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Sink without trace | exhibition on migrant deaths at sea

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 08:08

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

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

Other events include:

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

 

More information here

Enforcing Belonging – racial violence and the far Right

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 08:04

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

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

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

Paramilitarism, vigilantism and attacks by organised squads

Migrants’ graveyard, Myteline, Lesbos, September 2016

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

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

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

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

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

CasaPound protest

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

Terror plots and treachery discourses

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

Birthday memorial for Jo Cox, 2016. © wikicommons

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

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

Malta’s first racial murder – suspects are soldiers

Lassana Cisse Souleymane via @amam_malta

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

How these plots feed of popular racism

©_ANGELO_TRANI

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

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

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

 

 

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

Thu, 06/20/2019 - 07:17

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

ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP REFUGEES AND THE CONFLICT IN LIBYA

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

ASYLUM AND MIGRANT RIGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BORDERS, TRANSIT ZONES AND INTERNAL CONTROLS

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

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

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

RECEPTION AND DETENTION

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

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

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

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

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

CITIZENSHIP AND STATUS

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

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

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

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

CRIMES OF SOLIDARITY

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

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

RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS

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

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

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

ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ELECTORAL POLITICS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

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

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

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

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

NATIONAL SECURITY AND COUNTER-TERRORISM

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

EDUCATION

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

MEDIA AND CULTURE

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

Sink Without Trace – Remains of a burnt migrant shipwreck

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

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

THE GRENFELL TOWER FIRE TWO YEARS ON

(Credit: Daniel Renwick)

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

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

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

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

HOUSING

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

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

EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION

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

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

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

RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

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

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

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

Credit: Francis Mayer, Canterbury CLP.

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

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

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

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

After Grenfell: Violence, Resistance and Response

Mon, 06/10/2019 - 07:43

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

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

 

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

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 04:40

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

ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP ASYLUM AND MIGRANT RIGHTS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

BORDERS, TRANSIT ZONES AND INTERNAL CONTROLS

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

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

RECEPTION AND DETENTION

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

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

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

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

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

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

CITIZENSHIP AND STATUS

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

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

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

RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS

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

ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ELECTORAL POLITICS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

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

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

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

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

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

EDUCATION

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

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

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

MEDIA AND CULTURE

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

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

HEALTH

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

HOUSING

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

EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION

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

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

RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

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

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

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

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

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

The ‘rebel’ history of the Grove

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 04:03

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

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

© Ken Sprague

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

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

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

1958 ‘riots’    

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

Women organisers

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

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

The Carnival

Kelso Cochrane

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

No Colour Bar

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

We Shall Overcome

West Indian Gazette – Claudia Jones and Pearl Prescod

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

RAAS

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

UCPA

Altheia-Jones-Lecointe

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

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

Black – a political colour

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

Black activist self-help

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

Black Power

Michael X and Stokely Carmichael

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

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

Rastafari

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

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

Remembering ‘rebel’ history

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

Our ‘Grove’, their Notting Hill

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

The urgency of struggle today

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

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

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

Images from the IRR’s Black History Collection.

Why we should we wary of the modern slavery agenda

Thu, 06/06/2019 - 04:00

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

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

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

Avoiding structural causes

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

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

Waling Waling members delivering PPT verdict

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

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

Punishing the vulnerable

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

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

© Anthony Padgett – Statue at Morecambe Bay

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

The international context

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

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

 

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

 

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

Sat, 06/01/2019 - 03:00

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

 

Right definition for the right fight

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 02:46

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

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

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

Rejecting the definition

APPG report

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

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

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

Screenshot, APPG

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

The ‘racism’ rejectionists

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

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

 

The Scruton affair: picking on a harmless old fogey?

Thu, 05/23/2019 - 02:36

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

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

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

Screenshot from The New Statesman

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

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

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

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

The Salisbury Review and repatriation

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

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

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

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

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

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

Intellectual imprimatur

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

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

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

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

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

Wed, 05/22/2019 - 08:54

Written by IRR News Team

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

ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP ASYLUM, MIGRANT AND HUMAN RIGHTS

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

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

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

BORDERS, TRANSIT ZONES AND INTERNAL CONTROL

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

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

RECEPTION AND DETENTION

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

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

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

RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS

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

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

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

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

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

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

CRIMES OF SOLIDARITY AND CRIMINALISATION OF MIGRANT RIGHTS DEFENDERS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

CITIZENSHIP AND STATUS

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

ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ELECTORAL POLITICS

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

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

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

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

POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

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

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

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

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

DISCRIMINATION

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

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

APPG report

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

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

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

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

EDUCATION

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

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

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

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

HOUSING

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

(Credit: Daniel Renwick)

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

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

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

MEDIA AND CULTURE

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

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

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

RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 06:14

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

ASYLUM, MIGRATION AND CITIZENSHIP REFUGEES AND THE LIBYAN CONFLICT

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

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

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

BORDERS, TRANSIT ZONES AND INTERNAL CONTROLS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ASYLUM AND MIGRANT RIGHTS

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

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

RECEPTION AND DETENTION

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

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

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

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

CITIZENSHIP

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

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

RAIDS AND DEPORTATIONS

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

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

ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

ELECTORAL POLITICS

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

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

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

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

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

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

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

YOUTH SERVICES

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

DISCRIMINATION

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

EDUCATION

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

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

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

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

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

MEDIA AND CULTURE

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

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

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

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

HEALTH

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

EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION

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

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

SPORT

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

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

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

RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 04:20

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

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

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

Living on Love Lane and managed decline

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

Tash Bonner

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

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

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

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

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

© Alan Stanton

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

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

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

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

Regenerating Tottenham: 2011 riots, policing and knife crime

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

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

Demonstration outside Tottenham police station following the Mark Duggan inquest verdict

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

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

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

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

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

2011 London uprising © Raymond Yau

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

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

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

Gentrification: race, class and gender

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

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

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

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

Tash Bonner with Tottenham MP David Lammy

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Divide and rule and the will to fight

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

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

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

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

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

TAG demonstrating outside MP David Lammy’s Tottenham surgery

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

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

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

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

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

Follow TAG’s campaign here on Twitter

Swiss Priest prosecuted for helping a destitute man

Thu, 05/09/2019 - 04:20

Pastor Norbert Valley is the latest citizen to be charged with ‘facilitating illegal entry’ for giving assistance to a rejected asylum seeker.

