Institute of Race Relations News
We are providing all you need to know about the Gilets Noirs and its continuing fight for the rights of undocumented people in France and beyond.
In November of 2018, French President Emmanuel Macron announced the introduction of a fuel tax that would disproportionately affect those on lower incomes (those in the bottom decile were to be taxed 5 times more heavily). In response, the French took to the streets and so began the now famed, Gilets Jaunes movement. At around the same time, but with far less media coverage a group of undocumented workers in France met for the first time – they were to become the Gilets Noirs.
Who are the Gilets Noirs
Originally a relatively small organisation of ‘sans-papiers’, the Gilets Noirs have, over the last 10 months, expanded into (in their words) the largest collective of undocumented workers in France. Taking their inspiration from the Gilets Jaunes they chose their name to highlight the racism and exploitation of the French state. The Gilets Noirs do not need to don a tabard to highlight their invisibility and silencing by the state, their vest is their face.
Although an open group for all undocumented people, the members of the Gilets Noirs are predominantly from the likes of the Ivory Coast, Senegal, Mali, Burkina Faso, Benin and Niger (France’s former African colonies) many of whom have been working in France in precarious and exploitative conditions for years. The imperial connection between France and the Gilets Noirs’ home countries is one of the things that makes their movement so powerful. The usual tropes and arguments that significantly ‘other’ immigrants (go back home, where are you from?) are complicated by the imperial connection – many of the members of the Gilets Noirs have family members who fought for France during the Second World War. Although this is a common issue for colonial and former colonial migrants throughout Europe, this is more complicated in France as France refuses to see ‘race’ at a legislative level and places a premium on its notion of a ‘colourblind citizenship’ in the ‘indivisible republic’. This hypocrisy is one of the key elements of the Gilets Noirs’ fight and has influenced how they have organised.
How the Gilets Noirs challenge French views on ‘race’
France has, within Europe, a uniquely complicated relationship with ‘race’. Since the Revolution and its rallying cry of ‘Equality, Solidarity and Fraternity’ the French narrative has constructed the colourblind nation. Instead of organising around ethnicity/race lines France was/is divided between foreigners and citizens. Under this model the French state upholds the belief that ‘race has no scientific basis’ and that we are all part of the human race. The depth of this belief was seen in 2013 with the decision to remove the word ‘race’ from French legislation. However, what the Gilets Noirs movement, as well as others against police brutality and racial profiling (such as Justice pour Adama), show is that the removal of the word does not remove the effects of racism. As Lionel Tardy said in 2013 in response to the word’s removal: you ‘can’t change reality just by changing words… [you are] wasting time and energy on illusions.’
Mobilising for the ‘undocumented’
Since November 2018, the Gilets Noirs have held ever larger demonstrations targeted at locations that exemplify their exploitation and silencing. They have consistently chosen symbols of the French state that encompass the utopian national narrative. Their first action was held at the Musee d’Immigration in Paris – a building erected for the 1931 Paris Colonial Exhibition to house artefacts from Africa and Oceania, a bastion of French imperialism. Their second action was held at the Comedie Française, France’s national theatre (the world’s longest established) and previous known as the ‘House of Molière’ a playwright adored by the court of Louis XIV.
Then in May 2019, the Gilets Noirs held their biggest protest, that finally gave them the headlines they needed and the recognition they deserve. Hundreds occupied Terminal 2 of Charles de Gaulle Airport, Paris – chosen because it is where the headquarters of Air France are located and from where the majority of EU flights depart. The action was used to highlight the disparity between the open borders enjoyed by EU citizens, that allow them to ‘pass through showing only their official documents’, cheaply and easily travelling across borders, whilst below them, in the basement, are the deportation holding cells where people are ‘threatened, handcuffed, gagged and insulted by the police’. The Gilets Noirs are clear in their views and their analysis, they are throwing into stark relief the effects of Fortress Europe that cuts the world sharply into the ‘haves’ and the ‘have nots’.
Another significance of the CDG airport action, in addition to it putting the Gilets Noirs on the map, is that they were calling for solidarity from everyone to oppose deportations and demand that the state stop prosecuting the ‘sans-papiers’ (those without papers). This was the moment that the Gilets Noirs was seen as the expansive movement it is. It could not be dismissed as a single-issue movement of a disenfranchised minority. Although a key component of their fight is a residence amnesty, that would allow all undocumented people to access health care and job security, their fight is much broader than this. They are also fighting against homelessness (there are thousands on the streets of Paris at the moment), the lack of work and economic security more broadly in France, police repression and deportations and the detention system. This is a movement led by the undocumented but fighting for rights that will improve the conditions for many more and asking for solidarity and assistance from the rest of society.
In June, the Gilets Noirs occupied the headquarters of Elior, a cleaning and catering multinational. Taking their fight from the symbolic institutions of French imperial power to the very real and current sites of exploitation conducted by global conglomerates. They accuse Elior of knowingly employing undocumented people so that they can be forced to work in dangerous conditions, exploiting their legal status.
The fight against Elior continued over the summer and on the 11 October the Gilets Noirs with the assistance of the CNT-SO (CNT Workers Solidarity) launched legal proceedings against Eloir with the Labour Courts. They have filed seven cases suing Elior for €80,000, with 197 further cases ready to be submitted during the second negotiation, for their ‘racist exploitation of undocumented workers’.
Then in July, the Gilets Noirs held their most daring action yet: they occupied the Pantheon in Paris. The Pantheon has a long history with the French state and is the site where the remains of distinguished French citizens (i.e. Nobel Peace Prize winner René Cassin, physicists Marie Curie and the French resistance leader Jean Moulin) are buried. The Gilets Noirs used the peaceful occupation of the Pantheon to call for a meeting with prime minister Edouard Philippe and distribute leaflets to passers by. The action received widespread media coverage but was met with violent police repression. There were many arrests and injuries after the police dressed in riot gear stormed the area. In response the Gilets Noirs have again called for solidarity from French citizens and created a defence fund. Hosted on le pot solidaire, they are campaigning to raise money so that anyone arrested during one of their actions has the ability to pay for bail and a defence should the case go to court.
Why this goes beyond France
The Gilets Noirs have ignitied a debate about resident rights, the exploitation of undocumented people and, by extension, interrogated EU citizenship rights. Recently, there have been protests in Belgium and Italy by undocumented workers demanding the right to work and work in safety. And last year the Permanent People’s Tribunal held a hearing in the UK on the Rights of Migrant and Refugee People, which brought together hundreds of people from across Europe to give testimony on their experiences. A movement like this is so important at a time when white nationalism and nativism is sweeping across Europe. In this world the Gilets Noirs are a significant movement because they are giving a voice to the silenced and highlighting the hypocrisies of Fortress Europe that allows for free movement for some and arrest and detention for others.Related Links:
Read about the French state’s response to deaths in custody here
Donate to the solidarity fund here
Keep up to date with the Gilets Noirs by following La Chapelle Debout here
A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.ASYLUM, MIGRANT RIGHTS, CITIZENSHIP Asylum and migration rights
1 October: In a speech at the Conservative party conference, home secretary Priti Patel outlines a hardline immigration policy, promising to end free movement for EU nationals and introduce an ‘Australian-style’ points-based immigration system. (Guardian, 1 October 2019)
4 October: The Refugee Council accuses the UK government of a ‘disgraceful U-turn’ after it revealed that UK-based NGOs assisting refugees would no longer have access to the EU’s asylum, migration and integration fund (AMIF) in the event of a no-deal Brexit, contrary to earlier government statements that the funding would remain secure. This means that vulnerable refugees risk losing access to housing, health care and children’s school places. (Guardian, 4 October 2019)
4 October: Shadow home secretary Diane Abbott calls for an immediate review of the Home Office, while the co-leader of the Greens, Jonathan Bartley, proposes its abolition and replacement by a ‘fairer’ Ministry for Sanctuary, following the revelation that 96 percent of allegations of serious misconduct by Home Office staff relate to immigration matters. (Guardian, BBC, 4 October 2019)
8 October: Denmark refuses to join the agreement of several EU countries to redistribute migrants throughout Europe, claiming that to do so would add incentives for people to travel to Europe. (The Local, 8 October 2019)
10 October: As more than 60,000 people flee the Turkish military offensive against Kurdish forces in north-eastern Syrian Turkish president Recep Tayyip Erdoǧan threatens to ‘open the gates and send 3.6 million refugees’ to Europe if EU leaders label Turkey’s military campaign an occupation. (Independent, 10 October 2019)Reception and Detention
1 October: The UN special rapporteur on human rights calls on the Bosnian government to stop forcing migrants and refugees into the Vucjak camp close to the Croatian border, a former landfill site close to landmine-infected areas which lacks running water, electricity, medical care and proper sanitation facilities. (Reuters, 1 October 2019)
10 October: The European Court of Human Rights orders the Greek government to provide appropriate child-friendly accommodation for children currently detained in police stations and immigration detention centres in Greece. (AYS, 10 October 2019)
10 October: In Lesbos, Greece, twelve refugees from Afghanistan and Iran, facing criminal charges for protests in Mytilini over several weeks in November 2017, are found not guilty, but another person is convicted for resisting arrest. The judge indirectly acknowledges that the horrible reception conditions at Moria camp justified the setting up of a camp of protest tents in a public space. (Deportation Monitoring Aegean, 12 October 2019)
10 October As evacuation begins at Saint Herblain gymnasium in Nantes, France, where roughly 800 displaced people have been living precariously for over a year, police take 48 people, including 16 children, to new shelters. (Ouest France, 8 October 2019)
14 October: A fire breaks out at a migrant camp in Samos, Greece forcing hundreds of people on to the streets. This is the second blaze in as many weeks. (Al Jazeera, 15 October 2019)Borders and internal controls
4 October: The Border Violence Monitoring Network analyses Croatian government statistics and concludes that an illegal push-back takes place at the very least every 20 minutes at the Croatian border. Read the report here. (Are you Syrious, 4 October 2019)
7 October: The newspaper Avvenire reveals that the man the UN describes as ‘one of the world’s most notorious human traffickers’, Abd al-Rahman Milad, attended a meeting between Italian intelligence officials and the Libyan coastguard in 2017 at the Cara di Mineo migrant reception centre in Sicily. (Guardian, 7 October 2019)
7 October: The EU and Montenegro sign a border management agreement allowing Frontex to coordinate operations on the common borders between EU Member states and Montenegro. (Consilium, 7 October 2019)
8 October: At the conclusion of the second inquest for Dexter Bristol, a Windrush migrant who died of acute heart failure while trying to prove his British citizenship, senior coroner Mary Hassell ruled that his death was due to natural causes, but agreed that his fight to prove his citizenship was one of a number of ‘stressors’ leading to his death. (Independent, 8 October 2019)
9 October: Documents released by the Home Office reveal it implemented a face-detection system to operate its passport photo checking service, despite knowing the technology failed to work well for people of some ethnic minority groups. (New Scientist, 9 October 2019)
15 October: In the wake of the discovery of the bodies of two young Iraqi men aged 17 and 22 on the beach at Le Touquet, 40 nukes south of Calais, believed to have been attempting to cross the channel, the British and French governments announce enhanced policing of the beach to intercept migrants trying to launch boats (Telegraph, 15 October 2019)Deportations
7 October: Figures released by the German government following the deportation, despite support from the church in Hesse, of a pregnant Ethiopian woman to Poland reveal that the success rate of appeals from the churches to stop deportations on humanitarian grounds fell from 80 per cent in 2015/16 to 2 per cent in the first six months of 2019. (Info Migrants, 7 October 2019)
10 October: In an interview with Die Welt, security minister Brandon Lewis warns EU citizens that they will be deported from the UK if they fail to apply for settled status after Brexit. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
15 October: The Home Office is using information gathered in ‘immigration surgeries’ at charities and places of worship to deport vulnerable homeless people who are told that attending will help them get financial support, the Guardian reports. (Guardian, 15 October 2019)Citizenship
2 October: More than 130,000 descendants of Jews expelled from Spain in the late 15th century have applied for Spanish citizenship under a reparations law introduced four years ago. (Guardian, 2 October 2019)ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
4 October: In Zwickau, Saxony, vandals take a saw to hack down an oak tree planted to commemorate Enver Simsek, the first victim of the National Socialist Underground. This is ‘simply shocking’, says a spokesperson for the German chancellor. (Deutsche Welle in English, 4 October 2019)
4 October: Members from the Spanish far-right party España 2000 chanting Francoist slogans storm the showing of a new film ‘While at War’, which tells the story of a confrontation during the Spanish civil war. (El Pais, 4 October 2019)
4 October: In Edinburgh, a far-right sympathiser David Dudgeon suffering from psychosis, who appears to have been referred to the police by his psychiatrist, is jailed for two years after being found guilty of downloading ‘sinister, violent and disturbing’ terrorist manuals. (East Lothian Courier, 4 October 2019)
6 October: At the annual Pride event in Poland, counter-protesters, including many from the far Right, pelted demonstrators with bottles and shouted ‘Lublin free from deviations.’ A couple are arrested for possession of a home-made bomb made of gas canisters and fireworks. (Instinct Magazine, 6 October 2019)
7 October: Challenging Hateful Extremism, a new report from the Commission for Countering Extremism (CCE), based on a visit to 20 towns and cities and 3,000 responses to a call for evidence, states that far-right activists are exploiting community tensions by swooping into towns and cities and distorting the truth in an effort to turn white residents against minorities, particularly Muslims. The situation in Sunderland is highlighted, where the far Right has attempted to racialise sex crimes. Read the report here. (Guardian, 7 October 2019)
9 October: Authorities in Dresden confirm that an investigation for incitement to racial hatred is being opened into Lutz Bachmann, the leader of PEGIDA who at a recent rally called for the death of political opponents and environmentalists, describing them as Volksschädlinge, a Nazi term meaning ‘parasites of the people’, as well as ‘disgusting maggots’. (Deutsche Welle in English, 9 October 2019)
9 October: Authorities carry out raids across Germany as part of an investigation into a series of bomb threats from Volksfront, Combat 18 and Blood & Honour, sent to mosques, media companies, Islamic organisations, political party HQs, and a refugee reception centre in Bavaria. (Deutsche Welle in English, 9 October 2019)
11 October: There is consternation after the Alternative Right’s Steve Bannon speaks, alongside the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levy at the New York Times-backed policy and business-oriented Athens Democracy Forum. View the video here. (Keep Talking Greece, 11 October 2019)Halle synagogue attack
9 October: In Halle, Saxony-Anhalt, two people are shot dead and two more seriously injured after a white nationalist gunman dressed in military gear, wearing a body camera and ranting against feminism, immigration and the Holocaust, attempts unsuccessfully to force his way into a synagogue in the Paulusviertel quarter of the city. He then turns his gun on a woman passer-by, who dies alongside a male customer outside a nearby kebab shop. The interior minister confirms that anti-Semitism is a motive for the attack, and it soon emerges that the arrested suspect, Stephen Balliet, posted a mission statement on the message board Kohlchan – the German equivalent of 4chan. (Guardian, 9, 10 October 2019, Daily Mail, 9 October 2019)
10 October: A court in Thuringia finds grandmother Irmela Mensah-Schramm guilty of property damage for spraying over Nazi graffiti in Eisenach. If what I did is criminal, she says, ‘I’d like to see myself as a repeat offender’. (Deutsche Welle, 11 October 2019)
10 October: German interior minister Horst Seehofer promises to permanently improve security measures at synagogues across the country after the president of the Central Council of Jews in Germany criticises the police both for failing to guard the synagogue on Yom Kippur and for their slow response to the attack. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
13 October: Following the Halle terrorist attack, the Czech far-right leader Tomio Okamura (Freedom and Direct Democracy) says that even if the attacker turns out to be a Nazi, people should remember that Jews in western Europe ‘are facing growing terror’ as ‘a consequences of the Islamicisation of Western Europe’, that Muslims and Nazis have collaborated ‘before in history’, and that ‘Muslim SS units were’ formed. (Romea.cz, 13 October 2019)
13 October: A number of senior German politicians link the far-Right attack on the Halle synagogue to inflammatory language used by some politicians, particularly those from Alternative for Germany (AfD). Bavarian state interior minister Joachim Herrmann (CSU) speaks of ‘spiritual arsonists’; former German Social Democrat foreign minister Sigmar Gabriel (Social Democratic Party, SPD) tweets that ‘The Halle attack demonstrates that radicalisation of language leads to radicalisation of actions’ and SPD parliamentarian Rolf Mützenich says he believes the Halle attacker ‘felt encouraged by representatives of the AfD, among others, who belittle and deny what the reign of Nazi terror perpetrated’. (Romea.cz, 13 October 2019)
13 October: Thousands of people march in Berlin under the slogan ‘We Stand United’ to protest the rise of the far Right and the Halle synagogue attacks, as the victims are named as painter-decorator Kevin S, 20, and Jana Lange, 40, who was gunned down outside the synagogue after she reprimanded the gunman for making too much noise outside a Jewish place of worship. (Morning Star, 13 October 2019, Times of Israel, 11 October 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS – UK
6 October: After the Mail on Sunday quotes a government spokesperson saying that the three MPs who drew up the bill to prevent a no-deal Brexit were under investigation for having ‘engaged in collusion with foreign powers’, one of the three, Dominic Grieve MP, reports receiving a death threat. (Guardian, 7 October 2019)
7 October: Researchers at the Institute of Strategic Dialogue say that loose far-right online networks utilising Telegram, 8chan and Gab, are spreading extremist material fuelled by mainstream political rhetoric, with some using the hashtag #BackBoris, openly supportive of Boris Johnson’s no-deal Brexit. (Guardian, 7 October 2019)
9 October: Arron Banks apologises for ‘going too far’ after a Leave.EU tweet shows Angela Merkel with arm raised and the slogan ‘We didn’t win two world wars to be pushed around by a Kraut’. (Guardian, 9 October 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS – EUROPE
4 October: In Greece, the hard-right New Democracy government is accused of repeating far-right arguments about ‘population replacement’ after government spokesperson Stelios Petsa tells SKAI television that Greece is now experiencing migratory flows from countries with different religions and cultures. (esyn.gr, 4 October 2019).
