ‘60s, had to deal with unscrupulous Rachman-plus landlords; of the Empire Loyalists and other fascist and racist organisers, headed by Oswald Mosley and Colin Jordan, who stirred race hate among poor Whites, sparking the attacks that flared up into the historic Notting Hill riots of 1958 in ‘the Grove’; of the Black community’s protest and fight back, and its subsequent refusal to stomach prejudice and crude discrimination in the neighbourhood  – all of which contributed to the defining of ‘the Grove’ as a local community and cultural space that transcended ‘race’.

© Ken Sprague

The wealthy new residents, accompanied by the gold rush of their property- dealing estate agents, know nothing of the history – even if it is that very history that they now buy into when they come to ‘the Grove’ (their ‘Notting Hill’) with its wonderful, sophisticated, cosmopolitan ‘vibe’.

But more than merely contributing to a marketable ‘vibe’ for wealthy middle-class incomers, the Grove’s social history is representative of the momentous Black British community struggles in the second half of the 20th century; Black struggles that joined and rejuvenated the fight of the entire working class in the UK against injustice and impoverishment, and forced anti-racism on to the nation’s change agenda.

Let me provide some bullet points in regard to the Black rebel history of ‘the Grove’. A fuller, more detailed telling can be found in Sivanandan’s seminal 1981 essay ‘From resistance to rebellion: Asian and Afro-Caribbean struggles in Britain’.

1958 ‘riots’    

In the summer of 1958, the Black fight back against racist attacks in the course of what has come to be known as the Notting Hill riots, signalled a militant refusal to take any more nonsense, as well as a call to other communities across the UK to stand together in order to resist further racist attacks. Whiteness would have to adjust its attitude to Blackness. In time, heroic progressive people’s lawyers like Gareth Peirce and Ian Macdonald, would cut their teeth and find their feet in support of community activism in the Grove.

Women organisers

Out of the 1958 mobilisation for the antiracist fight-back came The West Indian Gazette (WIG) – the first post-world war two British Black newspaper. The WIG could well have been dreamed up in the Grove by Claudia Jones, (now an acclaimed heroine of twentieth-century Black British struggle), who would have been welcomed to the Grove by the equally significant Amy Ashwood-Garvey who had her house at 1 Bassett Road.

Amy Ashwood-Garvey was the first of the two Amy’s serially married to the pre-eminent pan-Africanist Marcus Garvey. Marcus Garvey was the founder and leader of the Universal Negro Improvement Association (UNIA) – the largest global mass organisation in Black African political history. And Amy Ashwood-Garvey had been central to the organising secretariat of the 1945 watershed Pan-African Congress held in Manchester, England.

The Carnival

Kelso Cochrane

The first Caribbean carnival celebrations in London, held indoors, were explicitly promoted as a response to the 1958 ‘riots’ and the lynch-murder, in the Grove, of Kelso Cochrane in 1959. This was another initiative of Claudia Jones, using her West Indian Gazette as an organising tool. Along with others, Claudia Jones took a justice for Kelso campaign to the Home Office. No one was ever arrested or prosecuted for Kelso Cochrane’s murder.

No Colour Bar

In early 1962, part and parcel of a ‘No Colour Bar’ campaign initiated by war resister and left Labour MP, Fenner Brockway, Claudia Jones also founded the Conference of Afro-Asian-Caribbean Organisations (CAACO), which evolved from the Coloured People’s Progressive Association. CAACO was formed to fight against the first restrictive Commonwealth Immigrants Bill – overtly racist legislation which ended free movement from the (Black) Colonies and effectively said that unless Commonwealth citizens had a ‘family connection to the UK’ (i.e. White heritage) they could in future not enter without a specific entry work- or study-related voucher.

We Shall Overcome

West Indian Gazette – Claudia Jones and Pearl Prescod

And in August 1963, it was CAACO that organised a London demonstration (in solidarity with Martin Luther King’s historic ‘People’s March’ on Washington) and Black and White people moved off from the Grove and marched on the US embassy in Grosvenor Square. Pearl Prescod, actress-singer and Grove resident of Cambridge Gardens, organised with and marched next to Claudia, singing the adopted civil rights anthem ‘We Shall Overcome’. She was my mother. I was there – a teenager.

RAAS

In 1965 another leading ‘rebel’ organisation, the Racial Action Adjustment Society (RAAS) was formed by Grove militant Michael De Freitas (who, inspired by the African-American radical Malcolm X’s visit to London, changed his name to Michael X). RAAS was led by Michael De Freitas and Roy Sawh – both stridently militant and not afraid to use the threat of a violent fight-back to intimidate would be racist attackers.

UCPA

Altheia-Jones-Lecointe

Then, in 1967, a sister organisation to RAAS, the revolutionary-socialist Universal Coloured Peoples’ Association (UCPA) was forged by another Grove associate, Obi Egbuna  – an essayist and playwright and one of many intellectuals, writers and theatre people who regularly visited my mother’s home in Cambridge Gardens in the early 1960s. Indeed, my mother and a number of other London based Caribbean and African actors performed Obi’s play ‘Wreath for Udomo’ at FESTAC in Dakar Senegal in 1966. The UCPA set up study groups about the country, as well as a ‘Free University for Black Studies’ with a base in the Grove. The UCPA foreshadowed the UK’s ‘Black Panther Movement’, founded by Obi Egbuna, and later led by Altheia Jones-Lecointe who would become one of the Mangrove Nine in later Grove history.

The UCPA, along with RAAS, was so stridently militant that several of its leading voices, including Obi Egbuna and Roy Sawh, were arrested, jailed, prosecuted and fined for, of all things, incitement to racial hatred. Irony of ironies – they were amongst the first people to be arrested under the then new race relations legislation.

Black – a political colour

It is not insignificant that, against all the racialised divide-and-rule strategies of the White colonial order, RAAS and the UCPA, (as with Claudia Jones’ CAACO before them), defined ‘Black’ as a political colour, inclusive of Asians, Caribbeans and Africans  – united by their historical humiliations, under racist White colonialism, as ‘coolies’, ‘slaves’, and ‘savages’, respectively. And let us not pretend that those divisions and animosities amongst the ex-colonised and what are now called ‘people of colour’ have disappeared even today.

Black activist self-help

The late 1960s and early 1970s also saw the emergence of a number of local, activist, self-help organising centres in the Grove, which provided much-needed advice and support to Grove residents encountering, and confronting the authorities over discrimination in schooling, housing, policing and judicial proceedings. Chief amongst these organisations were ‘Back-a-yard’, which became the Black People’s Information Centre (BPIC) on Portobello Road; ‘Grassroots Storefront’ in Golborne Road; and, the ‘Mangrove’ on All Saints Road. ‘Grassroots’, founded on pan-Third World principles, published a regular Black Liberation Front (BLF) information bulletin-cum-newspaper. And, although mainly White staffed, the first people’s neighbourhood law centre in the UK, the North Kensington Law Centre, set up in Golborne Road, would have been prompted in part by these ‘rebel’ Black initiatives. Today there is nothing to mark the sites of these historic life-blood community supports.

Black Power

Michael X and Stokely Carmichael

All of those organising centres were influenced and fuelled by the Black Power fight-back ideologies of the day. And all were standing up for ‘the youth’  – the first generation of Black young people born and mis-educated here post WW2  – then facing, amongst other everyday discriminatory frustrations, an outrageous police ‘sus’ offensive.

Police forces, up and down the land, had unearthed and dusted off an old nineteenth-century law and used it to target, regularly accost, and often arrest Black youth on suspicion that they were likely or about to commit crimes!! The ‘sus’ legislation and police practice were exposed and embarrassed by insistent political protest to the point of being taken off the books  – even if, as many noted, the same provisions were almost immediately reinstalled in new police powers legislation. Today something of that discriminatory ’sus’ practice survives in what we now refer to as police ‘profiling’.

Rastafari

The other major influence on the militant ‘vibe’ in the early 1970s ‘rebel’ Grove was Rastafari  – who established important ‘12 Tribes’ and ‘Nyabinghi’ chapters located here, and stirred the emergence of ‘metropolitan reggae’ with the Grove as a major centre. ASWAD and Sons of Jah were amongst a number of notable Grove reggae pioneers of the period.

In the same moment of the early 1970s, drawing on and reflecting the spirit of all the struggles/history of the Grove, the Caribbean-roots Carnival, which had come out of the indoor venues, took root in the streets. In a way the Carnival is the Grove’s living monument to its long social struggle against racist bigotry and for civilised, cosmopolitan ‘livity’ as the Rastafari say it. Hardly remembered now is the fact that in the early days, the Carnival hosted tens of street stalls set up by community campaigns and political groups.

Remembering ‘rebel’ history

The transformational resistance that we see in the Grove’s ‘rebel’ history, in the decades immediately following the 1958 ‘riots’ and the 1959 racist murder of Kelso Cochrane, is joined by similar community militancy in other parts of London, and indeed other parts of Britain. New generations need to read and be reminded of this ‘rebel’ history – with its anti-racist, womanist, internationalist, and socialist drivers.

Our ‘Grove’, their Notting Hill

Beyond the early 1970s, the substantial community that set up the liberated Grove ‘vibe’ suffered dispersal, the weakening of its drive, and the corruption of its potential. There followed a ‘cleansing regeneration’, a state blitz that, in effect, handed the liberated Grove ‘vibe’ eventually to new incomers with loads of disposable income. Our Grove became their Notting Hill.

The urgency of struggle today

Today the scandal of disproportionate Black working-class ‘exclusions’ from schools bears a disturbing resemblance to the 1970s state abandonment of West Indian children labelled ‘educationally sub-normal’. The over-representation of Black youth in prisons, borstals and mental health institutions looks like something, now institutionalized and continuous with the humiliations of that era. And early twentieth-century media panics about urban knife and gun crime – the violence of the violated – would wash the establishment’s hands of responsibility for the systematic extinguishing of hope, and consequent alienation of substantial sections of this youth.

So, for all that promising 1950s-1970s history of resistance, challenge and transformation, the predicament of brutalised and alienated Black working-class youth today, and the resurgence of racism and indeed fascism in Britain as across Europe, do not allow us to be triumphalist about past struggle successes. The need to engage in today’s versions of the old struggles is arguably as urgent as it was in the days of Kelso Cochrane’s murder sixty years ago.

Colin Prescod’s keynote for ‘Festival of Dissent’ – Kelso Cochrane’s murder memorial event 60 years on, Kensal Library, 15 May 2019.

Images from the IRR’s Black History Collection.

Why we should we wary of the modern slavery agenda

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 04:00

A new book on forced labour, trafficking and other forms of extreme exploitation encourages reflection on the duplicities and contradictions in the current debate.

What is ‘modern slavery’? What is being done to combat it, and with what results? As home secretary, Theresa May oversaw the passage of the Modern Slavery Act of 2015. Her government is fond of boasting that its measures to tackle ‘modern slavery’, forced labour and human trafficking, culminating in the Act, are ‘world-beating’. A timely and important new book, The Modern Slavery Agenda: policy, politics and practice in the UK, demonstrates the hollowness of that boast.

The huge changes seen in the global supply chain and the global labour market in the past couple of decades have created insecurity, precarity and misery for vast numbers of workers all over the world. Migrants and refugees, forced to move to find work or safety, often end up in the very worst conditions, their vulnerability to exploitation through poverty and marginalisation exacerbated by debt bondage, or by an immigration status tied to a specific employer, or the condition of deportability brought about by having no status, which employers can use to their benefit. At the November 2018 London hearing of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on Violations of the Rights of Migrant and Refugee Peoples, which focused on workplace rights, we heard evidence of horrendous abuses in many sectors in the UK, including warehousing and logistics, hospitality and cleaning, care and domestic work, agriculture and food processing.  An important question raised by the book is: what is gained and what lost, by framing the issue as one of ‘modern slavery’?

Avoiding structural causes

What emerges from the careful analysis by different authors – in particular, in the chapters by Ruth van Dyke on the UK response, Alex Balch on the organisational and regulatory challenge, and Hannah Lewis and Louse Waite on migrant illegality and exploitative work – is that such framing fits with a criminal justice response, rather than one centred on tackling labour exploitation or on human rights. The criminal justice response targets individuals or criminal networks while avoiding an examination of the structures – in particular the immigration controls, the ‘hostile environment’ and the criminalisation of unauthorised work, which allow extreme exploitation, forced labour and related abuses to thrive.

