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 Crimes of solidarity
10 December: Fifteen activists who blocked the takeoff of an immigration removal charter flight in 2017 are found guilty of endangering the safety of Stansted airport, a terrorism offence for which they could be jailed for life. (Guardian, 10 December 2018)
11 December: Protests in support of the Stansted 15 take place outside the Home Office in London and Brighton, Sheffield and Glasgow. (Right to Remain, 11 December 2018)
12 December: In Brussels, the trial ends of twelve people who provided shelter for refugees and migrants in their homes and were accused of human trafficking. While the court acquitted Anouk Van Gestel, Myriam Berghe and two others, accepting that they had acted on humanitarian grounds, the other defendants received suspended sentences. (The Brussels Times, 13 December 2018)
13 December: The group known as the ‘The Briançon 7’, which includes people from France, Switzerland, Belgium and Italy who were charged after helping twenty refugees cross the Alps in April 2018, are convicted for assisting people to enter France illicitly in an organised manner and given suspended sentences ranging from four to six months. (France 24, 16 December 2018)
18 December: In Athens, Spanish activist and unionist Lola Gutierrez is convicted of people smuggling and receives a 17-month sentence, suspended in recognition of her humanitarian motive in trying to help a refugee child leave Greece in 2016. (20minutos, 18 December 2018)
18 December: Unis Resist Border Controls and other groups across over eighteen cities in the UK mark International Migrants Day by holding protests, demos and actions in solidarity with the Stansted 15 and all migrants struggling against the hostile environment. (The Overtake, 18 December 2018)Asylum and migrant rights
5 December: The Lancet and University College London publish the results of a two-year research project that shows that myths about migrants being responsible for spreading disease and burdening health services inform hostile environment policies, with the BNP distorting Public Health England figures on TB to spread ‘fear stories along the lines of migrants are spreading these bugs’. (Guardian, 5 December 2018)
7 December: Médecins Sans Frontières confirms that it has been forced to terminate the operations of its search and rescue ship Aquarius due to a ‘smear campaign’ by European governments. (Guardian, 7 December 2018)
7 December: The UK government temporarily suspends its tier 1 investor visa, (or ‘golden visa’ scheme) over fears of financial corruption. New rules will be introduced next year requiring more thorough audits of an applicant’s assets before they are allowed to settle. (Guardian, 7 December 2018)
10 December: Leaders from 164 countries agree to the UN’s non-binding Global Pact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration (GCM) in Marrakech, Morocco. (Al Jazeera, 10 December 2018)
12 December: The Independent reports that at least seven Zimbabwean nationals living in the UK were ordered to attend Home Office meetings, during which they were interviewed by Zimbabwean government representatives, believed to be part of an agreement between the UK and Zimbabwe for the ‘repatriation’ of 2,500 failed asylum seekers. (Independent, 12 December 2018)
16 December: In Rome, thousands of people, donning French-style yellow vests, take to the streets to protest against Italy’s new anti-migrant laws which will, according to the collective Project Rights, create an ‘endless stream of people forced into hiding’. (Deutsche Welle, 16 December 2018)
16 December: UK Government-funded projects designed to remedy the aftermath of the Iraq War, including a scheme to train Iraqi civil servants in UK universities and a research project into gender-based displacement in Iraqi Kurdistan, are being hindered by visa restrictions related to the hostile environment. (Guardian, 16 December 2018)
19 December: Home secretary Sajid Javid unveils an immigration white paper setting out the government’s post-Brexit proposals to control migration. (BBC News, 19 December 2018)Detention
8 December: The Home Office confirms that the police and the Prisons and Probation Ombudsmen are investigating the death of a 51-year-old Algerian man at Harmondsworth immigration removal centre. (Independent, 8 December 2018)
8 December: Hundreds of people respond to a call from ‘These Walls Must Fall’ and march through Bristol city centre condemning the existence of immigration detention centres and calling on Bristol city council to pass a motion to do the same. (Bristol Post, 8 December 2018)
12 December: Women for Refugee Women is concerned at the number of vulnerable Chinese women, many of whom have been trafficked, being detained without access to medical help or legal representation. The number of Chinese women in detention has more than doubled since September 2016. (Guardian, 12 December 2018)Deportations
6 December: The High Court rules that the Home Office unlawfully removed a 17-year-old Afghan child to Germany even though he was living with relatives in the UK. The boy, said to be a victim of torture, was given only one working day’s notice before his deportation. (The Independent, 6 December 2018)
11 December: NHS England reveals that it has lost contact with around 100 newly-qualified GPs who come from outside the European Union, and who may have been deported last summer because of their precarious visa status. (The Pulse Today, 11 December 2018)
12 December: The Home Office is trying to remove two children with physical and mental disabilities from the UK to Pakistan, where their father is originally from, but which they have never visited, potentially violating local authorities’ statutory duty to protect the welfare of children and breaking other UK and international laws. (Guardian, 12 December 2018)Destitution
10 December: The Bishop of Caltagirone, Sicily, says the church will host migrants forced out of the Mineo reception centre; and in the province of Crotone, the regional director of the Catholic charity Caritas, provides accommodation for a Nigerian family with a six-month-old baby. The Vatican’s secretary of state reaffirms its instruction for churches to assist all migrants. (Guardian, 10 December 2018)Immigration enforcement
16 December: Southall Black Sisters and Liberty lodge the first ever ‘super-complaint’ against the police for referring victims and witnesses of crime to state immigration authorities, as exposed in a report earlier this month by Liberty. Read Liberty’s report here. (Winsworth and Middlewich Guardian, 16 December 2018)Borders