7 October: Following the Portuguese general election, a new far-right party, Chega! (That’s Enough!) enters parliament for the first time, winning a single seat. (Yahoo News, 7 October 2019)
11 October: The Polish national broadcaster, TVP, is accused of being a mouthpiece for propaganda of the governing hard-right Law and Justice( PiS) party, as days before the general election it broadcasts Invasion, a ‘documentary’ with the alleged ‘inside story, aims, methods, and money behind the LGBT invasion’ of Poland. (Guardian, 11 October 2019)
14 October: Poland’s ruling PiS party wins just under 44 per cent of the vote in the general election, but fails to increase its majority in the lower chamber and loses control of the upper house which is vital for the pursuit of its legislative agenda. The new far Right Confederation party takes 6.8 per cent. (Guardian, 14 October 2019)
14 October: In Hungary, the ruling authoritarian party Fidesz, suffers losses in local elections where a higher than usual voter turnout returns a centre-left mayoral candidate in Budapest, and in another ten major cities where the opposition united to field one candidate. (Guardian, 14 October 2019)POLICING AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
1 October: Following a freedom of Information request by Julie’s Mental Health Foundation and Inquest, the BBC reveals that 32 police forces spent £410,000 on legal fees for inquests relating to deaths in police custody – ten times more than the £41,000 granted in legal aid for families’ legal costs. (Inquest, 1 October 2019)
4 October: Scotland Yard announces it will increase the number of police officers on patrol with Taser stun guns in London to 10,000, a significant expansion of the Met Police’ firearms capacity. (Evening Standard, 4 October 2019)
4 October: The Met Police is forced to apologise for passing on images of seven people to the private owners of the Kings Cross development in its facial recognition surveillance scheme, in accordance with a secret agreement entered into by London’s deputy mayor, which ran for two years from 2016. Read the MPS official statement here. (Guardian, 4 October 2019)
4 October: Eight Hampshire police officers and a civilian worker based in Basingstoke face gross misconduct hearings for using inappropriate and prejudiced language and behaviour, reportedly picked up on hidden cameras. (BBC News, 4 October 2019)
5 October: Southall Black Sisters and human rights organisation Liberty launch legal challenges against the Met Police’s plans to reintroduce the controversial policy of sharing data on victims of crime with the Home Office, a policy that was previously withdrawn after legal challenges earlier this year. (Guardian, 5 October 2019)
6 October: The human rights group Liberty finds that UK counter-terror police have been running a secret database containing details of thousands referred to the government’s controversial anti-radicalisation Prevent programme. Liberty says the database is designed to ‘monitor and control’ minority communities and political activists and calls for government scrutiny of the strategy. (6 October 2019, Liberty press release; 6 October 2019, Guardian, 6 October 2019)
8 October: The director of Inquest calls for ‘the most robust scrutiny’ into events around the death of a newborn baby at Bronzefield Prison, the largest women’s prison in the UK, run by Sodexo Justice services, which occurred when the mother was left to give birth alone in her cell. (Guardian, 8 October 2019)
10 October: Sicilian judges accuse prosecutors of serious neglect over the prosecution of an Eritrean man who spent more than three years in jail, accused of being one of the world’s most wanted human traffickers, in a case of mistaken identity. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
10 October: At the High Court, a judge approves the terms of a settlement of the damages claim by the family of Mark Duggan, shot dead by police in Tottenham, north London in 2011, against the Metropolitan police. (Guardian, 11 October 2019)
13 October: The Criminal Cases Review Commission refers the conviction of the four black men who were jailed for theft and assault on the police in 1972 and became known as the ‘Oval Four’, to the Court of Appeal. (Guardian, 13 October 2019)
10 October: Self-inflicted prison deaths in England and Wales have increased by 23% in a year, while drug abuse continues to plague facilities despite repeated recommendations to tackle the problems, the prisons watchdog finds. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
11 October: Europe’s anti-torture watchdog describes conditions in Scotland’s overcrowded prisons as an emergency situation. (Guardian, 11 October 2019)
13 October: At its annual party conference, the SNP unanimously backs decriminalising the possession and consumption of controlled drugs, and calls for powers over drug policy to be devolved. (Independent, 13 October 2019)
14 October: Prison reform charities condemn the government’s enthusiasm for extending minimum prison terms as ‘the politics of the lynch mob’ and an unnecessary duplication of existing judicial powers. (Guardian, 14 October 2019)
4 October: A Bureau of Investigative Journalism report shows that nearly all homes for rent in Britain are too expensive for families on housing benefit. (Bureau of Investigative Journalism, 4 October 2019)
7 October: Enfield council in London announces plans to stop moving homeless people outside the borough to Harlow, Essex, as part of a wider effort to end its ‘extensive’ use of temporary accommodation. The council also intends to relocate residents living in converted office blocks. (Inside Housing, 7 October 2019)
8 October: Residents of the West Kensington and Gibbs Green council estates in London, also known as the ‘People’s Estates’, celebrate Hammersmith and Fulham council’s decision to issue a compulsory purchase order on areas earmarked for luxury redevelopment and to build a large amount of social housing on it. (Guardian, 8 October 2019)
10 October: Generation Rent find that private renters in England are losing out on about £70m a year when landlords kick them out, due to missed time at work, cleaning bills and moving costs among other things. The campaign group has said that more than half of the public believe landlords should foot these bills. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
13 October: An Observer investigation finds that 156 private companies, providing temporary accommodation in England, have made £215m in profits over the last financial year. Most of these profits were made in the top fifty homeless areas, prompting researchers to argue this is entrenching the homeless crisis. (Guardian, 13 October 2019)DISCRIMINATION
3 October: A report by Edinburgh University reveals that one-third of people from BAME communities experienced discrimination within the last two years and that confidence in the ability of institutions to tackle it is falling. The Scottish government says it will ‘continue to take decisive action’ on racism and discrimination. (The National, 3 October 2019)EMPLOYMENT
3 October: Following a manager’s alleged racist questioning of a young Muslim member of staff, fifty members of Bootle and Seaforth postal delivery office walk out and picket the depot in protest at the manager’s treatment of staff. (Morning Star, 3 October 2019)EDUCATION
10 October: Senior managers at Goldsmiths college, University of London admit its record on addressing racism is unacceptable after a survey finds a quarter of its BME students have experienced racism from students and staff, and promises to do more to make them feel safe and to implement its recommendations, including a review of the complaints procedure and appointment of more BME senior managers. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
11 October: Research by the Education Policy Institute finds that 61,000 pupils – one in ten of the national cohort sitting GCSEs in 2017 – disappeared from school rolls, of whom two in five never returned. The majority of those apparently ‘off-rolled’ were from vulnerable groups including children in care, receiving free school meals or with special needs. (Guardian, 11 October 2019)
12 October: A study from Kings College London finds that 26 papers by influential psychologist Hans Eysenck, which included controversial ‘findings’ in the 1970s relating to biological race and intelligence, are not scientifically rigorous and journals are asked to redact his articles. (Guardian, 12 October 2019)HEALTH
10 October: A Cardiff University study into the health implications of gambling finds that minority-ethnic children aged 11-16 in Wales are two or three times more likely to gamble for money on fruit machines, playing cards, or buying scratch cards than their white counterparts. (Guardian, 10 October 2019)
MEDIA AND CULTURE
2 October: Singer Morrissey has a woman ejected from a concert in the US for holding up signs protesting at his support for the anti-Islam party For Britain. (Guardian, 2 October 2019)SPORT
1 October: Leeds United’s goalkeeper Kiko Casilla is under investigation for alleged racist abuse towards a Charlton Athletic forward, Jonathan Leko. (Guardian, 1 October 2019)
2 October: Manchester City’s Bernardo Silva is charged with bringing the game into disrepute and aggravated breach of anti-racism rules for a tweet racially stereotyping his team-mate Benjamin Mendy. (Guardian, 2 October 2019)
5 October: Leicester City, appalled by the online racist abuse sent to player Hamza Choudhury following a late tackle on a Liverpool player, asks the police to look into the abuse on social media. (BBC Sport, 5 October 2019)
7 October: Footage on social media showing Villa fans chanting a racist song, including racial stereotypes about Marvelous Nakamba and another first-team player during a game at Norwich, is condemned by the club management, the Supporters’ Trust and Kick It Out. (Guardian, 7 October 2019)
8 October: Sussex police investigate two racist incidents of Albion fans at the Amex Stadium, the first involving two fans at an Under-23 fixture with Spurs on 27 September, the second during a recent win over Spurs. (BBC Sport, 8 October 2019)
9 October: UEFA dismisses Bratislava’s appeal against fines totalling €90,000 and a ruling that its Europa League game on 24 October against Wolves will be played behind closed doors, imposed for the racist behaviour of fans at a game in August. (Times & Star, 9 October 2019)
14 October: During England’s Euro 2020 qualifying football match against Bulgaria, play is stopped twice because of racist chanting, monkey noises against England’s black players and Nazi saluting from Bulgarian fans. The FA chairman calls it one of ‘the most appalling nights in football’. (Guardian, 14 October 2019)RACIAL VIOLENCE
2 October: Police announce that a car fire in Newquay on 28 September may have been the result of a racially motivated attack. (Cornwall Live, 2 October 2019)
6 October: At Durham Crown Court, a 34-year-old man is sentenced to 41 months in prison for racially abusing a shopper and hitting him with a bottle in a supermarket in Tow Law, County Durham in August 2018, causing significant damage to the victim’s mouth and teeth. (The Northern Echo, 6 October 2019)
11 October: Dundee Sheriff Court hears how a 51-year-old Celtic football fan punched two men and behaved in a racist manner at a Dundee convenience store in October 2017. Sentencing is deferred until November. (The Courier, 11 October 2019)
14 October: A man who drove into another motorist’s car and racially abused and threatened to stab guests at a wedding in Colchester is given a 15-month prison term and a 17-month diving ban. (Gazette News, 14 October 2019).
15 October: Home Office statistics reveal that the number of ‘hate crimes’ reported to police in England and Wales has doubled since 2013, with reported racist crimes, which form the majority of ‘hate crimes’, increasing by 11 percent in the past year. (Guardian, 15 October 2019)
This calendar was compiled by the IRR News team with the help of Laura Wormington and Graeme Atkinson.
Striking evidence has been uncovered about Special Branch’s attempts to infiltrate UK Black Power groups in the late 1960s and early 1970s.
Black Power is in the news this week, with the announcement that the conviction of former Fasimba members Winston Trew and Sterling Christie (two of the ‘Oval Four’) has been referred to the court of appeal. Forty-seven years since they were arrested on their way home from a political meeting in support of another Black Power activist facing trial, and accused of robbery and assaulting the police, they could now finally be cleared. Trew has always believed that the Fasimbas must have been under surveillance by Special Branch and that it was no coincidence that he and the other members of the ‘Oval Four’ were targeted by undercover officers that day.
Trew’s story is just one among many detailed in a recent investigation of Special Branch’s attempts to destroy Britain’s Black Power movement in the late 1960s and early 1970s by Eveline Lubbers of the Undercover Research Group and former IRR staffer Rosie Wild.
Five articles on Black Power and Special Branch (recently published on The Special Branch Files) are based on a forensic examination of police, Home Office and court records at the National Archives and sealed Special Branch files released via freedom of information requests. Sifting through the many documents in which Special Branch recorded information on Black Power activity, the Undercover Research Group set out the ways in which Britain’s political police sought to destabilise and decapitate the largest Black Power groups in the UK, as well as explaining the historical context of the British Black Power movement.
One of the most ironic findings is that the racism that stopped the Metropolitan Police hiring a single black police officer before 1967 hamstrung it when it came to infiltrating Black Power groups. Unlike the leading white left-wing organisations of the era, which were often heavily infiltrated by uncover officers using assumed identities, Black Power groups such as the Black Panther Movement and Black Liberation Front could only be spied on from the outside or occasionally through the use of informants.
Special Branch’s orders came from the top with reports on Black Power in the UK being fed back to the UK’s Joint Intelligence Committee and successive Home Secretaries. A dedicated Black Power Desk was even set up to coordinate the intelligence gathering. Tantalisingly mentioned in just a single document, the Desk was either part of Special Branch or MI5, and shows just how seriously the British state took the threat of Black Power.
The Undercover Research Group is a team of journalists, activists and academics determined to make public as much information as possible about political policing in Britain. Using information being released from the glacially slow UK Undercover Policing Inquiry, as well as independent research, they have created a public database of spycops and their targets. Stretching as far back as 1968, the database includes one Special Demonstration Squad officer, operating under the alias Peter Fredericks, who has admitted being tasked with monitoring Britain’s small but significant Black Power movement.
To find out more about the case, read a review by Colin Prescod of Trew’s pathbreaking book, Black for a Cause … Not Just Because … The case of the ‘Oval 4’ and the story it tells of Black Power in 1970s Britain here.
After a fight lasting forty-seven years, the case of the ‘Oval Four’ has now been referred to the Court of Appeal by the Criminal Cases Review Commission.
On a March evening in 1972, four young black men were stopped at Oval tube station by white men and accused of ‘nicking handbags’. The youths, who maintain they did nothing of the sort, contested this and more police were called – the white men being undercover cops. The four ended up in the cells charged with theft and assault on police officers and later sentenced to two years’ imprisonment for the ‘new crime’ of ‘mugging’.
Now that scenario was not out of the ordinary. But what was, was the fact that the four were all politically involved in the black movement and were on their way home from a meeting discussing the charges against black organiser Tony Soares, accused of publishing details of how to make a Molotov cocktail in a community newspaper. What is also out of the ordinary is that one of the youths, Winston Trew, has made it his lifelong campaign to expose the fact they were framed. Their sentences were, after much community protest, reduced on appeal, but their convictions were upheld. After the detective who led the arrests, Derek Ridgewell, was exposed as corrupt and himself jailed for theft, the case against the Oval Four looked even weaker.
To find out more about the case, read a review by Colin Prescod of Trew’s pathbreaking book, Black for a Cause … Not Just Because … The case of the ‘Oval 4’ and the story it tells of Black Power in 1970s Britain here.
Read an IRR News story on ‘New revelations about Special Branch and the Black Power movement in the UK’ by Rosie Wild.
A seminar in Leicester ‘Forty years on since the launch of SCARE (Student campaign against racism in education) – what has changed, current struggles and ways forward’
- Saturday 26 October 2019, 11–5pm at Highfields Centre, Leicester, LE2 0DS.
- Speakers include Professor Gus John (Activist/Writer), Amrit Wilson (Writer/Activist), Camille London-Miyo (President, Leicester NEU), Speakers from Goldsmiths Anti-Racist Action
- Free admission, book your place here
The Seven Sisters Market Tenants’ Association has been granted a hearing at the High Court on October 8th and 9th over the demolition of community and business spaces at the Latin Village, also known as, El Pueblito Paisa. They say ‘we cannot allow our important community space, especially for women and children, to be replaced by a soulless shopping centre and luxury homes for the wealthy’.
They are very close to hitting their target! Please donate here.
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
17 September: The inquest opens into the death of Mulubrhane Medhane Kfleyosus, a 19-year-old asylum seeker from Milton Keynes who took his life on 18 February 2019, the fourth from his friendship group to do so. Milton Keynes social services, an interested party in the case, challenge the family’s proposal to have the scope of the inquiry as wide as possible. (Guardian, 17 September 2019)
18 September: Freedom from Torture and other migrant support organisations publish Lessons not Learned: The failures of asylum decision-making in the UK, which finds that the ‘culture of disbelief’ behind the hostile environment still operates to bar refugees from recognition. Read the report here. (Guardian, 18 September 2019)
18 September: The Public Accounts Committee finds that the Home Office rushed to revoke the visas of students accused of cheating in English-language tests, without assessing the reliability of the evidence. Read its report here. (Guardian, 18 September 2019)
26 September: Italy grants Deniz Pinaroglu, an opponent of the Turkish regime, political asylum one month after he started a hunger strike at a pre-deportation centre in Turin following the initial rejection of his claim. (Are You Syrious, 26 September 2019)
27 September: The head of the Children’s Rights Alliance in Ireland says the country has a moral duty to relocate unaccompanied minors living without shelter or access to education in Greece. Ireland’s justice minister promised in December 2018 to bring 36 unaccompanied minors to the country by the end of 2019, a target it is yet to meet. (InfoMigrants, 27 September 2019)
30 September: The High Court gives permission for a legal challenge to the Home Office practice of allowing Zimbabwean asylum seekers to be interrogated by embassy officials. If successful, the case could oblige the Home Office to review hundreds of failed asylum claims. (Independent, 30 September 2019)Borders and internal controls
15 September: Members of far-right group Britain First announce plans to patrol Dover beaches to intercept migrants attempting the Channel crossing, a project they are calling ‘Operation White Cliffs’. A spokesperson for the Fire Brigade Union accuses the group of ‘apprehending struggling working class people.’ (Independent, 20 September 2019)
19 September: A Sudanese man is shot dead in Tripoli in front of International Organization for Migration (IOM) staff hours after being returned by the Libyan Coast Guard. The shooting took place when a number of people tried to escape the guards attempting to take them to detention centres. (IOM, 19 September 2019
23 September: Are You Syrious reports on the tragic death of ‘Ali’, a man who lost his mind after losing his toes to frostbite when police confiscated his shoes as he attempted to cross the Balkans route. On 21 September he died in hospital in the Bosnian town of Bihać, having returned there after being pushed back into Croatia. (Are You Syrious, 23 September 2019)
25 September: Greek prime minister Mitsotakis and Turkish president Erdogan agree at a side meeting of the United Nations to reduce the numbers of displaced people reaching the Greek islands, the day after the Greek government launched a new plan to seal its land borders and improve surveillance at sea to stop people arriving on Greece’s shores. (Ekathimerini, 24, 25 September 2019)
25 September: French president Macron launches a National Debate on Immigration and Migration Policy, with speeches claiming France ‘cannot host everyone’ and that ‘there is not enough cooperation in Europe’ on migration policy. (Aljazeera, 25 September 2019)Reception and detention
17 September: A Doctors of the World spokesperson accuses the French police of ‘institutional violence’ as more than 700 people, including families and pregnant women, are removed from a migrant camp in Dunkirk in the largest camp eviction by French police in over a year. Home Office staff were invited by the French authorities as part of a collaborative project to reduce the number of attempted boat crossings; NGO Care4Calais warns that the crossings will continue despite camp clearances. (GOV.UK, Guardian, 17 September 2019)
18 September: During the Home Office investigation into the death of Oscar Okwurime in Harmondsworth detention centre, family members claim staff knew he was ill weeks before and did nothing. (Aljazeera, 18 September 2019)
18 September: In a coordinated operation, Greek police evict 150 refugees and migrants from Syria, Afghanistan and Iraq, among them 30 babies and children, from squats in downtown Athens where the new government has promised to crush ‘illegality in Exarchia’. (Keep Talking Greece, 19 September 2019).