Norbert Valley is the pastor of an Evangelical church in the town of Le Locle, eastern Switzerland, a small picturesque place nestling in the Jura mountains, with a population barely over 10,000. As a centre of Swiss watchmaking, it has been named as a World Heritage Site by UNESCO. And, like many Swiss watchmaking cities, its political and social history has been heavily influenced by radical and socialist ideas. The socialist party had been a leading presence in the area until 1992.

The Arrest

Norbert Valley

But one Sunday in February 2018 its tranquillity was broken. Police officers interrupted Pastor Valley’s sermon and escorted him away for questioning. His offence was giving occasional assistance, food and shelter, to a rejected asylum seeker from Togo. And for this he was charged with facilitating illegal entry of a foreigner under Article 116 of the Swiss immigration law.

Valley was ordered to pay a 1,000 CHf fine, which he refused on the grounds that his actions were humanitarian and part of his Christian faith. He has made it clear that if he were faced with a similar situation in the future, he would do the same again because, as he says, ‘If we don’t help our neighbours, we lose our humanity.’[1] It is this act of principle that has really condemned Valley. If prosecutors choose to follow through on the charges brought against him it will be sending a clear message to Swiss society – assistance to refugees, asylum seekers and those without papers is not acceptable, it’s criminal.

The case of Pastor Valley highlights the contradictions in the national narrative of Switzerland – a land that prides itself on its neutrality, the creation of the Red Cross and an ultra progressive view on assisted suicide has also, since 2008, removed any humanitarian exception to the facilitation laws. (In 2019 in Switzerland it is legal to help someone to die with dignity but not to give them to means to live with it.)

Role of church

Le Locle

Valley’s actions are not unique. Throughout history, churches have offered support, provided sanctuary and spoken up for people in need. In 2009, Father Kevin Doran, a priest working in Ireland, spoke out against a new bill that could have seen criminal sanctions made against anyone who permitted a form of marriage that was not ‘valid under the legislation’.[2] More recently a church in the Netherlands held a continuous service for over three months to protect a family from deportation to Armenia.[3] The Bethel Church in The Hague began a service on 26 October 2018 which did not stop for ninety-six days. The pastors set up a shift system with help from others across Europe including Germany, France and Belgium so that the service could be held without a single break. According to Dutch law, police cannot disrupt services to make an arrest.[4] In January 2019 the Dutch government made a policy shift that granted temporary protection to the whole family.

Like Valley, those who spoke up in this case, made the point that they were taking a stand not just for one family but for ‘all the children of asylum-seekers’.[5]

Citizen solidarity movement

This is the first time in many years that there has been a prosecution of a priest. His arrest has sparked a large solidarity campaign and gathered a lot of media attention. There have been profiles and articles covering his story across Europe and even in America as well as support from the Swiss Evangelical Alliance (RES) and Amnesty International (AI), decrying his arrest as part of the rampant use of immigration legislation to prosecute humanitarian activists.

Churches are just one of many groups and institutions that have put themselves on the line for refugees, asylum seekers and those without papers. Since the beginning of the ‘refugee crisis’ in the summer of 2015 thousands have given assistance and support to those arriving on Europe’s shores. They have attempted to fill the gaps in the state provision that even after four years has never moved beyond an emergency response. Hundreds of these volunteers including prominent professionals such as the director or Belgium’s Marie Claire and a Danish children ombudsman, have been arrested and charged under Europe’s member states’ smuggling and trafficking laws. As Valley’s case shows the number will continue to rise whilst Europe maintains its anti-immigrant rhetoric and the framework of legal persecution.

Related Links

Read IRR’s new report, When Witnesses won’t be silenced here

Tamils of Lanka: a timeless heritage

Wed, 05/08/2019 - 07:05

An exhibition organised by The Tamil Information Centre, centred around the theme of resilience. The exhibition aims to explore the history of the Tamil-speaking people in Ilankai through art, culture, history, human rights and politics.

  • Exhibition 11am – 6pm (Saturday 18 & Sunday 19 May) – Free for all 
    Location: Tolworth Recreation Centre, Fullers Way North, Surbiton, KT6 7LQ
  • An event showcasing traditional Tamil theatre conducted by the Centre for Community Development (CCD). Performances will include Villu Paatu, Kaathavaraayan Koothu, Sangiliyan Play, Karakaattam and a cultural dance performance. Book tickets here

Find further information about the exhibition here and book tickets for the play here

Support an appeal for ‘I am Judah’

Wed, 05/01/2019 - 07:50

Ras Judah Adunbi, a grandfather living in Bristol, was brutally tasered in the jaw by the police in January 2017. Ras Judah is determined to speak out about what happened to him, not only for himself but for all victims of these types of injustices.

Support a crowdfunder to create a documentary about his story, for all other victims of these injustices.

  • Support the crowdfunder here
  • View a trailer here

 

Calendar of racism and resistance (3 – 21 April 2019)

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 08:41

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

15 April: A BBC Newsnight investigation uncovers 90 cases in which Home Officials have been wrongly classified child asylum seekers as adults, denying them the support they are legally owed. (BBC Newsnight, 15 April 2019)

16 April: The court of appeal rules that the Home Office’s use of a terrorism-related paragraph of immigration law is ‘legally flawed’, and that the department is ‘too ready to find dishonesty’ in applications from ‘highly skilled migrants’. Paragraph 322(5) was used between 2015 and 2018 to force at least 300 people to leave the UK because they made legal amendments to their tax records. (Guardian, 16 April 2019; Independent, 16 April 2019)

20 April: Figures from Women’s Aid show that a third of more than 2,500 women who contacted domestic abuse services in 2017-2018 had no recourse to public funds, denying them access to the support and refuge space that would enable them to leave their abusive partners. Other organisations say the real numbers are probably much higher. (Independent, 20 April 2019)

22 April: Under a new immigration agreement between the Irish government and the International Transport Workers’ Federation, fisheries workers not in the European Economic Area will no longer be tied to employers and will be able to leave a boat to find other work without fear of deportation. The government agreed to change its permit scheme to ward off litigation for facilitating modern slavery. (Guardian, 22 April 2019)

BORDERS AND INTERNAL CONTROLS

4 April: Two teenage migrants aged 15 and 16, who are accused of ‘terrorist activity’ in Malta for hijacking a commercial vessel, are unlawfully held in the main adults prison in Paola, against the magistrate’s orders for their safety and well-being to be ensured. (Times of Malta, 4 April 2019)

4 April: The head of security for the Pas-de-Calais region in France says that tightened border patrols along the northern French coast are responsible for declining numbers of migrants crossing the Channel from France to Britain. 39 vessels carried 286 people between October and December, compared with 23 carrying 200 people between January and March. (RT, 5 April 2019)