18 December: Human Rights Watch publishes footage of injuries sustained by migrants in Greece and accuses the police of operating a ‘pushback’ policy at the country’s land border with Turkey in the north-eastern Evros region. Masked men wearing uniforms with no identifiable insignia have participated in beatings of migrants and refugees, it alleges. (Guardian, 18 December 2018)Citizenship rights
5 December: A report by the National Audit office, ‘Handling of the Windrush Scandal’, criticises the Home Office for ‘its lack of curiosity’ around the Commonwealth citizens from non-Caribbean countries who may have been wrongfully detained or removed. (Guardian, 5 December 2018)
16 December: In Denmark, as part of its notorious ‘ghetto package’ that was approved by parliament in early December, a new law is passed making day-care mandatory for all children over the age of one in forty-three neighbourhoods on the ‘ghetto list’ as of July 2019. (The Local, 16 December 2018)European Court of Human Rights
12 December: The European Court of Human rules that the Slovakian criminal justice system failed to treat the murder of three Romani family members in Hurbanovo, Slovakia in 2012 by an off-duty policeman as racially motivated, awarding €50,000 in damages to the two surviving family members.(European Roma Rights Centre, 12 December 2018)HEALTH
5 December: Using international mortality estimates from ninety-two countries, new research (see asylum and migrant rights above) shows that: migrants most often have better health than the general population; the risk of transmitting TB to their host countries is low; yet states do little to assure their health and safety, ensuring they are treated as ‘disposable’ and remain vulnerable to ‘3D jobs: dirty, dangerous and demeaning’. (Guardian, 5 December 2018)EMPLOYMENT AND EXPLOITATION
8 December: The German Institute for Human Rights publishes a report documenting ‘grievous exploitation’ of foreign workers, including EU citizens, mostly working in construction, meat processing, transportation, nursing and cleaning sectors where they are paid far below the minimum wage, forced to work unpaid overtime and live in inhumane housing conditions without access to legal support. (Deutsche Welle, 5 December 2018)EDUCATION
7 December: University of Cambridge professors and academics from around the world sign a letter criticising the appointment of Noah Carl, a social scientist whose work focuses on ‘academically discredited lines of inquiry’ involving race and genetics, to a prestigious research fellowship at St Edmund’s College. (Guardian, 7 December 2018)
14 December: A University of Exeter law society, founded in 1965, is disbanded following an internal investigation into racist messages shared in a WhatsApp group earlier this year in March. (BBC News, 14 December 2018)SPORT
9 December: Kick it Out call on football leaders to take a more proactive approach to dealing with racism in sport after Manchester City player Raheem Sterling is subjected to racist abuse at a fixture with Chelsea, and Motherwell player Christian Mbulu is racially abused during a Hearts fixture. Sterling accuses some sections of the media of fuelling racism against young black footballers, citing a MailOnline story about Tosin Adarabioyo. (Guardian, 9 December 2018)
10 December: The Sun uses its leader column to insist that its reporting on footballer Raheem Stirling has ‘nothing to do with skin colour’ and warns critics to ‘engage their brains’ before making accusations. David Kidd, chief sports reporter for The Sun, writes a column expressing his ‘unease’ with aspects of the Stirling coverage, warning that football journalism is not a diverse industry. (Guardian, 11 December 2018)
10 December: Chelsea Football Club suspends four people from attending matches pending further investigation into allegations of racial abuse directed against Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling. (Guardian, 10 December 2018)
15 December: Images posted on social media show football fans travelling to a Europa League tie in Budapest holding a Chelsea Headhunters flag featuring a Nazi symbol, an SS death’s head insignia and the Loyalist slogan ‘no surrender’. UEFA is investigating anti-semitic chanting by Chelsea fans at the same fixture. (Guardian, 14, 15 December 2018).
17 December: Three Chelsea supporters are spoken to by police after officers received reports of anti-semitic chanting on a train carrying fans returning from the club’s game in Brighton. Unless an official complaint is made police say that they cannot investigate. (Guardian, 17 December 2018)
17 December Police are investigating allegations that players in Chelsea’s youth system were the victims of a ‘racist bullying culture’ by members of staff in the 1980s and 1990s. (Guardian, 17 December 2018)POLICE AND CRIMINAL JUSTICE SYSTEM
5 December: The National Centre for Combatting Organized Crime in the Czech Republic describes ‘major threats’ facing the country including ‘uncontrolled numbers of people practicing Islam entering the country’, a ‘lax migration policy with regard to Vietnamese nationals’, ‘sham marriages’ amongst Turkish nationals and a ‘growing Chinese influence’. (Radio Praha in English, 5 December 2018)
6 December: The Guardian highlights Metropolitan police/Gov.uk data showing that tasers, stun guns and ground and limb restraints are disproportionately used on black people. Forty per cent of incidents where the Met police used stun guns were against black people, with Inquest recording eighteen deaths since 2004 when a stun gun was used. (Guardian, 6 December 2018).
7 December: Police in England and Wales adopt a new policy, ‘Information Exchange Regarding Victims of Crime with No Leave to Remain’, ostensibly to stop the automatic passing of information about suspected ‘illegal immigrants who are victims of crime to immigration enforcement’. (Guardian, 7 December 2018)
9 December: A freedom of information request by Justice and Prisons reveals that in a pilot project in four jails, the authorities have contravened official guidance by using a pepper spray (intended only for use on violent prisoners) to ensure compliance in non-violent incidents. The effects of Pava incapacitant spray are described as ‘unbearable, like your skin peeling off’. (Guardian, 10 December 2018)
12 December: Over one year after the Angiolini review on deaths in police custody, the government publishes Death in Custody: a progress report. Download it here.