23 September: Greek authorities continue their raids in Athens, evicting 143 people, including 50 children and their families, from the 5th School squat, deporting those without papers and transferring others out of the city to the newly-established Corinthos camp in the middle of a dusty plain, where they are expected to wait for the winter. (Are You Syrious, 23 September 2019)
24 September: In Greece, a 5-year-old Afghan boy is run over by a truck and killed as he plays inside a cardboard box close to the Moria refugee camp, Lesvos. (Ekathimerini, 24 September 2019).
24 September: The outsourcing company G4S says it will not renew its contracts to run Brook House and Tinsley House detention centres when they expire in May 2020, ending its involvement in the asylum and immigration sector. The company was heavily criticised after undercover filming at Brook House for a BBC Panorama programme revealed detainees being abused by staff. (Guardian, BBC, 24 September 2019)
26 September: The German branch of Doctors of the World announces that the organisation is withdrawing from the Anker centre in Bavaria due to poor living conditions that do not allow for successful medical treatment. DOW can no longer carry responsibility for the state of mentally traumatised patients, it says. (Frankfurter Rundschau, 26 September 2019)
28 September: 3,000 people join a protest in Oughterard, Galway, against the conversion of a local hotel into a direct provision centre where asylum seekers will be housed until their asylum claim is assessed. Local independent councillor Thomas Welby says protesters are opposed to the ‘inhumane’ centres, while the Bishop of Galway criticises the state for its lack of transparency and consultation in implementing the controversial system. (Irish Times, 28 September 2019; Independent, 30 September 2019)
30 September: 200 women at the Moria refugee camp on the Greek island of Lesbos, where 13,000 residents are housed in converted cargo containers meant for just 3,000 people, stage a sit-in with their children the day after an Afghan mother and possibly her child died in a fatal fire in which at least nineteen people are injured. The women demand details of who died, and call on the authorities to ensure their safety. (Ekathimerini, Guardian, Morning Star, 30 September 2019)
30 September: Parents and children in Athens call for the return of refugee children who have been removed from their schools when Greek authorities evicted over 100 refugees and displaced people from a disused school, the third eviction in two weeks. (Aljazeera, 30 September 2019)Deportations
25 September: According to the newspaper Dagens Nyheter, in the year to August, 2,600 people have been deported by plane from Sweden, nearly matching the figure for the whole of 2015. The biggest single mass deportation so far this year, of fifty men to Afghanistan, occurred earlier this month and was assisted by Frontex. (Are you Syrious, 25 September 2019)
25 September: A British court rules that it has no power to stop the deportation of a 10-year-old girl at risk of female genital mutilation in Sudan, after the Home Office rejects her mother’s asylum application. (Guardian, 25 September 2019)POLICING AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
17 September: The Guardian identifies a number of cases where young British victims of human trafficking who have been forced to sell drugs in county lines operations are being charged and prosecuted despite guidelines saying prosecution is not in the public interest. (Guardian, 17 September 2019)
18 September: Police forces show interest in an American ‘Spider-Man’ device which entangles suspects in a web of fibre, immobilising them, as a ‘safer’ alternative to tasers. The charity Inquest warns that the device might be dangerous. (Guardian, 18 September 2019)
1 October: At the Conservative party conference, home secretary Priti Patel announces a number of ‘law and order’ measures including plans to recruit 20,000 extra police officers and a £10m ring-fenced fund to equip up to 60 per cent of police officers with tasers. (Sky News, 1 October 2019)EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION
27 September: The Brussels public transport company (STIB) is being sued for its discrimination against veiled women in its hiring process. The case involves a woman who applied for two different non-public facing positions. (Brussels Times, 27 September 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS: UK
25 September: A motion by Momentum and Labour Against Racism & Fascism that urges the party to extend migrants’ rights and close immigration detention centres, is passed overwhelmingly at the Labour party conference. (BBC News, 25 September 2019)
25 September: Boris Johnson causes uproar in the Commons by responding ‘humbug’ to a plea from MP Paula Sherriff, to stop using ‘offensive, dangerous or inflammatory language’ such as ‘traitor’, and ‘ betrayal’ since ‘many of us in this place’ are ‘subject to death threats and abuse every single day’. Johnson claims the best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox (the MP murdered by a far-right extremist before the referendum) is to deliver Brexit. At a meeting of the backbench 1922 Committee, he refuses to apologise for his language and says he will continue using it during the Brexit debate. (Guardian, BBC News 26 September 2019)
26 September: A man is arrested for a public order offence after allegedly banging on the window of MP Jess Phillips’ Birmingham constituency office and shouting ‘fascist’, following her tabling an urgent Commons question about inflammatory language. (Guardian, 26 September 2019)
26 September: In a series of interviews with the Guardian under the heading ‘Abuse is the norm’, women MPs, many of ethnic minority descent, speak out about the very specific hate mail and threats they receive on a daily basis, especially since the 2016 referendum, saying the politics of hate has become mainstreamed and public figures are amplifying tensions. A series of experts agree that rhetoric from politicians can trigger violence on the streets and attacks on public figures. (Guardian, 26 September 2019)
28 September: Police investigate hundreds of horrifying abusive messages, including a death threat, received by Dewsbury MP Paula Sherriff after she called Johnson to account in the Commons, citing the killing of fellow MP Jo Cox by an extremist. Many messages parroted the toxic language used by Johnson, and 70 per cent of messages were also misogynistic. A few miles away, MP Tracy Brabin, elected after Cox’s death, received four times as much hate mail as usual after the Commons encounter, and has had to ask for a police presence at her surgery. Both MPs are worried about a planned march by anti-Islamic Yorkshire Patriots in Dewsbury on 12 October. (Guardian, 28 September 2019)
30 September: Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn initiates a Westminster meeting where senior figures from the main parties recognise their responsibility to use moderate language and pledge to weigh their words carefully. (Guardian, 30 September 2019)
30 September: The National Union of Students (NUS) president Zamzam Ibrahim pulls out of two speaking engagements at the Conservative party conference following reports of ‘deeply disturbing, downright Islamophobia’ at a fringe event on Sunday. (Guardian, 30 September 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS: EUROPE
25 September: Irish president Michael Higgins accuses ‘some people’ of ‘abusing facts’ about asylum seekers after TDs representing Cork and Galway say immigrants are ‘flooding’ the system and ‘sponging’, in a row about a proposal for a new Direct Provision centre in Co. Galway. (Irish Examiner, 25 September 2019)
29 September: In the Austrian general election, support for the Freedom Party (FPÖ) plunges by more than a third. With 16 per cent of the vote, it is the third-largest party in the Austrian parliament. (Guardian, 29 September 2019)
1 October: New Democracy, the governing party of Greece, expels Theodoros Giannaro, a molecular biologist and adviser to ND on healthcare issues, after he sends a series of tweets to Arash Hampay, an Iranian refugee and community activist in Athens, one stating ‘You are gonna be kicked back where you came from, you monkey’. (IranWire, 1 October 2019).ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
18 September: On the sixth anniversary of the murder of anti-fascist rapper Pavlos Fyssas, thousands of people demonstrate in his home district of Keratsini, western Athens. At the same time, anti-fascists celebrate as Golden Dawn closes its central headquarters in Athens and shuts down many other branches throughout the country. (Observer, 21 September 2019)
19 September: Counter-terrorism police say the fastest growing threat of terrorism in the UK is from the far Right. (Guardian, 19 September 2019)
24 September: Uli Grötsch, secretary-general of the Social Democrats in Bavaria, receives two death threats from neo-nazis, reading ‘Kill Uli Grötsch! A shot in the back of the neck, like Lübcke!’ (Deutsche Welle in English, 24 September 2019)
24 September: In a confidential ‘Strategic Report’, Europol warns that growing far-right violence is accompanied by attempts to ‘win over members of the military and security services in order to learn their expertise in the area of surveillance and combat readiness’. (Deutsche Welle in English, 24 September 2019)
27 September: According to interior ministry statistics, German police seized 1,091 weapons from the far Right in 2018, a 61 per cent increase from the previous year and a sign of ‘massive rearmament’ of the far-right scene. (Deutsche Welle in English, 28 September 2019)
29 September: An investigation by BBC Countryfile establishes that Michael Wrenn, the leader of British Revival, set up as a ‘patriotic’ alternative to Extinction Rebellion, is the former South West regional head of the far-right Generation Identity. British Revival has now had its Facebook page closed down. (Sunday Express, 29 September 2019)
30 September: The trial of eight neo-nazi members of Revolution Chemnitz opens in a regional court in Dresden, Saxony. The eight are accused of ‘forming a rightwing terrorist organisation’, carrying out violent attacks on foreign residents in Chemnitz in September 2018, and attempting to acquire semi-automatic weapons for a bloodbath on Germany’s National Unity Day. (AFP, 30 September 2019)DISCRIMINATION
25 September: The French education minister reignites the headscarf row by criticising France’s largest parents’ association for a pamphlet featuring a mother in a headscarf saying ‘Yes, I go on school trips, so what? Secularism is about welcoming all parents without exception’. Mothers in headscarves are not banned from school trips following a legal ruling in 2013, but the minister wants to discourage the practice. (Guardian, 25 September 2019)
30 September: Following an FOI request from the Guardian, the Ministry of Defence admits that military police have launched 35 investigations into racially aggravated crimes in 2018 and 2019. The service complaints ombudsman calls for independent research into why disproportionate numbers of female and BAME personnel complain of bullying, harassment and discrimination. (Guardian, 30 September 2019).HOUSING
17 September: The new Home Office housing contractor, Mears, says asylum seekers refused the right to remain in the UK will no longer face lock-change evictions from social housing without a court order. Protests and legal challenges were raised against former contractor Serco, preventing many scheduled lock-change evictions of those denied asylum in Glasgow. (BBC, 17 September 2019)
23 September: Research by Heriot-Watt University, commissioned by the National Housing Federation, finds that 8 million people in England are living in unsuitable accommodation, 3.6 million are in overcrowded homes and 2.5 million cannot properly afford where they live. Read a summary here. (Guardian, 23 September 2019)
26 September: The Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government’s five-yearly measurement of ‘English Indices of Deprivation 2019’ finds that in some London boroughs, hardship has decreased. However, other research suggests this is the result of the ‘gentrification effect’, whereby wealthier newcomers are changing the socio-economic make-up of historically working-class neighbourhoods. See the report here. (Guardian, 26 September 2019)
1 October: A new report from the Office for National Statistics finds that over the past year, homeless deaths have increased by twenty-two per cent. 726 homeless people died in England and Wales in 2018. Read the report here. (Guardian, 1 October 2019)
2 October: Two dozen homeless protesters occupy a council-owned building in Chester, barricading themselves in and claiming ‘squatters rights’. The activists say that the heavy rains have left them no other choice. (Guardian, 2 October 2019HEALTH
8 September: Kelemua Mulat, a 39-year-old Ethiopian asylum seeking mother, dies after being denied potentially life-saving treatment for breast cancer for six weeks by the Home Office due to a hostile environment rule requiring migrants to pay upfront for healthcare. (Guardian, 19 September 2019)
24 September: The British Journal of General Practice publishes findings that three-quarters of London GP surgeries are breaching NHS guidelines in denying care to homeless people, travellers and recently-arrived migrants by wrongly instructing them to produce photographic identification or proof of address before allowing them to register and get urgent treatment. (Guardian, 24 September 2019)EDUCATION
20 September: A 10-year-old boy who endured racist bullying at his school for two years tries to hang himself. Almost 200 racial incidents were recorded at his Canterbury school during the years he was there as one of only four mixed-heritage children. A teacher advised him to get more resilient to racial abuse. His mother, who removed her son last May, accuses the school of failing to protect her son, and now the council has offered to pay for his private education. (Metro, 20 September 2019)
26 September: The trust which manages 96 Christian Brothers schools in Ireland, the Edmund Rice Trust, calls for an end to the Direct Provision system of asylum support, in a report pointing to its harmful effects on young asylum-seeking school students. (Irish Times, 26 September 2019MEDIA AND CULTURE
19 September: A study finds that in 2018, only 4 per cent of children’s books published in the UK featured a black or minority ethnic hero. (Guardian, 17 September 2019)
27 September: Over 150 BAME broadcasters sign a letter accusing the BBC of racial discrimination for its rebuke to Breakfast presenter Naga Munchetty, accused of breaching impartiality guidelines for saying that Donald Trump telling BAME congresswomen to ‘go home’ was racist. (Times, 27 September 2019)
30 September: BBC director-general Lord Hall reverses the decision which partially upheld a complaint against presenter Naga Munchetty, saying her words were insufficient to merit the rebuke. Both the home secretary and leader of the opposition had spoken out against the BBC’s view. (Guardian, 26 September 2019, BBC News, 30 September 2019)
1 October: To mark the start of Black History Month, a plaque commemorating Eric Irons, Britain’s first black magistrate, is unveiled in Nottingham. (Guardian, 30 September 2019)SPORT
19 September: Former England striker Peter Beardsley is banned from football for 32 weeks on three counts of racially abusing black players while coaching the Newcastle under-23s, compounding the abuse by accusing the players concerned of fabricating allegations for financial gain. (Guardian, 19 September 2019)
21 September: Managers of Hartlepool United and Dover Athletic discuss taking their players off the field because of racist chants, after an Athletic player is abused following a goal. But the players want to stay on the pitch to finish the game, that Dover wins 2-0. (BBC Sport, 21 September 2019)
22 September: A Brazilian defender, Dalbert, who plays for Italian team Fiorentina, asks the referee to stop play during a match with Atalanta after receiving racist abuse from the Atalanta fans. (The Local, 23 September 2019)
23 September: UEFA rules that Hungary and Slovakia will play their next Euro 2020 qualifiers behind closed doors after both national federations are sanctioned for racist behaviour by their supporters. The Romanian Football Federation is also sanctioned. (RTE, 23 September 2019)
24 September: West Ham bans a supporter for life after a racist video was posted on social media. The club, which was made aware of ‘disgusting’ footage of a fan making racist remarks to away fans at the London Stadium early last season, hands the evidence to the police, as well as banning the fan for life, saying it has ‘zero tolerance of abhorrent behaviour’. (BBC Sport, 24 September 2019)
26 September: A study from the Observatory on Racism in Football finds that racism blights Italian youth football as much as the top leagues, with eighty incidents against young footballers recorded over the last two seasons. Italy, unlike other countries, has never addressed the racist abuse in the stands, which comes from children and parents. (Guardian, 26 September 2019)RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
20 September: The Daily Mirror interviews Clive Pyott, a 50-year-old man who was left with a broken nose and a fractured jaw after intervening to stop a racist attack on an Asian boy in Hulme, Manchester, on 24 August. The assailants shouted ‘speak f***ing English’ as they punched the boy repeatedly and stamped on him. (Daily Mirror, 20 September 2019)
24 September: A man is jailed for four years at Cardiff crown court for a series of Instagram posts in which he posed with a shotgun and urged people to stand up ‘against Muslims’. Jay Davison, who talked about ‘Aryans’ and wrote ‘heil, heil, heil’ in a series of posts and comments was convicted of stirring up religious hatred. (Independent, 24 September 2019
26 September: An Irish woman says she and her Brazilian partner and their child might have to leave the country because of a storm of racist abuse after the family featured in a Lidl TV and billboard advertising campaign. Journalist Gemma O’Doherty started the abuse with a tweet telling followers to ‘Resist the Great Replacement’. (Irish Times, 27 September 2019)
27 September: Police in Lewes, East Sussex investigate a spate of suspected hate crimes committed overnight, including the bricking of an anti-Brexit campaigner’s window, antisemitic graffiti on a garden fence and Nazi symbols daubed on a house. (Guardian, 27 September 2019).
