Institute of Race Relations News
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)
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.
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 / firstname.lastname@example.org
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.
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 problems—rarely 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.
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 continued—the 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 legislation—and its introduction to the colonies after the formal abolition of slavery—all 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 responses—in music, spoken word and other forms—which 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 research—including the IRR’s own Black History Collection—and includes the details of some organisations—Y-Stop, Stopwatch and Release—where information, advice and political involvement can be sought. More projects like this need to be funded and realised.
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.
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.
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
20 March: The MP for Sheffield Central, Paul Blomfield, writes to immigration minister Caroline Nokes raising concerns that the Home Office may have acted illegally when it invited a Zimbabwean asylum seeking woman to an interview at Vulcan House in Sheffield, where Zimbabwean officials were waiting for her. (Guardian, 20 March 2019)
20 March: The day after Italian authorities seize the Italian-flagged Mare Jonio rescue ship, Italian Senators vote 237 to 61 in favour of blocking the trial of interior minister Matteo Salvini for his role in preventing the Diciotti patrol vessel, which was carrying 190 rescued migrants, from docking in Italian ports last August. Those on board were allowed to disembark after ten days. (The Local, 21 March 2019; (Relief Web, 22 March 2019)
21 March: France’s Constitutional Council rules that X-ray bone age tests are a valid way of determining the age of young migrants and therefore whether they qualify for child protection services. (The Local, 22 March 2019)
26 March: The EU announces that as of 30 September Operation Sophia search and rescue boat missions in the central Mediterranean will end, as Italy continues to close its ports to refugees. Air patrols and funding of Libyan coastguard will continue. (Reuters, 26 March 2019; Deutsche Welle, 27 March 2019)
29 March: In response to Liberty and Southall Black Sisters’ lodging of the first ever super-complaint against the police last December, police watchdogs launch an investigation into the alleged practice of sharing data on witnesses and victims of crime with immigration enforcement authorities. (Guardian, 29 March 2019)
29 March: Emails obtained by Justice First show Home Office officials asking Foreign and Commonwealth Office officials in the Democratic Republic of Congo to issue statements saying that they have no information about people being persecuted after deportation from the UK. The DRC-based officials reply that they are unable to monitor the lives of deportees. (Guardian, 29 March 2019)
29 March: The High Court orders the Home Office to extend interim support for victims of modern slavery over the current 45-day threshold until the next hearing of a legal case brought by two victims on 14 April, which may see the Home Office policy required to extend support indefinitely if the policy is found to be unlawful. (Guardian, 29 March 2019)
30 March: Migrants and solidarity activists gather in Calais to denounce France’s repressive immigration politics and police violence. Holding rainbow flags and ‘Welcome Refugees’ banners they are protesting Dublin III and the current EU policy of securitisation. (Liberation, 31 March 2019)
31 March: Emails from the UN Refugee Agency to the Home Office reveal concerns about the health of at least 35 unaccompanied minors in Calais as they waited for transfer to the UK under Dublin III family reunification provisions. 15 children were said to have gone on hunger strike, and one to have attempted suicide. (Guardian, 31 March 2019)BORDERS
21 March: The European Court of Justice rules that France cannot use border controls on the Franco-Spanish border to send back undocumented migrants entering the country from Spain. France, which returns thousands of border-crossers to Spain each year, reintroduced controls in 2015 purportedly for counter-terrorism purposes. (El Pais, 21 March 2019)
28 March: Maltese naval forces raid the Turkish merchant ship, Elhiblu 1, which was ‘hijacked’ by some of the 108 migrants it rescued off the coast of Libya on Tuesday after it became apparent that it was returning to Libya. Five are initially arrested, and three African teenagers are charged for terrorism offences. They plead not guilty and are placed in preventive detention. (Guardian, 27 March 2019; Telegraph, 28 March 2019; Al Jazeera, 30 March 2019)RECEPTION AND DETENTION