13 December: An inquest jury rules that the death of 39-year-old Natasha Chin in 2016 in Sodexo-run HMP Bronzefield, Surrey, was caused by neglect and a lack of basic healthcare. (Guardian, 13 December)
14 December: Statistics compiled and released for the first time by the Home Office reveal the disproportionate use of force by police against black people. 12 per cent of such incidents involved black people, who constitute only 3.3 per cent of the population of England and Wales. (Independent, 14 December)
17 December The Metropolitan Police begin trialling facial recognition software in London’s West End around Soho, Piccadilly Circus and Leicester Square. (Independent, 17 December 2018)
18 December: A BBC documentary shows video evidence of the behaviour of police officers restraining Sehku Bayoh, who died in Kirkcaldy, Fife, in 2015, that allegedly contradicts the official police account of the incident. Watch the documentary here. (Guardian, 18 December)
18 December: The family of 29-year-old student Kingsley Burrell, who died in police custody in Birmingham in 2011, renew calls for a public inquiry after PC Adey of West Midlands police is found guilty of gross misconduct for lying about the events leading to the death, as well as failing in his duty of care. Two other police officers were cleared. (Guardian, 18 December 2018)ANTI-FASCISM AND THE FAR RIGHT
5 December: The Albanian foreign ministry calls on its Greek counterpart to explicitly condemn the killings of four Albanians in one month in Greece and to take measures to ‘stop the hate language that followed the events’, particularly citing the anti-Albanian rhetoric of the far-right Golden Dawn. The Greek government dismisses the Albanian concerns and describe the murders as criminal cases that are not connected to hate. (Balkan Insight, 5 December 2018)
6 December: Following a BBC investigation into the neo-Nazi Sonnenkrieg Division, anti-terrorist police carry out coordinated raids on the homes of three males, including a juvenile, in London, Bath and Portsmouth. An online gaming server to glorify violence, racism and misogyny, including calling for white women who date non-white men to be killed, had been exposed by the BBC. (BBC News, 5 December, Independent 6 December 2018)
6 December: Rebecca Gordon-Nesbitt, the Labour candidate for South Thanet, Kent, reports that a ‘For Race and Nation’ sticker bearing the National Front logo was stuck on her home. (KentLive, 6 December 2018)
9 December: Anti-racists vastly outnumber the 3,000 people who attended a far-right ‘Brexit betrayal’ rally which started in Whitehall and was called by Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also known as Tommy Robinson, and Ukip. (Guardian, 9 December 2018)
11 December: The Berlin branch of Alternative for Germany in Berlin (using the twitter hashtag ‘yes to white men’) celebrates the run-up to Christmas with an advent calendar honouring the contributions of white men who face ‘rampant discrimination’ in society as a result of ‘gender campaign that has long gone off the rails’. (Deutsche Welle, 11 December 2018)
11 December: In Bari, southern Italy, police close down the offices of the neo-fascist Casapound as part of an investigation into an attack on an anti-racist, anti-fascist demonstration in September. Seven anti-fascists are also under investigation. (ANSA, 11 December 2018).
14 December: Home Office figures for the year to March 2018 show that referrals to Prevent over concerns about far-right activity have risen by a third and that 44 per cent of referrals to the Channel scheme relate to far-right extremism. (Guardian, 14 December 2014)
16 December: On the first anniversary of the formation of Austria’s coalition government, at least 17,000 people (50,000 according to the organisers) protest in Vienna against the presence of the far-right Freedom Party in the coalition and its anti-migrant policies including welfare cuts aimed at immigrants. (The Local, 16 December 2018)
16 December: Belgian police use water cannon and tear gas to disperse a far-right demonstration against the UN global migration pact, addressed by Vlaams Belang politician Filip Dewinter, at the European Commission headquarters in Brussels. (Business Insider, 16 December 2018)
15 December: Spanish police arrest three men who they believe were running Gab, one of the most influential neo-Nazi websites, with a network of more than 50,000 subscribers. (Jerusalem Post, 16 December 2018)
17 December: Five German police officers are investigated for organising a neo-Nazi cell within the Frankfurt police, accessing confidential data on Turkish-German lawyer, Seda Basay-Yildiz, and using it to send a fax to her home address purportedly from ‘NSU 2.0’ in which they threatened to ‘slaughter’ her 2-year-old child. (Guardian, 17 December 2018)
18 December: After a seven-week trial, six people are found guilty of membership of the banned far-right organisation National Action and are sentenced to jail terms ranging from five years to six years and six months. (Telegraph, 18 December 2018)ELECTORAL POLITICS
11 December: In the Swiss canton of Aargau, dominated by the extreme-right Swiss People’s Party, a municipal secretary is suspended after he posts abusive messages about refugees and immigrants on Facebook. (The Local, 11 December 2018)
9 December: The New Flemish Alliance (N-VA) creates a parliamentary crisis in Belgium after quitting the coalition government over the prime minister’s support for the UN Global Compact on Migration, forcing Charles Michel to form a minority administration that might not last. (Guardian, 9 December 2018)HOUSING
17 December The UK Home Affairs Select Committee warns in a report that local authorities may renege on their voluntary commitments to the ‘dispersal’ policy of housing asylum seekers because of a lack of support from central government and their belief that asylum seekers are being disproportionately distributed to their areas. (Guardian, 17 December 2018)
18 December: Legal proceedings begin in the High Court against the Home Office policy of the ‘Right to Rent’ scheme introduced in 2014, that forces landlords to evict or reject people they believe are in the country illegally, in a case brought by the Joint Council for the Welfare of Immigrants, the Residential Landlords’ Association, the Equality and Human Rights Commission and Liberty. (Guardian, 18 December 2018)VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT Abuse and harassment
3 December: Police appeal for information after a man racially abused and threatened staff with an axe at a kebab shop in Hastings. (Sussex Express, 3 December 2018)
4 December: A teenager is evicted from his flat after he racially abused a refugee family from the Middle East, before throwing rocks at the windows of the family home and damaging the children’s bikes, in Ormsgill, Cumbria. (The Mail, 4 December 2018)
5 December: The Equality and Human Rights Commission launches an inquiry into racial harassment at universities. (Guardian, 5 December 2018)
11 December: Police appeal for information after a video posted on social media shows a man racially abusing passengers on a train from London to Leeds, before shouting ‘I’m with Tommy Robinson’. It is alleged that he was part of a group returning from a pro-Brexit demonstration. (Metro, 11 December 2018)
15 December: Police appeal for information after a woman was racially abused and had eggs thrown at her from a car driven by two men in Colchester, Essex. (Daily Gazette, 15 December 2018)Attacks on people
3 December: Police appeal for information after a woman was racially abused by a woman before being physically assaulted by another woman who was walking her dog in York. (The Press, 3 December 2018)
5 December: Police appeal for information after a man racially abused, punched, headbutted and threatened to harm the family of the owner of shop in Bamber Bridge, Lancashire. (Leyland Guardian, 5 December 2018)
6 December: Police appeal for information after two men and one woman were racially abused, punched and assaulted by two men whilst walking in Canterbury city centre. (KentOnline, 6 December 2018)Attacks on religious centres
12 December: Manchester police say that they are treating a ‘truly disgusting’ arson attack on the Al-Falah Masjid Islamic Centre in Cheetham Hill as a hate crime. A group of males were seen running from the scene of the attack on 9 December. (Manchester Evening News, 12 December 2018)Charges and convictions
7 December: In the Netherlands, a 44-year-old man named in court as Vincent T is jailed for three years for planning to carry out terrorist attacks on Muslims as well as a plot to attack the politician Sylvana Simons. Counter-terrorism units had monitored a Facebook group he founded where he attempted to recruit members and purchase weapons. (Dutch News, 7 December 2018)
14 December: At Bolton Crown Court, 29-year-old Dale Hart is found guilty of affray and the racially aggravated assault of a 15-year-old boy and his 39-year-old mother, both refugees who arrived in the UK on the UN’s Gateway Protection Programme, but escapes a prison sentence as the judge rules that the attack was not initially ‘racially motivated’. (Manchester Evening News, 14 December 2018)Statistics
6 December: The Fakenham & Wells Times reveals that 149 of Norfolk’s schools, academies and education settings reported incidents of prejudice, including racism, in the 2017-2018 school year, which is almost a 50 per cent increase in the number of institutions filing reports compared with the previous year. The number of overall incidents slightly fell, from 378 to 335 in 2017-2018. (The Fakenham & Wells Times, 6 December 2018)
Thanks to Rajesh Bhattacherjee, Jamie Wates and Joseph Maggs for helping compile this calendar. Thanks also to Graeme Atkinson for assisting in the compilation of the anti-fascism and the far Right section.