28 September: In Ulm, southern Germany, a man is arrested after an attempt to attack a woman at a Support Diversity and Islamophobia awareness event organised by a Turkish Muslim association (IGMG). He shouted, ‘I will kill you’ and was blocked when he lunged at a woman with a knife. (AA News, 28 September 2019)
30 September: Research by the London Assembly Police & Crime Committee finds that racist and religious hate crime is up by 107 per cent since 2011. The report also sets out recommendations for the Mayor of London. Read the report here. (Mayor of London, 30 September 2019
This calendar was compiled by the IRR News team with the help of Laura Wormington and Graeme Atkinson.
‘Get over the shock, this is reality’: challenging racism and violence against women and girls in Rotherham
Why are specialist services for black and minoritised women and girls escaping violence so important? And why have the voices of those organisations been erased from the discussion around Child Sexual Exploitation (CSE) cases in Rotherham and other northern cities? Sophia Siddiqui travelled to Rotherham to find out.
‘For Rotherham’ was scrawled on the ammunition of the gunman who killed at least fifty people in a white supremacist attack at a mosque in Christchurch, New Zealand earlier this year. Rotherham as a place has become stigmatised, inescapably yoked to the child sexual abuse scandal that has been used by the far Right (and the mainstream) to fuel anti-Muslim racism.
Three days before the attack, in Rotherham, a number of Pakistani survivors of domestic abuse performed a play. In the opening scene, a 13-year-old schoolgirl sits with her head in her hands as the words ‘Paki’, ‘bomber’, ‘paedophile’, ‘rapist’, ‘terrorist’ are played, ‘all the words that my community can experience on a daily basis’, explains Zlakha Ahmed, founder of Apna Haq, a specialist service for minoritised women and children escaping violence in Rotherham. The play brought home the local impact of a racialised narrative on child sexual exploitation cases, demonstrating how the Pakistani community as a whole has been blamed for the crimes of a few.
‘When you talk to local women, mothers and young girls, they have shared how their 7-year-olds have been called paedophiles and rapists in the playground. Being spat at, stared out, called names or having your headscarf ripped off are things that my community expect to happen, all the time,’ Zlakha told me. But as well as fuelling racism, the toxic racialised narrative around child sexual exploitation (CSE) has erased BAME survivors who don’t fit the white female victim/Asian male offender stereotype. ‘One of the things that I’m forever challenging again is the concept of which children get abused.’ CSE can affect all children – regardless of gender identity, sexuality, ethnicity, faith or economic background – and across various contexts.
Apna Haq: an organisation on the front line
It is in this context that Apna Haq operates. Founded by Zlakha Ahmed, who is herself a survivor of CSE, Apna Haq (which means ‘our rights’ in Urdu) has been working towards the early intervention and prevention of violence against women/girls for the past twenty-five years. Building on the continued legacy of organisations such as Imkaan and Southall Black Sisters, Apna Haq is one of the few BAME specialist services left in the UK. The organisation takes a holistic approach that is both anti-racist and feminist – for women and children who experience racism and sexism simultaneously, one cannot be dealt with without the other.
As well as offering safety and protection, Apna Haq is committed to raising awareness and challenging the silence around violence against women and girls (VAWG) and challenging racism on the ground. This has involved putting together two three-day courses (now a certificate level diploma to be launched in October), for practitioners who have a very simplistic understanding of the issues, and for communities, in order to challenge the victim-blaming of girls and the excusing of men’s behaviour. ‘Until we have those discussions, we’re not going to change anything.’ These are practical, educational steps that Zlakha is hoping to take out across the country in order to challenge the root causes of violence, rather than simplistic solutions that say ‘these are the signs, look for these signs, report them’ which ultimately lead to carceral ‘solutions’ that don’t change anything.
For racialised women and girls, violence is often experienced at the intersection of state and interpersonal violence. The traumatic experience of domestic violence is further compounded by (eg,) insecure immigration status, poverty, inadequate housing and heavy-handed policing, which make it more difficult to leave an abusive relationship. And the particular vulnerabilities of BAME women (who are more likely to live in a deprived area, in poverty, experience the state care system, and are more likely to experience recurring forms of violence) means that specialist services are absolutely crucial.
Apna Haq has intervened in a range of cases in which victims are faced with social workers, police officers or teachers who take a blanket approach, which does not recognise the complexity of multiple overlapping oppressions. For instance, a social worker that was adamant to immediately inform a 16-year-old’s parents that their daughter was coerced into sex by a boyfriend, without having met the girl or taken care to listen to how her siblings had been forced to marry their partners. A social worker demanding a mother of three move from her home with a leaking roof, without recognising that there was domestic violence in the relationship and her husband had never applied for her immigration stay, which meant that if she moved home she would effectively become an ‘overstayer’. Once Apna Haq supported her through the immigration process, she was able to move home.
‘We’ve had numerous cases where we feel the police have gone into homes in a really, really heavy-handed way, when there are vulnerable children involved’, Zlakha added. In one case, a police officer took a mother and a daughter in for questioning; leaving a 15-year old with severe learning difficulties at home alone until 10.30 at night – this was despite the family being known to the police because of domestic violence call-outs in the past.
Prevent exacerbates stigmatisation
Zlakha also mentioned a case in which a teacher made a Prevent referral resulting in a multi-agency child protection meeting being called after a 13-year-old with learning difficulties described the area she lived in as a ‘terraced house’ and ‘a bridge’, which the teacher misheard as ‘terrorist on a bridge’.
We know the damaging and long-lasting psychological harm that Prevent referrals (which are often made on vague, non-evidence based ‘instincts’) can have on Muslim children who are rendered as ‘criminal’ and ‘suspect’. And for young people who are already caught in a nexus of domestic violence, insecure immigration status and housing, disabilities and mental health issues, the statutory agencies that are supposed to protect them are totally insufficient, and government counter-terrorism policies like Prevent further exacerbate the stigmatisation they already face. It’s in this crisis that specialist services are so essential in order to support vulnerable people to escape domestic violence, but also to navigate through ‘hostile environment’ policies, counter-terrorism policies and austerity measures which make life so difficult, as well as through the racism they face on the streets, on the bus and in their classrooms, which is ultimately the conclusion of a state-sanctioned structure.
Fighting to exist in the face of austerity
Despite the essential work that Apna Haq does, its council funding was cut in 2015, and the tender was awarded instead to a generic organisation, Rotherham Rise. This is part of a bigger trend towards cost-cutting and a ‘one size fits all’ approach in VAWG service contracts, at the expense of specialist services for minoritised women and girls. Since 2012, 50 per cent of shelters in the country for BAME women have been forced to close due to government funding cuts. Only last month, London Black Women’s Project, which has been supporting women and children in Newham for the past thirty-two years, lost its funding for its refuges.
The irony is that despite many specialist service providers receiving little or no local authority funding, statutory agencies continue to rely on these services. Despite losing its state funding, Apna Haq is still fighting to exist through heritage lottery funding and various grants, like so many other specialist services across the country.
Last year, domestic violence homicides reached a 5 year high, and in 2016/7 alone, 13,000 child rapes and tens of thousands of other child sexual offences were recorded (which is likely to be only the tip of the iceberg as studies suggest as little as 3-15 per cent of child sexual abuse is reported). ‘I’m saying, get over the shock because this is reality’, stated Zlakha. We must support these frontline specialist organisations that challenge interlocking systems of oppression on a daily basis and fight to support these vital lifelines.
Watch a short film ‘Nothing about us without us’ by Dorett Jones which shows the protests that took place in support of Apna Haq in 2015.
A ‘French Black Lives Matter’ campaign against police brutality and racialised violence is calling out for justice.
On 19 July 2016, his 24th birthday, Adama Traoré died in police custody in the Persan police station, Paris. His arrest in questionable circumstances, the silence following his death from the French state, and the fact that no police officer has been held accountable for the death, have angered his family and ignited the local community. In response, they created the collective ‘Vérité et Justice Pour Adama’ (Truth and Justice for Adama) led by Assa Traoré, Adama’s sister. The collective’s primary focus is fighting to prove that the three police officers involved in Adama’s arrest caused his death. But their organisation, nicknamed French Black Lives Matter, is also against police brutality, particularly towards minority groups.
Adama, a young man of Malian descent, was in a café with his brother when three policemen asked for their ID. Adama did not have his with him, so he ran to escape custody. He was later found, arrested and taken into custody, where he died. According to the policemen, Adama’s death was the result of a pre-existing heart condition – a narrative that was supported by the first autopsy. The state’s autopsy confirmed that Adama’s medical condition, coupled with an alleged use of alcohol and narcotic substances before the arrest, caused a cardiac arrest. This version of events was backed by other state officials. The warrant research officer Nathalie Baylor claimed that Traoré first attacked the policemen, despite there being no evidence to support this. Public prosecutor Yves Jannier stated in the medical report that no violence had been used during the arrest.
However, the family have always challenged this version of events, which they say has never been particularly watertight. They point to inconsistencies as to whether Adama received any medical treatment. The police officers claim that they placed Adama in the recovery position, did the best they could to save him and even called an ambulance – a story contradicted by the chief of emergency services. But Adama never made it to a hospital and no medical help was brought to the unconscious man, a clear breach of the ‘basic duty of care’ principle. The Traoré family’s attorney Yassine Bouzrou claims that the emergency services were not called until more than an hour after he was brought into custody. After several attempts at resuscitating Adama, he was pronounced dead at 7:05 pm.
In 2017, the family paid for a second autopsy, which reached different findings. The family have always maintained that Adama did not have a heart condition, and the second autopsy supported this. It found Adama’s cause of death to be suffocation, most likely caused by the policemen’s weight as they pinned him to the ground during the arrest – a controversial practice forbidden in Switzerland, Belgium and some US states.
Police protected by the state?
An investigation of the arresting officers was opened in March 2019 and is still ongoing. One of the collective’s spokespersons, Geoffrey De Lasgasnerie, who co-wrote the book Le Combat Adama (The Fight for Adama), has spoken of his belief that Adama’s case exposes a political crisis in which the state use its strength to quash anything that threatens its power, in a blatant case of a denial of justice.
The collective has also spoken out about the alleged state and police repression they have experienced. They have criticised the police’s attempt to send the body to Mali (where the rest of his family is buried, supposedly in line with Muslim tradition) as a shocking and hypocritical attempt to prevent the family’s second autopsy. ‘All of a sudden, it is convenient for them that we are Muslims’, Assa claims. Then on 17 November 2016, six months after Adama’s death, Nathalie Groux, mayor of the Traoré family’s home town, Beaumont-sur-Oise demanded that the family pay damages of thousands of euros for defaming her, after Assa Traoré had denounced her for taking the side of the police.
The collective has also condemned the state for its alleged treatment of Adama’s family. Four of his brothers have been arrested since his death in questionable circumstances. Bagui and Youssouf Traoré were arrested for assault following a local council meeting where there was a violent altercation between the family and the police in which officers were injured. The defence claims that one was injured by his own tear gas and the other was bitten by his dog. Yacouba Traoré was arrested on the same day as Adama, for another struggle with police officers, when they prevented him from entering the Persan police station where his brother was dying.
Even at the highest level, the French state has been silent about Adama’s case and about police violence. Former president François Hollande did not comment on Adama’s death during his term, and the current president, Emmanuel Macron, recently denied the existence of police brutality in France, as it is a democracy based on the rule of law.
Vérité et Justice Pour Adama has sustained a strong presence since 2016, including organising annual commemorative marches to highlight police brutality. More recently the collective has joined up with the Yellow Vest movement to denounce France as an authoritarian regime that covers up police violence. The death of Adama Traoré has shone a light on the unhealthy collaboration between the state and the police and questioned the rule of law which is supposedly the backbone of the French state. The constant exoneration of police officers by medical examiners and the prosecutor’s office suggests institutional cover-up.
Institutional racism behind police practices
Assa Traoré is clear: her brother was killed by the structural racism of the French state. The contrôle au faciès (stop and search / ‘ethnic profiling’) is a widespread police practice that seeks to randomly stop ‘at-risk’ citizens (mostly people of colour). An arguably unconstitutional practice, since it violates the principle of non-discrimination at the core of the penal code, it is disproportionately used against men of north African and sub-Saharan descent, who are some twenty times more likely to be stopped than people from other ethnic groups.
Vérité et Justice pour Adama sees this violence towards black men as a continuation of France’s colonial behaviour. As Assa Traoré wrote in March 2019, ‘while the exotic female represents an erotic fantasy, the exotic male needs to be killed [because he represents a danger]’. This analysis of colonial masculinity is extremely important as it shows the ways France’s collective imagination ascribes masculinity. Men of sub-Saharan and north African descent are presented as overly manly and consequently dangerous, whilst men of east Asian descent are presented as weak and non-threatening.
Humiliating police violence impacts men of north African and sub-Saharan descent more than any other social group. Many investigations into the police confirm this stereotyping of black men, reflected in their use of ‘preventative’ violence, which precludes any sort of communication between the police and the individual. Assa Traoré traces a daily system of humiliation by the police towards young men of colour – from the uninhibited use of racial slurs to unjustified violence. The Adama Traoré case has become a symbol both of police autonomy and ability to circumvent the law, and of an institutionalised racism.
If we are not vigilant, the government’s attempts to deny the links between speech that inflames and actual acts of physical violence could be extended to deny or excuse incitement to racial hatred.
On BBC’s Andrew Marr show, Boris Johnson defended his use of ‘martial metaphors’ in the first parliamentary debate since parliament was reconvened after the Supreme Court ruled prorogation unlawful. As Marr repeatedly criticised the prime minister’s response to Labour MP Paula Sheriff, Johnson defended his behaviour as a ‘model of restraint’. He said he was justified in telling Sheriff ‘I’ve never heard such humbug in my life’, after Sheriff, a friend of the late Jo Cox, pleaded with him to stop using ‘inflammatory language’ because, argued Johnson, ‘if you cannot use a metaphor like surrender to describe the surrender bill … you are impoverishing the language and diminishing parliamentary debate’.
But it is not just Labour politicians – many of whom have, since the Brexit vote, been subjected to constant death and rape threats and have had to have panic buttons installed in their offices and homes – who have something to fear from the Conservative government’s use of words like ‘surrender’, ‘betrayal’ and ‘traitor’ to force through a No-deal Brexit. Such words embolden the far Right, as the Muslim community of Dewsbury, West Yorkshire well know. They are bracing themselves for the resumption of far-right incitement in the region. The Yorkshire Patriots – who incidentally use the slogan ‘No Surrender’ on their logo – have announced that the first demonstration in the region since Jo Cox’s murder in 2016 will take place on 12 October. Other communities are also feeling the backlash. A day after Johnson’s performance in parliament, police in Lewes, East Sussex, announced they were investigating a spate of suspected hate crimes committed overnight, including the spraying of the words ‘Fuck the Jews Soros’s Whores Traitor’s’ on the garden fence of a house with a Stop Brexit sticker, which also had a brick thrown through its window.
Comparisons with Alternative for Germany
In the UK, we used to pride ourselves that we were different to the Continent in that we did not have a powerful electoral far Right and racist party in parliament. But now we see Conservative leaders, either consciously or unconsciously, mirroring the tactics of the far-right racist and Islamophobic Alternative for Germany (AfD), whose provocations come in a country where pro-migrant politicians have not only suffered death threats, but knife and gun attacks, arson and murder. The AfD’s tactics are to assert the will of a white elite through the referendum process and break down taboos in the ways that ‘race’ can be discussed, with the aim of dismantling anti-discrimination and human rights legislation. Recently, an AfD politician refused to observe a minute’s silence for the murder by a far-right activist of Walter Lübcke, a Christian Democrat politician in Hesse who had received death threats after he spoke up in favour of welcoming refugees. The AfD’s insolence knows no bounds. Its leadership now claims that Lübcke’s murder has been used to defame ‘political enemies’, that far-right terrorism is ‘bird shit’ compared to the threat posed by the far left and radicals, and that if it wasn’t for Chancellor Angela Merkel’s migration policies ‘Walter Lübcke would still be alive’.
While the current Conservative leadership has not gone that far when it comes to tarnishing the memory of the murdered Labour MP, Jo Cox, the prime minister came perilously close when he told parliament that the ‘best way to honour the memory of Jo Cox … is to get Brexit done’.
The mistakes of Jacob Rees-Mogg
When it comes to learning lessons from far-right groups like AfD, the leader of the House of Commons, Jacob Rees-Mogg, has some form. In August 2013, Searchlight revealed that Rees-Mogg had been a guest speaker at a dinner organised by the Traditional Britain Group (TBG), a Conservative pressure group that opposes non-white immigration to the UK and, according to Hope Not Hate, has links to the European Alternative Right. The TBG was founded by Gregory Lauder-Frost, a former officer of the anti-communist Western Goals Institute. Lauder-Frost was also formerly spokesperson for another pressure group, the Monday Club, though the Conservatives broke formal links with it in 2001 over its views on race and its policy goal of voluntary repatriation for ethnic minorities – leading many of its members to join the TBG.
When a photograph emerged of bow-tied and dinner-suited Rees-Mogg seated alongside Lauder-Frost, Rees-Mogg was quick to apologise, admitting that he had ‘clearly made a mistake’. Yet it seems that mistakes of this sort are something of an ingrained trait as far as Rees-Mogg is concerned. He recently got himself in hot water again by tweeting approvingly a video of AfD leader Alice Weidel. He had taken it from a YouTube channel that specialises in circulating far-right materials. Following a protest, Rees-Mogg claimed that he did not endorse the AfD’s views but was sharing the video because what Weidel was saying about Brexit was of ‘real importance’ and represented a ‘German view’ and a ‘strand of German political thinking’ that should be listened to.
