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Say no to Asylum Slavery: DemonstrateTuesday 24th May 2005

no one is a slave | 24.05.2005 11:55 | Migration | Social Struggles | Birmingham | Liverpool

Say no to Asylum Slavery

Demonstrate Tuesday 24th May 2005

12.15pm to 2.00pm

Called by Merseyside Asylum Rights Campaign

Liverpool Council Building
Millenium House
60 Victoria Street
L1. 6JQ

There will be a demonstration outside Millenium House against the Home Office consultation on Section 10 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 (minimum support for compulsory 'community service'). The consultation is taking place regarding the YMCA agreement to participate in this dreadful 'practice' and sadly Liverpool YMCA has agreed to run a pilot scheme. We must all let the YMCA know that they should now say NO.

Campaign to Stop the YMCA turning Asylum-Seekers into Slave Labour

Background Legislation
Section 4 of the 1999 Immigration and Asylum Act allows for minimum ("hard case") housing and other support for certain failed asylum seekers. This bare minimum is available where a failed asylum seeker is unable to return home because of circumstances beyond his or her control - for instance because they are stateless or ill or (paradoxically in the case of a rejected asylum application) the country of return is too dangerous. However section 10 of the Asylum and Immigration Act 2004 says that even this minimum will only be available on condition that the refugee undertakes compulsory "community service".

Slave Labour
This is a punishment hitherto reserved for convicted criminals. It is also a modern form of slavery. It is in breach of the 1930 Forced Labour Convention of the International Labour Organisation to which the UK is a signatory. The Convention defines forced labour as meaning "all work or service which is exacted from any person under the menace of any penalty and for which the said person has not offered himself voluntarily". Asylum-seekers selected for the scheme will become homeless and destitute unless they perform the required community services/ labour. This cannot be classified as a "voluntary" agreement to work. Trade unions in particular should be alert to the use of such wageless labour. The present scheme is based on the compulsory giving of labour (just like the national dispersal of refugees is based on the compulsory movement of human beings, which is itself a form of servitude.)

Breach of Human Rights
Section 10 has been condemned by the Joint Committee on Human Rights of the House of Lords/House of Commons in its Fourteenth Report of Session 2003-04.

In essence the criticism is one of slave labour. In particular the report attacks the section as being in breach of Article 4(2) of the European Convention of Human Rights (prohibition of forced labour), of Article 3 (prohibition on inhuman or degrading treatment) and of Article 14 (no discrimination on grounds of nationality).

The YMCA's collusion in the scheme Lord Rooker in the committee stage of the 2004 legislation made it clear that the government wants not only local authorities and the private sector but also the voluntary sector to participate in this scheme as slave masters. Hitherto only one voluntary agency has agreed to participate. This is the YMCA which has agreed to run a pilot scheme in Liverpool. This was made public by the YMCA in a statement of May 5 which attempts to justify the proposed slavery.

* The first sentence of the statement says "YMCA England is the preferred provider" to deliver such a scheme. What does this mean? It is the language of corporate bodies tenders rather than an organisation fighting for the rights of asylum seekers.

* Historically all slave-owners seek to justify their role in showing that servitude somehow "helps" the slave. This was the position of the cotton growers of the Southern states of America at the time of the civil war - slavery being portrayed as a way that black plantation workers could be educated and their welfare met. The YMCA portrays section 10 as being benevolent and helpful to asylum-seekers

* The YMCA says that under the proposed scheme "No individual will be required to carry out any specific activity against their will." This is somewhat disingenuous as an asylum seeker within the scheme who refuses to carry out all proposed activities will automatically lose all support. This is clear from clause 4 of the Immigration and Asylum (Provision of Accommodation to Failed Asylum-Seekers) Regulations 2005.

* The statement says section 4 asylum-seekers should be allowed to enter into paid employment and that the YMCA will continue to be
"outspoken" on this and on other matters appertaining to refugees. We agree section 4 asylum-seekers should have the right to paid work and in fact think all asylum seekers should have this right. However there is an omission from the issues on which the YMCA is prepared to be "outspoken". At the moment those subject to immigration control are outside the welfare state. Entitlement to most benefits and services are dependant upon immigration status. Since 1999 asylum-seekers have been subject to a new poor law (administered by NASS - the National Asylum Support Service) based on compulsory dispersal and "maintenance" below income support level. "Hard case" support for failed asylum seekers is even below these rates. Why does the YMCA not campaign for the restoration of full benefits and all other entitlements for asylum seekers and everyone else subject to immigration controls?

An issue of principle - No Collusion
The statement presents as positive that "The YMCA is also already working with a large number of failed asylum seekers through a contract with NASS to provide accommodation to around 150 section 4 recipients". This provision of (usually second rate) accommodation is not a benefit to refugees. This is because the YMCA is a party to evicting such section 4 recipients on withdrawal of support by NASS.

If the voluntary sector (along with the private sector and local authorities) had refused to become involved with the poor law and dispersal scheme then these could not have been implemented. This leads to the basic issue of principle at stake here. Our position is that immigration controls cannot be sanitised, cannot be rendered "just", cannot be made "fair". All involvement on this basis only results in collusion - and in the present case in immigration slavery. It is ironic that Liverpool, the great port on which slavery rested historically, has been chosen for the pilot scheme.

What you can do?
Write to the following at the YMCA:
Richard Capie, Public Affairs Manager YMCA,

John Sentamu, National President of YMCA

Jeff Calvert, Chief Executive, Liverpool YMCA,
Send copies of your letters to:

*Your local YMCA

*Anti--Slavery International

*International Labour Organisation *The YMCA is an international organisation. Circulate this leaflet internationally

Come to the International
No One Is Illegal
Saturday June 25th 1-6pm Cross St Chapel
Manchester city centre

Merseyside Asylum Rights Campaign
Adele Spiers
PO Box 283
L13 4WY

Source for this page:
Merseyside Asylum Rights Campaign

no one is a slave


Hide the following 2 comments


25.05.2005 13:11

Whilst the cause may be worthy, the sight of four (it may have been five) people with a crude bed-sheet banner standing outside Millenium House was pitful.

If the SLP want to organise things they need to do it properly Kai.


We helped beat off the rotten scheme !

25.05.2005 20:07

#1; First the SLP didn't organise it, so check your
#2; Secondly it was a worthwhile cause so there's no
'may be worthy' about it.

Those who spent their time and lunch hour giving
support to the protest against the YMCA supported
Home Office scheme helped gather over 50 people's
signatures opposing the compulsory community service
for asylum seekers.

The fact is the YMCA and the Home Office were very
effectively isolated by all the other organisations
who attended the meeting, the City Council also said
they wouldn't support the scheme. It has therefore
been rendered unworkable here in Liverpool and is a
major victory for human and civil rights campaigners
and asylum seekers support groups here in Liverpool.

The small group of protesters played a small but
significant part in opposing the enforced labour
scheme, the banner which was hastily produced did
prove it's worth, while some protesters spoke to
people entering and leaving Millenium house others
read the banner and asked for more information.
We quickly ran out of leaflets.

One of the protesters

One of the protesters