IRR vice-chair Frances Webber comments on the standsted 15 verdict, a trial where laws designed to deal with terrorist threats at airports have been brought against human rights defenders.
The crime of endangering airport security, under the Aviation and Security Act, was designed to deal with terrorist threats at airports – not peaceful anti-deportation activists armed only with equipment to lock themselves to an aircraft to prevent a deportation charter flight from taking off. The Stansted 15 took the action to stop the individuals on the flight from being deported to the risk of serious human rights abuses – and they have been vindicated by the fact that eleven of the sixty deportees who did not fly that day remain in the UK and two have been granted leave to remain, in an implicit admission that they should not have been subject to deportation. The evidence given at the trial has highlighted these secretive charter flight deportations, marked as they are by brutality and inhumanity.
But the trial judge’s refusal to allow the jury to consider a defence of necessity or duress of circumstances – the argument that the defendants’ actions were necessary to prevent serious harm to those on board the plane – made a guilty verdict inevitable, in a trial which appears choreographed from start to finish to send out a tough message to deter human rights defenders.
Frances Webber is the Vice Chair of the Institute of Race Relationsrelated links
A fortnightly resource for anti-racist and social justice campaigns, highlighting key events in the UK and Europe.ASYLUM AND MIGRATION Asylum, migrant rights and citizenship
21 November: The European Court of Justice rules that a 2015 Austrian regulation giving minimal social assistance to refugees is not compatible with EU directive on the recognition of ‘third-party’ nationals. (Deutsche Welle, 21 November 2018)
24 November: Following the Freedom party’s (FPÖ) unverified claims that it has got hold of the Turkish electoral register and that Austrian citizens of Turkish heritage are illegally holding dual citizenship, eighty-five Austrians of Turkish heritage are stripped of their citizenship by the interior ministry, which is controlled by the FPÖ. Thousands more are threatened in an administrative nightmare that is being dubbed Austria’s ‘Windrush scandal’. (The Telegraph, 24 November 2018)
25 November: Slovakia becomes the eighth EU member state, and the fourth and final Visegrad state, to withdraw support for the UN’s Global Compact for Safe, Orderly and Regular Migration. (Reuters, November 25)
28 November: Svein Ludvigsen, 72, a former high-ranging conservative Norwegian government minister, is charged with sexually abusing three asylum seekers over a period of several years and taking advantage of his position as regional governor to exploit an asylum-seekers vulnerable situation. (The Local, 28 November 2018)
28 November: The Decree-Law on Immigration and Security, dubbed the ‘Salvini decree’, is passed in Italy, abolishing humanitarian protection for refugees, vastly reducing the Sprar system of asylum reception, and making it easier to strip naturalised citizens of citizenship. (The Local, 29 November 2018)
28 November: The Project for Registration of Children as British Citizens wins the right to judicially review the Home Office over the £1,012 fee it charges to register a child as a British citizen. Around 120,000 children are the victims of Home Office ‘barefaced profiteering’, it says. (Guardian, 28 November 2018)
28 November: A report by the Equality and Human Rights Commission finds that asylum seekers are being deterred from using the NHS because of the introduction of upfront charges in England last year, and fears that their information would be shared with the Home Office. Many are having to choose between buying food and paying for medicine, with pregnant women and disabled people the worst affected. (Guardian, 28 November 2018)
3 December: Six refugee families from Iraq, Sudan, Ethiopia and Syria, stranded on a RAF base in Cyprus for more than twenty years, are given indefinite leave to enter the UK for permanent residence, as the government finally abandons its argument that the 1951 Refugee Convention did not apply to the sovereign base. (Guardian, The Times, 3 December 2018).Reception and detention
21 November: The Croatian interior ministry’s refusal to extend a cooperation agreement with the Centre for Peace Studies ends its work over fifteen years providing legal advice and teaching refugees Croatian. (Euractiv.com, 21 November 20128)
25 November: Forty-three women detained in Yarl’s Wood immigration removal centre begin a hunger strike to protest an imminent charter flight that will deport at least ten people to Nigeria and Ghana. (Independent, 26 November)
26 November: In the first ever action against the Moria reception centre in Lesvos, Greece, the family of Ahmed Elgamel, a 20-year-old Egyptian migrant who died of carbon monoxide poisoning at the centre in 2017, file a lawsuit for compensation. (ekathimerini, 26 November 2018).