5 April: Police in Bosnia and Herzegovina step up security measures around bus and train stations to prevent undocumented migrants from reaching reception centres in Bihać, Cazin and Velika Kladuša in the Una-Sana canton, and from crossing into Croatia.  (Total Croatia News, 5 April 2019; Sarajevo Times, 5 April 2019)

6 April: For a third day, Greek riot police use tear gas against hundreds of protesting migrants gathered near the Diavata refugee camp, with some claiming that they hope the northern Greek border will open to allow them to join a ‘caravan of hope’ into other European countries. (Independent, 6 April 2019)

7 April: The German-flagged NGO rescue ship Alan Kurdi, which rescued over 60 migrants off the Libyan coast, calls for urgent humanitarian assistance after Italy and Malta refuse to provide safe port. The ship’s operations management reports water and food shortages. (Deutsche Welle, 7 April 2019; Independent, 9 April 2019)

9 April: The UN evacuates 152 refugees from a detention centre in south Tripoli, while thousands in other detention centres across Libya fear that they will be abandoned and endangered amid intense fighting between rival groups in the country. In Europe, German politicians warn that more refugees may be forced to come to Europe as a result of the conflict. (Info Migrants, 10 April 2019; Independent, 12 April 2019)

10 April: RyanAir refuses, without explanation, to allow Iyad el-Baghdadi, a Palestinian writer with refugee status in Norway, to board a flight from Berlin to Dublin. After el-Baghdadi publicises the incident on Twitter, the airline swiftly apologises. (Independent, 10 April 2019)

14 April: Information obtained by the Guardian reveals that in 2018 registrars sent over 2,800 reports to the Home Office of potential sham marriages, a 40 per cent rise since 2014. Only 56 per cent of these were deemed worthy of investigation, and migrant couples and their lawyers have reported being subjected to ‘insulting’ checks, delayed nuptials, and even interrupted wedding ceremonies. (Guardian, 14 April 2019)

15 April: Prosecutors in Sicily place Italy’s prime minister Giuseppe Conte, deputy prime ministers Matteo Salvini and Luigi Di Maio, and Italy’s minister of infrastructure, Danilo Toninelli, under investigation for false imprisonment in the Sea Watch 3 case in which 47 migrants were  refused permission to leave the rescue vessel in January 2019. (Guardian, 15 April 2019)

18 April: The Italian military and defence ministries accuse interior minister Matteo Salvini of crossing a ‘red line’ and implying ‘improper pressure’ as he sends letters to the heads of the navy ordering them to close ports to migrants. (Guardian, 18 April 2019)

RECEPTION AND DETENTION

9 April: A 28-year-old undocumented Gambian migrant named Gaye Demba, who had lived for years in the former Olympic village in Turin, commits suicide at a reception centre run by the Diocese of Turin. (Info Migrants, 9 April 2019)

11 April: In the Italian town of Calolziocorte, Lombardy, home to just twenty asylum seekers, municipal authorities approve an urban plan stating that ‘welcome centres for migrants must not be located within 150 metres of schools’. Mayor Marco Ghezzi (The League), says that the preventative measures is necessary as welcome centres could be havens for drug dealing.  (Guardian, 12 April 2019)

15 April: People detained in Brook House detention centre, which is run by G4S, protest their indefinite detention and the prison-like conditions they endure. Two serious self-harm attempts occur, and many others threaten self-harm. (The London Economic, 16 April 2019)

16 April: In an unannounced inspection of Colnbrook detention centre, the inspectorate of prisons finds a series of failings, including conditions considered ‘austere for most prisons’ and a threefold rise in self-harm. The watchdog also found that detained people had been held at the centre for an average of 75 days. Read the report here. (Guardian, 16 April 2019)

19 April: Unpublished official figures obtained by Freedom from Torture show that the number of people on suicide watch in immigration detention centres rose by 5 per cent to 541 in 2018, renewing concerns that the Home Office is not adhering to the Adult at Risk policy introduced in 2016. (BuzzFeed, 19 April 2019)

CITIZENSHIP AND STATUS

4 April: The Guardian reveals that in 2018 the Home Office rejected 72 per cent of fee waiver requests for immigration and nationality applications made by people who say they are destitute. (Guardian, 4 April 2019)

4 April: Home Office data obtained by Citizens UK shows that the department is making a profit of £24 million a year from charges for children to register as British citizens. The chief inspector of borders and immigrations calls for a full review into the impact of the fees, while charities sign an open letter calling for an  end to ‘the practice of profiteering from immigration and citizenship applications’. (Guardian, 4 April 2019; Guardian, 4 April 2019; Independent, 5 April 2019)

12 April: The French company Sopra Steria, awarded a £91 million contract by the Home Office to ‘streamline’ applications for visas or settlement from within the UK, leaves dozens of people waiting outside its Croydon centre in the cold after cancelling their appointments. Many demand refunds after having travelled miles. (Independent, 12 April 2019)

15 April: Shamima Begum receives legal aid to appeal the Home Office’s decision to strip her of British citizenship. (BBC News, 15 April 2019)

DEPORTATIONS

3 April: A dossier by the English Collective of Prostitutes (ECP) shows that migrant sex workers are increasingly arrested and targeted for deportation and that racist attacks against them   have increased since the Brexit vote. Read the dossier here. (Independent, 3 April 2019)

11 April: An immigration officer is jailed after admitting to trying to extort £2,500 from a man threatened with deportation last year. She told him that she had ‘pulled strings’ to secure his release from Colnbrook immigration removal centre and that any outstanding deportation order would be cancelled if he paid up. (Independent, 11 April 2019)

12 April: Figures obtained by the Independent reveal that between January 2015 and September 2018, over 700 people who sought asylum in the UK as children have been deported as adults to countries deemed dangerous to visit by the government, including Afghanistan, Iraq, Somalia and Sudan. (Independent, 12 April 2019)

12 April: For the second time in a week, a judge halts the deportation of Habib Bazaboko, a man who has lived in the UK since he was 11, to the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), citing a new report about the dangers of returning people to the country. (Guardian, 12 April 2019).