Kate Roberts’ chapter on domestic workers demonstrates the paramountcy of immigration control and the blindness to its malign effects. Overseas domestic workers were – and are – subjected to extremely high levels of physical and sexual abuse and workplace exploitation. Before 1998, they came in on six-month ‘visitor’ visas, with a handwritten endorsement ‘accompanying (named) employer’, tying them to the employer they came in with, however abusive,whom they could not leave without risking deportation. In 1998, following a marathon campaign, domestic workers won the right to remain and to switch employers, with a route to settlement after five years in the domestic work sector – rights which, by treating them as workers, immeasurably improved their conditions. Both rights were removed in 2012 by the coalition government, which was more concerned to ensure that wealthy visitors were free to bring in their servants without worrying

Waling Waling members delivering PPT verdict

that they might abscond, than with the rights of abused. In 2015, campaigners won back the right to switch employers – but the right to stay for more than six months was refused, rendering the right to switch employer useless.

Workers can, of course, seek a referral as victims of trafficking or modern slavery through the National Referral Mechanism (NRM) – but as van Dyke and Roberts both note, that means, first, meeting a high threshold of proof; second, not being permitted to work during the period of ‘recovery and reflection’ while awaiting a decision from the NRM – supposed to be 45 days but frequently three times that length – and third, having no automatic right to remain even if they are conclusively recognised as victims. At most, they might get a two-year visa. Who would want that, rather than recognition that domestic workers are above all workers, who should be treated as such? It is not surprising then that many, not only in domestic work but in other sectors where extreme exploitation is the norm, remain in or return to it rather than consent to referral to the NRM. Once again, the government’s fear that migrant workers would abuse the system – its rationale for refusing to grant the right to remain to all those recognised as victims by the NRM –leaves those workers open to abuse.

Punishing the vulnerable

Another area where immigration control trumps protection is the government’s failure to honour its commitments to child refugees in transit in Europe, through the family unity provisions of the Dublin Regulation and through the Dubs amendment, with its promise to bring in vulnerable lone children from the camps. It’s a pity that Chloe Setter does not refer, in her chapter on child trafficking, to these failures, or to the government’s refusal to support family reunion rights for child refugees in the UK, which would allow their parents to join them: these factors hugely increase children’s vulnerability to exploitation. Her coverage of the procedural failures and inconsistencies within the fragmented system of child protection in the UK is harrowing in its implications.

As Patrick Burland shows in his chapter on the treatment of trafficked ‘cannabis gardeners’, even on its own terms, the criminal justice approach is strikingly unsuccessful given the resources provided. It is not just bad at identifying and prosecuting perpetrators, but it consistently prosecutes victims. The criminal justice system fails to identify those prosecuted for drug cultivation as trafficked (which should trigger the statutory option not to punish them), and even when they are identified as such, no consideration of the no-punishment option owing to widespread ignorance of the law on the part of the police, prosecuting and defence lawyers and judges.

© Anthony Padgett – Statue at Morecambe Bay

A related problem is the fragmentary nature of the UK’s policy initiatives, highlighted by van Dyke and Balch. The Morecambe Bay tragedy of 2003, when 23 Chinese cockle-pickers drowned and were found to have been suffering extreme exploitation, led to the formation of the Gangmasters’ Licensing Authority (GLA) in 2004, with a remit to monitor labour suppliers in specific sectors, to grant or withhold licences and to take enforcement action where necessary. Two problems dogged it from the start: its limited remit, and the fact that immigration officers always tagged along on raids. So an exploitative gangmaster might be exposed, even prosecuted, but those exploited might end up in detention or on a plane home. And while the 2016 Immigration Act turned GLA into GLAA (Gangmasters’ Licensing and Abuse Authority), extended its remit to more sectors and gave it a Director of Labour Market Enforcement and more powers, what it gave with one hand it took away with the other by making it a criminal offence to work without authority.

The international context

While the book’s main focus is the UK, the first and last chapters, by Aidan McQuade and Klara Skrivankova respectively, look at the global and the European context to the UK’s Modern Slavery Act – taking us through the UN Protocol against Trafficking in Persons 2000 (the Palermo Protocol), the Council of Europe’s 2005 Convention against Trafficking, the EU Directive, the UN Guiding Principles, and the plethora of international and national initiatives and bodies set up to implement their obligations. Vicky Brotherton compares the Scottish and northern Irish legislative response to that of England and Wales – frequently to the latter’s disadvantage. In another important chapter, Colleen Theron discusses the global context from the perspective of the supply chain, examining the extent to which reform and transparency in supply chains, pledged and legislated for following disasters such as Rana Plaza, have been buried, sidelined or undermined by corporate outsourcing.

It is difficult to do justice to the breadth and depth of expertise, information and analysis in this densely packed book. There is a vast amount about the history of policy initiatives, and discussions on the terminology, on the constellation of factors creating or enabling trafficking and extreme exploitation, and on the degrees of state responsibility, which I have not touched on here. In an edited compilation, there is also, inevitably, some overlap, and contributors vary too in their degree of scepticism over the anti-trafficking and anti-slavery measures they describe. But whether they take government efforts at face value or not, all share the frustration of seeing how the system fails victims, and how an obsession with immigration control not only undercuts protection but helps create the conditions in which forced labour and extreme exploitation can thrive.

 

The Modern Slavery Agenda: policy, politics and practice in the UK, Gary Craig, Alex Balch, Hannah Lewis and Louise Waite (eds), Policy Press (2019).

 

‘Violence by design’ – the PPT delivers its verdict on the hostile environment

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 03:00

Public tribunal finds hostile environment policies foster racism, institutional cruelty and violence by design.

As the scandal over the treatment of the Windrush generation and the failure to offer adequate compensation continues, the Home Office’s immigration and asylum policies are under scrutiny like never before.  The Department of Health and Social Care are under fire too for failing to make public reports on the detrimental effects of immigration checks on migrants.  Now the jury of the Permanent People’s Tribunal on Violations of the Rights of Migrants and Refugees adds to the pressure, with a damning verdict on the impact of the government’s hostile environment policies. [1]

The jury of the London session of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal, comprising eminent academics, lawyers and trades unionists has finalised its deliberation which will be delivered to 10 Downing Street at 11.30am on Monday 3 June. [2]

In November 2018, migrants’ rights groups, trades unionists and NGOs came together to put the ‘hostile environment’ on trial at the fourth European Session of the Permanent Peoples’ Tribunal on the violations with impunity of the human rights of migrant and refugee peoples. [3]

The jury heard written and oral evidence about repressive policies in the UK from over thirty witnesses drawn from frontline services, academia, migrants’ networks, trades unionists, former immigration detainees, care workers, cleaners and domestic workers.

On the basis of the evidence, the jury has found:

  • The hostile environment is an environment which facilitates and perpetuates racism and cruelty, a ‘type of violence by design’.
  • The hostile environment gives rise to everyday cruelties that include: denial of health care, housing and other public services; denial of the right to work; coercion to work in detention centres without the protection of labour rights; a culture of disbelief in the Home Office in the face of truth telling.
  • Hostile environment policies are creating a climate of fear where people cannot avail themselves of basic rights, with irreversible consequences, such as a baby born with disabilities as a result of the mother being deterred from accessing ante-natal care. The NHS charging system, which charges people 150 per cent of the cost of their care, puts hospital care outside the reach of poorly paid migrants and is leading to racial profiling by some NHS staff.
  • Policies that are bad for migrants are also bad for citizens (e.g. in the field of public health). Migrants and refugees often act as ‘guinea pigs’ for harsh policies later applied to other groups, e.g. dispersal of homeless families.
  • Hostile environment policies have handed power over to opportunistic unscrupulous employers who exploit migrants’ immigration status, facilitating violence and sexual and racial abuse, especially against women.

Chair of the jury, Professor Bridget Anderson comments: ‘During the PPT hearings we saw how the shameful hostile environment policy has legitimised racism and fostered a toxic social environment. Jury members commend the courage of the witnesses who appeared before us, and the commitment of the migrants’ organisations who participated. They are building a world that is better for everyone.’

 

Right definition for the right fight

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 02:46

If we don’t name Islamophobia as a form of racism, how can we combat it?

Islamophobia may not be an all-embracing term – literally it means a fear of a religion – which is why some of us have, over the last two decades, preferred the term anti-Muslim racism to describe what has been happening in the UK. However, given that the term Islamophobia has gained common currency, it is absolutely right and necessary that it be (re)defined in the social context in which it is now used. And the definition that the All-Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims has come up with – drawing on the pioneering work of the Runnymede Trust – should not present a problem: ‘Islamophobia is rooted in racism and is a type of racism that targets expressions of Muslimness or perceived Muslimness’.

It is, in simple terms, describing the racist, poor and/or differential treatment of people on the basis of what other people or institutions take to be the fact they are Muslim.

Rejecting the definition

APPG report

Yet the government has this month decided that the definition, originally published in December 2018, is – unlike the IHRA anti-Semitism definition, which it argues was already adopted elsewhere – too controversial and cannot be adopted (though it has been by the Labour Party, Liberal Democrats, the Scottish National Party and Scottish Conservatives). Communities secretary James Brokenshire told the House of Commons that the APPG’s definition needed ‘more consideration’.  He added: ‘It is clear that with such a complex issue we need to interrogate this further as a matter of urgency. That’s why we will be appointing two advisers and ensuring this reflects the need for community representation … our priority is to arrive swiftly at a collective position.’ [1]

The objection to the definition appears to be coming from attackers on four sides: the free speech advocates; the security services; those who have systematically attacked any extension of the concept of racism beyond personal bigotry; those who object to the ‘racialisation’ of a religious group. And all appear not to have read the APPG’s careful report, based on community consultation, written evidence and literature reviews, which answers all these issues. [2]

The whole point of the definition which uses the term ‘Muslimness’ is clearly there to show it is not the religion of Islam which is being discussed but the social treatment of people who appear to be Muslim. So the argument that it would curtail free speech and the possibility of genuinely debating a religion such as Islam just does not hold water. Neither does the argument that this cross-classifies a religious group as an ethnic or racial one. For that debate had already been had years ago, with the establishment in the courts (in the 1980s) of Sikhs as an ethnic group for the purposes of the Race Relations Act. [3] And moreover, the whole concept of anti-Semitism (as opposed to a term like Judeophobia) it would seem, is based on the premise of just such a religio-ethnic category.

Screenshot, APPG

Then we have had the somewhat self-incriminating protest from the National Police Chiefs Council. Its chair, Martin Hewitt was concerned amongst other things that ‘it could also undermine counter-terrorism powers, which seek to tackle extremism or prevent terrorism.’ But, as the secretary general of the Muslim Council of Britain pointed out, ‘Our understanding is that the police and security forces will rightly fight terrorism based on intelligence and a scrutiny of the evidence. Anti-terrorist operations can only be “hampered” if counter-terror officers have been targeting Muslims because of their identity (or Muslimness as the definition states), categorising them as security concerns. If this is the case, it confirms long-voiced concerns about the disproportionate focus and impact of counter-terror operations on Muslim communities.’ [4]  In other words, the police appeared to be justifying a need to hold on to their right to discriminate, ie, to profile Muslimness.