30 November: The Greek ministry for immigration announces that bad weather and deteriorating conditions in refugee camps on the Greek islands has resulted in a plan to evacuate 5,000 refugees from the islands to the mainland, where they will be hosted in hotels for six months. (International Balkans News, 30 November 2018)
30 November: The Danish government announces that by 2021 all convicted foreign nationals and failed asylum seekers who cannot be deported to their country of origin will be detained in a facility on 17-acre Lindholm Island, two miles from the nearest Danish shore (The Local, 1 December 2018)
3 December: Following FOI requests, it is revealed that senior managers in Glasgow city council, who previously claimed to be ‘blindsided’ by Serco, knew months in advance about the private security company’s plans to issue seven-day eviction notices to around three-hundred refused asylum seekers living in accommodation it provided. (The Ferret, 3 December 2018)
3 December: A report reveals that staff at the G4S-ran Brook House immigration removal centre, near Gatwick airport, acted in a ‘draconian’ way and with ‘laddish behaviour’, and that violence at the centre was not properly investigated. The review was commissioned after an undercover reporter for BBC Panorama, broadcast in September 2017, filmed detainees being verbally and physically abused. (BBC News, 3 December 2018)Destitution
2 December: Souaro Jaiteh, an 18-year-old Gambian migrant, dies in a fire at the San Ferdinando shantytown in Calabria, Italy, with the region’s president, Mario Oliverio describing the area as a ‘death camp’. His death comes after charities predict that thousands will be left destitute by the ‘Salvini decree’. (The Local, 3 December 2018)Borders
28 November: The captain and crew of a Spanish fishing vessel Nuestra Madre Loreto, which rescued twelve Africans from a rubber dinghy in the Mediterranean, are left stranded for days with no country willing to accept the migrants and the captain unwilling to return them to Libya. (AFP, 28 November 2018)
3 December: After ten days, and amidst worsening sea conditions, Malta finally agrees to take eleven migrants rescued in the Med by the crew of the Spanish fishing vessel Nuestra Madre Loreto, with a twelfth migrant evacuated to hospital after falling seriously ill with dehydration. (Al Aribya, 3 December 2018)Immigration enforcement
1 December: Calais-based human rights observers and French group L’Auberge des Migrants report that police clearances of makeshift camps around the port of Calais increased to a high of twenty per week in September and October. Read the report here. (Guardian, 1 December 2018)Deportations
23 November: A Home Office review of its use of a controversial, terrorism-related provision in immigration law reveals that between January 2015 and May 2018 it attempted to remove at least 300 ‘highly skilled migrants’ from the UK, and actually deported around eighty-seven. (Guardian, 23 November)
27 November: For one month, a Protestant church in the Hague maintains a 24-hour church service aimed at protecting the Tamrazyans family, who have sought sanctuary there, from being deported to Armenia. Dutch law prevents the police from entering places of worship during religious services. (ABC News, 27 November 2018)
28 November: In response to a question by Caroline Lucas MP, the immigration minister Caroline Nokes reveals that the Home Office has made no attempt to inform 49 individuals deported in 2017 from the UK to the Commonwealth countries of Ghana and Nigeria they may have been deported illegally, or to provide details of the Windrush taskforce. (Independent, 28 November 2018)Crimes of solidarity
21 November: In Riace, Italy, the Associazione Città Futura, coordinator of the city’s award-winning efforts to integrate refugees, is evicted from its offices in a move which is seen as connected to the vindictive prosecution of the city’s mayor for ‘aiding illegal immigration’. The Network of Solidarity Municipalities vows to help rehouse the association. (radiocittafujiko.it, 21 November 2018)Police and criminal justice
21 November: A West Midlands police constable is charged with racially aggravated wounding after a man who was with a group of travellers was bitten by a police dog in Northfield, Birmingham. (Bromsgrove Advertiser, 21 November 2018)
24 November: BirminghamLive reveals that racism allegations against the police in the West Midlands have prompted more than 250 internal investigations in the past four years. (BirminghamLive, 24 November 2018)
28 November: The CPS rules that there is not enough evidence to pursue charges against the retired Assistant Chief Constable Steven Heywood (facing an IOPC investigation for gross misconduct), in relation to evidence given at the inquiry into the death of Anthony Grainger, who was shot by a firearms officer in Cheshire, 2012. (BBC News, 28 November 2018).
28 November: Although the inquest into the death of Branko Zdravkovic at the Verne Immigration Removal Centre returns a suicide verdict, the coroner does not close the inquest. The Home Office is asked to provide more evidence on the management of vulnerable detainees, with a view to preparing a public report to prevent future deaths. (Inquest, 28 November 2018)
30 November: The Mayor of London is asked to intervene after the Met sends an email to community leaders advising them that armed police foot patrols could be introduced as a response to knife crimes. (Guardian, 30 November 2018)Anti-fascism and the far Right
22 November: A Guardian investigation finds that Steve Bannon’s political consultancy ‘The Movement’, aimed at influencing the May European parliament elections, may be illegal under electoral law in nine European countries. (Guardian, 22 November 2018)
23 November: Ukip leader Gerard Batten appoints Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also know as Tommy Robinson, to be his personal special advisor on gang rapes and prison reforms, advising on ‘Muslim grooming gangs’ and prison conditions. (New Statesman, 23 November 2018).
26 November: In Finland, thirty members of the far-right Soldiers of Odin and the neo-Nazi Nordic Resistance Movement march through an East Helsinki shopping centre, as Somali community leaders warn that the far Right are getting ‘bolder’. (YLE, 27 November 2018)
28 November: Bristol anti-fascists protest against Generation Identity’s anti-refugee activities across the city, including spraying a prominent water fountain with red dye and leaving a sign reading ‘rivers of blood’ , a reference to Enoch Powell’s 1968 speech, beside it. (Bristol Post, 27 November 2018)
30 November: The lawyer for the Syrian schoolboy racially bullied in Huddersfield (see education and racial violence sections below), announces that the family are taking legal action against Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, also know as Tommy Robinson, for posting two ‘defamatory’ videos on Facebook claiming that ‘Jamal’ had attacked two girls at the Almondbury community school. (Guardian, 30 November 2018)
2 December: In regional elections in Andalucía, Spain, the far-right Vox party takes twelve seats in the regional parliament, an electoral breakthrough that marks the first time a far-right group has won at the ballot box since the death of General Franco in 1975. (Guardian, 4 December 2018)
3 December: Far-right Jobbik MP István Szávay resigns his parliamentary seat after Hír TV releases a recording of him making antisemitic comments and discussing a verbal and physical assault on a woman in a pub who had called him a ‘stinking Nazi’. (Hungary Today, 3 December 2018)
3 December: Following an undercover BBC investigation, Cardiff MP Stephen Doughty calls for the System Resistance Network (SRN), a neo-nazi group that preaches zero tolerance to non-whites and says homosexuality is a disease, to be banned. (BBC News, 3 December 2018)Electoral politics
22 November: Hillary Clinton, echoing the strong-borders rhetoric of Donald Trump, calls on European leaders to combat right-wing populism by reassuring electorates that ‘we are not going to be able to continue provide refuge and support’ to migrants. (Guardian, 22 November 2018)
26 November: Bruno Weber, an extreme-right Freedom party councillor in Amstetten, Lower Austria, is convicted of posting racist and homophobic comments, which included the Austrian equivalents of the term ‘faggots’ and the n-word, and is ordered to attend a workshop to learn good behaviour online. He claims that he did not realise the n-word was offensive. (Kurier, The Local, 26 November 2018)
25 November: Voters in a referendum introduced by the extreme-right Swiss People’s Party overwhelmingly reject the ‘Swiss law first’ proposal which would have seen the Swiss constitution take precedence over international law. Not a single canton voted in favour of the initiative. (The Local, 26 November 2018).