15 April: 15 LGBT Syrian refugees launch a legal challenge accusing the Home Office of abandoning them to a life of homophobic discrimination in Turkey, despite promising them speedy asylum in the UK on a special refugee resettlement scheme. (Guardian, 15 April 2019)

CRIMES OF SOLIDARITY

3 April: Two Icelandic anti-deportation activists, Jórunn Edda Helgadóttir and Ragnheiður Freyja Kristínardóttir, who in May 2016 attempted to ground a flight from Keflavík Airport which was carrying a man who was being unjustly deported, are given two years on probation by the District Attorney in Reykjavík. (Ad Standa Upp, 3 April 2019)

18 April: The Global Legal Action Network files a petition at the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the prosecution in January 2016 of Salam Kamal-Aldeen, the founder of Team Humanity, for his rescue work in the Aegean Sea constitutes a violation of human rights law. (Court House News, 18 April 2019)

ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR-RIGHT

5 April: German police say that the Christchurch mosque killer transferred money to the French wing of the far-right Generation Identity group in September 2017. (Stuff, 5 April 2019)

10 April: Targeted raids against far-right extremists take place in four German states (Brandenburg, Saxony, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Berlin). Most raids target Inferno Cottbus ’99, affiliated to the football club Energie, whose members are suspected of involvement in robberies, violence, spreading Nazi symbols and are believed to have played a key role in organising riots in the eastern city of Chemnitz last summer. (Deutsche Welle, 10 April 2019; Guardian, 10 April 2019)

12 April: Athens city council, declaring itself an anti-fascist city, passes a resolution stating that the  ‘municipality will not provide public spaces, venues and electoral booths for Golden Dawn’s pre-electoral gatherings while the Golden Dawn trial continue’. (Greek City Times, 12 April 2019)

14 April: Copenhagen police arrest 23 people after pitched battles break out following counter-protests against an anti-Islam demonstration held by Rasmus Paludan, founder of anti-immigrant party Stram Kurs (Hard Line), in the ethnically diverse Nørrebro neighbourhood. (Copenhagen Post, 15 April 2019)

15 April: A Paris court sentences the far-right activist Alain Soral in his absence to one year in jail for denying the Holocaust after being sued by four NGOs behalf of the government.  (Quartz, 15 April 2019)

15 April: In Valencia, Spain, police arrest two activists and accuse them of ‘hate crime’ for their participation in a protest on 5 March against a bus carrying a message equating feminists with nazis, organised by far-right, ultra-Catholic group Hazte Oir. The group is claiming €17,000 damages against the two men arrested, saying they obscured the message on the bus. (El Diario, 18 April 2019)

16 April: Alt Right commentators as well AfD leader Alice Weidel use the Notre Dame fire in Paris to spread Islamophobic conspiracy theories, while the leading US alt-right figure Richard Spencer says that the fire would have ‘served a glorious purpose if it pushed the White man into action’.(Al Jazeera, 16 April 2019)

18 April: Facebook imposes a ban on several far-right organisations and their leaders, including the British National Party, the English Defence League, Britain First and the National Front. They will no longer be able to have a presence on any Facebook service. (BBC News, 18 April 2019)

18 April: The office of the federal German police says that hundreds of warrants for the arrests of far-right suspects remain outstanding. Most of them are for theft, fraud, verbal abuse or traffic offences. (Deutsche Welle, 18 April 2019)

20 April: In a report for his Institute for Global Change, the former Labour prime minister Tony Blair says that ‘attacks on diversity’ and the rise of the far-right is the result of the failures of ‘multiculturalism’ and ‘integration’. He also calls for the introduction of digital ID cards, an idea pushed and eventually dropped by New Labour. (Guardian, 20 April 2019)

21 April: Robbie Mullen, the former National Action member who exposed Jack Renshaw’s plan to murder local Labour MP Rosie Cooper with a machete, reveals that he has faced numerous death threats since whistleblowing. (Guardian, 21 April 2019)

23 April: A plaque ceremony and vigil takes places in Southall, London, to remember Blair Peach, a teacher and anti-racist activist who was killed by police in 1979 and Gurdip Singh Chaggar, an 18-year-old student who was killed in a racially-motivated attack in 1976. Find information about upcoming Southall 40 events here. (Aljazeera, 23 April 2019)

ELECTORAL POLITICS

8 April: In Milan, Matteo Salvini launches a new extreme-right alliance (The League, Alternative for Germany, Danish People’ Party, Finns Party) to fight the European parliamentary elections in May. (Guardian, 8 April 2019)

8 April: The Spanish political monthly La Marea identifies lawyer and prominent VOX member José María Ruiz Puerta as the last president of the Spanish Nazi group CEDADE (dissolved in 1993) and deputy director of its journal. (La Marea, 8 April 2019)

14 April: The anti-immigrant Finns party win 17.5 per cent of the vote in the general election and are now the second largest party in the Finnish parliament. The Social Democrats, which won by the tiniest of margins, do not rule out a coalition with the Finns Party and say discussions will focus on ‘values’. (Guardian, 14 April 2019)

16 April: A Channel 4 investigation shows that in 2016 the pro-Brexit Leave.EU campaign staged photographs that purported to show migrants attacking women in London and faked a viral video that purported to show how easily migrants can enter Britain. Shadow culture secretary Tom Watson calls for a judicial inquiry into the campaign’s activities during the referendum. (Channel 4 News, 16 April 2019; Guardian, 17 April 2019)

17 April: In the run up to the Spanish general election on 28 April, the electoral commission bans the Vox party from participating in  a five party televised  debate organised by the private media company Atresmedia, stating that the far-right party’s inclusion was not  ‘proportional’ under electoral law, as it does not hold any seats in the national parliament. (BBC News, 17 April 2019)

19 April: Antonella Bundu becomes the first black woman to run for mayor of a large Italian city, announcing her candidacy in Florence for a coalition of radical-left parties. (Guardian, 19 April 2019)

POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM

4 April: The inquest into the death of 45-year-old Annabella Landsberg in HMP Peterborough in September 2017 concludes that the conduct of prison, healthcare and custody staff contributed to her death. Landsberg, who was from Zimbabwe, suffered from diabetes and other illnesses which staff failed to recognise and provide care for.  (Guardian, 4 April 2019; Inquest, 4 April 2019)

7 April: Violent incidents at Feltham young offenders institution (YOI) in west London over the weekend leave 20 staff injured, 13 of whom are hospitalised. Campaigners call for the closure of the facility, which has been heavily criticised by the Inspectorate of Prisons in annual reports over the years. (Guardian, 9 April 2019)

8 April: Magistrates find a police officer guilty of assault for grabbing a black man’s dreadlocks, punching him, and pulling him from a patrol car. In the build-up to the incident, caught on the officer’s camera, the officer accused the man of ‘playing the race card’ and being ‘anti-police’. (Nottingham Post, 8 April 2019)