The ‘racism’ rejectionists

And then are those who just won’t accept racism as anything beyond pure bigoted attitude. It is the same kind of argument that was used against the Macpherson report and the notion of institutional racism by the remnants of the New Right. Somehow, speaking the reality of racism makes racism worse. And those that do speak its name have a sinister agenda. [5] And this argument (alongside many of the above) can be found in the very strong reaction to the Islamophobia definition in the works of Policy Exchange, which produced two report notes, Defining Islamophobia: a research note (December 2018) and On Islamophobia: the problem of definition (May 2019). ‘Anti-Muslim hatred and bigotry is a problem that needs to be addressed…. But the proposed definition of Islamophobia is not only inadequate but divisive and potentially damaging to social cohesion.’ This first report writes that accepting the definition ‘will isolate [British Muslims] and make them the object of continuing hostility’. ‘It misreads the attitudes of most Britons. And it reduces the lives of British Muslims.’ (Like the critics of Macpherson, it takes the idea of societal racism as a comment on all Britons.) And it will serve sectarians, ‘especially the Far Right and Islamists’. The second report goes further in attacking those who see Islamophobia as an aspect of social racism: ‘It is a word that has been weaponised by some of the most controversial groups within British Muslim communities’, writes Khalid Mahmood MP. ‘It will serve as a stalking horse for a new form of communalist, gatekeeper politics.’ He turns the issue on its head by stating that one of the main causes of Islamophobia comes from the groups that have ‘insufficiently’ challenged extremism – in other words blaming the victims. For the Policy Exchange authors, which include Trevor Phillips, formerly chair of Runnymede and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, there clearly is ‘a problem with anti-Muslim hatred and prejudice within the UK’ but here Muslims ‘now enjoy legal protections superior to those in many other jurisdictions’.

To carry on a fight over a definition does not change by one iota the reality of treatment meted out to Muslim people day in, day out; it merely calls into question the bona fides of the quibblers, and the government which chooses to heed them.  For as Juliet said of the rose, ‘What’s in a name?’ It would, by any other name, still smell as sweet. In this case not naming today’s Islamophobia as what it is – an aspect of racism – could convey more than a whiff of Islamophobia itself.

 

The Scruton affair: picking on a harmless old fogey?

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 02:36

Playwright David Edgar takes the long view on conservative philosopher Roger Scruton, recently sacked from a government post – particularly his promotion of ‘unthinkable’ views on race and immigration as editor of Salisbury Review.

I last saw Roger Scruton in the flesh in 2018, at a theatre conference to which he had been invited to represent the conservative persuasion. He clearly enjoyed playing the role of amiable old Tory buffer; he was sitting next to an African-Caribbean playwright to whom he was as polite as she was to him. He didn’t mention the fact that, had advice given in a magazine he edited been taken, she probably wouldn’t have been there at all.

The furore over the New Statesman interview on 10 April 2019 which saw Roger Scruton sacked from a government advisory position has allowed him and his supporters to paint him as an erudite if other-worldly traditionalist who was victim of an unethical journalistic sting. His history reveals the truth to be rather different.

Screenshot from The New Statesman

Knighted in 2016, Scruton was dismissed from his unpaid job as chair of the government’s Building Better Building Beautiful Commission on the afternoon of the publication of an interview by New Statesman deputy editor George Eaton. Scruton’s statements concerned George Soros (‘anyone who doesn’t think there is a Soros empire in Hungary has not observed the facts’), the ‘sudden invasion’ of Hungary by ‘huge tribes of Muslims’, the Chinese (‘they’re creating robots out of their own people … each Chinese person is kind of a replica of the next one’) and Islamophobia (‘a propaganda word invented by the Muslim Brotherhood’). On the question of China, Scruton has a case that he was misrepresented: Eaton implied (particularly in a tweet) that the comment was a slur on the Chinese people, while it was clearly an attack on the Chinese government. Following Scruton’s dismissal, Eaton celebrated his scalp by posting a picture of himself swigging champagne (for which he has apologised).

Not surprisingly, this questionable practice (criticised by the New Statesman readers’ editor Peter Wilby, in a thoughtful piece) inspired many Conservatives to leap to Scruton’s defence, particularly neoconservative Douglas Murray, Spectator associate editor and himself no stranger to controversy. Murray wrote two Spectator articles describing Scruton’s sacking as ‘not just a scandal, but a biopsy of a society’ (a ‘character assassination’ which exposed the urgent ‘necessity of free-thought’ over ‘bland, dumb and ill-conceived uniformity’). Again in the Spectator, Scruton defended himself, both against Eaton’s charges, and on other charges raised on Buzzfeed last November, including a quotation on gay rights. As Scruton put it: ‘Apparently I once wrote that homosexuality is “not normal”, but nobody has told me where, or why that is a particularly offensive thing to say.’

Well, I can help there: the remark was made in the Daily Telegraph on 28 January 2007. Last month, Scruton argued that homosexuality wasn’t normal in the sense that red hair isn’t normal, but in 2007 he argued something rather different: that gay people shouldn’t be treated as normal, that ‘it is no more an act of discrimination to exclude gay couples’ from adopting children ‘than it is to exclude incestuous liaisons or communes of promiscuous ‘swingers’’.

The fact that versions of Scruton’s remarks in the New Statesman on Islamophobia and on the ‘Soros empire’ had been published in a different form on Buzzfeed six months before raises the question of why government housing secretary James Brokenshire waited so long to sack him (at the time, he was defending Scruton to the hilt as a ‘champion of free speech and free expression’). But a greater mystery is why George Eaton didn’t ask Scruton about his past.

The Salisbury Review and repatriation

Converted to conservatism by his horror at the May 1968 student uprising in Paris (which he witnessed), Roger Scruton came to public prominence as a member of the Peterhouse school of high-church Conservatives associated with the Cambridge college, many of whom were alarmed by Margaret Thatcher’s commitment to free market economics and the rhetoric of liberty, which they felt downplayed traditionalist Conservative beliefs. So Maurice Cowling’s introduction to the 1978 Conservative Essays (to which Scruton contributed) insisted that ‘the sort of freedom’ that conservatives want is a freedom ‘that will maintain existing inequalities or restore lost ones’. In his own 1980 book The Meaning of Conservatism, Scruton argued that liberalism, economic or otherwise, was no less than the ‘principal enemy of conservatism’, adding that democracy itself can be ‘discarded without detriment to the civil well-being as the conservative conceives it’. In 1982, he founded a magazine, the Salisbury Review, to promote reactionary ideas, and, in particular, ideas of nation and race.

The magazine was launched in 1982, the year of the Falklands campaign, which followed the Brixton and Toxteth riots of the summer before. Its first edition (Autumn 1982) ran an article by Cambridge don John Casey, titled ‘One Nation: The Politics of Race’, attributing the popularity of the Falklands campaign to the fact ‘the Falklanders were British by every conceivable test’. He went on to claim that ‘there is no way of understanding English patriotism that averts its eyes from the fact that it has at its centre a feeling for persons of one’s own kind.’

Later in the article Casey moved on to the lessons he drew from Brixton and Toxteth: ‘There are various specific features that may lead us to suppose that the West Indian community, especially the Jamaicans, and above all those actually born in this country, is structurally likely to be at odds with English civilisation. There is an extraordinary resentment towards authority – police, teachers, Underground guards – all authority. This anarchic attitude seems to spill over so readily into an antagonism against Britain itself.’ He went on to cite ‘the involvement of West Indians in a vastly disproportionate amount of violent crime’. On this topic he concluded: ‘I do not wish to say that the problem about the West Indian community is just a problem about the possible destruction of civilised life in the centres of the big cities. (Although that is what is happening.) It is also that all this offends a sentiment – a sense of what English life should be like, of how the English behave towards duly constituted authority, a sense of what is civilised behaviour.’ Casey was kinder to the ‘Indian communities’ (‘intelligent, industrious, peaceable’) but nonetheless argued that their ‘profound difference of culture’ made them ‘most unlikely to wish to identify themselves with the traditions and loyalties of the host nation’. The existence of a community of ‘say, five to seven million persons’ who ‘cannot instinctively identify themselves with the State will call the actual constitution into question.’

The next section, headed ‘What is to be Done?’ concluded that ‘the only radical policy that would stand some chance of success is repatriation of a proportion of the immigrant and immigrant-descended population.’ However, if voluntary, ‘the whole process might be out of political control’. He went on:

‘The alternative is generally considered unthinkable in polite society: This would be retrospectively to alter the legal status of the coloured immigrant community, so that its members became guest workers – analogous to the Turks in Germany and Switzerland – who would eventually, over a period of years, return to their countries of origin.’

Aware, no doubt, that he was proposing a policy of compulsory repatriation then only advocated by the National Front, Casey acknowledged that these ideas ‘will seem abhorrent to many. My defence is this: the state of nationhood is the true state of man.’

Intellectual imprimatur

It should be said that Casey long ago disavowed the article, describing it as ‘crazy and inhumane’. What of Roger Scruton? It might have been possible to defend printing Casey’s piece on the ground that Scruton didn’t know what it might say when he commissioned it (and wouldn’t want to censor it on the grounds of free speech). But Scruton and Casey were close collaborators, co-chairs of the Conservative Philosophy Group, for whom the piece was delivered as a talk the previous June. As an editor, Scruton could have distanced himself from the opinions in the article: an editorial acknowledged that ‘many who would identify themselves as conservatives, may find themselves challenged by the thoughts expressed in John Casey’s contribution’ (‘may’), but that, nonetheless, ‘we hope to carry similar articles in future issues’. In a later edition (Summer 1983), Scruton wrote that: ‘As John Casey argued in our first issue, the cumulative effect of unwise immigration laws can no longer be ignored. While we may disagree with the policy of compulsory repatriation – ‘ ( note, again, the ‘may’) ‘a policy which Casey at least entertained, whether or not he wished finally to recommend it – there is no doubt that, merely to arrest the flow of immigrants cannot solve the problem’. It was hardly – to put it mildly – a ringing renunciation.

Over the following ten years, the Salisbury Review continued to publish articles on race, including a number by Ray Honeyford, the Bradford headmaster whose first Salisbury Review article (in which he criticised the ‘hysterical political temperament’ of the parents at his multiracial school) led to his taking early retirement. Scruton’s editorials continued to promote nationalist ideas (‘national consciousness provides, therefore, one of the strongest experiences of the immanence of God’). In view of the recent controversy, it’s worth noting an editorial of July 1985, in which Scruton argued that ‘A concern for social continuity prompts us to view not only promiscuity but also homosexuality as intrinsically threatening’.’ Later in the same piece he accused the Inner London Education Authority of portraying homosexuality ‘not as an abnormality, a weakness or a degradation, but as one among many harmless options’, clearly implying that he disagreed with this position. After all, he had just stated that ‘some desires ought not to exist’. (It should be said that in 2010, Scruton told the Guardian that ‘although it’s such a complicated thing’, he ‘wouldn’t stand by’ his earlier view that homosexuality was repellent. Well, good.)

Of course, all of this was a long time ago. However, it provides a challenge to the emergent view of Scruton as a harmless old fogey, martyred by the liberal thought police. Ideas have consequences. In 1978, Mrs Thatcher made it clear that she saw immigration as a problem to be solved (‘People are really rather afraid that this country might be rather swamped by people with a different culture’). Had John Casey’s proposal been taken up, it would have led to the forced deportation of millions of people, including the parents and grandparents of people Scruton now sits on panels with and passes in the street. And any programme of voluntary repatriation, implicitly favoured by Scruton (‘there is no doubt that, merely to arrest the flow of immigrants cannot solve the problem’) would create an environment vastly more hostile than that advocated by Theresa May. Like their regular contributor Enoch Powell, one of the Salisbury Review’s missions was to give a lofty, intellectual imprimatur to anti-immigrant ideas, at a time (the 1980s) when such ideas were being given expression on the streets in the racist thuggery of the National Front. On the politics.co.uk website,  Jonathan Portes argued that there are ‘direct links’ between Scruton’s views and those of Tommy Robinson and Gerard Batten. To support this, Portes quotes a 2006 article (in defence of Enoch Powell’s ‘Rivers of Blood’ speech) in which Scruton claims (completely erroneously) that ‘the stock of “social housing” once reserved for the indigenous poor is now almost entirely occupied by people whose language, customs and culture mark them out as foreigners’.

As stated, John Casey has disavowed his article. A reasonably rigorous search hasn’t revealed whether Roger Scruton ever disavowed his decision to publish it. Why didn’t the New Statesman ask him?

Calendar of Racism and Resistance (8 May – 21 May)

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 08:54

Written by IRR News Team

A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.

ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP ASYLUM, MIGRANT AND HUMAN RIGHTS

8 May: Under pressure from local councils, the Home Office announces a 61 per cent increase for funding the welfare of unaccompanied asylum-seeking children. Local authorities will now receive over £41,000 per child per year, though council leaders warn that funding for those leaving care must also be ensured as many unaccompanied minors are close to turning 18. (Independent, 8 May 2019)

14 May: Amnesty International calls for the reopening of hundreds of Afghan asylum applications judged by expert Karl Mahringer, after Austria’s Federal Court strips Mahringer of his status as the only court-certified expert on conditions in Afghanistan, Syria and Iraq. (Kleine Zeitung, 14 May 2019)

21 May: On the publication of findings from a fact-finding mission to Hungary, the Council of Europe commissioner says that human rights violations by the government need to ‘be addressed as a matter of urgency’, singling out the treatment of asylum seekers, the ‘excessive use of violence’ by police in removing foreign nationals, and the criminalisation of NGOs. (Guardian, 21 May 2019)

BORDERS, TRANSIT ZONES AND INTERNAL CONTROL

19 May: The Dutch-flagged rescue ship Sea-Watch 3 is seized by Italian prosecutors on the island of Lampedusa after disembarking 65 migrants rescued off the coast of Libya last Wednesday. Salvini, who signed an injunction against the ship’s entry into Italian waters, condemns the seizure for allowing the migrants to set foot in Italy. (Deutsche Welle, 20 May 2019; Deutsche Welle, 15 May 2019)

21 May: The European Border and Coast Guard Agency (Frontex) announces that, in line with the first ever joint operation on the territory of a neighbouring non-EU country, it has commenced cooperation with Albanian border guards at the Greek-Albanian border. (European Commission press release, 21 May 2019)

RECEPTION AND DETENTION

11 May: After a 31-year-old Nigerian woman dies in unexplained circumstances at one of Germany’s controversial AnkER centres in Regensburg, Bavaria, asylum seekers pelt police officers with stones and glass bottles in a three hour standoff as they come to take her dead body. The three children of the dead woman (who has not been named) have been taken into care. (Deutsche Welle, 12 May 2019)

15 May: Asylum seekers detained in the Fürstenfeldbruck detention centre near Munich, which houses up to 1,000 people, tell Deutsche Welle that they are living in inhumane conditions, which are causing serious physical and mental health problems including suicide attempts. The facility is one of the nine AnkER centres established last year. (Deutsche Welle, 15 May 2019)

16 May: As a result of an investigation started in 2014 when images of a security guard standing on the head of an asylum seeker emerged, another five staff at the Burbach asylum centre, North Rhine-Westphalia, are charged with assault, coercion and false imprisonment. The centre’s director and other staff have already been convicted, though there is scant media coverage of the trials. (RP Online, 16 May 2019)

RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS

9 May: At least five men have been killed in Jamaica since March 2018 after being deported from the UK by the Home Office. Deportation charter flights to Jamaica were resumed in February 2019 after a brief suspension following the Windrush scandal. (Guardian, 9 May 2019)

13 May: Around 50 activists occupy the head office of Brussels Airlines near Brussels Airport and launch the Brussels Airlines Stop Deportations campaign to demand that the company end its participation in deportations. (BX1, 13 May 2019)

14 May: In response to lawsuits filed by three asylum seekers in Belgium and the Czech Republic, the European Court of Justice rules that migrants cannot be automatically deported if there is a serious risk of persecution in their country of origin, even if the migrants in question have been found guilty of serious crimes. (Deutsche Welle, 14 May 2019)

15 May: On the seventeenth day of a protest against Italy’s hardline deportation policies, Brother Biago Conte, known as the ‘new Saint Francis’, vows to continue his hunger strike, which began as a protest against the proposed deportation of Paul Aning, a refugee from Ghana who has worked as a volunteer for ten years at the Hope and Charity Mission in Palermo. (Guardian, 15 May 2019)

16 May: Malta’s immigration police say that they are deporting around 40 people each month, including many who are non-EU migrants granted asylum in Italy, but who come to Malta seeking work lacking the necessary authorisations. (Info Migrants, 16 May 2019)

19 May: Hundreds of undocumented migrants from the Gilets Noirs and La Chapelle Debout! groups occupy the second terminal of Charles de Gaulles Airport, demanding that Air France end its participation in deportations and its disciplining of employees who refuse to embark people threatened with deportation. A delegation of Gilets Noirs is received by Air France management before the occupation disbands. (Le Figaro, 19 May 2019)

CRIMES OF SOLIDARITY AND CRIMINALISATION OF MIGRANT RIGHTS DEFENDERS

9 May: British firefighters protest outside the Italian embassy in London in support of Miguel Roldan, the Spanish firefighter who Italian authorities accuse of aiding illegal immigration and working with human traffickers. Roldan was part of a rescue mission that saved the lives of drowning migrants in the Mediterranean in June 2017, and could face up to 20 years in jail if found guilty. (Metro, 9 May 2019; The London Economic, 11 May 2019)

10 May: After the Italian-flagged Mediterranean rescue vessel Mare Jonio rescues 30 migrants on a rubber dinghy off the coast of Libya, the boat is impounded in Lampedusa as the  prosecutor launches a preliminary investigation into the crew for promoting illegal migration. (Al Jazeera, 10 May 2019)

13 May: Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini announces his intention to introduce a new security decree under which NGOs carrying out search and rescue missions will be fined up to €5,500 for each migrant they disembark onto Italian soil. (Guardian, 13 May 2019)

14 May: Claus Peter Reisch, the German captain of MV Lifeline describes a court’s decision to fine him €10,000 for a registration irregularity of the vessel as ‘scandalous’. But the court, in refusing the prosecution case for confiscation of the vessel, dismisses another charge against Reisch, acknowledges that saving migrants lives is not a crime, and registers shock ‘at the racism, intolerance and animosity’ directed towards migrants on the internet. (Times of Malta, 14 May 2019)

15 May: The Hamburg administrative court gives permission for the human rights monitoring ship Mare Liberum to leave port for the Aegean Sea, after a three-week detention caused by the federal transport ministry’s attempts to impose restrictions on SAR NGOs’ ships in the Mediterranean. During the period of the ship’s detention, the NGO claims that six people drowned attempting to cross from Turkey to Greece, and at least one illegal pushback took place. (Mare Liberum press release, 15 May 2019)

15 May: Tom Ciotkowski, a 30 year old British man from Stratford-upon-Avon, is charged in Calais with contempt and assault after recording a police officer who reportedly assaulted another volunteer. Ciotkowski challenged the police officer and could now face up to five years in prison and a fine of up to €7,500. (Independent, 17 May 2019)

15 May: The investigating judge in Catania, Sicily, shelves an investigation on charges of criminal association for illegal immigration against Marc Reig Creus, captain of the rescue boat Open Arms, and Ana Isabel Montes Mier, mission chief of Spanish NGO Proactiva Open Arms. The investigation was opened after the boat rescued 218 people off the coast of Libya in March 2018 and took them to Pozzallo. Prosecutors are still investigating charges of assisting illegal immigration. (Ansa, 15 May 2019)

CITIZENSHIP AND STATUS

13 May: Regional authorities plan a new code of conduct, entitled the ‘Ten Commandments of Immigration’, for asylum-seekers arriving in Lower Austria. The written agreement includes edicts that asylum seekers learn German, adopt Austrian values, prevent unnecessary suffering to animals and show gratitude to Austria. (Deutsche Welle, 13 May 2019)

ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT

10 May: Anti-fascists mobilise over several days as the far-right Casa Pound join local residents in the Rome suburb of Casal Bruciato to protest against the council’s housing of a Roma family evacuated from a demolished camp. ‘We don’t want you here’ and ‘You all have to burn’ are chanted by the anti-Roma protesters and in one incident, the mother is told, ‘Whore, I’ll rape you’. Rome’s mayor visits the family under police protection. (Al Jazeera, 10 May 2019)

10 May: Women’s groups criticise Tommy Robinson’s pledge to donate his hypothetical European parliament salary to child victims of sexual exploitation, with more than 40 women and charities declaring in an open letter that Robinson is ‘exploiting the pain of survivors and their families to fuel racist hate for his own gain’. (Guardian, 10 May 2019)

13 May: The Irish state use the 1999 Immigration Act to bar Steven Anderson, a Christian fundamentalist US pastor accused of denying the Holocaust and advocating exterminating LGBT people, from entering the country.  (Guardian, 13 May 2019)

14 May: The leader of the Austrian Identitarian Movement, Martin Sellner, confirms that he exchanged several emails with the Christchurch mosque shooter, dating back to July 2018. Despite previously claiming his contact with the killer did not go further than a ‘thank you’ email, Sellner invited him out for a drink in Vienna. Sellner deleted the emails hours before police raided his house, leading to suspicions that he received a tip off about the raid. (France 24, 15 May 2019)

15 May: In Hungary, the far Right anti-Roma Our Homeland (Mi Hazánk) party, led by former Jobbik leader László Toroczkai, announce the forming of National Legion, a paramilitary grouping focusing on ‘self-defence’, assisting citizens, the ‘preservation of traditions’ and education and training for Hungarian youth. (Hungarian Free Press, 15 May 2019)

16 May: 24 Casa Pound and Forza Nuova activists are under investigation for incitement to racial hatred and other crimes following the violent protests in Rome against a Roma family. Sixteen people who mobilised against the fascist protest are also placed under investigation (see above). (ANSA, 16 May 2019)

17 May: At the Old Bailey, 23-year-old neo-Nazi Jack Renshaw, who is also a convicted paedophile, is given a life sentence for preparing to murder West Lancashire Labour MP Rosie Cooper in 2017, a year after the murder of Jo Cox. He leaves the courtroom while making a Nazi salute. (BBC News, 17 May 2019)

18 May: A day after the National Police Chiefs’ Council head of hate crime urges prospective MEPs to avoid ‘inciting hatred’ during the European election campaign, Exeter Cathedral bans far-right UKIP candidate Carl Benjamin from taking part in hustings. (Guardian)

19 May: In Oldham, Greater Manchester, the Muslim Defence League organises a counter-demonstration against Tommy Robinson’s appearance in the town, with reports of eggs and bricks being thrown. In Bootle, Merseyside, local anti-racist demonstrators block traffic and throw eggs and bottles of milkshake at Robinson, who is escorted to safety by police. (Manchester Evening News, 19 May 2019; Independent, 20 May 2019)

22 May: Anti-racist activists and human rights lawyers react with shock and disbelief to new guidelines on hate crime issued by the Spanish public prosecutor, which state that an attack on any ideological group including Nazis constitutes hate crime. ‘A law designed to protect vulnerable and discriminated-against groups from hatred cannot be used to protect those who promote that hatred’, says a spokesperson for Red Juridica (Legal Network). (El Publico, 22 May 2019)

ELECTORAL POLITICS

15 May: At a press conference, Hungarian extreme-right electoral party Jobbik propose the establishment of a special guard to carry out employment and public health checks on migrant workers. (Hungary Today, 15 May 2019)

17 May: Sixty Israeli academics criticise the German parliament for passing a motion that describes the boycott, divestment and sanctions (BDS) movement as anti-Semitic. The far-right AfD put forward its own motion calling for a complete ban on BDS, with AfD MP Jürgen Brauns saying that anti-Semitism came from the ‘left and Islam’ and that the AfD is the true friend of Israel. (Guardian, 17 May 2019)

18 May: The far-right Freedom party Austrian vice chancellor resigns after newspapers publish a video appearing to show him and the leader of the FPÖ parliamentary grouping promising public contracts to a fake Russian backer in return for campaign help. Heinz-Christian Strache says he is the victim of a ‘political-hit’ job aimed at breaking up the governing coalition. (Guardian, 18 May 2019)

21 May: Amid growing support for Eurosceptic and anti-immigration parties, Dutch migration minister Mark Harbers resigns during a parliamentary debate after being accused of ‘hiding’ figures showing the number of refugees suspected of violent crimes. (Dutch News, 21 May 2019)

POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

7 May: After a 12-month pilot at Manchester Airport, Greater Manchester Police launches Project Servator at the Arndale Centre mall, a new patrol tactic involving the deployment of firearms officers, plainclothes officers and search dogs to target all levels of crime. The Northern Police Monitoring Project criticise it as ‘another example of police forces monitoring and imposing themselves upon individuals without any legitimate justification’. (Manchester Evening News, 7 May 2019; Northern Police Monitoring Project, 19 May 2019)