The art of obfuscation
But if Rees-Mogg is known as a stickler for rules and correct expression, the same cannot be said for Boris Johnson, a former editor of the Spectator and Daily Telegraph columnist, who delights in reckless provocation, always reaching, like some sort of linguistic artful dodger, for the ‘it’s just a joke’ excuse when accused of racism. (Words have been ‘wrenched out of context’ is another of the artful dodger’s deceits.) So when recently reminded by Sky News’ Sophia Ridge that in his 2002 Daily Telegraph column (‘If Blair’s so good at running the Congo, why doesn’t he stay there’), he had described Commonwealth citizens as ‘piccaninnies’ and African ‘tribal leaders’ as having ‘watermelon’ smiles’, Johnson portrayed himself as misunderstood, as he was only using language in a ‘satirical way’, he said. And recently in parliament, following Labour MP Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi’s heartfelt plea that Johnson be called to account for past racism, he defended his August 2018 Telegraph column comparing Muslim women who wear the burqa to ‘letterboxes’ and ‘bank robbers’, on the grounds that it was a ‘strong, liberal defence … of everybody’s right to wear whatever they want in this country’.
The Oxford English Dictionary defines ‘humbug’ as ‘deceptive false talk and behaviour’. The prime minister is using the tactic of obfuscation and the language of deception to dodge attempts to hold him to account for his words, and further deceive. If he’s doing his job as prime minister properly, he would not be unaware of the high levels of anti-Muslim hate crime in the UK, yet he knowingly pokes fun at and demeans Muslim women, and then passes it off as erudite satire. He knows that female Labour MPs face death and rape threats and yet he mocks their fears as ‘humbug’ or, as he told Marr, ‘an attempt to conceal the effect of the Surrender Act through a cloud of indignation’.
Turning reality on its head
What we are now seeing, amongst Johnson’s supporters, is the careful construction of a narrative that turns reality on its head. It’s not the opposition, BAME citizens and others who suffer violence and who are the victims of the current climate, but the prime minister who is being prevented from exercising free speech by the knowing manipulation of ‘outrage’ by his opponents, who create a ‘cloud of indignation’ that is not only preventing him from being heard, but stopping the Brexit deal being done. In an article entitled ‘MPs and the outrage game’ the Spectator’s associate editor, Douglas Murray, accused opposition MPs of the politics of ‘performance’, ‘playing games of language and offence taking’. And writing in Conservative Women, Paul Wood defends ‘Beleaguered Boris in a hurricane of humbug’, stating that any talk of violence is a ‘tactic of invoking a victim group’ with ‘accusations of encouraging violence’ frequently being ‘a tactic used against the Right’.
So there we have it. Actual physical violence doesn’t exist. All that exists is the opposition’s ‘tactic’ of evoking violence for political gain. The anti-racist movement and equalities campaigners need to be aware that though today this attempt to deflect criticism of politicians’ use of inflammatory speech may be taking place in the context of Brexit, tomorrow it could well be extended to dismiss and excuse actual incitement to racial hatred. All the signs are that freedom to offend takes priority over freedom to life.
Kirklees Anti-Fascist Assembly is opposing the far-Right Yorkshire Patriots march in Dewsbury on 12 October. More information here
To complement the re-issuing of Sivanandan’s path-breaking collection of essays, Communities of Resistance, Race & Class leads with a thought-provoking piece calling for a new politics of ‘radical kinship’ to forge the dynamic internationalist politics now needed to combat growing racism and fascism.
Across the globe, women, BAME and LGBTQI communities face hatred and violence as governments, from Poland and the UK to Brazil and the US, vehemently mount attacks on progressive politics around race, gender and sexuality. A landmark article in the IRR’s quarterly asks why, today, in such a climate, is so much anti-racism retreating into a form of identity politics which locates the problem of racism in individual white privilege and individual obligation rather than the popular and state racisms that gives rise to racist attitudes and impoverishes and demonises the most vulnerable.
‘”White privilege” and shortcuts to anti-racism’ written by Miriyam Aouragh and published in Race & Class October 2019, picks up themes first enunciated by A. Sivanandan some thirty-five years ago in his influential ‘RAT and the degradation of black struggle’. There he provided chapter and verse of the dangers in reducing racism to attitude, and anti-racism to awareness training (RAT) – both of which left the exploitative white power structure intact. The IRR is re-releasing his piece today to coincide with Aorough’s article.
Aouragh draws on Sivanandan’s approaches to organising around shared experiences and argues that a similar unity is needed now, around new unifying principles. But unity in the anti-racist cause is being hampered by the creation of an essentialist hierarchy of oppressions, that can throw up a wall between black, brown and white people, and undermine the potentials for solidarity.
The purpose of Aouragh’s piece is to seek out the common denominators for coalition-building today, to restore the ‘intellectual link’ between ‘the Left and blackness’ and promote ‘proactive engagement’. For ‘proximity and trust foster vulnerability and the sharing of experiences, and open us to the truly transgressive realisation: that one liberation is bound up with the other.’ This is where Aouragh’s idea of ‘radical kinship’ comes in. The author, whilst pointing up examples from previous black struggles such as the US Black Panthers and Angela Davis’ work, posits ‘radical kinship’ and concrete international solidarity as the necessary routes today ‘to recreate a dynamic anti-racist, anti-capitalist movement at a time when racism is on the rise’.
Miriyam Aouragh, a second-generation Dutch-Moroccan, was prompted to develop this piece by challenging experiences as an activist-cum-academic in the Netherlands. ‘Our political differences are in essence ideological, and not biological’, she concludes.
- Speakers include Dr Asim Qureshi, Dr Fahid Qurashi, Ghulam Haydar
- 4 October 2019, 18.30 – 19.45
- Free event
- Friend’s Meeting House, Manchester
More information here
Drawing on a recently published report, Leaving the War on Terror: a progressive alternative to counter-terrorism policy, Arun Kundnani outlines why counter-terrorism policies do not work, and what an alternative could look like.
The starting point for this report goes back two years to a speech Jeremy Corbyn gave at Chatham House, in which he argued that “the war on terror is simply not working”. Opinion polling suggested a majority agreed. But there has been little discussion in Labour circles of what a progressive alternative to the War on Terror might look like. The ten of us who wrote this report have all been analysts of counter-terrorism policies over the last ten to fifteen years. I thought perhaps now is the time for us to think about what an alternative approach might be, to go from a reactive engagement with the policy-making process to directly advocating alternatives. What we’ve produced is the result of that thinking. We recognise the difficulty and complexity of the issue of terrorism and the various barriers that stand in the way of a different approach. But we believe the time is right to critically assess the legacy of the last twenty years and change course.
There are three parts to our argument. One, counter-terrorism policy does not work; two, why it does not work; and three, what an alternative would look like.
So, first, Britain’s counter-terrorism policies do not work. They do not work for the British people, who wish to live free of terrorism. They do not work for the various communities in the UK whose experience of counter-terrorism has been one of stigmatisation and criminalisation. And they do not work for the people of the Middle East, South Asia and Africa, whose human rights have been systematically violated in the War on Terror.
Twenty years ago, Tony Blair’s government introduced the first of the fifteen new Terrorism Acts that have been passed since then in what has become a near-annual parliamentary ritual. Each Act ratcheted up the powers available to the police and intelligence agencies, together creating a shadow world of state powers in which the legal rights espoused in the regular criminal justice system are set aside.
Since the late 1990s, the use of surveillance and propaganda has expanded and deepened; military force and extra-judicial killing have became routine methods of counter-terrorism; and complicity with torturers was normalised. The logic of counter-terrorism was spread to every sphere of public life in Britain as workers in government services were expected via Prevent policy to become the eyes and ears of national security surveillance – not to identify persons where there was a reasonable suspicion of criminal activity but according to a much vaguer category of ideological suspicion – effectively institutionalising Islamophobia in our public services. The definition of the threat was itself transformed: no longer simply a matter of individual acts of violence but a much broader danger, understood in terms of clashes of culture, ideology and values, implicating an entire generation of young Muslims.
Central to the prevailing approach to counter-terrorism is the desire to avoid regular, open criminal trials in front of a jury – because juries can occasionally hold the police and prosecutors to account for abuses. Preferred instead are the use of secret evidence, extradition, citizenship deprivation and restrictions on movement and behaviour that do not require a criminal conviction. Indeed, there have been cases of Muslims deprived of their British citizenship by the Home Office and subsequently extradited to the United States, subjected to rendition or killed by drone. And, despite earlier denials by ministers, British intelligence knew about, suggested, planned, agreed to or paid for others to conduct rendition operations in more than seventy cases in the War on Terror. There is every possibility that this collusion in torture is being, or could be, repeated.
Even on the narrowest measure of success – the reduction of terrorism – the record of UK counter-terrorism over the last twenty years is a poor one. The number of civilian lives lost in ostenisbly fighting terrorism have been many times greater than those that have ever been lost or could have ever been lost due to terrorism itself. Policymakers have not produced a coherent and consistently applied definition of terrorism; nor has the government produced a plausible theory of why terrorism happens. The government’s account of what causes terrorism is remarkably simplistic: that terrorism is caused by the presence of extremist ideology, which is defined as the rejection of British values. This view has been avidly promoted by conservative think-tanks but there is no empirical evidence to support it. It means that policy-making is conducted without any substantial reference to evidence on how policy can actually intervene to reduce violence. And there has been no serious attempt to measure whether particular policies actually reduce terrorism.
Why, then does counter-terrorism policy fail?
All these failures are rooted in a policy process unmoored from any substantial process of democratic accountability. Instead, the aims and means of policy have been set by a security establishment according to its own interests and values. This security establishment has not sought to ground security policy in the problems of political violence that communities in the UK face. And it has repeatedly placed loyalty to elite interests above the need to uphold human rights, especially with respect to Muslim populations, and Tamil and Kurdish communities.
Intelligence agencies, police forces and the military doubled or tripled their counter-terrorism budgets and held onto this funding even as other sectors were ravaged by austerity measures. There are now more than 30,000 people employed directly in intelligence by the British government. But there has been no corresponding level of accountability.
In the War on Terror era, national security policy has increasingly sought to enlist others outside the national security agencies to collaborate in actively producing security. In different ways, local authorities, businesses, schools, universities, hospitals, landlords, media organisations, charities, communities and families have all been allocated active roles, especially through the Prevent policy’s requirement to surveil and challenge extremism. The government’s 2015 counter-extremism strategy, for example, calls for a mobilisation of ‘countless organisations and individuals’ to come together across the UK to ‘fight’ extremism. ‘Local people,’ it adds, ‘have a key role in identifying extremist behaviour and alerting the relevant authorities.’
Yet the one thing ordinary people are not asked to do is to ask the big questions about whether counter-terrorism policy works, if not why not, and what might alternatives look like. This area of policy is deeply authoritarian even as it speaks the language of popular participation.
So what would an alternative look like?
At the heart of our argument is a demand for a genuine democratisation of security policy. Policy-making needs to root itself not in an establishment definition of the national interest but in the actual security needs of ordinary people. Security should be defined not as the absence of risk but as the ‘presence of healthy social and ecological relationships’, as the Ammerdown Group of peace researchers have argued. Rather than transforming our social ties into mechanisms of surveillance, we need to take a holistic view in which we tackle the root social and political causes of violence.
A national audit of security needs, with genuine local community involvement across the UK, should be conducted to provide a comprehensive view of the expressed concerns of ordinary people. This audit of security needs should provide the basis for defining the goals and methods of UK security policy, how resources are to be allocated and the priorities for future publicly-funded research on security.
A much wider process of transparency and accountability will be needed to open up the police and intelligence agencies to democratic scrutiny. Accountability processes need to be spread from the executive and from parliament to the judiciary and the public. An independent commission on the nature and causes of political violence should be established with the involvement of a broad range of academics, other experts and communities.
Within the UK, the regular criminal justice system should be used to bring any charges against individuals accused of terrorism-related offences to jury trial. If there is insufficient evidence to bring a charge, there should be no alternative punishment such as extradition, deportation or restrictions on movement and behaviour that do not require a criminal conviction. There are strong reasons for believing that the steady expansion of counter-terrorism powers has been counter-productive to the goal of reducing political violence. Plots to commit acts of violence within the UK can generally be investigated and prosecuted under regular criminal powers, using normal methods of police investigation, without need for recourse to the terrorism legislation or other special measures. The UK government should recommit to the absolute prohibition of torture and of cruel, inhuman or degrading treatment.
Prevent policy should be ended. It rests on the flawed official account of what causes terrorism that I mentioned earlier. It collapses mechanisms designed to safeguard children and young people into the structures of counter-terrorism surveillance. Rather than expect social workers and teachers to become surrogate national security investigators, a better approach is to strengthen longstanding safeguarding procedures with the resources needed for effective delivery.The UK should commit to ending involvement in unilateral military interventions. We need a strengthening of efforts to resolve conflicts justly and peacefully.
Finally, we need a judge-led public inquiry to fully investigate Britain’s role in human rights abuses in the War on Terror – in order to ensure the injustices of the past are held to account and structures are put in place to prevent their happening again.
The Labour Party has a particular responsibility to address the harms resulting from counter-terrorism as it was the Labour government led by Tony Blair that incorporated the War on Terror into British policy-making and his successor Gordon Brown who continued and extended the paradigm. Labour’s 2017 manifesto already contained policies that align with our argument and can be built upon, such as the call to review Prevent, to address civil liberties concerns with the Regulation of Investigatory Powers Act and to hold public inquiries on past injustices. However, counter-terrorism policy has been one of the least discussed topics within the Labour Party, despite its deep impact on the lives of the over two million Muslims in the UK, and Tamil and Kurdish communities. We hope this report will help to initiate a more vigorous discussion.
Clearly, any government seeking to dismantle any of these counter-terrorism policies will be attacked by its opponents as weak on national security. The temptation will be to not rock the boat and allow counter-terrorism policy to remain unchanged, the better to secure political victories in the core economic policy areas voters are more focused on. We believe this would be a mistake. It would mean a progressive government failing to uphold principles of human rights and racial and religious equality. But as a political strategy, it would also likely be counter-productive. Conceding ground on security policy will not minimise the attacks from right-wing media organisations or politicians, leaving government defending itself reactively and inconsistently within a policy framework not of its own choosing. In this way, a failure to develop a progressive approach to security could end up undermining the credibility of a progressive government’s broader policy agenda. A better strategy, we believe, is to adopt from the outset a coherent, explicitly stated, progressive policy that can be defended consistently and confidently.
A republished speech by Arun Kundnani from the report launch of Leaving the War on Terror: a progressive alternative to counter-terrorism policy (TNI, 2019), at Portcullis House, Westminster, 4 September 2019.
A timely review of the republication of An Indigenous Peoples’ History of the United States – for young people, which makes the legacy of Indigenous Peoples’ resistance against colonialism and imperialism more accessible
The re-publication of this Indigenous Peoples’ history book by Indigenous human rights advocate Roxanne Dunbar-Ortiz as an explicit teaching aid is very timely. The well planned and thoughtful adaptation opens out the more formal historical narrative of the original 2014 edition to a much wider audience.
‘For Young People’? Indeed. But older (and even very much older) people will find its non-patronising engaging style a great aid as introduction or supplement to past study.
Don’t misunderstand. Dunbar-Ortiz’s original version was already a great step forward. In some 250 pages arranged in a dozen chapters she brilliantly summarised US history. She started with the pre-Colombian background before tracing the bloody beginnings of English colonisation, how it spilled over into attempted genocide, which was then continued during the US’s establishment and expansion. This adapted version follows this sequential pattern, but is written and presented in a way that encourages the younger and more general reader, through questions, guidance and illustration, to explicitly reflect and learn.
Also, as the new version is five years after the original, the last two chapters serve as a summary of the recent struggles of Indigenous Nations, and a more immediate restatement of the ongoing character of the history of resistance and rebellion.
Here in the UK, we are, coincidentally, faced with a widely promoted attempt to introduce education about the very early colonisation undertaken by Britain in North America in the form of the Mayflower 400 Commemorations. The relevance here in the UK of Dunbar-Ortiz’s book couldn’t be greater. Though the commemorations only officially start on Thanksgiving Day (28 November 2019), the education project part began in 2015 with a new Museum (The Mayflower Museum), a website and very detailed curriculum documents. The sanitised character of the Mayflower education materials stands in stark contrast to the new US book.
The challenge for educators and others in using this book in the UK is a general lack of familiarity with colonial and US history. To be fair, the authors provide many notes and guidance clues in the book. Though it would be misleading not to suggest that some supplementary preparations might be needed from time to time for UK teachers, the effort will be well worth it. This is recommended reading for students to contextualise the 2020 Mayflower education with which they will be presented.
However, decolonising the curriculum is an ongoing task. This book will not only stand the test of time but influence education to make that time a time of change. It could also be used to challenge the colonial narrative that still predominates in the media.