27 November: A report by the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on British Muslims calls on the government to adopt a definition of Islamophobia, which it says will help tackle what it describes as a growing problem. (ITV, 27 November 2018)Discrimination
25 November: Three black schoolgirls who made it to the finals of a NASA school competition have spoken out about the racially-motivated sabotage they faced during the competition, during which online users urged others not to vote for them because they are black. (The Voice, 25 November 2018)
26 November: Amsterdam’s mayor Femke Halsema says she will not enforce the law banning the wearing of full-face covering clothing in public buildings, unofficially known as the ‘burqa ban’, and that police capacity could be better used elsewhere. Administrators in Rotterdam and Utrecht agree. (Dutch News, 26 November 2018)Education
30 November: As the Syrian refugee schoolboy Jamal pleads for people to not use social media to advocate violence against the schoolboy excluded from Almondbury community school for racially bullying him (see anti-fascist section above, and racial violence statistics section below), a Guardian analysis reveals that a record number of schoolchildren (4,590 cases in all, up from 4,085 last year) have been excluded from schools for racist bullying. (Guardian, 30, 30 November 2018)
30 November: As the government is criticised by teachers’ unions and charities for removing the duty on schools to monitor racist bullying, the Department for Education announces that it has launched an internal review. (Guardian, 30 November 2018)
4 December: The Equality and Human Rights Commission launch an inquiry into racial harassment at UK universities. Students and staff have until 15 February 2019 to submit evidence. (BBC News, 4 December 2018)Media culture
26 November: A comic called A suicide bomber sits in the library due to be released in May 2019 has been pulled from publication after an open letter signed by more than 1,000 writers, teachers and readers, criticise the book and say it is ‘steeped in Islamophobia and profound ignorance’. (Guardian, 26 November 2018)
3 December: The Bild newspaper is accused of pandering to the German far Right after describing a guide aimed at helping teachers and parents deal with racist attitudes among children as a ‘snooping manual’ that encourages children to ‘spy on their parents’. The publishers of the guide, the Amadeu Antonio Foundation, receive hundreds of violent threats since the newspaper ran the story after picking it up on far-right German blogs. (Deutsche Welle, 3 December 2018)
3 December: The 2019 annual Wales Theatre Awards are cancelled after judges face criticism for shortlisting an opera featuring white actors playing non-white roles. (BBC News, 3 December 2018)
21 November: Half of UK football fans witness racist abuse at games, with only forty percent knowing how to report it, according to a survey conducted by Kick It Out and Forza Football. (Guardian, 21 November 2018)
3 December: Kick It Out, with the support of Chelsea and Eni Aluko, have released a short film aiming to tackle antisemitic abuse in football, after Kick It Out statistics from the 2017/18 season revealed that 10 per cent of discrimination reports they received related to antisemitism. (Sky Sports, 3 December 2018)RACIST VIOLENCE AND HARASSMENT Abuse and harassment
21 November: A woman who racially abused her neighbour, a member of the travelling community and smashed the windows of her housing association home in Flintshire, Wales, is given a suspended sentence and ordered to pay costs. (LeaderLive, 21 November 2018)
22 November: Police appeal for information after a man, claiming he had a knife and acid in his possession, racially abused and threatened a woman while travelling on a train between Gatwick Airport and Bedford. (Crawley Observer, 22 November 2018)
25 November: Police appeal for information after a Sri Lankan shopkeeper is racially abused and spat on, before having his shop windows smashed, by a gang of youths in Scartho, Grimsby. (GrimsbyLive, 25 November 2018)Attacks on people
23 November: A husband and wife report that both they and their three-year-old daughter are racially abused and attacked by a couple, who punched and kicked them before trying to remove the wife’s headscarf in Banbury, Oxford. (Oxford Mail, 23 November 2018)
28 November: A 16-year-old boy is charged with assault after a video of a 15-year-old Syrian refugee being pulled to the ground before having water poured over his face in a school playground in Almondbury, Huddersfield, goes viral on social media. The schoolchild, who cannot be named for legal reasons, recounted the harassment he has received since coming to the UK on ITV News. (ITV News, 28 November 2018)
30 November: Fresh footage emerges showing the sister of the Syrian schoolboy, now named as Jamal, being physically abused at the same school. The family lawyer confirms that the girl, aged 14, has been bullied by another group of pupils, with a schoolgirl excluded for forcibly removing her headscarf. (Guardian, 30 November 2018)Attacks on property
23 November: Police appeal for information after Nazi graffiti and racist slogans are found carved into wood at Swansea University’s Bay and Singleton campuses. (WalesOnline, 23 November 2018)Attacks on asylum centres
25 November: In Ireland, an arson attack on a former hotel in Moville, Donegal which was set to open as an asylum accommodation centre, leaves one man injured and needing hospital treatment. (the journal.ie, 25 November 2018)Charges and convictions
25 November: A judge at Carlisle county court convicts three men for assault but spares them from prison on the grounds that the incident in Botchergate started when they were continuously racially abused by two men and ‘being…victim[s] of racial abuse was significant in their mitigation’. (News and Star, 25 November 2018)Statistics
28 November: A third of people of African descent who responded to an European Fundamental Rights Agency survey say they experienced racial harassment in the last five years, with one in twenty respondents saying they had been physically attacked, with the most incidents reported in Finland. (Guardian, 28 November 2018)
30 November: Freedom of information figures from thirty-nine local authority areas obtained by the Guardian shows a rise in racial incidents in schools from 2,702 incidents in 2014 to 3,660 in 2017. Huge surges in Glasgow and Rochdale are reported. Childline says that there have been more than 2,500 counselling sessions in the last three years about racial and faith-based bullying. (Guardian, 30 November 2018)
Thanks to Rajesh Bhattarcherjee, Jamie Wates, Joseph Maggs and Ifhat Shaheen-Smith for helping compile this calendar.