21 March: In a new report on immigration detention, the home affairs select committee finds that the Home Office has ‘utterly failed’ to safely and humanely detain people, pointing to failures including ‘vulnerable people being wrongly detained, people being held in detention far too long, and serious failings in the operation of individual immigration removal centres’. The committee also calls for a 28-day limit to detention. Read the report here. (Guardian, 21 March 2019)
25 March: Migrants and refugees are being subject to ‘horrific and routine sexual violence’ in Libyan detention centres, a report by Women’s Refugee Commission finds. Many of the victims are returned there by the EU-backed Libyan coastguard while crossing the Mediterranean. Those who reach Italy are said to be receiving ‘woefully inadequate’ treatment. (Guardian, 25 March 2019)
25 March: A coroner’s inquest into the death of 64-year-old Bangladeshi man Tarek Chowdhury, who was fatally attacked by another detainee in Colnbrook immigration removal centre in December 2016, finds that the Home Office, Prison Service and private contractors contributed to his death, not least by their failure to properly assess the killer’s mental health and violent tendencies. (Morning Star, 25 March 2019)
26 March: Asylum seekers housed in Clonakilty Lodge, a direct provision centre in County Cork, Ireland, stage a protest because they were not informed of the visit the previous day by the Minister for Equality, Immigration and Integration, denying them the opportunity to raise concerns and issues directly with a government official. (Irish Examiner, 26 March 2019)
26 March: An Eritrean asylum seeker dies in Hazel Hotel, a direct provision centre for asylum seekers in County Kildare, Ireland. He had been living there for six months. Other residents are said to be feeling ‘traumatised’, and an investigation is ongoing. (Irish Times, 26 March 2019)
27 March: A high court judge dismisses a case brought by five former immigration detainees with Duncan Lewis solicitors challenging the ‘slave labour wages’ of £1 an hour paid in immigration detention centres. The rate, which is less than one seventh of the legal minimum wage, has remained the same since 2008. (Guardian, 27 March 2019)
30 March: An investigation by the Observer and Argos Radio in the Netherlands reveals that, in the past five years, at least 60 Vietnamese children have disappeared from protected shelters for unaccompanied minors, probably ending up in UK working on cannabis farms and in nail salons. (Observer, 30 March 2019)CITIZENSHIP
20 March: The family of Shamima Begum lodge an appeal with the Special Immigration Appeals Commission (SIAC) against Home Secretary Sajid Javid’s decision to strip her of her citizenship. (Guardian, 20 March 2019)
28 March: Denmark’s immigration announces that the government plans to change nationality law so that children born to Danish citizens who fought for Islamic State in Syria will no longer inherit Danish citizenship. Dual citizens who travelled to Syria to Iraq to fight in an organisation deemed terrorist will also be stripped of citizenship. (Middle East Eye, 28 March 2019)
2 April: The Home Office comes under fire for planning to launch the long-awaited Windrush compensation scheme on Wednesday behind closed doors, leaving many Windrush victims, immigration lawyers and journalists off the invitation list. (Independent, 2 April 2019)DEPORTATIONS
27 March: Freedom of information requests by the Independent reveal that 15,200 of 24,674, or over half, of the deportation orders issued by the Home Office in 2018 were cancelled. More than two-thirds were called off within a week. The most common reason was the submission of legal representations. (Independent, 27 March 2019)CRIMES OF SOLIDARITY
29 March: The Swedish student activist Elin Errson, who grounded an Istanbul-bound flight carrying a refused Afghan asylum seeker last July, will face a retrial as her conviction for breaking aviation is overturned because one of the lay judges, who called her a ‘criminal’ on social media months before the trial, was not believed to be impartial. (The Local, 29 March 2019)ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
25 March: Germany’s popular newspaper Bild rejects an attempt by German prosecutors to raid its offices as part of an investigation into the alleged existence of a far-right ring in the Frankfurt police force (The Times, 25 March 2019)
26 March: In Vienna, police raid the home of Martin Sellner, head of the Austrian Identitarian Movement, as part of an investigation into possible ties with the Christchurch killer flagged up by a ‘disproportionately high donation’ from a person named Tarrant. The extreme right Freedom Party is also being investigated for its ties to the Identitarian Movement. (Guardian, 26 March 2019; The Local, 30 March 2019).