A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.ASYLUM, MIGRATION, CITIZENSHIP Asylum and migrant rights
2 September: An analysis of Home Office figures reveals that between 2016-18 the Home Office refused at least 3,100 asylum claims from lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) nationals from countries where consensual same-sex acts are criminalised. (Guardian, 2 September 2019)
3 September: Home secretary Priti Patel formally commissions the Migration Advisory Committee to provide recommendations for a future Australian-style points-based migration system in the UK. (Gov.uk, 3 September 2019)
8 September: Lesbians and Gays Support the Migrants, Campaign Against Arms Trade and Stop the Arms Fair hold a joint day of action on ‘Borders and Migration’ outside the ExCeL centre where the Defence and Security Equipment International (‘DSEI’) arms fair is to be held, to protest against the fair and the political and financial support given by the UK government to the arms trade, which they point out causes refugees. (Pressenza, 4 September 2019)
10 September: The government announces that from September 2020, foreign graduates of British universities will be offered a two-year work visa, reversing a policy restricting their stay to four months post-graduation, imposed in 2012 by then home secretary Theresa May. (Guardian, 10 September 2019)Borders and internal controls
5 September: Human Rights Watch publishes ‘Subject to Whim: The Treatment of Unaccompanied Migrant Children in the French Hautes-Alpes’ which finds that France continues its practices of flawed age assessment procedures and summary returns of unaccompanied children at the border to Italy. (ECRE Newsletter, 6 September 2019)
6 September: The Hungarian government announces that it is to extend the ‘state of crisis’ over migration until 7 March 2020, citing 7,000 irregular border crossing attempts since the beginning of the year, the ‘critical situation in Serbia’ and the presence of thousands of ‘illegal migrants’ in Bosnia and Herzegovina and Greece. (Asylum Information Database, 9 September 2019)
7 September: Privacy International condemns automated border controls at airports as ‘not fit for purpose’ after innocent travellers complain of errors leading to their passports being rejected at eGates. (Guardian, 7 September 2019)
10 September: The refugee charity Care4Calais warns that an ongoing wave of closures of refugee camps in France will mean more migrants making dangerous journeys across the Channel to the UK, as the Home Office intercepts a record number of 86 people in one day attempting the crossing in small dinghies. (Guardian, 11 September 2019; Evening Standard, 15 September 2019)
10 September: The new Italian government confirms that the Alan Kurdi rescue ship, operated by the German NGO Sea Eye, is barred from landing, in line with a request made by its outgoing interior minister Matteo Salvini. Of the 13 rescued at the end of August, eight have been disembarked because of deteriorating mental health and suicide attempts, and Malta transfers the remaining five to a naval vessel (although denying landing to the ship) after Sea Eye agrees to drop its juridical complaint against the government. (Guardian, New York Times, 10 September 2019)
13 September: Research by South Yorkshire Migration and Asylum Action Group (SYMAAG) puts in question Sheffield’s status as the UK’s oldest ‘city of sanctuary’ by revealing soaring arrests of Sheffield residents as suspected ‘illegal entrants’ and council officials’ collaboration with immigration enforcement.(Open Democracy, 13 September 2019)
14 September: The new Italian government gives permission for the disembarkation of the Ocean Viking, a rescue ship operated by SOS Méditerranée and MSF carrying 82 migrants rescued in the Mediterranean, marking a break from hardline immigration policies of former Italian interior minister Matteo Salvini who had previously barred such ships from Italian ports. (Guardian, 14 September 2019)Crimes of solidarity
11 September: Carola Rackete, captain of SeaWatch3, charged with aiding illegal immigration by the Italian government, receives the prestigious ‘Gold Medal of Honour’ from the Catalan parliament for her rescue missions in the Mediterranean. (Euronews, 11 September 2019)Reception and detention
3 September: The UK Lesbian and Gay Immigration Group launches a new campaign which calls for an end to indefinite immigration detention and raises awareness of the dangers faced by LGBTQ people in detention in the UK. (Gay Times, 3 September)
9 September: 34 NGOs sign an open letter to the Maltese government expressing alarm about the prolonged detention of hundreds of asylum-seekers on medical screening grounds, probably for TB, at the Initial Reception Centre and Safi Barracks where they are held in insanitary conditions, with limited access to open air and a severe shortage of basic material necessities. (Aditus press release, 6 September 2019)
10 September: The charity INQUEST criticises the dismissive culture of healthcare staff in immigration removal centres after the Lincolnshire coroner rules that the death in 2016 of immigration detainee Bai Bai Ahmed Kabia could have been prevented if he had been properly diagnosed and treated. Kabia collapsed at Morton Hall immigration removal centre and died of a brain haemorrhage at Lincoln County Hospital. (Inquest press release, 9 September 2019)
13 September: Detainees at Harmondsworth immigration removal centre stage protests over the death of fellow detainee Oscar Okwurime, who died shortly after receiving a ticket for his deportation flight to Nigeria. Medical Justice, a charity campaigning for health rights of detainees, call for the phasing out of detention, warning that otherwise ‘the deaths and harm will continue’. (Guardian, 13 September 2019; Independent, 14 September 2019)Citizenship
2 September: Hundreds of British National (Overseas) passport holders in Hong Kong demand the right to live in the UK as fears grow of Chinese central government intervention in the escalating political and human rights crisis. (Guardian, 2 September 2019)
3 September: The 3million charity, which supports the estimated 3.2 million EU nationals who need to apply if they wish to remain in the UK after Brexit, express concern that the Home Office is prioritising help for high-profile EU citizens, after TV star Fred Sirieix was given settled status the same day that he tweeted his frustration. (Guardian, 3 September 2019)
9 September: Lawyers say over 1,000 former Malaysian citizens have been left stateless in Britain for more than a decade in what has been branded a ‘Windrush-style’ scandal. Falsely led to believe an obscure British travel document would make them UK citizens, they have been trapped in the UK, unable to work and repeatedly detained in immigration centres. (Independent, 9 September 2019)
15 September: The Liberal Democrats call for ministers’ powers to revoke British citizenship should be restricted, as it is revealed that revocations soared from 4 in 2014 to 104 in 2017. (Guardian, 15 September 2019)ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
5 September: Home Office figures show that thirty-three far-right extremists were held under anti-terror laws last year, including individuals from National Action. (Guardian, 5 September 2019)
6 September: Norway’s intelligence services (PST) warns of a heightened risk of a far-right terror attack in the coming year, adding that several Norwegian rightwing extremists are openly expressing support for the perpetrators of attacks in New Zealand, the US and the failed attack on a mosque in Oslo in August. (Guardian, 6 September 2019)
7 September: Anti-fascists in Iceland march to oppose the increased neo-nazi presence in Reykjavík where Swedish, Norwegian, and Danish neo-nazis have been active, as well as the Icelandic group Norðurvígi, all linked to the Nordic Resistance Movement. (Iceland Review, 6 September 2019)
7 September: Neo-nazi Nathan Worrell, from Grimsby, is convicted of various offences under anti-terrorist laws including possessing material, including Combat 18 stickers, designed to stir up racial hatred. (Daily Mirror, 7 September 2019)
9 September: Facebook and Instagram block the social media accounts of Italian far-right groups Casapound and Forza Nuova, saying they have violated the platform’s policies against spreading hate. Casapound leader Simone Di Stefano says that his personal account has been shut down, as well as those of other far-right city councillors. (Yahoo.com, 9 September 2019)
13 September: Two former Golden Dawn parliamentarians, Yiannis Lagos and Nikos Michos are found guilty of instigating an attack in July 2013 on a community centre which offered Greek language classes for migrants. Although they receive suspended prison sentences, five other Golden Dawn members receive immediate prison sentences for their part in the attack. (Greek Reporter, 13 September 2019)
13 September: Far-right activist and former EDL leader Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, aka Tommy Robinson, is released after serving nine weeks of a nine-month prison sentence for serious interference with the administration of justice. (Guardian, 13 September 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS
4 September: Labour MP for Slough, Tanmanjeet Singh Dhesi, is cheered in the House of Commons when he demands an apology from prime minister Boris Johnson for his ‘derogatory, racist and Islamophobic’ remarks about women in burqas. (Independent, 4 September 2019)
5 September: A Hungarian state-backed demography trends conference opens with an artistic performance portraying hordes of people from the south and east advancing on Europe. Attended by leaders from central and eastern Europe as well as former Australian prime minister Tony Abbott, it is addressed by Hungarian prime minister Viktor Orbán who seems to draw on far-right conspiracy theories when he says ‘There are political forces in Europe who want a replacement of population for ideological or other reasons’. (Financial Times, 5 September 2019, Guardian, 6 September 2019)
5 September: The Times claims that the prime minister’s office has been polling culture war issues, such as transgender rights, to see whether they can be weaponised against Labour in northern working-class constituencies. (Pink News, 3 September 2019)
7 September: A member of the far-right National Democratic Party (NPD) is unanimously elected to the post of municipal administrator in the village of Altenstadt-Waldsiedlung, in Hesse, central Germany, prompting questions as to why Christian Democrat and Social Democrat councillors supported the candidate. (Deutsche Welle, 7 September 2019)
10 September: MEPs demand that the European Commission’s incoming president, German defence minister Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) rethink her plan to give the EU’s most senior official on migration and skilled labour the job title ‘Commissioner for Protecting our European Way of Life’. British Green MEP Molly Scott Cato accuses the Commission of adopting the ‘divisive rhetoric’ of fascists. (Independent, Guardian, 11 September 2019; Guardian, 13 September 2019)
16 September: Sara Khan, head of the government’s Commission for Countering Extremism, calls Boris Johnson’s likening of women in burqas to ‘bank robbers’ and ‘letterboxes’ demeaning and dehumanising, and says public figures are undermining efforts to combat extremism. (Guardian, 16 September 2019)POLICING AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
3 September: Following a public outcry, the developer at London’s Kings Cross development says that it has abandoned plans for a wider deployment of facial recognition technology across its entire building estate. (Prolific London, 3 September 2019)
4 September: The high court in Cardiff rules that while the South Wales police’ use of automatic facial recognition technology to search for people in crowds interferes with privacy rights, it is lawful. Liberty and a Liberal Democrat councillor will appeal the verdict on grounds of violation of data protection and equality laws. (Guardian, 4 September 2019)
7 September: In a six-point plan to transform children’s welfare, the Children’s Commissioner proposes that neighbourhood police units be attached to schools to help combat the influence of gangs on students. (Guardian, 7 September 2019)
9 September: The Canary reports that there have been 116 arrests of protestors at the DSEI arms fair at ExCel, where police are accused of picking on Kurdish groups for harsher treatment. (The Canary, 9 September 2019, Plan C, 13 September 2019)
16 September: Researchers at the Royal United Services Institute (RUSI) warn that algorithms used in ‘predictive policing’ may replicate and in some cases amplify race bias inherent in the dataset. (Guardian, 16 September 2019)
18 September: An open letter by Big Brother Watch, signed by politicians, civil liberties and anti-racist campaign groups, barristers and academics, says facial recognition technology is inaccurate, intrusive and infringes privacy rights, and calls for its unregulated use to be halted. (BBC News, 18 September 2019)NATIONAL SECURITY AND COUNTER TERRORISM
5 September: The US defence secretary warns the UK that its refusal to take back ISIS fighters held in Syria and put them on trial at home creates a risk to regional security. (Guardian, 6 September 2019)
13 September: A Manchester coroner rules that bereaved families of the Manchester Arena attack should be excluded from large parts of the inquiry into the attack, as the disclosure of sensitive MI5 and police evidence could endanger national security. (Guardian, 13 September 2019)EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION
12 September: Immigration judge Peter Herbert tells an employment tribunal that race bias is ‘prevalent’ in the legal system, as he becomes the first judge to sue the Ministry of Justice for race discrimination and victimisation. Herbert was disciplined by a senior judge for a 2015 speech suggesting there was racism in the judiciary. (Guardian, 12 September 2019)
16 September: Research by the Resolution Foundation finds a steady rise in abuse of employees’ rights and precarious working conditions over the past decade. Read the report here. (Guardian, 16 September 2019)
16 September: An employment Tribunal finds that the army created a ‘degrading, humiliating and offensive’ environment for two former paratroopers and had failed to prevent them being subjected to racial harassment. (Guardian, 16 September 2019)HEALTH AND SOCIAL CARE
9 September: Maternity Action, backed by the Royal College of Midwives, call on the NHS to end charges for pregnant women who are refugees, migrants or visiting from overseas, citing concerns that undocumented migrant women may be deterred from accessing vital care. (Guardian, 9 September 2019)
10 September: The Asian People’s Disability Alliance publishes Humare Avaaz, research into barriers to independence for disabled Asian women which criticises professional assumptions within social care that ethnic minority communities choose not to take up welfare services. (Guardian, 10 September 2019)HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
12 September: Government statistics show that the number of households living in temporary accommodation in England is at its highest level for more than a decade, with the number of households considered newly homeless rising by more than 3,000 in three months. Housing charities say the statistics underestimate the extent of homelessness. (Guardian, 12 September 2019)
15 September: An Observer analysis reveals that one in four of the 260,000 households facing homelessness in 2018 were in work, revealing the extent of in-work poverty. (Observer, 15 September 2019)MEDIA AND CULTURE
4 September: Following an application by the Metropolitan police, a judge rules that journalists who interviewed Shamima Begum, who ran away from home to joint Islamic State in 2015, will not be forced to hand over their notes to counter-terrorism investigators, accepting the legal argument that such a move would strip journalists of their neutrality and place them at risk by making them de facto state agents. (Guardian, 4 September 2019)
13 September: Historians call the government ‘tone deaf’ and ‘historically illiterate’ for using images of slave ships to promote the UK’s maritime sector in an advertising tweet. (Guardian, 13 September 2019)
15 September: A Muslim online lifestyle platform targeting British teenagers, SuperSisters, set up in 2015 by a company describing itself as a ‘not-for-profit community group’, is revealed as being covertly funded by the Home Office’s counter-extremism programme. (Observer, 15 September 2019)
16 September: Public figures including Gary Lineker and Eddie Izzard urge well-known people not to engage with online trolls so as to stop the spread of toxic discourse on social media. Their advice forms part of the launch of a guide ‘Don’t’ Feed the Trolls’ from the new Centre for Countering Digital Hate in London. The public figures believe that responding to trolls spreads hate by amplifying and legitimising ideas. (Guardian, 16 September 2019)EDUCATION AND CHILDREN
6 September: Ofsted says more than 10,000 children vanished from school registers during GCSE courses, suggesting that schools may still be ‘off-rolling’ pupils to improve their exam league table position. (Guardian, 6 September 2019)
8 September: KISA (Action for Equality, Support, Antiracism) in Cyprus issue a statement condemning the actions of the headmaster of the Apostolos Varnavas lyceum who expelled a refugee pupil from a Syrian background for wearing a headscarf to school and allegedly justified himself on the grounds, ‘we don’t want Taliban in our schools’. (KISA Newsletter, 8 September 2019)
12 September: Birkbeck School of Law appoints Behrouz Boochani, the Kurdish writer, journalist and refugee currently detained on Manus Island by the Australian and Papua New Guinean governments, as a Visiting Professor. (Birkbeck News, 12 September 2019; Financial Times, 14 September 2019)SPORT
4 September: After former Manchester United striker Romelu Lukaku, now playing for Internazionale Milan, is subjected to monkey chants by Cagliari fans – the latest in a series of players including Moise Kean, Blaise Matuidi and Sulley Muntari to receive this treatment –fans claim in a Facebook post addressed to him that the abuse is not racist but a form of respect. (Guardian, 4 September 2019)
4 September: Twitter says it has taken action over more than 700 cases of football related racist abuse following a meeting with Kick It Out, who are also holding talks with the UK footballing policing unit and the CPS, and inviting the FA, the Premier League and the English Football League to a work on a collective action plan to tackle football-related online racist abuse. (Guardian, 4 September 2019)
12 September: Stevenage FC dismisses claims that its caretaker manager Mark Sampson used racist language about a player, as the Football Association says it will investigate. Sampson was cleared of allegations of discrimination in 2017, although the FA apologised to the players for his ‘unacceptable’ and ‘ill-judged attempts at humour.’ (BBC Sport, 12 September 2019)
13 September: Two Heart of Midlothian Football Club supporters are issued indefinite bans for racially abusing players during the Scottish Premiership clash with Hamilton at the end of August (Edinburgh News, 13 September 2019)
16 September: Football pundit Luciano Passirani is sacked from Italian TV channel Telelombardia following racist comments made on-air regarding Inter Milan striker Romelu Lukaku, a former Manchester United player. (Sky News, 16 September 2019)
16 September: London Broncos Rugby League player James Cunningham is charged with racial abuse following an allegation by Hull Rovers, which is referred to a disciplinary panel after an initial Rugby Football League investigation. (BBC Sport, 16 September 2019)
17 September: Twelve leaders of Juventus ‘ultras’ are arrested for extortion after allegedly threatening to sing racist chants during matches unless they were given blocks of reduced-price tickets that they could sell on. (The Local, 16 September 2019)
18 September: A sports judge for the Italian Football Federation (FIGC) says there is not enough evidence to take action against Cagliari, whose fans subjected Romelo Lukako to monkey chants as he took a penalty on 1 September. It is the third time in two years Cagliari has been investigated for racist abuse but no action has been taken. (BBC News, 18 September 2019)RACIST VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
3 September: According to police, Cheshire has seen a rise in hate crimes against Muslims after the Brexit vote with 30 Islamophobic offences reported in 2016 and 67 in 2017, compared to 5 in 2014. Local MP Chris Matheson attributed the rise to pro-Brexit campaigning ‘based on immigration and anti-Muslim rhetoric’ and the opening up of old intolerances encouraged by the racism of Donald Trump. (Chester Standard, 3 September 2019)
9 September: Over 40 percent of Bolton’s African community has been verbally abused in the last year, according to a new survey on hate crime. Of 108 people surveyed, 26 percent have been harassed and 20 per cent have had their property damaged. The study, carried out by Bolton’s African Community Association, aided by the Bolton Be Safe Partnership, also found that 42 percent said they were unlikely to report the crimes to the police or other agencies. (Bolton News, 9 September 2019)
10 September: Far-right extremist Vincent Fuller is jailed for 18 years and 9 months for a violent racist rampage in Stanwell on 16 March, the day after the Christchurch mosque attack. Shouting ‘All Muslims should die, white supremacists rule’, he attacked cars with a baseball bat and stabbed a teenager, telling him: ‘You’re going to die’. (Independent, 10 September 2019
12 September: A 60-year-old Norwegian man is found guilty of a virulent racist hate campaign which included issuing online death threats against the survivors of Breivik’s massacre on Utøya island. (News In English.no, 12 September 2019)
16 September: Tell Mama launches its 2018 annual report on anti-Muslim hate incidents in the UK, finding two significant spikes – after ‘Punish a Muslim’ day letters were circulated, and after Boris Johnson’s article calling niqab wearing Muslims ‘letter-boxes’. (Tell Mama press release, 16 September 2019)
This calendar was compiled by the IRR News team with the help of Laura Wormington and Graeme Atkinson.
