Kim Carson | 10.06.2002 17:55
New NASS "Outreach" teams are carrying out visits to asylum seekers in Glasgow and around the UK, to find out whether they have any "luxury items" in their homes. Apparently they are gaining entry under false pretences, then noting items such as TVs, videos etc, which are hard to obtain when you have to survive on poverty handouts.
When the team visits, and no-one is home, a handwritten scrap of paper is pushed through the letterbox stating, in English, that the person must wait at home all day 7 days from the visit. If not at home on that occasion the NASS workers call again within 72 hours, and if no-one is home it is assumed that no-one is living there, and all support is stopped.
If on the visit an inspector notes "luxury" items, a letter, in English, is sent stating that NASS have reason to believe that the people are working, and to provide details within 5 days, or lose their NASS support. The fact that these items could have been gifts from charities or individuals, or found and repaired doesn't enter into NASS's nasty mind. And there is no opportunity to explain that you are not working, no appeal.
I'm told that these workers are recruited from Office Angels temp agency, with no training, but this may be hearsay. At any rate, they are not likely to be sympathetic, and I doubt very much that they have any bi-lingual workers.
Whether through not being at home for owning a VCR, people are being made homeless and destitute. There is no agency to support them in this situation. No home. No food. No rights.
NASS's actions may well be illegal, but I'm sure NASS just assume that they can get away with it until challenged, and then get some kind of law change if pressed. Asylum seekers are usually, understandably, very reluctant to stand up and challenge this kind of action on human rights grounds. And anyway, NASS believes that soon they will all be locked up in Induction, Reception or Detention Centres.
This sort of thing was supposed to have been buried years ago, the despised means test, replaced by more subtle methods of poverty policing, but of course we are talking about foreign scroungers, bogus asylum seekers, illegals, who are the new undeserving poor of society, today's scapegoats who have replaced the workshy and the single mums sponging off society. With them, the government and it's agencies feel able to put the boot in.
These people are our neighbours. They are already being attacked with the weapon of poverty for having the nerve to assume that they are welcome in this country. And for the cheek to assume that we might believe their story about fleeing persecution. Now they are being attacked for having the audacity to desire a few home comforts such as a bit of money for food and a bit of telly to kill the boredom of life in poverty, blot out the terror of being returned, and to maybe learn a bit about our wonderful culture. All this while they sit, isolated, in their crappy flats, too scared to go outside for fear of attack from our other neighbours who mimic the racism of their own oppressors.
We cannot stand by and ignore these attacks. We need to show solidarity. We need to let them and our rulers know that this cannot be done in our name. We need to educate people about what is happening, and why. Why people are seeking asylum in this country, how the number of asylum seekers in the UK is tiny by comparison with other poorer countries. We need to remind people that we are talking about our fellow human beings here. And we need to point out the connections between war and refugees and the oppression of international capitalism, and the poverty not only in the countries from which people are fleeing, but also the poverty in our own housing schemes. It is all connected, and our struggle is one struggle, fought on many fronts. Or at least it should be.
NOBODY IS ILLEGAL!
See last week's Big Issue in Scotland.
Also due for discussion on Newsnight Tues 11 June, but that may be just Scotland