27 March: A cross-party group of around 40 MEPs ask the EU’s transparency tsar to open an urgent investigation into claims that US Christian right ‘fundamentalists’ linked to the Trump administration, Steve Bannon, the World Congress of Families and the far Right have poured at least $50 million of ‘dark money’ into Europe. (Open Democracy, 27 March 2019)
28 March: In Finland, the Supreme Court places a temporary ban on the activities of the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement (PVL) pending a final decision as to whether the group should be permanently outlawed on the basis of recommendations by the Police Board. (YLE, 28 March 2019)
29 March: Former deputy leader of far-right group Britain First, Jayda Fransen, is convicted for an anti-Islam speech she gave in August 2017 at the Northern Ireland Against Terrorism rally in Belfast. The judge rules that her words were ‘intended to stir up hatred and arouse fear’. Three others are acquitted of similar charges. (Irish Times, 29 March 2019)
29 March: It is revealed that two policemen from the German state of Baden-Württemberg were members of the far-right Uniter group, which was founded by a former Bundeswehr sergeant. (Spiegel, 29 March).
30 March: The World Congress of Families (WCF), a US coalition that promotes the values of the Christian right in order to ‘defend the natural family’, takes place in Verona, Italy, bringing a global network of anti-gay, anti-abortion and anti-feminist activists to the northern Italian city. Attendees include Italy’s deputy prime minister Matteo Salvini, Katalin Novák, a minister of the far-right Hungarian government and the Italian neo-fascist party Forza Nuova. (Guardian, 30 March 2019; OpenDemocracy, 29 March 2019)
30 March: Approximately 50,000 feminists and human rights activists protest the anti-LGBT and anti-abortion World Congress of Families (WCF) hosted in Verona, Italy. The Italian feminist movement Non Una di Meno (NUDM) organise a three-day festival, street demonstration and transnational assembly in protest of the congress, attracting activists from Spain, France, Germany, Poland, Croatia, the UK, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Belarus and Argentina. (Independent, 2 March 2019; OpenDemocracy, 29 March 2019)ELECTORAL POLITICS
19 March: The far-right Forum for Democracy makes strong gains in Dutch provincial elections, capturing 13 seats in the Senate. FvD leader Thierry Baudet blames the Utrecht shooting, in which three people died, on the government’s migration policies, describing the attack by a Turkish-born man as ‘half-terrorist’ and half ‘honour killing’.(Politica.eu, 19 March 2019).
20 March: Catherine Blaiklock, the leader of Nigel Farage’s new Brexit party, resigns after the Guardian questions her about racist and Islamophobic tweets and retweets on her Twitter account, which was deleted shortly before she co-founded the party. Among her retweets were 7 of Tommy Robinson and 45 of Mark Collett, former head of the BNP’s youth wing. (Guardian, 20 March 2019)
20 March: The centre-right European People’s party grouping in the European parliament suspend Viktor Orban’s Fidesz party over alleged violations of rule-of-law principles. (Independent, 21 March 2019)
22 March: A known far-right figure, Ken Kearsey, has his commission as a lay pastoral assistant in the Littlemoor/Preston ward of Dorset removed by the Church of England, which initially failed to vet him. Local residents also begin campaigning against Kearsey, who is standing as a candidate for the extreme right party Britain First. (Telegraph, 22 March 2019; Dorset Echo, 23 March 2019)
21 March: Fernando Paz, extreme right party Vox’s candidate for Albacete in the Castilla la-Manche region, withdraws his candidacy after intense media scrutiny of his homophobia and Holocaust denialism. (El Pais, 20 March 2019; The Local, 22 March 2019)
24 March: The Guardian finds that 15 Conservative councillors suspended for Islamophobic or racist remarks have been quietly readmitted to the Party, prompting concerns about its investigation process. On the same day, the Guardian sees Islamophobic or racist Facebook messages by five self-professed party members.(Guardian, 24 March 2019; Guardian, 24 March 2019)
25 March: In Italy, the hard right coalition led by The League wins control of the southern region of Basilicata, where it ended 24 years of centre-left rule to notch up its third regional electoral success in recent months. (Guardian, 25 March 2019)
25 March: According to the BBC’s political editor, senior pro-Brexit Conservative politicians nickname themselves the ‘Grand Wizards’ at a meeting at Chequers, which critics point out was a title used by US white supremacist organisation Ku Klux Klan. (New Statesman, 26 March 2019)
26 March: The Conservative MP for Fareham, Suella Braverman, is widely rebuked for repeating the far-right, anti-semitic conspiracy theory ‘cultural Marxism’ in a speech at an event organised by the Bruges Group, a Eurosceptic think-tank. (Guardian, 26 March 2019)