10 May: A court in Amsterdam rules that an unnamed suspected drug dealer cannot be extradited to Britain because he would be at ‘real risk of inhuman or degrading treatment’ in HMP Liverpool, where it is likely he would be sent. (Guardian, 10 May 2019)

12 May: Police in Cyprus are accused of institutional racism for failing to find a serial killer who killed seven foreigners – five women and two girls – but whose disappearances were completely ignored. A Greek Cypriot army captain arrested has allegedly confessed to the killings and preying on women in low-paid households. (Guardian, 12 May 2019)

13 May: Just one month after the government removed HMP Birmingham from G4S control, data provided to shadow justice secretary Richard Burgon shows that in the year to September there were 156 more assaults per 1,000 prisoners in privately managed than in publicly run prisons. (Guardian, 13 May 2019)

DISCRIMINATION

12 May: Speaking in Dublin, the director of the European Union Fundamental Rights Agency (FRA) says that Ireland, Austria and Finland are the three countries in the EU with the worst records in the EU of racism based on skin colour. (Irish Times, 12 May 2019)

14 May: Gypsy and Traveller charities accuse MPs and local councillors of using racist rhetoric to push through temporary and permanent borough-wide injunctions against unauthorised encampments over the last two years. The chair of the all-party parliamentary group for Gypsies Travellers and Roma says that politicians should address the shortage of official sites instead of blaming entire communities. (Guardian, 14 May 2019)

APPG report

15 May: The government rejects the new working definition of Islamophobia proposed by the all-party parliamentary group on British Muslims. The definition, which understands Islamophobia as a type of racism, has been accepted by Labour, the Liberal Democrats, and the Scottish Conservatives but was criticised by the National Police Chiefs Council for its alleged potential to ‘undermine counter-terrorism powers’ and ‘challenge legitimate free speech’. (Guardian, 15 May 2019; Guardian, 15 May 2019)

16 May: Despite significant opposition, Austrian MPs from the governing coalition parties approve a law banning ‘ideologically or religiously influenced’ head-covering clothing in primary schools. The Islamic Religious Authority of Austria says it will challenge the law, which will apply to the Islamic headscarf but not to the Sikh patka and Jewish kippa. (Guardian, 16 May 2019)

17 May: Campaign group London Gypsies and Travellers succeed in their High Court challenge to a five-year, borough-wide ban on encampments in Bromley, which they argued was disproportionate and discriminatory. The ruling is likely to lead to similar challenges to 32 other English councils who have enacted similar blanket bans on unauthorised encampments. (Guardian, 17 May 2019)

17 May: The French Senate votes in favour of a law proposed by the Republicans party banning ‘conspicuous religious symbols’ from being worn by parents accompanying their children on school trips. The law, which is understood to be aimed at women who wear Islamic headwear, was earlier rejected by the parliament’s lower house. (Independent, 17 May 2019)

EDUCATION

17 May: Students and staff at SOAS University of London protest on campus to demand the dismissal of law faculty member Gunnar Beck, who is running for the far-right Alternative for Germany party in the European elections. The University and College Union says that the AfD is a racist anti-immigration party that has no place on UK campuses. (Guardian, May 14 2019; Independent, 18 May 2019)

13 May: Riot police intervene after Forza Nuova attempt to stop Domenico Lucano, the former mayor of Riace, from giving a lecture at La Sapienza University, Rome. The fascists unroll a banner depicting Lucano, who is under investigation for ‘aiding illegal immigration’, as ‘an enemy of the people’, as students who support Lucano’s pro-refugee policies, declare ‘We are all Mimmo Lucano’. (Al Jazeera, 13 May 2019)

15 May: The University of the West of England in Bristol cancels a hustings event organised by the debating society due to be attended by far-right UKIP MEP candidate Carl Benjamin, blaming security concerns. A protest had already been called by local antifascists, while Green candidates had been vocal in their opposition. (Guardian, 15 May 2019)

19 May: In Sicily, thousands of students from the Vittorio Emanuele III high school in Palermo protest the suspension of teacher Rosa Maria Dell’Aria over a video made by her students on International Holocaust Remembrance Day that compares the security law of interior minister, Matteo Salvini, to Mussolini’s racial laws. (Guardian, 19 May 2019)

HOUSING

12 May: The government introduces a new legal duty for local authorities to assess and provide the necessary levels of support, including secure housing, needed by survivors of domestic abuse in their area. This includes the particular needs of black and minority ethnic, LGBT, traveller and other communities. (Independent, 12 May 2019)

(Credit: Daniel Renwick)

17 May: The solicitor to the Grenfell Tower public inquiry says that the publication of findings from the first phase of the inquiry, originally promised this spring, will now not be published before October. The chair of Grenfell United calls the delays ‘disgraceful’, and says that bereaved families and survivors are in ‘living in a limbo’. The second phase of the inquiry, examining the refurbishment of the building prior to the fire, will not begin until 2020, while criminal charges relating to the fire are expected to be brought the following year. (Guardian, 17 May 2019)

19 May: Freedom of Information requests reveal that Serco incurred Home Office ‘service credits’ of up to £3 million for failing to fulfil its contractual obligations on providing asylum accommodation between 2013 and 2018. A leading SNP MP says that Serco’s catalogue of failures, including failing to carry out standard repairs and improvements, deserves a public inquiry. (The National, 19 May 2019)

21 May: A Christian church in Hemlington, North Yorkshire wins a legal battle to evict a family of Nigerian asylum seekers after their status became known in 2016. The family’s supporters say they will be left homeless until a decision is made on their applications, while the church’s congregation apparently remains divided about the eviction. (Teeside Live, 21 May 2019)

MEDIA AND CULTURE

9 May: Broadcaster Danny Baker is sacked by BBC Radio 5 Live over allegations of racism for posting a tweet, since deleted, referring to the Duke and Duchess of Sussex’s newborn son alongside a picture of a chimpanzee. After a brief investigation, police are not considering further action. (Guardian, 9 May 2019; ITV News, 14 May 2019)

11 May: Leading figures of the British far right urge their supporters to move to the social media platform Gab, which describes itself as a place for ‘free speech’ and is understood to have no restrictions on racist, anti-Semitic or misogynist content. The platform is seen as an alternative to Twitter, from which many of these figures are banned. (Guardian, 11 May 2019)

15 May: Germany’s Constitutional Court smacks down two lower-level court rulings and orders Berlin-Brandenburg Broadcasting, a public regional broadcaster for Berlin and Brandenburg, to air an electoral campaign advert by the extreme-right National Democratic Party. The ad describes Germans as the ‘victims’ of mass immigration since 2015. (Deutsche Welle, 15 May 2019)

RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

9 May: Irish gardai confirm that it is investigating as racially motivated an attack on two asylum seekers who were set upon on their way to prayers at the Al Furqan mosque, Limerick city centre on the first night of Ramadan. (Limerick Leader, 9 May 2019)

9 May: A Greek court acquits over 100 refugees who were arrested in April 2018 after a far-right mob attacked them in the main square of Mytilene, the capital city of Lesbos island, which they were occupying in protest at conditions in the Moria camp. (The Canary, 10 May 2019)

10 May: Worshippers at the Al-Ikhlas mosque in Espoo, Finland, report that during Friday Ramadan prayers two men drove in front of the mosque and threw two sound grenades inside. Police arrived ten minutes later but no arrests have been made. (Migrant Tales, 11 May 2019)

14 May: Anti-Semitic crime, including hate speech, graffiti and the display of banned signs, rose by 20 per cent in 2018, Germany’s interior ministry says, blaming the majority of incidents on the far Right. Recent studies in Belgium found similar increases. (Reuters,14 May 2019; Guardian, 9 May 2019)

18 May: Two members of Armed Forces Malta are arrested on suspicion of the killing on 6 April of Lassana Cisse, a 42-year-old factory worker from the Ivory Coast. The shooting occurred on 6 April on a countryside road in Birżebbuġa, notorious for attacks on migrant workers. Two other African migrant men, all residents at the Hal Far open centre, were also shot at. One of the arrested soldiers allegedly confessed to involvement on a hit-and-run incident on the same road when a 17 year old migrant from Chad was injured. (Independent, 18 May 2019)

18 May: Greek police rescue 74 migrants who were being held hostage by traffickers in a warehouse outside Thessaloniki in northern Greece after crossing the border from Turkey. (Ekathimerini, 18 May 2019)

20 May: A nationwide survey by Opinium carried out in February and March this year finds that 71 per cent of people from ethnic minorities say they have experienced racial discrimination, up from 58 per cent in January 2016, suggesting that racists have become increasingly emboldened since the Brexit vote. The findings correspond to official crime figures showing increases in racially motivated hate crimes. (Guardian, 20 May 2019)

This calendar was compiled by Joseph Maggs with help from Graeme Atkinson and the IRR News Team.

Calendar of Racism and Resistance (23 April – 7 May)

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 06:14

A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.

ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP REFUGEES AND THE LIBYAN CONFLICT

25 April: The Guardian releases footage of militias believed to be linked to the warlord Khalifa Haftar opening fire on refugees at the Qasr bin Ghashir detention centre, 12 miles south of Tripoli, in an attack that reportedly left two people dead and up to twenty injured. Amnesty International calls for a war crimes investigation of the incident, while the UNHCR evacuates 325 people from the detention centre. (Guardian, 26 April 2019)

29 April: In a joint operation between Italy, UNHCR and the Libyan ministry of interior, 146 refugees are evacuated from Libya during a humanitarian pause in the conflict. (UNHCR, 29 April 2019; The Local, 29 April 2019)

2 May: Al Jazeera reports that migrants and refugees are going without food and drinking dirty water at the Abu Salim detention centre in southern Tripoli, with serious consequences for the sick, including twenty detainees suffering from tuberculosis. (Al Jazeera,  2 May 2019)

BORDERS, TRANSIT ZONES AND INTERNAL CONTROLS

23 April: A video shows a group of 12 Iraqi refugees, including a 3-year-old child, locked in a cage in Klobuk, a village in Bosnia and Herzegovina located near a border crossing with Croatia. One of the detainees filmed the video and sent it to pro-migrant charity Are You Syrious, which claims that the detainees were held overnight. (Independent, 23 April 2019)

23 April: Greek police raid an unauthorised refugee camp in Athens’ Elaionas district, with the migration ministry claiming that they were called in by the camp’s directors after clashes between residents and new arrivals ejected from a nearby squat. (Ekathimerini, 23 April 2019)

25 April: A week after Salvini announced that NGO rescue vessels would no longer be allowed to travel through Italian waters, the Mare Jonio, which rescued 49 migrants off the Libyan coast last month, is declared unfit for rescue operations by Italian coastguard inspectors in Sicily. (The Local, 25 April 2019)

25 April: A welfare reform passed by the conservative Austrian government will mean immigrants receive €300 less per month than the current standard minimum welfare payment of €885, unless they can prove German or English language skills. In 2017, nearly half of those receiving the payment were immigrants. (Info Migrants, 29 April 2019)

26 April: The Hungarian Helsinki Committee claims that Hungarian authorities are continuing to refuse food to failed asylum seekers detained in the country’s border transit zones. Prime minister Orbán’s spokesman dismissed criticisms, but the HHC says the government may be breaching international human rights law. (Guardian, 26 April 2019)

27 April: The National Audit Office launches a formal investigation into the ‘English test scandal’, the Home Office’s 2014 decision to revoke or curtail the visas of around 34,000 international students it accused of cheating in English language tests. Over 1,000 were deported and many have spent time in detention, but over 300 court of appeal cases have been brought by international students who claim they were wrongly accused. (Guardian, 23 April 2019; Guardian, 27 April 2019)

29 April: The Berlin-based NGO Mare Liberum e.V says that Germany’s Federal Ministry of Transportation has effectively suspended its operations in the Aegean Sea due to its reclassification of the Mare Liberum as a commercial freightliner, imposing equipment requirements it cannot fulfil. (Enough is Enough, 29 April 2019)

30 April: Fifteen Turkish asylum seekers who crossed the Evros river into northeast Greece were pushed back and beaten by masked men with batons, says journalist Tugba Ozkan who was with the group.  A few of them managed to cross again, with the Hellenic League saying that this is part of a pattern involving Greek security services. (IPA News, 30 April 2019)