10 April: New figures published by Inquest show that the Ministry of Justice spent £4.2 million representing prison officers but only £92,000 in legal aid for bereaved families at inquest hearings into deaths in prison during 2017-2018. (Guardian, 10 April 2019)

12 April: Police officers who pushed a 15-year-old black boy off his bike, causing him severe injuries including bruising on the brain, and then wrongfully arrested him on suspicion of theft, are cleared of wrongdoing by the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC). (My London, 12 April 2019)

14 April: Just two weeks after the Home Secretary gave police greater Section 60 stop and search powers, Stopwatch reports that is receiving information that police are abusing the power, and warns that it is ‘damaging community relations’. (Guardian, 14 April 2019)

16 April: West Midlands Police figures for 2018 to 2019 show that black people in the West Midlands are 13 times and Asian people 7 times more likely to be stopped and searched under section 60 powers than white people. (Express and Star, 17 April 2019)

16 April: The European Court of Human Rights rules that Roma are subjected to institutionalised racism and police brutality in Romania, in a case involving a police raid on a Roma home involving 85 officers, which the Court found was motivated solely by the family’s ethnicity and amounted to inhuman and degrading treatment. (European Roma Rights Centre, 17 April 2019)

18 April: Through music, speeches, poetry and a memorial walk, Leeds marks fifty years since the death of David Oluwale, whose body was pulled from the River Aire in 1969 after a sustained campaign by two police officers, who were convicted two years later for a series of assaults on Oluwale. (Leeds Live, 18 April 2019)

19 April: Two police officers involved in the death of Sheku Bayoh under police restraint in Kirkcaldy, Fife in 2015 are granted permission to retire on medical grounds, both having been on long-term sick leave since Bayoh’s death. The Bayoh family’s lawyer criticises the decision, which means that the officers cannot be subject to potential misconduct hearings or disciplinary action. (BBC News, 19 April 2019)

20 April: West Midlands police’s ethics committee raises concerns about the force’s £4.5 million project which will use a computer tool to predict which people are likely to reoffend. It warns that it might reinforce existing ‘ police bias’, for example, in its use of stop and search data. (Guardian, 20 April 2019)

COUNTER-TERRORISM AND NATIONAL SECURITY

12 April: The Counter-Terrorism and Border Security Act 2019 comes into force, introducing several new counter-terrorism measures, including ones that will criminalise viewing terrorist propaganda online, entering ‘designated areas’ abroad, and making ‘reckless expressions’ of support for proscribed organisations. Humans rights and press freedom campaigners have raised concerns about the measures since they were proposed last year. (Independent, 12 April 2019; Guardian, 12 April 2019)

DISCRIMINATION

11 April: Hours before he is due to perform, British rapper Stormzy pulls out of the Snowbombing festival in Mayrhofen, Austria, saying that his manager and friends who had travelled to the festival were racially profiled, targeted and aggressively handled by the festival’s security staff. (Guardian, 11 April 2019)

EDUCATION

4 April: Around thirty students at Bristol University walk out of a lecture given by American academic Eric Kaufman at the Centre of Ethnicity and Citizenship, protesting that Kaufman’s work, particularly his recent book Whiteshift, promotes racism and white nationalism by explaining the rise of the far-right as the ‘white majority’ response to immigration and diversity. (Bristol Post, 5 April 2019)

15 April: More than a year after Greek minister of migration Yiannis Mouzalas and Education Minister Costas Gavroglou announced a Greek language programme for adult refugees, courses still have not started. The program has been shunted from the International Organisation for Migration (IOM) to the Education Ministry, to keep it in the hands of the state, but has since stalled. (Ekathimerini, 15 April 2019)

MEDIA AND CULTURE

10 April: Research by Signal AI, which has created a database of reports from news, TV and radio outlets, finds that Islamist extremists are three times more likely than far-right extremists to be described as terrorists by the media. (Guardian, 10 April 2019)

12 April: Two French academics launch a petition demanding the removal of a mural from the French National Assembly which commemorates the abolition of slavery but depicts black people in a ‘humiliating and dehumanising’ way. (Guardian, 12 April 2019)

15 April: Research commissioned by BookTrust finds that between 2007 and 2017 fewer than 2 per cent of all children’s book authors and illustrators were from British BAME backgrounds. (Guardian, 15 April 2019)

HEALTH

3 April: Medical bodies, MPs and health-sector unions write a joint-letter to the health secretary Matt Hancock, accusing the Department of Health and Social Care (DHSC) of a cover-up for refusing to release the full reports of three investigations it commissioned to look at the impact of upfront NHS charges on migrants’ health. (Guardian, 3 April 2019)

12 April: Using the ‘Humanitarian Mechanism’ for the first time, Medicins Sans Frontieres (MSF) announces that it has secured pneumonia vaccines at an affordable price for the first time in Europe, and is using them to inoculate child refugees on the Greek islands of Chios, Samos and Lesvos. (The National Herald, 12 April 2019; Relief Web, 12 April 2019)

14 April: An Albanian family is facing deportation after the Home Office accuses them of lying about their right to asylum, using as evidence a comment made by their daughter, who was suicidal at the time, to a psychiatric nurse. Lawyers argued that the use of a child’s medical records was illegal, but the Court of Appeal dismissed the case. (The Times, 14 April 2019)

18 April: A British Medical Association (BMA) report provides evidence that immigrant patients are being deterred from seeking NHS treatment because of the policy of upfront charging introduced in 2017. The Department for Health and Social Care’s review of the policy remains unpublished. (Guardian, 18 April 2019)

EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION

14 April: An Observer investigation highlights trafficking, exploitation, dehumanising work and racial and sexual abuse, including rape, of Moroccan migrant women in the strawberry fields of southern Spain. The women who were recruited under a seasonal Spanish-Moroccan workers visa scheme say that their situation worsened when they went to the police, who have refused to activate national anti-trafficking protocols. (Observer, 14 April 2019)

14 April: Four men are charged with human trafficking and assisting unlawful immigration offences after police stopped their van on the M5 in Devon on Friday and found 29 people in the back who are believed to be from Vietnam. (Guardian, 14 April 2019)

12 April: Using figures from the government’s Labour Force Survey, the TUC reports that BAME workers are a third more likely to have precarious zero-hours or temporary work contracts than their white counterparts and twice more likely to complain that they are given too few working hours to earn a living from. (BBC News, 12 April 2019)