28 March: The We Belong Here Roma Association in Hungary demands the dismissal of Fidesz MP János Pócs, after he broadcasts a graphic staged home video in which he threatens to teach a Roma man a lesson about drinking by burning him in his furnace. An unfortunate jest open to misinterpretation, say Fidesz. (Hungary Today, 28 March 2019)
28 March: The Spanish far-right Vox party hold a series of meetings at Westminster brokered by the Tory MEP Daniel Hannan including a meeting with a government minister for the Department for Exiting the European Union. The SNP accused Scottish Conservative MP Ross Thompson of ‘shocking misjudgement’ for attending. (The Herald, 28 March 2019)
29 March: As the Spanish general election approaches, a book published by Fernando Sánchez Dragó shows Santiago Abascal, leader of the extreme right Vox party, calling for the construction of two anti-migrant walls at Morocco’s border with Spain’s north African enclaves Melilla and Ceuta. (The Local, 29 March 2019)
28 March: In response to a leaked dossier showing anti-semitic social media messages allegedly posted by Labour Party members, the Met police arrest three people on suspicion of publishing or distributing material likely to stir up racial hatred. (Guardian, 28 March 2019)
1 April: Conservative MP Jacob Rees-Mogg quotes the controversial leader of Germany’s far-right AfD party, Alice Weidel, and defends himself by saying her opinions are of ‘real importance’. (Independent, 1 April)POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
23 March: Mark Duggan’s family launch a civil claim against the Metropolitan police. (Guardian, 23 March 2019)
26 March: A Northumbria police officer, who was sacked in June 2018 for racially abusing workers at an Asian takeaway during the 2017 staff Christmas party, wins her job back after an independent appeal panel reduces her punishment to a final warning. PC Katie Barrett claims she did not deserve to be sacked because ‘it is not the worst kind of racism’. (Independent, 26 March 2019)
31 March: In response to rising serious youth violence, Home Secretary Sajid Javid announces increased police powers to stop and search people without reasonable suspicion in areas where violence is thought likely to occur. New rules will give inspectors the power to approve Section 60 orders, whereas more senior officers’ approval was formerly required. (BBC News, 31 March 2019; Guardian, 31 March 2019)
1 April: The Independent Office for Police Complaints finds that police who shot an unarmed black man outside his home in Birmingham in July 2017 were following ‘policy and procedure’, as they were briefed about facing an armed threat. Sharif Cousins, who was not the subject of the police operation, suffered a broken rib and punctured lung, and was comatose for nearly a month afterwards. (Guardian, 1 April 2019)
1 April: The Home Secretary launches an eight-week consultation into a multi-agency ‘public health approach’ to high rates of serious youth violence, which will impose a legal duty on professionals in health, education, social services, housing and other sectors to look for and report signs that a young person is at risk. Teachers unions have criticised the proposals. (Independent, 1 April 2019; Guardian, 1 April 2019)COUNTER-TERRORISM AND NATIONAL SECURITY
19 March: As part of the Prevent strategy, UK counter-terrorism police are recruiting companies including Tescos, McDonalds and River Island for training programmes to help staff spot signs of extremism in their colleagues. (Financial Times, 19 March 2019)
31 March: After a four-year inquiry last year proved that MI6 was ‘aware’ of the ‘extreme mistreatment’ of Palestinian Abu Zubaydah at secret CIA sites in 2002, Met police detectives begin investigating allegations that UK intelligence officers were involved his investigation under torture. (Guardian, 31 March 2019)
2 April: Security minister Ben Wallace tells a defence committee hearing that the far Right are learning from Isis terror manuals and that forty-three per cent of referrals to the ‘Channel’ part of the Prevent programme are right-wing neo-nazis, with many living in the North East and North West. (Tell Mama, 2 April 2019)DISCRIMINATION
26 March: European parliamentarians overwhelmingly back a non-binding resolution calling on member states to develop national anti-racism strategies to target structural racism and discrimination against Europeans of African descent. The declassification of colonial archives and some form of reparation for crimes of the colonial era, including public apologies and the restitution of artefacts from museums, is also sought. (Guardian, 26 March 2019)EDUCATION AND YOUTH POLICY
20 March: The Greek public prosecutor is investigating after parents in Samos, a key point of arrival for migrants crossing from Turkey, protest plans for migrant children to attend classes by keeping their children out of school for two weeks. (Ekathemerini, 20 March 2019; Ekathemerini, 23 March 2019)