2 May: Home Office data obtained by the Bristol Cable and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism shows that in the UK’s 11 largest cities nearly 6,000 British citizens were stopped for immigration checks between January and October 2018, more than any other nationality. Only 5 were arrested, raising concerns that ethnicity and colour are being unlawfully used as a basis for ‘reasonable suspicion’. (Guardian, 2 May 2019)

3 May: The NGO Mediterranea accuses Malta of colluding with the Libyan coastguard after it   intercepted a boat carrying around 100 asylum seekers that was sailing towards Lampedusa. A Maltese military aircraft guided the vessel back to a Libyan to an unsafe port, the NGO says. (The National, 3 May 2019)

7 May: The German search and rescue vessel Sea Watch 3, which sails under a Danish flag, says it will  resume its operations in the Mediterranean sea after a court in the Hague criticised the Dutch Water Management Ministry for issuing it with new safety regulations, without giving it sufficient time to transition to the new code. (InfoMigrants, 5 August 2019)

ASYLUM AND MIGRANT RIGHTS

26 April: The latest statistics released by Eurostat, the EU’s statistics agency, show that 333,400 people were granted asylum in EU member states in 2018, a 40 per cent drop compared to 2017. (Info Migrants, 26 April 2019; Info Migrants, 29 April 2019)

7 May: The Guardian reveals that the Home Office is abandoning its target of processing most asylum claims within six months. Humans rights lawyers say that the Home Office should expect an increase in legal challenges should the decision lead to further delays for asylum seekers. (Guardian, 7 May 2019)

RECEPTION AND DETENTION

26 April: Italian humanitarian organisation Intersos warns that since the ‘Salvini Decree’ was approved last December many migrant youths have become homeless after being forced to leave reception centres after turning eighteen. It says that the situation is particularly acute in Sicily, which hosted over 40 per cent of all unaccompanied minors in Italy in 2018. (Info Migrants, 26 April 2019)

28 April: Whistleblowers from within the Home Office’s Dublin Cessation Team (DCT), responsible for transferring asylum seekers to other EU member states, claim that failings are being made by ‘overworked, under-skilled, bullied and high-stressed’ DCT caseworkers. These include the unlawful detention of asylum seekers for up to six weeks, as well as asylum application rejections and deportations without properly considering an individual’s case. (Guardian, 28 April 2019; Guardian, 28 April 2019)

1 May: The Danish immigration minister Inger Støjberg tells a parliamentary hearing that refused asylum seekers detained in Sjælsmark deportation camp will continue to be prohibited from having their own kitchen facilities to make their own food. Rejecting the recommendations of the Danish Red Cross, she says that government wants these people to understand they are ‘not welcome in Denmark and should travel home’. (The Local, 1 May 2019)

7 May: Over 80 civil society groups submit a report to the United Nations Committee Against Torture highlighting the UK’s failure to adhere to international human rights standards, including the absence of a time limit on immigration detention and the detention of people who have been victims of torture. (Guardian, 7 May 2019)

CITIZENSHIP

1 May: A cross-party group of 87 MPs sign a letter to the Equality and Human Rights Commission, requesting an investigation into whether the Home Office’s ‘hostile environment’ policies are institutionally racist and constitute a breach of the department’s public sector equality duty. (Guardian, 1 May 2019)

6 May: Home Office data obtained by Citizens UK shows that 900 children classified as stateless were forced to pay the £1,012 fee for their applications to become British citizens, despite a Home Office spokesperson’s claim that stateless individuals who have spent a significant amount of time in the UK should be exempt. (Guardian, 6 May 2019)

RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS

5 May: The German NGO Pro Asyl commends the moral stance taken by pilots after figures released by the German federal police reveal that in 2018, pilots refused to carry out deportation flights in 506 cases, compared to 314 instances in 2017. (Taz, 7 May 2019)

7 May: Protesters chanting ‘stop deportations’ confront police and immigration enforcement officers outside a building site in Brighton during an immigration raid. 17 men, identifying themselves as Albanian, Indian, Ukrainian and Kazakhstani, are arrested for immigration offences. (BBC News, 7 May 2019)

ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT

23 April: At the Old Bailey, two teenagers belonging to the neo-Nazi Sonnenkrieg Division group plead guilty to encouraging acts of terrorism. (Telegraph, 23 April 2019)

24 April: In Milan’s Piazzale Loreto square, where Mussolini’s corpse was publicly displayed in 1945, masked neo-fascist supporters of Italian Serie A team Lazio hold a flash mob with a banner reading ‘Honour to Benito Mussolini’, while singing fascist songs and making Nazi salutes. (France 24, 24 April 2019)

26 April: Memorials to Italians who fought fascism are vandalised in Sicily, Tuscany, Bologna, Rome and in the vicinity of Milan. In Rome, far-right groups including Azione Frontale hold a counter rally to celebrations of Italy’s liberation from the Nazis in the rest of the city, and an anti-fascist café bookshop suffers a fire that may have been started by explosives. (The Local, 26 April 2019)

28 April: The far-right Vox party win 10 per cent of the vote in the Spanish general election, entering parliament for the first time with 24 seats. The right wing People’s Party, which attempted to sideline Vox by mirroring its anti-immigration policies, were punished at the polls, losing 71 seats. (Guardian, 29 April 2019)

30 April: 21-year-old white supremacist Shane Fletcher, who plotted to massacre members of the public in his Cumbrian hometown of Workington, is jailed for 9 years. Detained in March 2018, he described himself as ‘a big fan of Hitler’ in police interviews. (Independent, 30 April

1 May: In Sweden, hundreds of neo-nazis from the Nordic Resistance Movement march on May Day in Kungälv, north of Gothenburg, and in Ludvika, central Sweden. Police, who clash with counter-protesters as they attempted to get near the neo-nazi rally,  make eighteen arrests in Kungälv. (The Local, 1 May 2019)

1 May: Around 200 people, many in uniform, and some carrying posters stating ‘Israel is our downfall’ attend a neo-nazi Die Rechte (The Right) rally in Dusiburg, while in Plauen, Saxony, 500 people, beating drums and appearing to imitate the Hitler Youth, attend a march organised by the Third Path. The Central Council of Jews in Germany criticise the policing of both events. (The News Tribune, 2 May 2019)

1 May: In Brno-střed, Czech Republic,  hundreds of anti-fascists block 50 supporters of the  National and Social Front marching in the city centre with the  neo-nazi demonstrators, including Vlastimil Pechanec, previously convicted of the racially-motivated murder of a Romani man in Svitavy, forced to take a different route. (Romea, 3 May 2019)

2 May: For the second time in two days, far-right leader Tommy Robinson is doused in milkshake while on his campaign trail for the upcoming European elections. The Asian man who threw the second milkshake, in Warrington, says he has been receiving death threats. Two others require hospital treatment after being attacked without provocation by Robinson’s security team. (Guardian, 3 May 2019; Guardian, 5 May 2019)

2 May: 33-year-old David Shufflebottom, a member of the far-right group Stoke-on-Trent Infidels, is jailed for 15 months for Islamophobic social media posts and for orchestrating a Britain First march in Burslem, at which he was seen shouting racist and Islamophobic abuse. (Manchester Evening News, 2 May 2019)

5 May: The far-right Hard Line party (Stram Kurs), which is calling for the deportation of 700,000 Muslims and is led by lawyer Rasmus Paludin, is to stand for the first time in the Danish general election in June after getting the required 20,000 signatures.  (Guardian, 5 May 2019)

7 May: Police begin investigating UKIP MEP candidate Carl Benjamin, known online as the far-right Youtuber Sargon of Akkad, after it emerged that he tweeted Labour MP Jess Phillips in 2016 saying ‘I wouldn’t even rape you’. (Guardian, 7 May 2019)

ELECTORAL POLITICS

24 April: Nora Mulready, one of Change UK’s MEP candidates, is accused of racism for conflating Islam and terrorism and saying that Tommy Robinson’s concerns must be ‘acknowledged’. Two other candidates for the newly-registered centrist political party, Joseph Russo and Ali Sadjady, were forced to resign earlier this week over racist comments. (Independent, 24 April 2019)

25 April: Extreme-right party leaders, including Rassemblent National leader Marine le Pen and Dutch Freedom Party leader Geert Wilders, meet in Prague’s central Wenceslas Square to launch their Europe of Nations and Freedom (ENF) European election campaign. They are hosted by Czech lawmaker Tomio Okamura, leader of the Freedom and Direct Democracy (SPD) party. (RT, 25 April 2019)

25 April: The anonymous Twitter account @matesjacob reveals 40 new self-professed Conservative Party members who have shared or endorsed racist or inflammatory Facebook posts, including two local council candidates who have now been suspended pending investigations. (Guardian, 25 April 2019)

28 April: Heinz-Christian Strache, the Freedom party (FPÖ) deputy chancellor of Austria is  criticised for endorsing far-right terminology in an interview with the Krone newspaper in which he said that the FPÖ  is fighting ‘replacement’ of the native population. Subsequently, sport minister Norbert Hofer said, in an interview with Profil magazine, that ‘mass immigration is turning Austria into a country with a Muslim majority’. (Guardian, 29 April 2019)  (Guardian, 29 April 2019)

29 April: A Conservative Party district council candidate in Somerset is suspended for making a series of anti-immigrant Facebook posts over the last few months, although it is too late for his name to be removed from the ballot. (BBC News, 29 April 2019)

29 April: Slovakia’s Supreme Court dismisses a request by the prosecutor general to ban the far-right People’s Party of Slovakia that has 14 seats in parliament, saying there is insufficient evidence to label the party a threat to democracy. (Star Tribune, 29 April 2019)

5 May: The governing Fidesz party launches a campaign video for the European parliamentary elections  that uses the case of a suspected Syrian terrorist recently arrested in Hungary as an argument for stopping the current pro-migration policy of Brussels. (Hungary Today, 5 May 2019)

6 May: In the northern Austrian town of St Martin im Innkreis, the deputy leader of the far-right Freedom Party resigns after sharing posts on social media that appeared to deny the Holocaust. (Euronews, 6 May 2019)

POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

25 April: The Ministry of Justice releases its latest Safety in Custody statistics, showing a significant increase in the number of deaths and a 25 per cent increase in incidents of self-harm in prison in the year to December 2018. Inquest says that an ‘unacceptable number’ of the 164 deaths officially attributed to ‘natural causes’ were the result of poor healthcare in prison. (Inquest, 25 April 2019; Guardian, 25 April 2019)

25 April: In Romford, east London, a plainclothes police officer is filmed striking a handcuffed black 17-year-old boy with a cosh soon after he and his 14-year-old friend were stopped and searched. After the video of the incident goes viral and prompts online outrage, a spokeswoman for the Met Police says that the incident is being reviewed. (Metro, 25 April 2019)

27 April: A multi-agency ‘public health’ approach to the root causes of youth knife crime is the only long-term solution to the problem, a College of Policing report argues. The government-backed body also finds that stop and search has only short-term benefits, while incarceration significantly increases the likelihood of reoffending. (Guardian, 27 April 2019)

29 April: 2,666 prison staff have faced disciplinary action between mid-2013 and mid-2018, Ministry of Justice data obtained by the Guardian reveals. The most common offences were breach of security and assault or using unnecessary force on prisoners, while others included racial harassment, trafficking, and having ‘inappropriate relationships’ with a prisoner. (Guardian, 29 April 2019)

30 April: A new report by drug policy think-tank Volteface shows that the number of 14- to 18-year-olds convicted for possession with intent to supply drugs has increased by over two-thirds between 2012 and 2017, while school exclusions for drugs and alcohol have increased by 57% over the same period. (Guardian, 30 April 2019)

4 May: Internal Home Office data analysed by Liberty shows that in the year to March 2018, black people were 40 times more likely to be stopped and searched in England and Wales than white people, meaning that Sajid Javid was likely aware of the racial disproportionality of the practice before he recently made it easier for police to use. In the year to April 2019, the Met recorded an overall 40 per cent rise in stop and searches. (Guardian, 4 May 2019)