A free public talk by Dr Piers Robinson, co-director organisation for propaganda studies, on how ‘fake news’ and propaganda has undermined democracy and enabled war.
- 2 October 2019, 7pm – 10 pm at Sydenham Centre, 44a Sydenham Road London SE26 5QX
- Free tickets
- Hosted by Lewisham West and Penge Constituency Labour Party
For more information click here
The event, which falls within London Challenge Poverty Week, will address human rights and attitudes related to economic injustice and the causes and consequences of poverty.
- 16 October 2019 at Resource for London at 7pm.
- Speakers include Amina Gichinga, an organiser with London Renters Union, Jean Stallings and Diana Skelton of All Together in Dignity (ATD) Fourth, a human rights anti-poverty organisation tackling inequality and promoting social justice and Luke Aaron, who will be talking about rural poverty.
- More information here
A night of readings and resistance hosted by Wasafiri exploring literature’s power to create ‘home’ in hostile environments for people on the margins.
- 15 October 2019, Free word centre, London
- Tickets £7-£10 (£2 unwaged tickets available)
- 7pm – 9pm
- With Roger Robinson, Winsome Pinnock, Inua Ellams and Bridget Minamore
- More information here
ASYLUM AND MIGRATION
Asylum and migrant rights
18 August: Médecins sans Frontières spokesperson reacts with disbelief to UNHCR official Vincent Cochelet’s tweets expressing concern for ‘the radicalisation of migratory dreams’, which he explains as refugees’ rejection of jobs and language classes in nearby countries in order to go to the EU. Another critic says Cochelet should be more concerned with EU member states’ refusal to comply with refugee law and the law of the sea. (Euronews, 21 August 2019)
19 August: Free movement for EU citizens will end on 31 October in the event of no Brexit deal, Boris Johnson says, raising fears of another Windrush among the 2.6 million EU nationals in the UK who have not yet applied for settled status. (Guardian, 19 August 2019)
20 August: Thirteen Greek and European civil society organisations publish ‘No End in Sight,’ which details a range of struggles and abuses against refugees in mainland Greece and the islands, amounting to inhuman and degrading treatment and torture, in the asylum procedure, healthcare, police violence and discrimination against women, children and LGBTQ+ people. Read the report here. (Are you Syrious, 24 August 2019, Statewatch News, 26 August 2019)
21 August: The newly elected Greek government revokes access to national ID cards for asylum seekers and introduces changes to housing policy whereby all rental payments have to made through banks. Asylum-seekers have virtually no access to the banking system. (Are you Syrious, 24 August 2019)
22 August: Official statistics show that immigration from the EU is at its lowest level for six years, mainly because of fewer people coming for work. (INews, 22 August 2019)
23 August: Nearly 17,000 asylum seekers in the UK have waited over six months for a decision on their claim, 58 per cent more than a year ago, including some who had waited years, and one who received a decision four and a half years after claiming asylum, according to government figures. (Independent, 23 August 2019)
23 August: Step Up Migrant Women (a collation of over 40 organisations), and Amnesty International UK launch a petition expressing concern that the government’s Domestic Abuse Bill fails to provide protection for migrant women. Specialist BAME service providers including Southall Black Sisters (SBS) and Latin American Women’s Rights (LAWR) highlight that they have not been invited to participate in an upcoming Domestic Abuse Bill roundtable. (Amnesty International, 23 August 2019, LAWRS twitter 23 August 2019)
25 August: Eurostat statistics show that nearly 900,000 asylum seekers are living in limbo in the EU, awaiting processing of claims, as the asylum rejection rate doubles to nearly two-thirds of claims (four-fifths in Italy), although the numbers claiming have halved. (Guardian, 25 July 2019)
31 August: Campaigners accuse the government of misleading the public over the Home Office claim that over a million EU nationals have successfully applied under its settlement scheme, as evidence shows the proportion granted pre-settled status, which provides fewer rights than settled status, has increased to over 40 per cent. (Guardian, 31 August 2019)
1 September: The Home Office will end family reunification under the Dublin Regulation for asylum-seeking children stranded in Europe on 31 October in the event of a no-deal Brexit, UNHCR warns, which charities say is likely to lead to dozens more refugee children risking their lives in the dangerous crossing from France to Britain. (Guardian, 1 September 2019)
2 September: The new Greek government announces enhanced border patrols to contain ‘huge waves’ of asylum seekers arriving from Turkey, along with other ‘emergency’ measures aimed at abolishing asylum seekers’ appeal rights and removing ‘illegal migrants’ back to Turkey. (Guardian, 2 September 2019)
The Libyan crisis
22 August: A month after the shipwreck of a boat with 250 people on board off the coast of Libya, in which up to 150 migrants drowned, bodies wash up on the shore near Khoms Souq al Khamis detention centre, where according to an Eritrean detainee, guards threaten to shoot detainees who try to bury them. (Irish Times, 22 August 2019)
27 August: Another forty people are feared dead after a wreck is found off Libya’s coast. The previous week, more than 100 people died. (Guardian, 27 August 2019)
Reception and detention
14 August: Senior coroner Mary Hassell directs Camden council to alert other local authorities to the increased risk of suicide among unaccompanied child refugees from Eritrea, during the inquest into the death of Osman Ahmed Nur, 19, who was found dead in May 2018, one of four young Eritreans who appear to have taken their own lives. (Bhatt Murphy, 19 August 2019, Guardian, 12 August 2019)
19 August: A trafficked Vietnamese woman who was detained for three days while suffering a miscarriage at Heathrow is awarded £50,000 damages for her detention, which the Home Office admits amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment. (Guardian, 19 August 2019)
20 August: Asylum seekers are forced to live in rooms infested with rats and coackroaches and unfit for human habitation, under new Home Office contracts following criticism of previous arrangements, according to a Guardian investigation. (Guardian, 20 August 2019)
25 August: A 15-year-old Afghan boy is fatally stabbed by another Afghan teenager in a brawl in the squalid and overcrowded Moria camp. The UNHCR representative says that the Moria camp is no place for children, and they must be evacuated. (Greek Reporter, France24, 25 August 2019)
26 August: Greek police carry out dawn raids on squats which are home to hundreds of migrants in the Exarcheia area of Athens, arresting about 100 people in a heavily militarised operation during which helicopters circle the area as the government promised to bring ‘order’ to the district. (Guardian, 26 August 2019)
Borders and internal controls
15 August: Angela Merkel calls for the return of naval patrols to the Mediterranean after their replacement by drones puts lives at risk, and describes rescue at sea as a ‘humanitarian imperative’, as polls show nearly three-quarters of Germans say they support rescue boats. (Deutsche Welle, 16 August 2019)
20 August: Eighty-three people are finally landed on Lampedusa, 19 days after being rescued, after Italian prosecutor Luigi Patronaggia orders the seizure of the Open Arms and the evacuation of those on board, many of whom had become so desperate that some 15 migrants jumped into the sea and with the help of rescue workers reached the island. (Guardian, 20 August 2019, Are You Syrious, 21 August 2019)
22 August: Slovenia starts work on extending its border wall with Croatia, building new kilometres of barbed wire fence. In the coming weeks 4 kilometres of fence will be built between the towns of Vincia and Zunica, near the Kupa River. (Euronews, 22 August 2019)
23 August: After two weeks at sea, 356 migrants rescued by the Ocean Viking, operated by MSF and SOS Méditerranée, are transferred to a Maltese navy vessel for landing in Valetta, following agreement to distribute those on board among six EU member states. (Morning Star, 23 August 2019)
23 August: An unnamed Iraqi man is found dead at a wind farm off the coast of Zeebrugge, Belgium. He is believed to have been attempting to swim from France to the UK after being refused asylum in Germany. (BBC News, 26 August 2019)
23 August: Migrant Voice’s Salman Mirza says those seeking refuge in the UK ‘deserve better’ as Boris Johnson warns those intending to cross the Channel that they will be sent back as illegals, and Priti Patel prepares to hold talks with French politicians. Around 900 people have tried to make the crossing this year. (Guardian, ITV News, 23 August 2019)
26 August: Greece’s police spokesman calls refugees ‘rubbish’ and ‘dust’ when describing a new police operation to clear refugees and asylum seekers from the Exarchia district of Athens. (The Press Project, 26 August 2019)
26 August: A jeep smuggling people through northern Greece crashes into an irrigation ditch, killing 6 and injuring the remaining 10 men from Pakistan and Egypt. The two suspected smugglers survive and are arrested. (Ekathimerini, 26 August 2019)
27 August: The Italian civil aviation authority blocks two planes used by the NGOs Sea Watch and Pilotes Volontaires to search for migrant boats in distress in the Mediterranean. (Guardian, 27 August 2018)
31 August: As 13 men attempting to reach Britain from France are rescued by French authorities in the Channel, a Help Refugees spokeswoman says smugglers are cramming 30 people into dinghies built to carry six, and children frequently fall into the water, but refugees are increasingly desperate, with no legal, safe alternative. (Alarabiya, Guardian, 31 August 2019)
20 August: Pia Klemp, captain of the Iuventa, who with nine crew members faces possible trial and imprisonment in Italy for assisting illegal immigration, refuses the Grand Vermeil medal awarded for bravery by the city of Paris, citing the hypocrisy of a city whose ‘police steal blankets from people forced to live on the streets … and criminalise people … standing up for rights of migrants and asylum seekers’. (NPR via Statewatch, 20 August 2019)
21 August: 73-year-old Anni Lanz loses her appeal against her fine for helping a refused asylum seeker with PTSD return from Italy, where he was deported, to Switzerland, so he could be looked after. (Swissinfo, 21 August 2019)
2 September: The Italian government seizes German NGO Mission Lifeline’s ship Eleonore, shortly after it disembarks over 100 rescued refugees in Sicily, with outgoing interior minister Matteo Salvini saying it violated the ban on docking and that the German charity workers will pay dearly for such defiance. (Deutsche Welle, 2 September 2019)
16 August: A court in Bavaria rules that a Syrian refugee cannot be sent back to Greece because of the risk of return to Turkey, which is not a safe country for refugees. (Are You Syrious, 19 August 2019)
23 August: It is revealed that one of the G4S guards involved in the deportation death of Jimmy Mubenga in 2010, who was found to have dozens of racist texts on his phone, is still licensed to work as a guard by the Security Industry Authority, a Home Office regulator. (Morning Star, 23 August 2019)
23 August: It is reported that in July, the Swiss Supreme Administrative Court halted a deportation to Croatia under the Dublin Regulation, due to concerns about asylum standards there and because the migration secretariat failed to check the risk of inhuman or degrading treatment. (Are You Syrious, 24 August 2019)
30 August: The Munich administrative court rules that Germany’s bilateral agreements with Greece and Spain, entered into a year ago to enable speedy return of asylum seekers, is illegal, as it bypasses the safeguards for asylum seekers in the Dublin regulation. To date 28 people have been returned under the agreements. (ECRE news, 30 August 2019)
Reception and detention
28 August: Migrants and supporters demonstrate outside Brandenburg’s interior ministry in Potsdam calling for justice for 32-year-old Kenyan migrant Rita Awour Ajonge, whose skeletonised body was found by police in June, two months after her disappearance from the nearby refugee centre. Protestors demand the closure of the centre, which they say is remote, inaccessible and unfit for living in, and for an inquiry into the ‘inadequate’ police response to her disappearance in April. (InfoMigrants, 28 August 2019)
29 August: The Independent Monitoring Board expresses concern at the increase in cases of self-harm at Morton Hall Immigration Removal Centre, from 181 in 2017 to 217 in 2018. (BBC, 29 August 2019)
31 August: A court in Siegen, Germany convicts a security guard at Burbach reception centre of dangerous assault and deprivation of liberty for spraying a resident with pepper spray without prior warning and for locking asylum seekers, on four occasions, in the reception centre’s so-called ‘problem room’. (Der Spiegel Online, 31 August 2019)
POLICING AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE
19 August: The IWGB union launches a legal complaint against Transport for London and the Met Police for disproportionate stops and inspections of mainly BAME-driven minicabs, which are targeted nearly four times as often as black cabs (with mostly white drivers), despite minicabs’ higher compliance rate with enforcement standards, and calls on London mayor Sadiq Khan to hold a review. (Taxi Point, 19 August 2019)
20 August: The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) completes its investigation into the death of 30-year-old Portuguese father of four, Andre Moura, in the custody of Greater Manchester police in July 2018, and passes the file to the Crown Prosecution Service to consider criminal charges against the five officers involved. (IOPC, 20 August 2019)
21 August: An inquest into the death of Oghene Abboh, 26, in police custody following a stop and search in Southwark, concludes that he died from ingestion of drugs. Following the verdict, the IOPC publishes the findings of its investigation, which concluded in December 2018 that no police misconduct was involved. (IOPC, 21 August 2019)
3 September: Following a public outcry, the company responsible for London’s Kings Cross development says that it has abandoned plans for a wider deployment of facial recognition technology across its entire building estate. (Prolific London, 3 September 2019)
ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
17 August: Guardian journalist Owen Jones says that he believes the far Right were behind a premeditated attack on him and four friends in Islington which left him with a ‘bloodied back’ and a bump on his head. (Independent, 17 August 2019)
19 August: The general secretary of the National Union of Journalists calls on the police to do more to tackle ‘a coordinated surge in violent extremism against journalists and media workers’ as British politics becomes more polarised by Brexit. Far-right attacks on Owen Jones, the photographer Joel Goodman and intimidation of BBC crews during the Tommy Robinson trial are cited. (Guardian, 19 August 2019)
22 August: One year after a week of violent anti-foreigner far-right protests in Chemnitz, a Syrian asylum seeker is found guilty of the manslaughter of a German-Cuban man that sparked the disturbances. (Deutsche Welle, 22 August 2019).