22 March: Freedom of Information requests by the Green Party’s Sian Berry show that, in 26 of London’s 32 boroughs, the number of youth centres has fallen from 234 to 130 since 2011, the year of the Riots, a net loss of 104, resulting in the loss of 506 youth worker jobs. Under austerity, overall spending in youth services has been cut by 46% since 2011. (Guardian, 22 March 2019)
22 March: The head of the government’s Commission for Countering Extremism warns that schools and family courts must be more aware of the indoctrination of children by their far-right families. (Evening Standard, 22 March 2019)
22 March: A libertarian society at the University of Kent is suspended after private messages published by Kent Anti-Racist News show jokes allegedly referring to Hitler’s ‘brownshirts’ and the Holocaust. (BBC News, 22 March)
25 March: With backing from the National Union of French Students (UNEF), students at the Sorbonne picket a performance of an Aeschylus play for its use of blackface actors, claiming it is ‘Afrophobic, colonialist and racist’. The University cancels the play but accuses the students of attacking freedom of expression. (Guardian, 28 March 2019)
27 March: The Met’s deputy assistant commissioner tells the cross-party education select committee’s one-day inquiry into knife crime that the number of police officers with full-time roles in London schools has increased from 280 to 420 over roughly the last year, with plans to reach 600 in future. (Guardian, 27 March 2019)
1 April: Government data shows that the number of primary school children in pupil referral units (PRUs) has more than doubled from 715 in 2011 to 1572 in 2018, suggesting that increasing exclusion rates are affecting even the youngest children. (Guardian, 1 April 2019)MEDIA AND CULTURE
20 March: Counter-terrorism chief Neil Basu says that far-right terrorists are being radicalised by mainstream newspaper coverage, singling out the Mail Online, the Sun and the Mirror for uploading footage of the massacre and/or uploading the manifesto. (Guardian, 20 March 2019)
23 March: A Times investigation finds that far-right groups are operating on gaming platforms popular with British children, where they are praising the Christchurch massacre and encouraging further acts of far-right violence. (The Times, 23 March 2019)
24 March: A Counter Extremism Project (CEP) report shows that Facebook refused to remove pages operated by far-right organisations, including Combat 18 units in Australia and Greece, even after they were reported for racist content, because they did not violate its ‘community standards’. CEP senior director Hans-Jakob Schindler accuses Facebook and other platforms of enabling the far-right to ‘network and build echo chambers worldwide’. (Independent, 24 March 2019)
24 March: Twitter and Youtube are criticised for providing a platform to Steve Stone, one of the hosts of far-right Radio Aryan, which is thought to be based in Wales and is described by Hope not Hate as ‘a platform for British Nazis’. Twitter deleted Stone’s account and Youtube only after being contacted by the Sunday Times. (The Sunday Times, 24 March 2019; Gob Online, 24 March 2019).
2 April: Following Facebook and Twitter bans, Youtube imposes new restrictions short of a ban on Tommy Robinson’s Youtube channel, including removing his videos from searches and recommendations and prohibiting him from live-streaming. (Buzzfeed, 2 April 2019)HEALTH
20 March: The charity Friends, Families and Travellers (FFT) warns that Travellers and other minority groups without fixed address or proof of ID, such as asylum seekers and the homeless, are being turned from GP surgeries, against NHS guidance. (The Guardian, 20 March 2019)
23 March: Freedom of Information requests by the Observer reveal that 77 of 102 NHS hospital trusts in England are using private debt collectors to pursue overseas patients and refused asylum seekers for treatment costs, primarily for general medicine and maternity care. 60 trusts that provided patient numbers referred a total of over 8000 patient debts. (Guardian, 23 March 2019)HOUSING
28 March: An independent study by the University of Central Lancashire finds ‘significant environmental contamination’ in soil samples and fire debris surrounding Grenfell Tower, and warns that surrounding communities and survivors of the fire may be seriously vulnerable to respiratory problems like cancer and asthma. (Guardian, 28 March 2019)SPORT
22 March: Police say that three men captured in a video shouting racist abuse at players Leroy Sane and Ilkay Gündogan during Germany’s draw with Serbia on Wednesday have turned themselves in. (The Local, 22 March 2019)
25 March: The Football Association submits a formal complaint to UEFA after two black England players, Danny Rose and Callum Hudson-Odoi, are subjected to monkey chants in the final minutes of England’s 5-1 win against Montenegro in Podgorica. (Guardian, 26 March 2019)
26 March: An open letter signed by politicians and activists calls on West Ham United to issue a public condemnation of the far-right Democratic Football Lads Alliance before the team’s game against Everton on Saturday. (Guardian, 26 March 2019)