YOUTH SERVICES

7 May: A report by the All-Party Parliamentary Group on Knife Crime finds that the areas most decimated by cuts to youth services have seen large increases in knife crime, suggesting a connection between austerity and serious youth violence. The group’s chair, Sarah Jones MP, urges the government to review youth funding and to consider making the provision of certain services a legal duty for councils. (Independent, 7 May 2019)

DISCRIMINATION

3 May: Mirandola council near Modena, Italy, vows to support a woman excluded from a local gym for wearing the veil with the owner, she says,  refusing her membership as she was dressed in a ‘not-very-western way’, adding that he ‘doesn’t allow nuns or Batman’ to use the gym. (Guardian, 3 May 2019)

EDUCATION

30 April: Equality watchdog Trevor Phillips criticises the decision to appoint Prof Martin Millett, a white academic specialising in Roman archaeology, to oversee the University of Cambridge’s two-year academic inquiry into how the institution benefited from slavery and other forms of forced labour during the colonial period. The two full-time researchers carrying out the study will also investigate the ways in which ways in which scholarship reinforced, validated or challenged race-based thinking. (Guardian, 30 April 2019; Guardian, 3 May 2019)

30 April: Following five months of protests by students and staff, St Edmund’s College, Cambridge terminates the research fellowship of Dr Noah Carl, whose non-peer-reviewed research makes connections between race, IQ and criminality. The College says that Dr. Carl has collaborated with people ‘known to hold extremist views’, and that there was a risk his position could be used to incite racial and religious hatred. (Varsity, 30 April 2019)

5 May: The University of Bristol begins advertising a permanent academic post to coordinate efforts by staff and community groups to investigate the university’s historical links to slavery. The political leaders of the city itself, which was one of three key British ports for slave traders, are also planning a ‘permanent memorial’ to its slave trade past. (Guardian, 5 May 2019)

6 May: Data from 92 UK universities shows that 277 students have been sanctioned for posting racist, homophobic and transphobic comments on social media, as well as images of brandished weapons and other content deemed offensive. The director of the Runnymede Trust says that many more incidents are likely going unreported, and that moral panics about free speech are downplaying the threat of racism in universities. (Guardian, 6 May 2019)

7 May: A review of school exclusions, carried out by former Department for Education minister Edward Timpson, finds that 78 per cent of expelled children either had special educational needs, were eligible for free school meals, or were understood to be ‘in need’. It also finds that children from Afro-Caribbean backgrounds are 1.7 times more likely to be expelled than white British children. (Guardian, 7 May 2019)

MEDIA AND CULTURE

25 April: In the run up to the Spanish general election, Facebook takes down several far-right networks including that of Unidad Nacional Española (UNE), not for Islamophobic, fake and misogynistic content but for ‘coordinated inauthentic behaviour’. (Guardian, 25 April 2019)

27 April: A court rules that the German public broadcaster ZDF acted lawfully when it refused to air a pre-European parliamentary elections campaign advertisement for the far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD). The commercial violates Germany’s criminal code and  threatens public order by ‘maliciously attacking the dignity of foreign residents of Germany’, the court says. (Deutsche Welle, 27 April 2019)

7 May: The 90-foot-long fishing boat that sank in April 2015 in the Mediterranean between Libya and Lampedusa, leading to the deaths of the more than 700 migrants on board, is transported to Venice, where it will be displayed for visitors to the Venice Biennale. (Guardian, 7 May 2019)

7 May: Auschwitz-Birkenau state museum writes to Turin council stating that it will pull out of Turin’s international book fair if the Altafore publishing group, which has close links with the neo-fascist party Casa Pound, is allowed to participate. The Italian authors group Wu Mind and others are already boycotting the event.  (Guardian, 8 May 2019)

HEALTH

April 26: A 34-year-old man from Cameroon, William Tonou-Mbobda, dies in intensive care at the University Hospital Hamburg-Eppendorf, where he was being treated for psychiatric reasons, just five days after being subject to ‘coercive measures’ by three hospital security guards. The hospital has been accused of racism, and the security officers remain on leave while the police investigate. (Spiegel, 29 April 2019; International News, 1 May 2019)

EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION

25 April: Home Office figures obtained by the Morning Star show that people in immigration detention would have earned £500,000 more so far this year had they been paid the minimum wage instead of £1 an hour for their labour. (Morning Star, 25 April 2019)

25 April: A new report by Oxford University’s Centre on Migration Policy and Society finds significant inequalities of outcome faced by ‘asylum migrants’ (those who came to the UK for asylum reasons, but are no longer asylum-seekers) in the labour market. They are less likely to be in employment, earn less and work fewer hours, and are more likely to be self-employed than UK-born people and other migrant groups. Read the report here. (Oxford University, 25 April 2019)

SPORT

28 April: In the northern Italian town of Trieste, organisers of a half-marathon taking place on 5 May reverse their decision, announced the previous day, to exclude African athletes from competing. Their claim that the aim of the ban was to highlight the exploitation of African athletes is dismissed by critics as racist. (Independent, 27 April 2019; Guardian, 28 April 2019)

27 April: Over 160 professional football clubs across Britain take part in the third ‘Football Welcomes’ campaign by Amnesty International, more than three times the number participating last year. The weekend of action includes free tickets being given to refugees and asylum-seekers alongside stadium tours, player visits, and local community events. (Morning Star, 23 April 2019)

6 May: The new Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic Football Forum, thought to be the first of its kind in the UK, reports that it has received evidence of children as young as seven experiencing racist abuse at matches. (BBC News, 6 May 2019)

RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

24 April: In Dungannon, a town in Northern Ireland, ‘Muslims out’ graffiti is daubed on the back wall of a Syrian refugee family’s home. Around the same time, a stone is thrown at another Syrian refugee family’s nearby home. Police are treating both incidents as racially motivated hate crimes. (Irish News, 27 April 2019; Independent, 29 April 2019)

25 April: A report by Czech police shows that anti-Roma, anti-Arab and anti-Muslim crimes increased between 2017 and 2018, while those motivated by antisemitism decreased. While the number of charges and prosecutions for sympathisers of extremist movements decreased, expressions of online hatred have increased. (Romea.cz, 25 April 2019)

26 April: In Swansea, south Wales, racist graffiti saying ‘Muslim c*** scum is found on an outside wall of a family’s home. The mother-of-three says she ‘doesn’t feel safe’ there anymore. (Wales Online, 26 April 2019)

28 April: A man who was shown in a viral video racially abusing and assaulting a taxi driver on Easter Sunday in Dublin hands himself in to the Gardai. (Irish News, 28 April 2019)

7 May: Kenza Isnani, the daughter of Habiba and Ahmed who were shot dead by a militant far-right neighbour who then set fire to their home in 2002, launches a campaign to rename part of the Schaerbeek street in which the murders unfolded after her deceased parents. (The Brussels Times, 7 May 2019)

This calendar was compiled by Joseph Maggs with help from Graeme Atkinson, Jamie Wates and the IRR News Team.

This is ‘Grenfell Britain’, where if a fire does not get you, demolition will

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 04:20

With regeneration looming large over Tottenham (north London), IRR interviews young activist Tash Bonner who is fighting back. 

Tottenham in many respects has been unable to heal from both the murder of Mark Duggan and the uprisings of 2011 – rather than the state dealing with both of these matters and investing in the community, it has instead decided to tear the place down. The 2011 riots, as the IRR argues in The London Clearances: Race Housing and Policing, has been expediently used by the state to justify extensive redevelopment projects, both in Tottenham and across the capital in other low-income BAME neighbourhoods.  More and more councils are capitulating to the pressures of housing financialisation and privatisation. The heart of the city, all the wonderfully vibrant common places we take for granted, the multicultural quarters of the capital, are slowly being eviscerated. And social housing, once held in common, by low income and working class communities, are under threat, with tenants residing in them imperilled in their sleep. This is ‘Grenfell Britain’, where if a fire does not get you, demolition will. [1]

The likelihood that another one of London’s endangered social housing estates will bite the dust, with another community engulfed in the prevailing winds of state-led gentrification, is very real. IRR’s Jessica Perera speaks to north London resident and activist Tash Bonner, founder of the Temporary Accommodation Group (TAG) for Love Lane estate in Tottenham. In the interview that follows, Tash speaks passionately about what it means to live through regeneration and how the community is trying to resist being dispossessed and displaced. He focuses on the gendered, classed and racialised experiences of managed decline, colonial tactics deployed by the council, as well as highlighting the ways young working-class black men living on council estates, are seen as the perpetrators of youth violence, knife crime and gang activity, and never as victims of multiple state failures.

Living on Love Lane and managed decline

Jessica Perera: Would you say a little bit about yourself, and how you came to be involved in the Love Lane estate campaign over regeneration plans.

Tash Bonner

Tash Bonner: My name is Tash, I’m 25 years old, a student studying music business at the British and Irish Modern Music institute (BIMM) in London, and I’m also the chair of the Temporary Accommodation Group, otherwise known as TAG.

I came to be involved in the Love Lane estate campaign through the residents’ association set up by Haringey Council, to help Love Lane residents and answer queries with regards to the estate’s proposed regeneration. After being with the residents’ association for about a year and a half, I felt that it wasn’t doing what it should be doing, specifically about two thirds of the estate’s residents are living in temporary accommodation. I felt the need to separate myself from an association that wasn’t advising or taking the initiative for the majority and the most vulnerable of the tenants. So along with a few other residents, we separated and formed TAG for Love Lane to push for us to be permanently rehoused in a council property in the borough.

JP: What do you think about the proposed regeneration of Love Lane estate and the effect this is having on residents?

TB It’s funny because I think a lot of people, including me, view not only the regeneration of Love Lane and the surrounding area, but the entire regeneration of London itself from quite an objective standpoint. The new Tottenham stadium and White Hart Lane station are seen as this intrusive enemy that’s slowly taking away our land, and to some extent they’re right.

My personal opinion is, cool, things need to move forward and need to be upgraded, and post-war buildings need to be upgraded for obvious reasons, so it’s only natural that regenerations will happen. My issue is, though, how these regenerations are happening and what they’re doing to the communities living there. That’s where it’s getting a bit sticky. Of course, the stadium plans are amazing, but they should provide the community with something. There seems to be more care for the new stadium, the station and having a Costa, and all these other things, at the expense of the community. There’s lives that you’re ruining, and there’s no price on that.

© Alan Stanton

JP: Do you see the failure or neglect of Haringey council in maintaining the safety and hygiene standards of Love Lane as part of the council’s objective to build up a case or justification to demolish the estate?

TB: We’re very much aware that we’re in a vulnerable position, not only as temporary accommodation tenants, but the whole estate is living in uncertainty. At any point we can be upped and left. And not only are you dealing with that, you’re dealing with secure tenants and leaseholders, who are also feeling the pressure from Haringey Council from that neglect and that lack of support. When you take into account the neglect on the upkeep and the maintenance of the estate, well maybe they are trying to make us uncomfortable enough to leave. So, when Haringey Council says to people: ‘right cool, we’re going to move you somewhere else’, people go: ‘well, you know what, yeah, I’d rather go, because at this point, I’m tired, I’m depleted, I’m sick of my surroundings because you haven’t maintained it’.

I’ve been living on Love Lane for three years now, and when I first moved in, the upkeep of the estate was fairly regular. But I was looking into my mum’s tenancy agreement recently, and it said there was a service charge for things like a lift and general maintenance and what not. But actually, my block doesn’t have a lift, so it dawned on me, why are we paying service charge for something that we don’t have? I also recall seeing that the estate – well, my block at least – was cleaned, at least every other week. But slowly over time, especially in the run up to us being given the ballot for the GLA funding (it was last summer when the news came out that Haringey were trying to get GLA funding, and that a ballot would happen as a result) I started to notice that the general upkeep of the estate plummeted. The amount of times that the security door of my block was broken, and would stay broken… and there are security doors for a reason! They have been left broken for weeks. And when those doors are broken, you have rough sleepers, prostitutes and drug users now finding shelter in my block. But there are lots of children, young people, women and families on the estate, this is a problem. Managed decline, it’s real man, it’s really real.