Frances Webber explains why Corporate Watch’s ‘The UK border regime: a critical guide’ will be an essential resource for activists.
In the overcrowded market of books on immigration control, Corporate Watch’s 331-page book, The UK border regime: a critical guide, is one which will not only be read, but will be an indispensible resource for activists. My initial doubts that yet another book on immigration could tell me anything new were quickly dispelled: it is a goldmine of basic, vital information about how the UK’s immigration control system works and to whose benefit.
In the first section, entitled ‘Background’, after a brief history (from Henry III to the Hostile Environment, including a moving graphic of the Iranians’ hunger strike in 2011) the infrastructure of control is described. All the various departments, units and commands within the Home Office immigration directorate are set out, with acronyms such as RALON (Risk and Liaison Overseas Network), NRC (National Removals Command), ISD (Interventions and Sanctions Directorate), what each does, and how they all work together – but that is just the beginning; as the authors explain, the border regime also comprises transport and security companies, local authorities, homelessness charity workers, NHS receptionists, employers, the media and the far Right..
The second and longest section describes the features of the control system, starting with the reporting system which applies to 80,000 migrants, from which officials, we learn, detain twice the number needed to reach removal targets, as half those detained will not be removable. The Home Office is seeking to make detention on reporting’ the main source of volume removals’, including same-day removals, using both fear and hope to keep migrants reporting, but with NATT (the National Absconder Tracing Team) and the Police National Computer to fall back on if they don’t . Chapters on asylum dispersal, immigration raids, detention and deportation are all packed with useful information. We are taken through the process from receiving a tip-off through a raid to the deportation, learning en route that morale is a huge problem with enforcement officials, made worse by constant rebranding, budget cuts and bullying, and not helped by rewards such as cake for the officer making the most arrests.
As we would expect from Corporate Watch, we are given a wealth of information about the contractors who profit from enforcement. Who knew that dogs and handlers used in border controls at Calais are provided by a company called Wagtail? The Calais chapter describes – and costs – the massive and hugely expensive infrastructure of walls and fences, drones and sniffers, policing and juxtaposed controls – an infrastructure responsible for the deaths of a hundred migrants in the past decade, even sniffing out a French security company linked to Calais mayor Nadia Bouchart, whose efforts to discourage migrants have extended to closing community centres as well as criminalising food distribution.
Another chapter in this section which is revelatory is ‘Hostile data’, which goes into detail on the databases the Home Office has, their links with each other and with police, HMRC and other databases, and the creation of integrated platforms, data sharing agreements and arrangements, and private sector links such as Experian, a company which sells a ‘right to work’ checking app for businesses and acts as the middleman between state and private sector needs, making money from both sides, The Mosaic profiling database, built for corporate marketing, uses Experian’s data to sort households into 67 ‘geodemographic’ categories, and is sought after by local authorities, government agencies and police to assess risks of re-offending and to help in custody decisions. The implications are terrifying, and the immigration exemption in the recent Data Protection Act means we often won’t even know about them.
The third section, ‘Consent’, recapitulates Corporate Watch’s recent report Who is immigration policy for? The media politics of the hostile environment. After a discussion of how collaboration works, based on a case study in which the Department of Health sought to convert frontline NHS staff to the practice of charging for treatment, we are taken through the ‘show of control’ that is all immigration policy can do, in the context of the electoral politics of migration, the dense ecosystem linking corporate interests, media, politicians, and the processes whereby far-right slogans become mainstream party positions through the politics of fear and the ‘anxiety engine’. The final section, How can we fight it?, draws lessons from the resistance described in each chapter, and prescribes new relations of solidarity and the finding of common cause between citizens and migrants, linking, for example, citizens fighting gentrification and social cleansing with migrants fighting raids. Two extremely useful annexes detail major Home Office immigration contracts, and profile the major companies involved in their performance.
The UK border regime is eminently readable, and has many hand-drawn illustrations making it a pleasure to look at – a rare feat in books dealing with such a subject. Accessible, up to date to October 2018, and written from a grassroots, activist perspective, it is a hugely valuable resource.Related Links
Book available from the Corporate Watch website, price £9.00.
At least 99 humanitarian volunteers and anti-deportation activists have been placed under criminal investigation or prosecuted so far in 2018
In 2017, the European Commission (EC) published its long-awaited evaluation of the 2002 Facilitators Package which regulates member states’ national penal laws against human smuggling. Pleas from NGOs throughout Europe for an end to the criminalisation of humanitarian actions assisting refugees and migrants fell on deaf ears. A complacent EC argued that there was no case to change the directive and ‘limited evidence’ that ‘citizens acting out of compassion have been prosecuted and convicted’.
Below, the IRR, in documenting evidence of eleven investigations and prosecutions (involving 81 people) using anti-trafficking and aiding illegal immigration laws in 2018, draws the EC’s attention to a massive escalation in criminalisation, since it failed to change the regulatory framework (1). The majority of these cases occurred in Sicily and were against the crew and supporters of NGO search and rescue missions.Crimes of solidarity
Recently, a European citizens’ initiative (ECI) petition was launched, calling on governments to stop punishing volunteers and civil society organisations for offering shelter to refugees. Since the launch, the IRR has received a number of requests for up-to-date information on current cases of crimes of solidarity. We intend to report thoroughly on this issue at the start of 2019. In the meantime, and in order to assist ongoing campaigns, we provide information on eleven cases that we have been following this year, none of which are documented in previous report Humanitarianism: the unacceptable face of solidarity.BELGIUM
Twelve private individuals: The twelve, who provided shelter for refugees and migrants in their homes, are accused of human trafficking and being part of a criminal organisation. Those charged include Anouk Van Gestel, editor in chief of Marie Claire Belgium, and journalist Myriam Berghe. Case ongoing. More information here. https://www.facebook.com/pg/solidarityisnotacrime/posts/?ref=page_internalFRANCE
Briancon 7: Seven men and women accused of ‘aiding illegal entry’ of migrants as ‘part of an organised gang’ during a demonstration in April 2018 against a Generation Identity anti-migrant militia. Court case ended in November 2018 with the accused receiving suspended prison sentences ranging from six to twelve months. More information from the refugee and migrant support group La Cimade here.GREECE
Three supporters of Emergency Response Centre International (ERCI): Two humanitarian volunteers (Seán Binder, Sarah Mardini) and ECRI field director Athanasios Karakitsos ‘Nassos’ have been released on bail after over 100 days in pre-trial detention. The three humanitarians have been charged with people-smuggling, espionage and membership of a criminal organisation. More information here and here.ITALY
Twenty-four crew members and supporters of Aquarius: Twenty-four people connected to the migrant rescue ship Aquarius, including its captain and the deputy head of Médecins Sans Frontières (MSF) Belgium, under investigation in Catania, Sicily, for ‘trafficking and illegal management of waste’. No charges as yet. More information here.