30 March: In response to an apparent rise in racist incidents during football games, the Premier League launches a brief No Room for Racism campaign, running from 30 March to 8 April, which will see adverts and banners at stadiums and on social media. (Guardian, 25 March 2019; Guardian, 30 March 2019)
1 April: UEFA fines and orders Dinamo Zagreb to play its next home European game behind closed doors as punishment for its fans’ racism during the game against Benfica in early March. (BBC Sport, 1 April 2019)
2 April: Black Juventus forward Moise Kean is abused with monkey chants during his side’s 2-0 victory at Cagliari, with Juventus manager Massimiliano Allegri calls for ‘lifetime bans’ of those responsible. (Sky Sports, 3 April 2019)RACIAL VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT
19 March: In northeastern Greece, masked men attack a sports event involving refugee children at a refugee reception facility in Konitsa, injuring one them. (Ekathimerini, 19 March 2019)
20 March: The Greek public prosecutor orders a probe into an incident in the village of Villia, southwest of Athens, where a hotel housing dozens of migrants was attacked with stones after local residents voiced opposition to their arrival. (Ekathimerini, 20 March 2019)
21 March: Police began to investigate a fire that destroyed seven caravans at a site allocated to Travellers in Melton Mowbray on Monday as both arson and a hate crime. (BBC News, 21 March 2019)
22 March: Tell Mama says that anti-Muslim crimes increased by nearly 600 percent in the week after the Christchurch massacre, higher than following the 2017 Manchester bombing. Of the 95 incidents reported to the charity, 85 contained references to Christchurch. The real figures are likely to be higher. (Guardian, 22 March 2019; Independent, 22 March 2019
24 March: In the town of Ostritz, Saxony, journalists and police are attacked by attendees of a far-right rock gig, where they were investigating reports of ‘Sieg Heil’ chants and banned symbols. (Deutsche Welle, 24 March 2019)
24 March: At an election rally, Finland’s foreign minister Timo Soini is approached by an ‘aggressive and threatening’ man wearing a far-right anti-immigrant group Soldiers of Odin t-shirt, but police quickly restrain him. (Reuters, 24 March 2019)
25 March: West Midlands police and counter-terrorism unit say that they are not treating the attacks on five mosques in Birmingham on 21 March as far-right-related. A 34-year-old man handed himself in on 22 March. An attack on another mosque that same day is being investigated as a separate incident. (Guardian, March 25 2019)
25 March: French police arrest 20 people after attacks on Roma communities in Clichy-sous-Bois and Bobigny areas, north-east of Paris. A French broadcaster says around 70 people were involved, motivated by false rumours about child abductions. The Voice of Roma calls for round-the-clock police presence in Parisian suburbs. (BBC News, BBC News, 27 March 2019; Guardian, 27 March 2019)
26 March: Six teenagers are arrested in Newcastle under suspicion of hate crime after the Bahr Academy, an Islamic centre, was broken into and vandalised. A similar incident occurred at the centre in January, though the perpetrators were never found. (The Guardian, 26 March 2019)
27 March: A Freedom of Information request by West Yorkshire Police shows that reports of ‘racially-aggravated crimes of an anti-Muslim nature’ in Leeds increased by 1035 per cent between 2013 and 2018, from 23 to 261. (Yorkshire Evening Post, 27 March 2019)
27 March: A 45-year-old man is threatened by two men with a metal bar while driving away from Shah Jalal Mosque in Bristol. The car is damaged but the man is unhurt. (Bristol Post, 27 March 2019)
29 March: The teenage boy shown in a viral video last October assaulting a 15-year-old Syrian refugee known as Jamal is given a police caution. The Crown Prosecution Service decided that there was insufficient evidence to charge the boy with racially aggravated assault. (Sky News, 29 March 2019)
29 March: The neo-nazi organisation Crypteia say they broke into the offices of the Afghan Community in Greece, smashing computers, and dousing the office in petrol and setting it ablaze. The attack, which happened when the workers were on their lunch break, is part of an escalation of attacks including violence targeting Pakistani labourers and Afghan refugees in Aspropyrgos, Athens and Piraeus, as well as a series of death threats against civil society organisations. (Best World News, 29 March 2019)
2 April: A 51-year-old man is arrested on suspicion of racially aggravated assault after a Muslim woman’s hijab was allegedly ‘ripped off’ in an attack on an Underground platform in North London. (Independent, 2 April 2019)
2 April: After being caught twice on CCTV spitting on the front door of a mosque in Nottingham last December, a 70-year-old man is given a one-year community order and £200 fine for two counts of racially-aggravated criminal damage. (West Bridgford Wire, 3 April 2019)
This calendar was compiled by Joseph Maggs with help from Graeme Atkinson, Jamie Wates and the IRR News Team.