HOUSING

4 April: In Redbridge, the London borough with the highest number of asylum seekers, new council data shows that the number of people made homeless after being evicted from Home Office accommodation increased by five times between 2015 and 2018, from 5 to 28. (Ilford Recorder, 4 April 2019)

11 April: The Ministry of Housing, Communication and Local Government confirm that Professor Roger Scruton has been sacked as chairman of the Building Better, Building Beautiful commission following ‘unacceptable comments’, a reference to his apparent repetition of anti-Semitic statements concerning George Soros and his denial of Islamophobia. (Guardian, 11 April 2019)

12 April: A judge dismisses a legal challenge brought by two Kurdish asylum seekers in Glasgow against accommodation provider Serco’s right to carry out lock-change evictions of refused asylum seeker tenants without first obtaining a court order. (BBC News, 12 April 2019)

12 April: The UN Special Rapporteur for housing highlights the plight of people living in squats and informal settlements in France, adding that the country must act on the ‘dire’ living conditions of around 600-700 refugees and migrants sleeping rough in Calais. The systematic eviction of people from tents is cruel, inhuman and degrading and a violation of the right to adequate housing, she says. (Guardian, 12 April 2019)

SPORT

3 April: After a similar letter to West Ham United last week, Crystal Palace FC has been asked by local MPs and the head of Croydon Council to denounce the Democratic Football Lads Alliance (DFLA) as concerns grow about the increasing popularity of the far-right group among fans. (Guardian, 3 April 2019)

6 April: The English Football League (EFL) releases a statement condemning three incidents of racism at league games on Saturday, directed towards players for Derby, Wigan and Northampton respectively. (Guardian, 6 April 2019)

© Wiki commons

11 April: Three Chelsea supporters are barred from entering the team’s Europa League quarter-final against Slavia Prague after a video surfaces showing them in a bar in the Czech capital chanting that Mo Salah, a Muslim Egyptian former Chelsea player, is a ‘bomber’. A black Chelsea fan also complains of being racially abused by fellow Chelsea fans. (Guardian, 11 April 2019; BBC Sport, 13 April 2019)

11 April: Arsenal begins investigating a Snapchat video taken during the club’s home victory against Napoli in which Napoli defender Kalidou Koulibaly is called the N- word. (Guardian, 12 April 2019)

12 April: A French Ligue 1 game between Dijon and Amiens is interrupted at the 78th minute after Amiens captain is targeted by racist monkey chants. (France 24, 13 April 2019)

13 April: West Ham United says that a group of supporters shown in a video shouting anti-Semitic chants on the way to the club’s away game against Manchester United will face a lifelong ban, and will be barred from travelling with the club. (Guardian, 13 April 2019)

RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT

2 April: In a Rome suburb, hundreds of people, including local residents and far-right and neo-fascist activists, violently demonstrate against 70 Roma people who were to be temporarily housed in a reception centre in the area. Rome’s city council agrees to transfer them elsewhere. (Guardian, 3 April 2019)

4 April: Data collected by victim counselling centres in five eastern German states, including Berlin and Saxony, show that over 1,200 far-right attacks took place in 2018, an average of 5 a day and a 7 per cent increase on the year before. (The Local, 4 April 2019)

10 April: A 41-year-old man from Thornton Heath, south London,  whose home was raided last October, is jailed for four years after planning an attack with explosives on the the UK’s largest mosque, the Baitul Futuh Mosque in Morden. The former independent reviewer of terror legislation, Lord Carlisle, argues that the sentence is ‘unduly lenient’ for an offence of this kind. (Guardian, 10 April 2019; Independent, 11 April 2019)

12 April: The chief of police in the Bulgarian town of Gabrov resigns following two days of anti-Roma violence  during which  two houses occupied by Roma were set on fire. But politician’s  criticism focuses on alleged Roma crimes and failed integration policies rather than the racism directed against the Roma. (Sofia Globe, 11 April 2019; Sofia Globe, 12 April 2019)

18 April: The Racist Violence Recording Network (RVRN)’s annual report for 2018 records 117 incidents of racist violence across Greece, with 74 directed at refugees or migrants. The number of incidents in 2017 was 102. (Athens Live, 19 April 2019)

19 April: A stereotyped Jewish effigy, said to represent Judas, is burned and hanged by a crowd in the Polish town of Pruchnik on Good Friday. (Independent, 22 April 2019)

 

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

European governments’ targeting of migrant solidarity activists for prosecution must stop, says IRR

Thu, 04/25/2019 - 08:38

The Institute of Race Relations (IRR) publishes today a compelling new report on ‘crimes of solidarity’, drawing attention to a dramatic increase in prosecutions, restrictions and penalties, against a variety of civil society actors.

The online publication of When Witnesses Won’t be Silenced: citizens’ solidarity and criminalisation comes just days after the Global Legal Action Network petitioned the European Court of Human Rights arguing that the prosecution in January 2016 of Salam Kamal-Aldeen, the founder of Team Humanity, for his rescue work in the Aegean Sea constitutes a violation of human rights law.

The IRR’s second report on ‘crimes of solidarity’ in eighteen months highlights the escalation in prosecution of migrant solidarity activists throughout Europe under aiding illegal immigration laws since the publication in November 2017 of our first report, documenting seventeen new cases involving ninety-nine people in 2018 and the first three months of 2019. (1)

Case studies reveal that people have been prosecuted for rescue at sea and on land, or for giving homeless people shelter, or halting deportations. Not only has there been a dramatic increase in prosecutions but, significantly, a step change in the type of charges being brought as well as greater restrictions on individuals once place under investigation. For instance:

*Charges have included membership of a criminal network or gang as well as, in the Stansted 15 case, terrorism-related offences

* In some cases, individuals and organisations have had phones tapped and bank accounts frozen

* In the case of search and rescue NGOS investigation and/or prosecution has been accompanied by ‘smear campaigns’ which seem to be spearheaded by the Italian government to delegitimise, slander and obstruct aid associations
*In one case, the mayor of Riace in Calabria, southern Italy was even placed under house arrest before being temporarily banished from the town.

To coincide with the publication of the report, the IRR has written today to the European Commissioner for Migration, Dimitri Avrampoulos, urging him to review the Facilitation Package and to take urgent steps to prevent the further prosecution of humanitarians for what civil society refers to as ‘crimes of solidarity’.

According to IRR Director, Liz Fekete, ‘The current spate of prosecutions, made possible by the failures of the European Commission, is completely unacceptable . What is clear though, is that civil society actors are more determined than ever before to fight for and with displaced people. Far from being deterred by prosecution, witnesses are refusing to be silenced.’