Twenty-two crew members and supporters of Iuventa: Twenty-two individuals, including ten crew members of the search-and-rescue ship Iuventa operated by Jugend Rettett under investigation in Sicily for aiding illegal immigration to Italy while conducting rescue operations in the central Mediterranean Sea off the Libyan coast. Ship impounded but no charges as yet. More information here.
Two crew members of Open Arms: Despite the release of the impounded vessel (run by the Spanish charity Proactiva Open Arms) by the prosecutor in Catania, Sicily, the captain, Marc Reig and the mission’s coordinator, Anabel Montes are still under investigation for ‘aiding illegal immigration’. The case was brought after they rescued 218 people in the Mediterranean in March 2018 and took them to Sicily where the ship was initially impounded. No charges as yet. More information here.
Mayor of Riace and his partner: Domenico Lucano, mayor of Riace, in Calabria, and his partner, Tesfahun Lemlem placed under house arrest and charged with encouraging illegal immigration including organising ‘marriages of convenience’ for immigration purposes. Case ongoing. More information here.
Six Tunisian fishermen: Six Tunisian fishermen, including Chamseddine Ben Ali Bourassine, known in the city of Zarzis for his heroic work saving migrants, are under investigation in Sicily for illegally escorting a boat into Italian waters after towing a vessel with fourteen migrants onboard to safety, off the coast of Lampedusa. Case ongoing.MALTA
Captain of Mission Lifeline vessel: German national Claus-Peter Reisch charged with filing incorrect registration documents and entering Maltese waters illegally. The Lifeline crew had rescued 234 people near the Libyan coast but Malta initially refused to allow the boat to dock, and then impounded it, arresting the captain who was later granted bail. Case ongoing. More information here.SPAIN/MOROCCO
Helena Maleno Garzón: A Spanish national and founder of Caminando Fronteras (Walking Borders), Maleno Garzón, who lives in Morocco, was initially investigated by the Spanish authorities for her work alerting the Spanish coast guard about migrant boats in difficulty during crossings. After the Spanish could not find enough evidence to prosecute, she was charged in Morocco with aiding and abetting illegal immigration. Case ongoing. More information here.SWITZERLAND
Anni Lanz: A former Secretary General of Solidarité sans Frontieres, Anni Lanz has already been prosecuted once but now faces further court appearances owing to her refusal to pay fines amassed after attempting to help an Afghan asylum seeker, deported under the Dublin regulations, return to Switzerland. Case ongoing with next court appearance in December. More information here.
Prosecutions of anti-deportation activists
Unlike in previous years, we include in our monitoring of 2018 three cases involving criminal prosecutions (including the use of anti-terrorism provisions) against eighteen individuals arising from attempts to prevent deportation flights. While these actions – aimed at disrupting flights carrying deportees – would not be protected by any change to the Facilitators Package, we include them now, because of our concern that the kind of disproportionate and politically-motivated charges being brought by European states appears to imply a coordinated approach. Those who have attempted to stop deportation flights are acting from the same idea as those who try to provide shelter, food and transport, or rescue people in the Mediterranean Sea. Why people act in particular ways is of course individual to them, but in all the cases we identify (at borders or on deportation flights) those who stand accused speak of a humanitarian impulse to protect life, or a political impulse to defy an unjust law, or both. While those who rescue at sea might be responding to an immediate threat to life, those who intervene to prevent a deportation flight do so because of the future life-threatening consequences of deportation.ICELAND
Two anti-deportation activists: Ragnheidur Freyja Kristinardottir and Jorunn Edda Helgadottir were arrested in May 2016 after attempting to stop a deportation flight by standing up and explaining to passengers that there was a Nigerian deportee onboard. They were not charged at the time, but two and a half years later in October 2018 charges of jeopardising the safety of a flight were brought on the same day that Elin Ersson was charged in Sweden (see below). Case ongoing. More information here.SWEDEN
Elin Ersson: Student Elin Ersson charged with violations of the Swedish aviation act after an incident in July 2018 when she prevented a Turkish Airlines flight with an Afghan deportee from taking off at Gothenburg airport, by refusing to sit in her seat when the plane was set to take off. Case pending. More information here.UNITED KINGDOM
Stansted 15: Fifteen activists from a number of anti-deportation groups face charges of endangering airport security under the 1990 Aviation and Maritime Security Act after they chained themselves to an immigration removal plane as an act of conscience to protect the lives of deportees to Nigeria, Ghana and Sierra Leone who they believed were being deported unlawfully. More information here.
Details of Crowdfunding page for legal defence of Nassos, Sean and Sarah here.
As part for the Migration Film Festival the Migration Collective is showing the 1980 film Babylon followed by a panel Q&A.
- 6:45 – 8:45 pm, Tuesday 4 December 2018
- Migration Museum at the Workshop, 26 Lambeth High Street, London, SE1 7AG
Babylon tells the story of DJ for Brixton reggae sound system ‘Ital Lion Sound’, Blue is getting ready for the local sound system showdown with rival crew, Jah Shaka. In the year when the Windrush scandal came to light, this film will help us explore how much (or how little) things have changed for members of the Windrush generation living in London and the UK.Related links
Event details and tickets here
Details of Migration Film Festival here