When I first moved there, the estate was a lot more vibrant and it felt a lot safer. In the summertime the kids were able to play on the grass, and there were barbeques for the community, you felt at home. But over the last 12 or 18 months, the blocks have become a lot more dangerous, and I’m having to take action, I’m having to tell them [drug users and prostitutes] to get the hell out. But that puts me in a vulnerable position – who knows what could happen? Haringey Council should protect us. One time a ‘nitty’ defecated in the corner of my block, and it sat there for a week, a whole week. That shouldn’t be happening. And what’s frustrating is that when we mention this type of anti-social behaviour to Haringey Council, they ignore us. When I talk about anti-social behaviour I’m not talking about young people. For me, Tottenham is full of young people; there are lots of colleges and schools near us. But when Haringey council say’s it’s going to ‘fix things’, they mean regeneration and installing CCTV.

Regenerating Tottenham: 2011 riots, policing and knife crime

JP: Did the riots of 2011 play a role in the council’s plans to regenerate the area?

TB: Definitely. I feel like the 2011 riots, as well as the misinformation about those riots, in terms of who was responsible and who was involved, is being used against the people living in Tottenham. For me, that’s unfair. There was this whole blame pushed onto gangs and on people of colour, people who live on council estates. But when you look at the facts that’s not exactly accurate, and so for those events to be used as an excuse to regenerate the area, then you’re basing your whole argument on misrepresented information.

Demonstration outside Tottenham police station following the Mark Duggan inquest verdict

The riots have been used as an excuse to regenerate Tottenham, it’s almost like they thought if you don’t regenerate the area, then who knows in five- or six-years’ time we might have another one! But look at what started the 2011 riots, where Mark Duggan was shot by police and the people were angry. It’s call and response. In the community’s eyes, someone was seen to been unlawfully killed, so of course people are going to be angry and react.  And what’s been the reaction from the council: ‘we need to regenerate the area because of these riots’. But what caused the riots? This backward way of thinking doesn’t quite go to the core of the issue, glazing over what really happened. That for me is truly unfair.

JP: Sixty-five per cent of Haringey residents are non-white British. Is regeneration reconstituting the social landscape?

TB: The BAME community is being targeted by the police, that’s just one uncomfortable reality that we’ve got to live with. Not only do we have to deal with the uncertainty of knowing our homes might be demolished because of regeneration or that gentrification is pushing us out, but while we’re still here, we have to watch our backs because of the police. It’s a constant prod. We are losing our community; Caribbean shops, Polish shops, ethnic shops. All these other things that are genuinely part of our community are slowly being taken away from us. When rents go up, shops are forced to close, and the local community is blocked from what is, essentially, ours. And I can only imagine that post-regeneration, that 65 per cent will drop. Tottenham might not even be a Labour Council in five years? It might be Lib Dem. Knowing what Tottenham was, and what it will become, it’s crazy, absolutely crazy.

JP: Has Tottenham seen an increase in police presence since undergoing redevelopment?

TB: This might sound crazy to anyone not from Tottenham, but the sound of sirens – it’s normal. Especially on Love Lane, which is practically on the High Road. But what I have noticed is a huge increase in police officers patrolling the area. And even more so on my block specifically. I don’t understand why. I think their increased presence is more to do with redeveloping the area, than say with knife crime. It seems to me like there has been a push for more police presence in areas that are being redeveloped as opposed to areas suffering from increased instances of knife crime.

2011 London uprising © Raymond Yau

JP: Knife crime and ‘gang activity’ are often associated by media and politicians with particular problem housing estates. Is that the case in the proposed demolition of Love Lane or Broadwater Farm estates?

TB: With regards to knife crime, it’s related to dropping the upkeep of the estate. I mean, if you deprive people of their resources then of course they’re gonna fight each other, and become a bit more savage. If you need something, you’re going to grab what’s closest to you. And so if you’re not upkeeping these estates, and then all of a sudden we see, as a result, an increase in crime, ‘gang crime’ or violence, then maybe you need to start looking after the communities as opposed to making cuts to the police force, and then when people start getting a bit desperate and seeking other means to survive, go: ‘let’s regenerate it’. That’s the narrative.

You’re doing nothing to solve the problems here, and when they get too big, or seem to get too big, they’re used as an excuse to basically get rid of a whole community and put new people there. There’s cheaper, more affordable and more ethical and humane things you’d could have done – five or ten years ago to prevent us from being in this state. I’m not the first person saying these things. They’ve been said for ages. We should be more fearful of austerity than knife crime, but why is this not in the media? Poor communities are not ignorant of this, but the media and the politicians are making a deal out of knife crime, which they are creating, and then using it as an excuse to go, ‘you guys need to go’. It’s wrong, on all levels.

Gentrification: race, class and gender

JP: Are we looking at ‘social cleansing’ — the large-scale removal of lower-income residents (and local business owners) where they are seen as undesirable and having no financial value?

TB: Yes, though I’d say, ‘very little financial value’ or ‘not as much financial value in particular areas’. Regeneration is ultimately about business and profit. [If you think about] the amount of money that is going to be generated from the stadium alone, of course [the council] is going to be want to capitalise on that, so social cleansing is inevitable.

But the council shouldn’t just get rid of the people living there and bring new people in to up their revenue. Instead it should try and make the most revenue out of this area, with the people that live there now. I don’t think taking away what’s there and replacing it with something for purely financial gain is benefitting anyone. You’re losing what Tottenham is. It’s going to be this new Tottenham, it might even be called something else in ten years, who knows! Social cleansing is taking place and it’s so wrong. It’s people’s lives, people’s families, people who have been there for twenty-plus years, people’s whose kids have been brought up there, going to school, people who intended to die there and are being told, you need to go somewhere else because we’ve got this new stadium here, and we need space for a walkway.

The plan is to basically demolish Love Lane estate and create a space between White Hart Lane Station and the stadium, so fans can get through easier. That’s 300 families for a walkway. My argument is, you can have the walkway, but just rehouse us in the new flats you intend to build. But of course, living next to a station, that’s a luxury in London …

Tash Bonner with Tottenham MP David Lammy

JP: Local MP David Lammy is quoted as saying ‘Tottenham could do with a bit of gentrification’. Does the long-standing Tottenham community use these new spaces and shops?

TB: These shiny new things that Haringey council want to build aren’t for the existing community, they’re for a new community. That’s what happened with Shoreditch, Dalston and London Fields. We’ve seen it already, we know what is coming. I’m just waiting for a Waitrose, Marks & Spencer’s and Starbucks to pop-up in Tottenham. It used to be that when you got out of Zone 2 you wouldn’t see a Starbucks. But then I saw a Starbucks in Finsbury Park, and I was like ‘wow, a Starbucks in the ends?’ But how many people from the local community will go to Starbucks? That Starbucks will be for those new people now living in Woodberry Down and the other new builds.

JP: Do you think regeneration and gentrification are about race as well as class?

TB: Most definitely, so much of the BAME community falls into the ‘lower classes’ in Tottenham. It’s completely about race, as much as it is about class. And although I lean towards class, gentrification has a specific effect on BAME communities too. In terms of class, Tottenham and Haringey are prime real-estate locations. What we’re seeing in certain areas is over-policing, which then essentially reduces the number of people of colour in an area. Race and class are being attacked from two different angles but somehow end up meeting in the middle.

JP: And what are the gendered aspects of regeneration? For example, what are the differences a single-parent, a mother, might experience because of regeneration that is different to young people or men?

TB: While regeneration affects everyone, it affects everyone differently. Single mums, families of four and young black men like myself each form a subject group, and so for me I notice increase police presence in my area and might be subject to targeting from that, whereas that might not affect a single mum with young children. But for women and single mums, they are targeted by managed decline in a quieter way. If you’re trying to look after your child, and do the best for that child, and then the security of your home is [compromised] both by the threat of eviction and increased presence of prostitutes and drug users, that’s an additional burden. Look at it like this, mums need to work, so she goes to provide for her children, and there’s benefits in place to help with that, but then mum makes a tiny bit too much or does a bit of overtime, because it’s Christmas time, and then they cut away the benefits. This is what’s happening with Universal Credit.

Overcrowding is also another issue, I’ve heard of families where there’s been seven people living in a two bed, and even more in some cases, because they are not being rehoused. So now this whole family is subject to the pressures of not having enough space, when teenagers get home that will affect their schooling. But also, there’s an additional pressure teenagers have, feeling like it’s not safe to go out or come home late in your own area because you’re constantly being told knife crime is on the rise and you have to be safe. Everyone living in poverty is being poked with a different rod. For young black men, it’s the police, for young mothers it’s the lack of security in every sense. Teenagers, it’s the fear of knife crime. And all of these things are controllable, and in my opinion are being used by local councils, politicians and the media. At the same time, it’s those same bodies that can actually do something to help us and reverse it. But they’re not.

Divide and rule and the will to fight

JP: Is the fight against gentrification a fight for spatial-justice — the right for community groups to exist in spaces and places that are increasingly becoming (financially or socially) hostile?

TB: You’re completely correct. It’s very much about our right to be there. We built this. What I find so ironic about gentrification is that outsiders love the idea of the black community, but they don’t love the community itself. The black community is being fetishised, they love Caribbean, Asian and Hispanic food, but they don’t want Hispanics, Asians and Blacks amongst their new things [facilities, shops and housing]. It’s plain-sight robbery.

JP: As the material and social landscape changes, how do communities register the loss?

TB: I already feel like I’m at a loss. I’ve lost time and energy as a result. But if I don’t campaign and fight for my community, fight for what I believe is mine and what I believe I’m entitled to, then essentially, I will lose my community, I will lose what I’m entitled to. But that is traumatic — the fatigue, the exhaustion, the tiredness, the days you’ve gotta go to a meeting with David Lammy or the leader of Haringey Council, the deputy head of housing, and even before you get into the meeting, you feel what’s the point. And even worse, coming out of that meeting knowing that you’ve l got nothing out of them. What do you do? Who do you speak to?

Campaigning is tiring, when you’re visiting people door-to-door, and really engaging with your neighbours and the residents, you can feel the trauma, that sense of defeat, everyone’s just tired. Whether you’re campaigning on the frontline or waiting for something to happen [eviction] everyone’s traumatised. It’s managed decline – not just in terms of the upkeep of the estate, but in terms of people’s emotional vigour, the breaking down of the will to want to fight. And it’s being managed in a way that’s making it plummet, people are just tired. I’m tired. So, I’m forced to fight, despite the fact it’s taking me away from the things I love and it’s taking away my energy.

TAG demonstrating outside MP David Lammy’s Tottenham surgery

JP: What’s the political mood in Tottenham is at the moment? You’re the leader of TAG, are the community prepared to fight against regeneration and gentrification?

TB: Surprisingly, yes. But what makes it hard is the lack of harmony between different groups and activists. Activists want to feel important. They are great for community initiatives like TAG because they are active, but everyone has got a political position they then try to push. We are in a vulnerable position, and though we need solidarity, people have different agendas and want different outcomes.

Firstly, the regeneration of Love Lane, for instance, is different to Broadwater Farm’s. Second, while bringing everyone together is great [because it builds solidarity and resistance] and we all want the same thing [to be rehoused in Haringey post-regeneration], it highlights the differences in our approach to the fight. Perhaps Haringey council is aware of this; it’s almost like we’re pitted against each other. Some of us in TAG feel we should be prioritised over Broadwater Farm because we’re on a [proposed] demolition site and they’re not.

JP: Is Haringey council making you fight one another like a divide and rule tactic?

TB: To some extent, yes. We met with Cllr Emina Ibrahim, who is deputy of Haringey Council, and when we said, ‘you guys put us here as temporary accommodation tenants, en masse, not just thirty of us, you put three hundred of us here. And now you’ve made all these plans to redevelop the area, and you’re not telling us what will happen to us, where you will rehouse us and listen to our concerns. As a body you need to be responsible for the actions you’ve made.’ The response we’ve been getting is: ‘yeah we understand you need to be homed, but there are 4,000 people on the waiting list and we need to work out what’s fair for everyone.’ Whilst we understand that everyone is in need, it backs you into a corner, where you start to feel you have to be selfish, you become anxious that someone 5 or 10 minutes down the road might get rehoused before you. It’s like Hunger Games.

Follow TAG’s campaign here on Twitter

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