Authors Frances Webber, Liz Fekete and Anya Edmond-Pettitt are available for comment on 00 44 (0) 207 837 0041 / info@irr.org.uk

Fighting Sus! then and now

Thu, 04/04/2019 - 05:51

A new project Fighting Sus! brings the youth experience of racialised policing to the fore.

In Fighting Sus! a group of young people engage with past struggles against racist state violence and, with angry intelligence and politicised creativity, range themselves against its present manifestations. Developed during 2018, this grassroots history project began with a handful of Year 10 students in East London all from BAME backgrounds collaborating with oral historian Rosa Kurowska and heritage cooperative On the Record. Their focus on the fight against the ‘sus’ law in the period 1970-81 became an exercise in reparative history, ‘excavating histories of resistance, solidarity and collectivity as vital for the now’.

Fighting Sus! is a considerable and timely achievement. The content available for review, accessible online, includes: interviews with community activists who participated in the struggle against sus; a zine, which places the interviews pictorialised into comic strips by Jon Sack beside the team’s spoken-word responses to them, along with reproductions of documents and images from the archive; learning resources for an anti-racist curriculum; and a video featuring performances of the poems.

After Macpherson

Institutional racism persists two decades on from the Stephen Lawrence Inquiry Report. It still determines who is harassed by the police ‘on suspicion’ and who is not. Racially disproportionate stop and search rates began rising again in 2003 and remain high. What Sivanandan said after Macpherson is as true now: ‘the performance on the ground for the black community is racism as usual’. Notwithstanding, the regime of racial neoliberalism has worked to downplay institutional racism even as the targeting and policing of racialised groups has intensified.

The substitute, more comfortable notion of ‘unconscious bias’ serves to blank out state racism and, from a historical perspective, disconnects us from past struggles against it. But counter-histories are, and always have been, transmitted along more grounded channels, often in overt contention with official narratives. This is ‘true history’, as understood by Saqif Chowdhury of Fighting Sus!: ‘A history taught us by our mothers, our/fathers, our ancestors/ The truth, the experiences of those around us’. This is ‘the history they want us to forget’, and which Fighting Sus! reactivates.

The project is important because BAME youth, though often talked about—as victims or as problemsrarely gain entry to the public sphere as opinionated subjects, despite possessing the clarity born of experience. Even as critical a review of the Criminal Justice System as the 2017 Lammy Review suffers, as Liz Fekete argued, from ‘an absence of the youth voice, or an acknowledgement of their perspectives in their own words’. Fighting Sus! brings the youth voice to the fore.

Scrap sus

What was sus? Section 4 of the 1824 Vagrancy Act gave police officers the discretionary power to arrest anyone they suspected of loitering with intent to commit an arrestable offence. A survival from a much earlier period of social upheaval, following the mass demobilisation of soldiers after the Napoleonic Wars, it was redeployed intensively from the sixties onward against young black men in Britain. They could be arrested, charged and convicted simply for walking down the street.

As the IRR argued in its submission to the Royal Commission on Criminal Procedure in 1979, a sus charge was ‘virtually impossible to rebut’the subjective word of two police officers sufficed. In the first interview in Fighting Sus!, Hackney activist and poet Hugh Boatswain reflects on his first experience of it: ‘the problem with sus for us was that it was your word versus whoever arrested you’and it was enough simply to be black and ‘in the wrong place at the wrong time’.

Sus was acutely felt in a post-Powell climate of escalating popular racism, ranging from everyday intimidation to ruthless murder. The relationship between the street and the state was clarified during events like the Battle of Lewisham in August 1977. The National Front chose to march through Lewisham because it was a key sight of organised resistance to racist policing, exemplified by the Lewisham 21 campaign. During the march, police protected National Front members but confronted the mixed anti-fascist crowd with cavalry and riot shields (for the first time on mainland Britain). A striking photo from the day is reproduced in the zine.

The racial disproportionality of sus arrests in London was well-documented by the late 1970s  (see the Runnymede Trust’s 1978 publication, Sus – A Report on the Vagrancy Act 1824). It was a key mechanism in the racialisation of urban space, maintaining the whiteness of certain areas and policing the blackness of others. And it was the latter that became the ‘symbolic’ locations, as 1982-87 Met Police commissioner Kenneth Newman described them, of community self-organisation against police brutality.

A movement to ‘scrap sus’ developed through the politicisation of everyday experiences of police antagonism. Images and documents from two campaigning groups appear in the zine. In her Fighting Sus! interview, veteran black activist Martha Osamor recalls how black mothers discussed the issue during the school pick-up. They would go on to campaign against it as the Black Parents Movement. The Black People’s Organisations Campaign Against Sus (BPOCAS), a broad coalition of black groups and lawyers, launched later, in 1978. Effective campaigning by BPOCAS and others forced the issue onto the government’s agenda, and by 1980 the Select Committee on Home Affairs would recommend immediate repeal, which was achieved in 1981.

The anti-police uprisings of that year, beginning in Brixton on 10 April, gave repeal an added urgency. But this was reform not transformation. In his state-commissioned inquiry into the Brixton uprising, Lord Scarman conceded that the mass sus operation that triggered it, Operation Swamp 81, was ‘unwise’. But he rebuffed the broader accusation that the Met police was institutionally racist. Only a few bad apples tarnished the force’s reputation, he concluded. In ‘Scarman’s Speech’, Jolina Bradley’s poem in Fighting Sus!, a different Scarman is imagined, heralding a more hopeful future. He says: ‘I respect, acknowledge, invite and envision what could be’. But the question remains whether substantive change could ever have come at the instigation of the state.

‘Where does it start? Where does it stop?’

The myth of policing by consent became even less tenable after 1981. Accordingly, Fighting Sus! looks beyond the moment of repeal. Campaigns against police violence continuedthe Fighting Sus! team interviewed Goga Khan, one of the Newham 8 defendants tried in 1983, and the zine contains an image of a Newham 7 demonstration in 1985. England would burn again in that year. As Osamor remarks at the end of her interview: ‘they repealed [sus]. But if you look at the law as it is now, it’s stop and search… It’s still happening’.

The 1981 Criminal Attempts Act, which repealed sus, was succeeded in 1984 by the Police and Criminal Evidence Act (PACE), which in effect reinstated it as stop and search. The proviso of ‘reasonable suspicion’ was ineffectual. Stop and search was expanded later in Section 60 of the 1994 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act, which introduced targeted emergency powers. In 1999, Macpherson recommended a series of regulatory mechanisms but did not fundamentally question the practice itself. A year later, Section 44 of the Terrorism Act legitimated racially profiled stop and searches. And although it was ruled illegal on human rights grounds in 2010, Section 60 continues to be rolled out.

