Demonstrating on 'private property'
No Borders banner
Asylum is not a crime
North West Asylum Seekers Defence Group
Local bigots spew their bile
Rattling the fences
Demonstrators and placards
Local bigots (in uniform this time)
'Proud to be British' blah blah blah
Speaker and candles
Ignoring police pleas that we assemble at the main gate (far away from where the detainees are housed), we headed to another section of the fence, right next to their cells. It was wonderful to hear those inside cheering and chanting at our presence. Unfortunately not everyone was thrilled by our presence. A small group of racist local people came out to shout nationalist crap and have the police move us from 'their property' (an area of grass by the fence). They stayed there the whole time shouting insults, even during prayers for those who'd died in immigration centres.
After some great singing and dancing by some of the Africans, many speakers from refugee communities and groups such as Tyneside Community Action for Refugees (TCAR) expressed their feelings about the situation of refugees in the UK, and made clear the links between the actions of the British state and the creation of refugee populations. Candles were lit and passed arond and people from different communities led prayers for the 221* people who have died in detention centres.
Today was a great chance to show our solidarity with migrants who are incarcerated by the state just because they cross borders without it's approval, and to mourn the loss of those who die or take their own lives as a result of this abuse.
* 221 was the figure given by speakers. A 2004 report listed 49 migrants who had committed suicide in the UK ( http://www.ncadc.org.uk/resources/selfharm.html). An older (2000) report listed 2063 immigrant deaths associated with "Fortress Europe", the heavily policed borders of the EU ( http://struggle.ws/ws/2000/fortress60.html).
One of No Borders
Did you know that people seeking asylum in this country are not allowed to work? Rather than face destitution or criminalisation they are forced to work in unregulated jobs, often with the lowest pay and the most dangerous conditions in industries which already use casual labour to drive down wages and conditions for us all. Therefore we demand the right to work.
Politicians and vicious media campaigns spread myths about 'scroungers' and encourage people to believe that refugees rather than the politicians themselves are responsible for housing shortages and unemployment. Yet asylum seekers are given no special priority for council housing and are given benefits below the minimum allowed for British nationals.
Asylum is not a crime
Over 40,000 asylum seekers pass through the UK's 10 prison-like detention centres each year. Unlike prisoners, they have no release date, few legal rights and have often committed no criminal offence.
Government restrictions on legal aid make it almost impossible for asylum seekers to appeal against their detention without trial. While civil war and human rights abuses are condemned by the UK Government in Zimbabwe, Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran, Sudan and elsewhere, exiles from these countries find themselves detained without legal support, facing deportation and death.
Staff at this former prison treat detainees as offenders, rater than recognising that they have not been convicted of any crime. Run by the Prison Service, Lindholme "Immigration Removal Centre" near Doncaster holds up to 112 male detainnes. An unannounced inspection by HM Chief Inspector of Prisons in 2004 recommended that the Government "should review whether Lindholme is an appropriate facility for an immigratin removal centre" due to it being "deficient in all four of our key tests: safety, respect, purposeful activity and preparation for release". Inspectors noticed Prison Officers shouting in English to non-English speaking detainees and a lack of interpreters.
People in Lindholme have left their homes and families to escape war, torture and dictatorship in their own countries. Yet the UK Government invades Iraq and Afghanistan; it helps western companies plunder £millions of resources daily from places like the Congo in Africa while proxy wars rage; it works with corrupt regimes around the world and then it tries to imprison and deport people who seek safety in this country.
Does the government speak for you when it acts like this?