The April 2019 issue of Race & Class shows how the reinvention of colonialism through the domination of digital technology and transnational flows of securitisation is being met by unique forms of resistance.
‘Today, a new form of corporate colonisation is taking place’, argues Michael Kwet, ‘Instead of the conquest of land, Big tech corporations are colonising digital technology’. Kwet, a Visiting Fellow at Yale Law School, reveals in a path-breaking article, with South Africa as an example, how the US is reinventing colonialism by exerting structural control of the tech ecosystem, leading to perpetual resource extraction and US economic and cultural dominance in the global South.
And as US multinationals exercise imperial control of the digital world, flows of securitisation also travel via geopolitical relationships. Chandni Desai and Heather Sykes, faculty members at the University of Toronto, trace the flow of securitisations between Israel and Brazil, showing how Israeli companies use Gaza as a ‘lab’ to develop weapons, policing techniques and security technologies that is then sold at the Olympics to police the favelas. The way that favela communities in Rio were perceived and violently policed during the 2016 Olympics resonates with Alan MacLeod’s timely article on how western media represents Venezuelan chavista supporters (who are mainly working-class black communities) as dangerous ‘gangs’, hoards or mobs.
As Jair Bolsonaro was embraced by Israel’s prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu at the presidential swearing-in ceremony in 2018, revealing the deepened relations between the two rightwing leaders, Desai and Sykes also highlight the ‘the unique forms of solidarity from Brazil to Palestine’, through which global struggles against the policing and militarisation of oppressed communities are being strengthened.
And actively recalling these anti-racist histories of resistance is an important political act. As Jasbinder S. Nijjar writes in his commentary on Southall, a key community of resistance in the UK, ‘out of systemic racial oppression comes political awakening, collective organising and persistent campaigning – guidelines for resisting the many forms of contemporary racism.’
- Digital Colonialism: US empire and the new imperialism in the Global South by Michael Kwet
- An ‘Olympics without Apartheid’: Brazillian-Palestinian solidarity against Israeli securitisation by Chandni Desai and Heather Sykes
- Chavista ‘thugs’ vs. opposition ‘civil society’: western media on Venezuela by Alan MacLeod
- Southall: symbol of resistance by Jasbinder S. Nijjar
- Unravelling the concept of unconscious bias by Jenny Bourne
- On the creation of the UK’s ‘hostile environment’ by Frances Webber
- Churchill: walking with destiny by Andrew Roberts (John Newsinger)
- Sceptics of Islam: revisionist religion, agnosticism and disbelief in the modern Arab world edited by Ralph M. Coury (Donald Malcolm Reid)
- Choke Points: logistics workers disrupting the global supply chain edited by Jake Alimahomed-Wilson and Immanuel Ness (Jerry Harris)
- Colonial Lives of Property: law, land, and racial regimes of ownership
by Brenna Bhandar (Liz Fekete)
- Racial Ecologies edited by Leilani Nishime and Kim D. Hester Williams (Al Gedicks)
- L.R. James: the artist as revolutionary by Paul Buhle; The Young C.L.R. James: a graphic novelette by Milton Knight, Lawrence Ware and Paul Buhle; The Polemics of C.L.R. James and Contemporary Black Activism by Ornette D. Clennon (Christian Høgsbjerg)
- The Stopping Places: a journey through Gypsy Britain by Damian Le Bas (Chris Searle)
Order for £5 here
View the whole issue online here