The zine’s introduction wisely suggests that ‘sus may have embedded itself into modern society’, and Liza Akhmetova asks in her poem: “where does it start?/ where does it stop?’ This is Fighting Sus!’s key historical insight: that the policing of suspect communities in Britain is a prevailing logic of social control under racial capitalism, manifest in laws and practices that change over time. The project acknowledges this with the scope of its timeline, which stretches from the original 1824 legislationand its introduction to the colonies after the formal abolition of slaveryall the way through to the Riots and the Windrush Scandal of our decade. Regimes of race have changed throughout, but always as part of a connected and unfolding racial-colonial history.

Creative, collective resistance

More than the sum of its products, for those involved Fighting Sus! was a year-long process. Initially, research and discussion, in dialogue with the interviewees. Then the creative responsesin music, spoken word and other formswhich were performed in nine venues across London during Black History Month. There was also the production of the 45-minute film, the zine, and the teaching materials for schools. Practical workshops were held along the way, for example, on stop and search rights with Adam Elliott-Cooper. Altogether, this would have been an educative, creative and collective experience.

The forging of solidarity through the project is clear in the all-women group performances of ‘Mangrove 9’ (01:17) and ‘Verbatim’ (34:05) in the film. However, most of the poems still contain distinct individual perspectives. Brandon Leon and Jessica Lima understand sus as a ‘prison out of prison’, part of a web of control. Memuna Rashid’s poem ‘The System’ begins similarly but turns towards struggle and the freedom dreams that sustain it. And a harder vision of the future can be found in Rotimi Skyers’ poem, which invokes the flames of past uprisings, but scaled-up to a revolutionary vision of the end of the world as we know it: ‘and if the whole world burns, for us to come in from the cold,/ then let the whole world burn’.

The fire this time

Fighting Sus! gathers a previous generation’s history and a new generation’s hope, despair and rage in one place. Thanks to the team, an archive dedicated to sus, the first of its kind, now exists at the Bishopsgate Institute. The project invites other young people to explore this and related histories for themselves, to create their own archives and develop responses to them. The zine’s back matter lists key archives for further researchincluding the IRR’s own Black History Collectionand includes the details of some organisationsY-Stop, Stopwatch and Releasewhere information, advice and political involvement can be sought. More projects like this need to be funded and realised.

 

Visit the Fighting Sus! website or order a copy of the publication by emailing On the Record.

Promises, promises – justice for Grenfell?

Thu, 04/04/2019 - 05:51

Colin Prescod, chair of IRR, writes on the launch of the Equalities and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) report into Grenfell and the continuing wait for justice.

Twenty-one months on from the disaster that was visited on their community, Grenfell people still wait for justice. On 13 March 2019 the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) released a report on Grenfell.[i] The findings and recommendations are being submitted to the Government’s Grenfell Public Inquiry in regard to the 14 June 2017, west London, Grenfell residential tower fire in which seventy-two people perished.

Earlier last month, the Metropolitan Police admitted that no prosecutions would be likely until the public inquiry has reported its findings and recommendations – although at its inception in 2017, it was indicated that it was already possible to see grounds for prosecutions to be brought.

Meanwhile the Public Inquiry’s Phase 1 hearings, concerned with exactly what happened on 14 June 2017, were completed in December 2018. The report from those Phase 1 hearings, chaired by Judge Sir Martin Moore-Bick, is not yet delivered. And the Public Inquiry’s Phase 2 hearings, to examine the circumstances and causes of the fire (original design and construction; subsequent modifications; fire safety advice and prevention; communication with residents) are due to commence in 2020. And the Public Inquiry is expected to complete its work in 2022.

Given the slow progress of the Public Inquiry, and the fact that human rights and equalities concerns belong properly to its Phase 2 hearings – the EHRC’s submission is timely.

The EHRC report

The EHRC reported on its investigations in regard to Grenfell residents’ access to services and support in the period before and after the 2017 fire. And, in a bold and politically sensitive move, it chose to hold the public launch of its findings and recommendations at the Muslim Cultural Heritage Centre in west London – in the neighbourhood of the tower.

Highlighting an urgent need for ‘duty of accountability’ public sector training, the EHRC reported that overall it had found a degree of ‘institutional inadequacy’ in regard to communicating and sympathising with those most affected by the Grenfell disaster. The investigation found, for example, that the local Roma gypsy community, mostly overlooked in media coverage about the Grenfell neighbourhood, could obtain no assistance with clearance of the litter of burnt debris covering its site, in the wake of the fire. Just so, the EHRC notes, as many others have done, that the Public Inquiry itself has been convened geographically too far away from the Grenfell locality!

Sifting through the evidence gathered by Race on the Agenda (ROTA)[ii] along with that emanating from the Public Inquiry hearings, the EHRC investigated matters specifically related to both ‘the right to life’ and ‘equality rights’. It found evidence of serious breaches to the right to life – for which see the coroner’s report to the Public Inquiry in relation to improper use of cladding, lack of proper evacuation procedures, poor high-rise fire-fighting training, poor advice to residents – all of which demonstrate past, and continuing, breaches of the right to life. What’s more, the EHRC has concerns as to whether the duty to investigate potential risks to the right to life has been complied with. And, in terms of equality rights, the EHRC found violations of the public sector duty in regard to the rights of the vulnerable, women, the disabled, and children – where ‘minority ethnic’ groups made up the majority of the residents in the Grenfell tower.

Looking to the continuing process of the Public Inquiry, the EHRC representatives stressed a concern that right to life and equalities matters would in all likelihood not be picked up in the Phase 2 hearings. And, in conclusion, they stressed the need for urgent attention in regard to changes to buildings legislation, adequacy of information to residents, lack of regulatory systems, remedial works, fire-fighting training, systemic failure – affecting a large number of now existing sites around the UK.

What now?

In the Q&A with which the event ended, local activists appeared to be under-impressed. The tone of their questions – so what now? where is the focus on power-inequality in these human rights concerns? can ‘independent’ organisations like the EHRC please give some explicit guidance and specific action support? – hardly disguised the fact that they would like to see considerably more militancy added to the need for urgency that is acknowledged in the the EHRC’s report.

The platform speakers came up with judicious responses – (a) keep up the campaigning, (b) try to effect change in public sector practices by using the electoral system, (c) take legal advice and action.

 

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