24 August: Hope Not Hate informs the Royal Navy that two of its members, including one who is due to start work on a Trident nuclear submarine, are members of Generation Identity UK. (Guardian, 24 August 2019)
24 August: On the eve of state elections in Saxony, east Germany, in which the far-right Alternative for Germany is predicted to do well, 40,000 anti-fascists participate in the ‘Unteilbar’ (Indivisible) demonstration against racism and in defence of tolerance and diversity – the largest demonstration in Dresden since German reunification. (Deutsche Welle, 24 August 2019)
29 August: A tribunal at Gap, France, jails three members of Generation Identity for six months and fines then €2,000 each for impersonating border guards at an anti-migrant action in the Alps in 2018. GI is also fined €75,000, the maximum fine that can be imposed. (Guardian, 29 August 2019)
30 August: Six German journalists’ organisations send an open letter to the interior minister Horst Seehofer demanding that the government does more to protect journalists from right-wing extremists, after reporters’ names are found on neo-Nazis’ ‘enemy lists’. (Vice, 30 August 2019)
20 August: Croatian diplomat Elizabeta Magarevic is suspended from her Berlin post over racist Facebook posts expressing her desire for a ‘pure, white’ Europe. (MSN News, 20 August 2019)
20 August: The Italian prime minister, Giuseppe Conte, who had refused to sign an order banning the Open Arms migrant rescue vessel docking in Lampedusa, resigns after accusing deputy prime minister and interior minister Matteo Salvini of being obsessed with closing ports to migrants. (Guardian, 20 August 2019)
22 August: The new UKIP leader, Richard Braine, is accused of whipping up anti-Muslim prejudice after four emails leaked to the Guardian from a UKIP source show him arguing that people should no more want Muslims to settle in their country than Nazis, and that non-Muslims should help Muslims to ‘cast out their demon’. (Guardian, 22 August 2019)
30 August: Leaked diplomatic documents reveal that Andreas Kalbitz, Alternative for Germany’s election candidate in the Brandenburg state elections, attended a neo-Nazi rally in Athens in 2007. (Guardian, 30 August 2019)
31 August: Marine Le Pen blames France’s ‘naïve and lax’ migration policy for an attack in Lyon in which an Afghan asylum seeker wielding a knife killed one person and wounded eight more. (Deutsche Welle, 1 September 2019)
1 September: The far-right Alternative for Germany makes a strong showing in state elections in Saxony and Brandenburg, coming second in both states with 27.3 percent and 22.7 percent respectively, in particular mobilising several thousands of people who have never voted before.(Deutsche Welle, 1 September 2019)
NATIONAL SECURITY AND COUNTER TERRORISM
18 August: A coalition of civil rights groups condemn the government’s appointment of Lord Carlisle to independently review its Prevent strategy, for which the former reviewer of anti-terrorist legislation has publicly declared his support. (Observer, 18 August 2019)
18 August: The UK government strips Jack Letts, who is being held in a Syrian prison, of his British citizenship, prompting a row with Canada, whose citizenship he also holds. (Guardian, 18 August 2019)
20 August: Cage accuses the government of ‘structural Islamophobia’ in a dossier that highlights ‘suspicionless stops’ of Muslims at ports and airports under the Terrorism Act 2000. In ten cases, complaints have been made to the Independent Office for Police Misconduct. (Guardian, 20 August 2019)
HOUSING AND HOMELESSNESS
21 August: Launching a report into family homelessness, the Children’s Commissioner says it is a scandal that at least 210,000 children in homeless families in England are living in unsafe, crowded temporary houses, including converted shipping containers and cramped rooms in former office blocks. (Guardian, 21 August 2019)
28 August: As Serco accelerates its evictions of asylum seekers in the run-up to the expiry of its Home Office asylum housing contract, leading to more refugees sleeping rough in Glasgow, the Scottish Court of Session hears a fast-track appeal against the policy. Judges have already granted 80 temporary injunctions preventing evictions. (Guardian, 28 August 2019)
28 August: Italian security forces evict 130 migrants as they begin clearing sheds in a former industrial complex in Metaponto di Bernalda occupied by about 600 migrants working as day labourers on farms in the Basilicata province, southern Italy. MSF, which provides medical help to the migrants, calls for proper housing for them. (InfoMigrants, 30 August 2019)
23 August: Glasgow University signs an agreement with the University of the West Indies to fund a joint development research centre, projected to cost £20 million, in a ‘bold, historic’ move to make reparation for its financial benefit from slavery in the 18th and 19th centuries. (Guardian, 23 August 2019)
22 August: A study by the University of Strathclyde, based on a survey of 1,000 eastern European children in England and Scotland, finds that 77 percent have suffered racism, xenophobia or bullying, which has increased since the Brexit vote, with some students accusing their teachers of failing to protect them and even laughing and joining in. (Guardian, 22 August 2019)
19 August: For the first time a woman wearing the niqab is escorted by police from a bus in the town of Stein, Netherlands. The driver called the police when the woman refused to remove her niqab, which contravenes the new law banning face-covering clothing in public buildings and transport in the Netherlands, which came into force last month. (Al jazeera, 20 August 2019)
EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION
18 August: An internal survey shows that more than a fifth of Border Force and Immigration Enforcement staff have experienced discrimination at work, the worst figure for any of the 89 government agencies and departments. (Guardian, 18 August 2019)
19 August: Loulou’s private club in Mayfair, whose owner has donated £20,000 to Boris Johnson and £250,000 to UKIP, is accused of exploitation of its kitchen porters, eight of whom were sacked on allegedly trumped-up charges after they started a campaign for the London living wage. (Left Foot Forward, 19 August 2019)
MEDIA AND CULTURE
15 August: A social media network for young people, ‘Woke’, is revealed as a covert government counter-terrorism initiative aimed at young Muslims. (Middle East Eye, 15 August 2019)
23 August: More than twenty Jewish actors and playwrights protest the absence of Jews in the casting of the London production of a play about a dysfunctional Jewish family, complaining of cultural appropriation and ‘Jewface’ casting. (Guardian, 23 August 2019)
23 August: The Jewish Chronicle issues a full apology to the trustees of the charity Interpal, which supports Palestinians in need, and pays them damages for libel, for an article published on 21 March 2019 (‘Corbyn spoke at conference calling for release of terrorists, attended by ‘blood libel’ cleric Salah’). (Jewish Chronicle, 23 August 2019)
26 August: Anti-racism activist Mouhab Reghif of the Brussels Panthers claims he has been expelled from the Belgian town of Ath after the organisation called on Unesco to remove the town’s festival, which features a blackface character in chains, paraded as a ‘savage’, from its cultural heritage list. (Guardian, 20, 26 August 2019)
30 August: YouTube reverses its decision to close down the video channel of Generation Identity’s Martin Sellner (as well as that of an anonymous British YouTuber known as The Iconoclast), saying that it had made the ‘wrong call’ in removing them. (BBC News, 30 August 2019)
21 August: Twitter is to meet with Kick It Out and Manchester United FC, after United black French footballer Paul Pogba becomes the third player in a week to be racially abused on social media following a penalty miss. Phil Neville, the captain of the England women’s football team, calls on footballers to boycott social media. (BBC News, 21 August 2019)
25 August: Chemnitz FC is considering legal action against a far-right section of its own fans after racist and anti-Semitic chants during an away fixture in Munich, including a chant in support of its former team captain (sacked for supporting far-right fans), ‘At least Daniel Frahn is not a negro’. (Deutsche Welle, 25, 27 August 2019)
25 August: Following the online racial abuse of football players Paul Pogba and Marcus Rashford, Manchester United FC announces plans to meet with representatives of Facebook. (Guardian, 25 August 2019)
1 September: A youth football match is cancelled after a 15-year-old Hutchison Vale player is allegedly racially abused by a Leith Athletic opponent in Edinburgh. (Edinburgh Evening News, 4 September 2019)
1 September: Romelu Lukaku, 26, is subjected to racist abuse, including monkey chants, during Inter Milan’s Serie A game against Cagliari. A statement from a group of Inter Milan fans claims that the monkey chants were a form of ‘respect’. (Mirror, 1 September 2019, BBC News, 4 September 2019)
RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
16 August: A 50-year-old man pleads guilty to racially aggravated harassment, possession of a bladed article and attempted murder after rampaging through a Surrey town the day after the Christchurch massacre in March with a baseball bat and a knife, shouting that he was going to ‘kill a Muslim’. Vehicles were damaged and a Bulgarian man was hospitalised with stab wounds. The attacker will be sentenced in September. (Independent, 16 August 2019)
20 August: A 14-year-old Muslim girl has her hijab ripped from her head before being beaten and humiliated with eggs by a group of youths in the Dundrum area of Dublin. The incident was caught on video and the Gardai are investigating (Irish Mirror, 20 August 2019)
21 August: A family, originally from the Philippines, say that since moving to a housing estate in Caernarfon they have been repeatedly targeted for racist abuse by an unidentified group of people and that the authorities do nothing, merely telling her to install CCTV. (North Wales Daily Post, 21 August 2019)
23 August: Barking and Dagenham borough council funds a helpline, Call Hate Out, for young victims and witnesses of hate crime as data from the mayor’s office for policing and crime reveal that 321 racist crimes were recorded in the borough in the past year. (Barking and Dagenham Post, 23 August 2019)
27 August: Lancashire police statistics reveal a surge in racially aggravated anti-Muslim crimes in Preston, from eight in 2014 to 37 last year. (Lancashire Post, 27 August 2019)
30 August: An Everton fan is found guilty of racially and religiously aggravated harassment, given a suspended sentence and ordered to complete a course ‘promoting human dignity’ after publishing a series of Islamophobic tweets about Livepool player Mo Saleh. (BBC News, 30 August 2019)
2 September: White supremacist David Parnham, responsible for the ‘punish a Muslim day’ letters sent in 2018, is jailed for 12 years after pleading guilty at the Old Bailey to 15 offences involving hundreds of letters, including to the Queen, prime minister and Home Office, aiming to cause distress, and hoaxes involving noxious substances and bombs. Letters were sent to mosques and Islamic centres, with the words ‘P*** Filth’, signed ‘Muslim slayer’ and ‘you are going to be slaughtered very soon’, and Sheffield university received letters calling for the extermination of ethnic and religious minorities. (Guardian, 2, 3 September 2019)
2 September: The North Wales Regional Equality Network (NWREN) criticises Gwynedd Council and Cartrefi Cyminedol (CCG) for their response to a South East Asian family who claimed they had been attacked and racially abused on a council estate for over three years. (North Wales Live, 2 September 2019)
2 September: Two Muslim women wearing hijabs, one in her 60s and one in her 30s, suffer broken ribs and internal bleeding after being attacked and racially abused at North Ealing tube station, London. Anti-racist protestors are planning a demonstration on 6 September. (Daily Star, 2 September 2019, Ealing Today, 6 September 2019)
3 September: Police launch an investigation after eggs were thrown at a mother and her nine-month-old baby in an alleged racially aggravated attack in Worcester. (Evening Standard, 4 September 2019)
3 September: A man is jailed for racially and religiously aggravated harassment after abusing a Jewish family on a bus in Hackney, east London. (CPS, 3 September 2019)
3 September: Figures released by Tell Mama show that Islamophobic incidents rose by 375 per cent after Boris Johnson compared Muslim women to ‘letterboxes’, the biggest spike in anti-Muslim racism in 2018. The report finds that perpetrators ‘directly referenced’ Johnson’s comments when abusing Muslim women in the street. (Independent, 3 September 2019)
This calendar was compiled by the IRR News Team with the help of Laura Wormington and Priska Komaromi.
If Boris Johnson’s government survives, the chaos of the immigration system it plans to impose will lead to untold misery.
During the Tory leadership campaign, Boris Johnson set out his approach to immigration policy: to make it easier for highly skilled migrants to enter, and tougher for those who ‘abuse our hospitality’ – the usual bipartisan ‘good immigrant, bad immigrant’ dichotomy espoused by leaders from Tony Blair on. But in his first appearance in the House of Commons as prime minister, what caught the eye of the media was his signalling of support for an amnesty for undocumented migrants. The expulsion of up to half a million people living and working here for many years, without having committed any criminal offence, was a legal anomaly, he said, in response to a question by MP Rupa Huq, and ‘we need to look at … the economic advantages and disadvantages’ of granting legal status and allowing them to pay taxes. Johnson first expressed support for an amnesty as London mayor, but when he raised it as a minister, he said, Theresa May opposed the idea.
The suggestion provoked predictable ire from anti-migration groups such as Migration Watch. But they have nothing to fear from Johnson. As Karma Hickman explained on the Free Movement blog, and as Johnson himself acknowledged, the Home Office has provided regularisation schemes and rules for decades, to clear asylum backlogs or recognise ties built up over lengthy residence, and the criteria he has most recently set out for an amnesty – fifteen years’ residence and a ‘squeaky clean’ record – are comparatively tough.
As he made clear in his response, Johnson’s concern is not with the human, but the economic cost of undocumented work. Perhaps the unspoken rationale is to signal to employers his intention to retain the large number of (undocumented) migrant workers in the low-pay, low-skill areas of the economy – care, construction, agriculture, food processing, hospitality and catering, at least for long enough to find an alternative low-skilled labour source after Brexit drives out the low-paid, low-skilled EU migrant workers. After all, the National Farmers’ Union (NFU) had already warned of a 20 per cent shortfall in agricultural workers because of existing immigration restrictions, and dire warnings about labour shortages in many other fields have been circulating.
Johnson’s speech was, of course, mainly about delivering Brexit. But he did say that he intended a ‘radical rewriting’ of the immigration system. This ‘radical rewriting’, though, had nothing in common with the reforms called for by Amnesty International, among others, to repair a ‘broken and inhumane’ immigration system. All Johnson proposed was an ‘Australian-style points system’ awarding points for professional and personal attributes such as experience, earnings, age and qualifications – a system to which the UK’s points-based system for work visas, set up by Labour in 2009, bears a strong resemblance. His scrapping of the May/ Cameron pledge to reduce immigration to the ‘tens of thousands’, confirmed by a spokesman, was probably done not with the intention of increasing immigration levels, but because it was a permanent hostage to fortune, never achieved, a constant reminder of the folly of unfeasible pledges.
Not so much a radical rewrite, then, as a lot of bluster and no real change. And nothing said or done since gives cause for hope. To the boat people crossing the Channel in dinghies, he has said ‘we will send you back’. ‘You are an illegal migrant and I’m afraid the law will treat you as such.’ Never mind that anyone seeking asylum must be treated as a refugee first, unless proved otherwise.
Dream team – or nightmare?
The direction of Johnson’s thinking can be seen most clearly through his appointment of Priti Patel as home secretary. The daughter of immigrants from Uganda who set up a corner shop which developed into a chain of businesses, she was forced to resign as international development minister under Theresa May over secret meetings with senior Israeli politicians about using UK aid to fund Israeli ‘humanitarian’ operations in the occupied Golan Heights. Patel is not human-rights friendly, voting in 2016 to repeal the Human Rights Act and in 2018 against retaining the Charter of Fundamental Rights after Brexit. She also voted against giving asylum seekers the right to work after six months, and in favour of strengthening hostile environment measures by criminalising the provision of housing or banking facilities to undocumented migrants. On her appointment, Patel chose the Mail on Sunday to vow a ‘tough rewrite’ of the immigration system where ‘we decide who comes here based on what they have to offer’, with priority given to ‘brilliant scientists, academics and highly-skilled workers that we want to see more of’.
EU citizens’ rights up in the air
What about everyone else, those who are not brilliant scientists or academics? In particular, and most pressingly, what about all the EU citizens living and working in the UK, and their families? In his 25 July speech, Johnson assured the ‘3.2 million EU nationals now living and working among us’ that ‘under this Government they will have the absolute certainty of the right to live and remain’. But less than a month later, on 19 August, Johnson threw that absolute certainty into confusion by saying that free movement from the EU would end on 31 October in the event of no deal, thereby disowning Theresa May’s pledge that, in the absence of a deal, EU nationals would retain free movement rights until the end of 2020. Although no one has spelled out exactly what Johnson’s announcement means, a spokesperson said that tougher criminality checks would be imposed immediately, although ‘nothing will change for the three million EU nationals already in the UK’.
How can these statements sit together? Only for those of the three million who are ‘squeaky clean’, who stay put and/ or can provide evidence of their pre-Brexit working life here, it seems – and perhaps not even for them. Critics pointed out that those EU nationals living here who have not yet applied under the EU settlement scheme (and fewer than one-third have applied) will face similar difficulties as the Windrush generation did when they try to return to the UK following absence abroad, or when they try to change jobs, access NHS hospital care, benefits or housing.
Already in March, a Joint Human Rights Committee report warned that the Immigration and Social Security Coordination (EU Withdrawal) Bill going through parliament stripped EU citizens in the UK of their rights, including to social security, with no legislative protection in place to guarantee those rights, and nothing has been put in place since then. Meanwhile, law centres and advice bodies have reported that many hundreds, perhaps thousands of EU citizens living in the UK are wrongly being refused universal credit under ‘habitual residence’ benefit rules, and although the vast majority win on appeal, the average 40-week wait is rendering them homeless and destitute.
As for those EU nationals who seek to enter the UK after 31 October, Johnson’s announcement suggests that they will immediately be subject to the same rules as non-EU nationals (although as yet, there is nothing on the Home Office website to indicate whether or not this is the case). This would indicate that, from 1 November, skilled workers from the EU will only be able to come here if they have a job offer from an employer registered with the Home Office, and can speak English, while the entry of unskilled workers will be conditional on its impact on the labour market here. It is not clear how much of the 2018 White Paper, with its treatment of EU nationals as ‘low-risk’ nationalities for the purposes of visits, study and work, will survive.
What is clear is that the workload of the Home Office and of immigration officials will be massively increased from 1 November onwards, with the introduction of visas and immigration checks for EU nationals, the administration of the EU settlement scheme, and the enforcement of EU overstaying. From past experience, it is evident that administrative chaos will ensue.
‘Unfit for purpose’
It has been accepted for over a decade, even by ministers, that the Home Office is ‘unfit for purpose’. When ministers used the phrase, they did not mean that it has failed to regulate migration in accordance with so-called ‘British values’ of fairness and respect for human rights – if this was the test, the Home Office has been unfit for purpose since at least the 1960s, which saw racism institutionalised in legislation through the 1962 and 1968 Commonwealth Immigrants Acts. What ministers meant by ‘unfit for purpose’ was lost files, miscommunication, slow and poor decision-making and general inefficiency, resulting in failure to consider foreign offenders for deportation (the 2006 ‘foreign prisoners’ scandal’ that led to home secretary Charles Clarke’s resignation). This inefficiency combined with institutional racism to produce the Windrush and TOIEC (language test) scandals, both exposed in the past year – pensioners branded illegal immigrants, rendered homeless and destitute, sometimes deported, after fifty years’ residence, and as many as 35,000 international students branded cheats and frauds and told to leave the country with no right of appeal.
In fact, of course, the legendary inefficiency of the Home Office is as much a byproduct of institutional racism as is the hostile environment, the exorbitant fees and the ‘culture of disbelief’ permeating official decisions on asylum, family reunion, student visas and residence rights. A lazy contempt for ‘immigrants’ underlies the endemic loss or mislaying of files, the destruction of important evidence, the months, sometimes years-long delays in decision-making in vital areas such as asylum, keeping those affected in a cruel limbo. And it is getting worse. The number of asylum claimants waiting over six months for a decision increased 58 per cent in the past year, to 17,000 in June 2019, while the total number of unresolved immigration and asylum cases has almost doubled in five years to over 100,000. The response of the Home Office to these delays has not been to redouble efforts to improve decision times, but to abandon the six-month target to decide asylum claims. Delays are spreading through the system – now, citizenship applications take over six months to process. Systematic data sharing with HMRC and DWP, trumpeted in the 2018 White Paper as a way of ensuring error-free real-time immigration checks, has been a shambles. So has outsourcing of visa applications to French firm SopraSteria, which has resulted in thousands of complaints from students and medical staff forced to pay hundreds of pounds extra for ‘premium’ document scanning and biometrics services to ensure applications are submitted in time.
Until recently, EU citizens were largely unaffected by this, with the inevitable exception of eastern Europeans, and in particular Roma, who have borne the brunt of xeno-racist regulation (‘right to reside’ tests for social security, brought in to curb alleged ‘benefit tourism’) and practice (the treatment of rough sleeping as an ‘abuse’ of EU freedom of movement justifying detention and deportation – until ruled unlawful by the High Court).
However, since the Brexit vote, as well as the surge in wrongful refusal of benefits mentioned above, there have been increasing reports of EU nationals receiving letters telling them they have no right to be in the UK and must leave. It is likely to get much, much worse – even in the event of a withdrawal agreement and an orderly Brexit, never mind the nightmare no-deal scenario. It is hard to envisage the extent of the likely chaos and misery around the corner for EU citizens who have lived in the UK for years, but have not made settlement applications or whose applications ‘go astray’ in the Home Office, as they too are treated as ‘only immigrants’.
Read a Home Office media factsheet on EU citizens and freedom of movement.